my employer has stupid rules for raises when you get promoted

A reader writes:

A year ago, I accepted a position at a global nonprofit. Once I got the salary offer, I did detailed research and crafted an excellent argument as to why I deserved a $2,000 increase in the salary that was offered to me. After presenting my argument, the recruiter was impressed, but told me they don’t negotiate salary at this company, so that all employees are on the same playing field and get the same compensation for the exact same job. I figured that seemed fair, knowing that whenever I moved up, I’d be getting whatever pay scale was offered for that position at the time.

Fast forward one year, and I’m now in an excellent position to be promoted. The promotion is two pay grades over my current one (I’m guessing about a 25% bump), so that excites me. However, imagine my surprise when the same recruiter tells me that for internal employees that are promoted, company policy dictates that I can only receive a 10% bump from my current salary. This confuses me, as I would be making quite less than any employee working the same position that would be brought in from the outside.

I expect an offer in the coming days. What do you thing and what steps do you recommend? All I want is the listed pay grade for the position. And even though the pay grade is a 25% bump, we’re not talking a huge amount of money, as my compensation was on the low end to begin with.

Yep, this isn’t unheard of, although it’s really, really stupid. What better way to encourage your best employees — the ones who are moving up — to leave the company so that they can be paid the market rate for their work?

All you can do is argue the logic of your case. Point out that all you want is the listed pay grade for the position, and point out that if you left and applied for the position a week later (or applied to do the same work somewhere else), you’d be eligible for a higher salary. Do they want employees to leave in order to get paid fairly?  You might also point out how unfair and absurd it is to penalize you for bringing the advantage of already knowing the organization and how it works, unlike a candidate they hired off the street.

But ultimately this is going to come down to how rigid and inflexible their policy is, and whether there’s anyone there with common sense and the assertiveness to go to bat for you. And maybe also to how much they want you in the new position. Good luck — and remember that if they won’t budge, you have the option of going somewhere that will pay you fairly. (It wouldn’t hurt for them to pick up on that in your stance either, as long as you do it professionally.)

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