Why You Can’t Get A Promotion or Pay Rise and What To Do About It

Working with leaders over the years, one thing that seems to come up with a fair amount of the time is the employee who is asking for a promotion or more money.

Have you ever tried this and got nowhere?

Every time I get asked this question by leaders my answer is always the same.

Tell them to write a business case.

And guess what happens next?

Nothing most of the time.

When you ask someone to write a business case you are asking them to do something.

The thing you might be asking them to do might be something that they have no idea how to start never mind get it done.

Now is it mean to ask someone to write a business case?

I don’t believe it is.

For most businesses salaries are the most significant part of the overall costs of running the company or organisation day to day.

Every £ or $ more you make has to be at least matched by an equivalent increase in sales.

So if you are looking to get a promotion or a pay rise what you have to get good at is making the business case.

How do you do that?

For most there a handful of areas that you need to pay attention:

  1. How can I help the business increase sales?
  2. How can I help the business reduce costs?
  3. How can I help the business to have more of a cash buffer?

So let’s look at each of these in a little more detail.


How much the business makes in terms of sales comes down to a few factors.

Firstly the number of customers or clients it has.

Secondly the range of products or services it sells

Thirdly the price it charges for the products or services that it sells.

Fourthly the ability to attract new customers, sell more to existing customers or increase the average value of sale to each customer.

The effectiveness of your organisations marketing will impact on sales.

As will the quality and reliability of the product or service plus the level of customer service.

So thinking about your own role what could you potentially do to help improve sales?

If you’re an accountant you could:

  • Do some in-depth analysis of the customer or product profitability
  • You could develop some metrics to measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns
  • You could do some research and benchmarking against the best in the industry


Just about every organisation has two or three areas of expenditure that account for about 80% of the total.

What’s the two or three areas of expenditure in your business, industry or sector?

How does what you pay compare to others?

If you are in a bigger organisation do you have different parts of the organisation paying different prices for the same item (this is more common than you might think).

Tackling this biggest areas of cost can result in significant improvements in bottom line performance and make your case for a promotion or a pay rise a no brainer.

Cash Buffer

You might have heard the term cash is king when it comes to business.

Most of the time when financial performance is talked about in the media the focus is on the profits (or losses) and how that compares to a previous year or quarter.

But in truth it’s running out of cash that really causes a business to fail.  Now you might think you can borrow.

It might be an option but only if you are making profits or the nature of your business means that you have to have access to short term support out of your busy season.

Again if you can look at and suggest ways to improve working capital and cash in the bank, the more likely it is that you will be able to make the case for a promotion or pay rise.

The Bottom Line:  If you are looking to get a promotion or a pay rise, don’t expect to get it handed to you on a plate.  Start to look at how you can improve bottom line results and use this as the basis of your business case.

About the Author Duncan Brodie

Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 8,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.

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