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Quiet Promotions: The Inevitable Aftermath of Mass Layoffs

If you survived a mass layoff, the aftermath is a quiet promotion!

How can your company achieve financial goals with a reduced workforce? They ask you to take on more tasks. Sometimes, they might be temporary tasks you enjoy, but chances are they are permanent tasks you dislike. Eventually, you begin to feel you are doing the job of two people for the price of one. If this is your situation, you’ve been quietly promoted.

What is a quiet promotion?

A ‘quiet promotion’ happens when you have increased responsibilities and operate a level above your job description without extra pay. You don’t get a raise or a promotion to perform additional tasks. The term ‘quiet promotion’ may be new, but the practice is old, and many companies operate understaffed to meet financial goals.

Most companies expect people to exceed performance reviews and prove they can handle the new role before giving them a promotion. The extra tasks become part of your job before you earn more pay. Companies want you to go above and beyond even when you work 50+ hours per week to meet demands.

A Quiet Promotion vs. A Stretch Assignment

Sometimes, you take on new tasks that may be a level above your job description which is considered a stretch assignment. A stretch assignment can be a learning opportunity that you have limited time and energy for. You don’t spend a lot of your time working on those tasks. You don’t mind those assignments because they provide growth and help develop your career. Your manager doesn’t expect you to do the job of two people without an end in sight or extra pay.

For example, someone left the company, and they were responsible for training new team members. While the company goes through the hiring process, your manager asks you to take the lead and help train new hires temporarily. That’s a stretch assignment. You assume a leadership role, build confidence, and improve your skills. You enjoy the opportunity.

How to Spot the Difference

Sometimes, your manager asks you to do things you don’t enjoy or don’t feel ready for. Stretch assignments can provide valuable experience or a break from your work routine, but they can become permanent challenging tasks that take up most of your time.

If you realize a stretch assignment is becoming a part of your job, research if the role above yours uses those skills. For example, if you are an individual contributor in a senior role, the next level is to become an associate manager. Your manager asks you to mentor a new team member or lead a project team. Those tasks are essential skills for a manager, and you want to take your career in that direction.

The opposite happens when you are a senior employee, and your manager asks you to take on operational and administrative tasks unrelated to your job. You don’t enjoy the work, and it takes hours out of your day. Your manager tells you to be a team player while the company deals with financial issues.

After 8 months, those assignments become part of your performance review and don’t help you get a promotion. You feel stuck performing additional tasks without career development and extra pay: you’ve been quietly promoted.

Have you been quietly promoted?

These steps may help!

1 – Document your workload

  • Write down all tasks you do in a month and the average time it takes to complete them. How much overtime do you work to meet deadlines?

This exercise will help you see where you allocate most of your time.

  • Are the tasks you perform related to your job description or a level above?

If you have access to the job role above yours, compare it with your current position.

  • What tasks bring results to your team, company, client, etc.?

Add any tasks to the list that help save money, improve processes, increase revenue, etc.

Documenting your assignments helps your manager see the tasks above your job description, your workload struggle, and why you want a raise or a promotion.

2 – Discuss your workload with your manager

Schedule a meeting with your manager and share the list you built on step 1.

Show your manager you are doing the work of two people with the same job title and salary, and tell them where you want to take your career development.

Rehearse what you want to say in advance and make your point. Choose one or two of these sentences based on your career goals:

Can you please help me figure out:

  • How can I reduce the hours I’m working?

  • How can I work more on tasks like these and less on tasks that don’t fit my role?

  • What skills do I need to develop to become an associate manager?

  • What do I need to do to get a promotion or a raise while I perform all these extra tasks?

You can suggest a few solutions as well.

Don’t wait until your performance review meeting to have this discussion. You want to talk to your manager months before your review is due. Learn about the performance review schedule and promotion cycles within your company.

Your relationship with your manager is the most important one at work. If you expect a raise or a promotion, discuss it sooner than later, and have regular meetings with your manager.

Other solutions if you’ve had a quiet promotion:

If a raise or a promotion is not possible now, you can control a few things to improve your work-life harmonization.

Set boundaries

  • Let your team and manager know you won’t be replying to messages after 6 PM or on weekends.

  • Let your manager know you can’t work every weekend because you have family commitments.

  • Before you check your email, take a deep breath. Check your emotions first. You can control when and how you react to messages.

Discuss burnout

  • Check if your company offers employee assistance programs (EAP) for mental health and take advantage of those resources.

  • Talk to your manager about burnout and how your heavy workload affects your mind and body, and suggest a few solutions.

  • Ask if you can train someone else to do some of your tasks or if the company can hire a temporary contractor to help you.

Take time off

  • Take a few days off or every other Friday, and disconnect from work.

  • Spend time with positive people, and do activities that bring you joy.

  • Make your trip plans easy to handle. The goal is to have a great time, not a stressful vacation.

  • Even a staycation can help you improve your burnout symptoms.

  • Time is not a renewable resource. Don’t let your time off go to waste. Use it!

For more weekday self-care tips, download my checklist here.

Develop your own career

  • Work on professional development goals that align with your values.

  • Learn skills that would upgrade your career, not things you MUST learn to be an asset to your company. No job is secure.

  • Spend some time taking classes, and courses, listening to podcasts, reading books, and networking with people who are where you want to be.

  • Have your job search materials ready to go and research the job market. You never know when the right opportunity will knock on your door.

If you survived a layoff, don’t become a victim of a quiet promotion. Have ongoing meetings with your manager, discuss your workload, and suggest solutions. Ask for a raise or promotion based on your task documentation, and don’t wait until your performance review to advocate for yourself. Many companies go through layoffs and rely on the remaining employees to achieve financial goals, but your health and well-being always come first.

Advocate for yourself and your well-being!

You are your Chief Career Officer! Don’t wait for someone else to see your value!

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