What To Do While You Wait For That Raise Or Promotion You’ve Been Promised

Don’t let your impatience turn into passive aggression. Here are four productive steps to take instead.

What To Do While You Wait For That Raise Or Promotion You’ve Been Promised
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Getting antsy? Of course you are. You’re overdue for a raise or promotion. You know it and your boss knows it, because you discussed it together at your last performance review–which was months ago. It’s just that the company’s budget is still being finalized, or maybe the payroll department is behind the ball–who knows? In the meantime, your landlord just hiked the rent and your student loan payments aren’t exactly lightening up anytime soon.

Here’s the thing, though. Great bosses understand all that, whether explicitly or implicitly. They also grasp that in order to hang onto great talent like you, they’ll need to pay you properly. If you’re lucky to work for a good boss, she’ll communicate your progress clearly, giving you accurate timelines for bonuses, promotions, raises, and the like. She’ll also be clear about her expectations for what it’ll take on your part to get there, offering plenty of feedback along the way.

Unfortunately, not every supervisor does that. Sometimes they’re waiting on their own higher-ups for more information and approvals; other times they’re just negligent. All this can add up to lots of frustration on your part. What’s taking so long? More importantly, what can you do about it?

Mercilessly Track What Happens When

Your impatience can steer you toward making some less than strategic moves. So it’s important to find some more productive, tactful ways to wait things out.

One way to do that is to keep an accurate record of your progress at the company. Whenever you get a raise or promotion, write down the date that it took effect. Keep notes on the feedback you get about your job—both positive and negative—along with the dates that you got that feedback. If a raise or promotion is promised or implied, take note of when that happened, too.

The reason for all this record keeping is that our perception of time is malleable. There’s a great local restaurant here in Austin, called El Arroyo, which puts a sign out front with a rotating handful of silly aphorisms to amuse people who drive past. In December it said, “I wish vacation minutes were like microwave minutes.”

There’s truth in that. When you pay attention to the passage of time–as you do while you’re waiting for dinner to reheat or your raise to come through–the time seems to pass much more slowly than when you’re busily engaged doing something you love. The time between hearing about a possible promotion and actually getting it may feel like it’s stretching out longer than it actually is, so keeping a record can help you keep some perspective.

Pick One Skill To Work On In The Background

Next, you can focus on honing the skills you’ll need to take on more responsibilities at work. Nobody is truly “ready” for any promotion; there are invariably new things you’re asked to do that require learning on the job. Nonetheless, the more time you spend preparing for whatever is coming, the better you’ll be able to step into a new role as soon as it comes.

But there’s another reason to level up, too. By improving your skills, you’ll catch your boss’s attention. You’re likely to start doing things in your current role that are noticeably better or more advanced than what you’d done before. That improvement will also remind your boss and other people on your team that it’s well past time for you to move further, otherwise they may risk losing you.

Related: How To Create Your Own Opportunities At Work

Ask For Input And Advice

At the same time, keep having conversations with your boss about what you can do to improve your performance. You may think that task is now behind you, since it’s what landed you the assurance of an impending raise or promotion in the first place. But that should really be ongoing.

Often, people who are trying to get promoted spend time making their accomplishments at work visible. While it certainly matters that others in the organization know what you’ve already contributed, it may be more effective to show people that you’re ready to push ahead and do even more. So seek out mentors and keep asking for input in order to continue demonstrating your commitment to improving.

Bring It Up With Your Boss

Finally, if your promised raise or promotion really has taken months and months to materialize, it may be time to have a more forthright chat with your supervisor. The relationship between you and your employer is a two-way street. They certainly have to trust that you have the best interests of the organization at heart, but you also have to feel like they have your back. It’s easy to lose faith in the organization if you feel that it hasn’t delivered on a key promise.

Rather than stewing over what you may see as a broken promise, sit down with your boss and have an open discussion about your expectations. It’s very possible that a change in the budget or some other situation has delayed things and they forgot to loop you in on it. The last thing you want to do is express your frustration before knowing the full situation.

And after all of this, if you feel like your employer isn’t being truthful with you, well, that’s valuable intel, too. Maybe it’s time to plan the next steps of your career under somebody else’s roof.

About the author

Art Markman, PhD is a professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin and Founding Director of the Program in the Human Dimensions of Organizations. Art is the author of Smart Thinking and Habits of Leadership, Smart Change, and most recently, Brain Briefs, co-authored with his "Two Guys on Your Head" co-host Bob Duke, which focuses on how you can use the science of motivation to change your behavior at work and at home.

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