What is a Dry Promotion?

worker upset with her dry promotion
a young woman who is sad at work after receiving a dry promotion

The Dreaded Dry Promotion

If you’re not familiar with the term “dry promotion,” you may have still received one. In fact, many, if not most, of us have been given a dry promotion before. The term refers to when an employee is given extra duties and responsibilities without a raise. Employees are not just asked to but are required to fulfill these extra tasks as a permanent part of their job. And, due to inflation, sometimes employees functionally take a pay cut with the extra responsibilities.

Dry promotions occur in just about every field, though sometimes companies like to call them by different names. They’ll expect you to be a “team player,” to earn your raise by trying out the work first (which may never actually happen), or to help out your “work family.”

Regardless, employees who receive dry promotions are more likely to be dissatisfied with their jobs, “quiet quit,” and leave the company entirely. Many find it discouraging or even downright insulting. Overall, people find it more valuable to do a lateral move to another company than to stay with a job that doesn’t respect their time or effort.

Yet, bad managers continue to hand out dry promotions to save money and make themselves look better. Thankfully, many of us have options when faced with the dreaded dry promotion.

What to Do When Given a Dry Promotion

Your options depend on a few factors. First, are you trying to work in a specific field or a highly specialized role? If so, you might have trouble finding a similar job without needing to move. Second, your personal financial situation may stop you from leaving right away. Few of us can afford to quit our jobs on a whim, not knowing when our next opportunity will arise.

Other factors like personal ties, job history (would have references to get a new job?), personal goals (like buying a house), or your family might impact your decision.

Below, we’ll go over five possible steps you can take after receiving a dry promotion.

woman doing her research after receiving a dry promotion

1. Do Your Research

Before talking to anyone, you should do your research. Know how much someone makes for the job you’re doing (and for the responsibilities you’re being given). You can find this information for most positions online. You should know exactly what people make before making any rash decisions. The dry promotion may be a little less dry than you think. Of course, you may still deserve a raise even if you’re being paid above average for your position.

Additionally, do your research about in-house salaries. A small non-profit will pay less than a multimillion-dollar company for the same position. Asking for a $30,000 raise at your small tech startup based on Google’s data won’t result in the payday you dream of.

Today, you can salaries for many businesses on sites like Glassdoor. These sites get their data via first and third-party sources. When first-person reports are unavailable, national data will provide estimates. Unfortunately, it may not always be accurate, but the information is rarely off by a lot. A self-reported salary of $2,000,000 for a custodial job will be caught rather quickly.

Finally, you might want to research salaries in your specific area. People are bound to earn more in places like New York and California than in Alabama. Make sure your information is accurate before making any moves.

2. Try Talking to Your Supervisor

Notably, not every dry promotion is given on purpose. Sometimes managers slip up or don’t realize what they’re doing. A helpful staff member will cover a role one time and suddenly it’s an expectation. Employees often wear multiple hats in small businesses, especially when they’re first getting started. While companies must ensure they’re growing sustainably, not everyone has the funds to fill every position from the start.

Normally, the company’s creator will fill these positions themselves until they can hire more people. Then, they’ll bring people on with the expectation that they may be the entire marketing team and also help at the front desk. But that’s the important part: expectations.  

If you’re brought on to fill one specific role and get paid for one specific role, you’re not going to take kindly to getting one, two, or even three more added on without extra pay.

Thus, if your expectations aren’t getting met, consider talking to your supervisor. Not all of them will be reasonable, but many know the value of a good employee and will do their best to accommodate their needs.

a young woman negotiating with her supervisor

3. Negotiate and Self-Advocate

When a dry promotion is given on purpose, the possibility of a raise still isn’t out of the question. However, you may need to take a tactical approach. Arm yourself with your salary research as well as your accomplishments. Maybe you are aware of your weekly or yearly stats or have a flashy project to show your value. Regardless, you should gather proof of what you’ve done for the company so far to strengthen your argument.

This move does three things. It shows that you’re a good investment, and you get good results. Additionally, it lets your supervisor know that you know that you’re a good investment. And, finally, it reminds employers of what they’ll lose if your needs aren’t being met.

Not all good employees are replaceable, at least not by one person. A real promotion with a raise boosts morale, gives employees an incentive to work harder, and actually reduces costs long-term.

4. Don’t Give In

Sometimes, it might seem easier to accept what you’re handed. But sticking with a stingy company or a bad manager only helps the company and hurts you. There’s a reason thousands of employees report feeling dissatisfied with their jobs. Companies hope that employees would rather keep their heads down than advocate for themselves.

And these types of companies will bring in brand new employees at higher rates when forced to hire more staff. Basically, they can afford the expense – they’re choosing not to take it on.

Thus, if you’re in a place to fight the circumstances you’re in, do it. Don’t accept less than you’re worth because it’s easier. If you’re unhappy with your pay and job, you’ll likely start to feel stress building up as you head to work each morning. Indeed, stress doesn’t just ruin your relationship with your job, it can harm you mentally and physically.

It’s good to have a job that you care about and want to see succeed, but you can’t help build a business if you’re hanging on by a thread. Don’t allow a dry promotion to come between you and your passions.

two coworkers in a healthy work environment

5. Leave Toxic Workplaces Behind

Ultimately, not every company will care to negotiate with their employees. They’d rather blow through another few thousand dollars training a new, quieter employee. In these cases, your best option is to leave. Unfortunately, these types of companies rarely change unless management is changed up big time.

Truly, companies that give regular dry promotions likely have more issues than that. Toxic workplaces rarely have one toxic manager or trait. Rather, the small things build up until employees can’t stand the office anymore.

Take care of yourself and spend time researching higher-quality companies. Look for reported salary, signs of high turnover rates (are they always hiring?), and current and former employee reviews. You may also consider utilizing your college’s career services office – many schools offer services for life. Basically, don’t apply to every job you see hoping anything is better than what you have now. That isn’t always true. While the job search can be grueling, it’s well worth it to find a place that not only respects you but allows you to live the life you want.

Lakewood University

Lakewood University is an accredited online school that offers a variety of degree and certificate programs. We have rolling enrollments and asynchronous courses. In other words, you don’t have to worry about missing a lecture or running late to class. If you plan on enrolling in college while working, Lakewood University offers the flexibility you need to earn your degree.

Don’t hesitate – reach out to our admissions department today to learn more!