What is the consensus around applying negotiating leverage in order to get a promotion?

I've asked for a promotion repeatedly, and it has been promised verbally by the end of the year (a year after it was initially scheduled). I'm frustrated.

One of our key team members is leaving, and, while I think it's a shitty thing to do, I'm fairly sure I could force a promotion if I suggest that I could leave. On a related note, I genuinely believe that if there is no threat of a good employee leaving them it's unlikely they will be promoted quickly.

Is there a way to subtly threaten to leave while not burning bridges internally? (Or, am I thinking about this all wrong).


Real Estate Modeling Course

  • Real-life RE Modeling Tests from actual Interviews
  • Various asset classes including multi-family, commercial and more
  • Huge discount - until more tests and cases added

Comments (12)

Jun 2, 2021 - 1:13am

Start interviewing with other firms. And once you have another offer, perhaps you can threaten to leave. It would suck if they called your bluff with nothing else in hand.

Jun 2, 2021 - 3:58pm

Yeah this is why you don't bluff, you have an honest adult conversation.  The other issue is that you are on a timer - once you make a threat to leave, you'll have to make that same threat every step along the way for every other raise/promotion/etc.  No employer wants to feel like they're being optioned.

I get the sense that some of these replies are due to influence from the IB side of this site.  Banking is a whole different world when it comes to lateralling for a tiny raise/promotion (except if you're a broker, I guess).  It's a lot more mercenary and a lot more expected, which seems to be bleeding through.  I feel like in the development and acquisitions world especially, employers are eager to keep institutional knowledge in house and not break in new folks, and are willing to pay for that.

Jun 2, 2021 - 1:38am

I agree with you, and will have to do similar too.  The hard part is that now they'll know you're a flight risk, and begin looking to fill.  Given how heated my negotiations are going to get here, I almost need MORE in writing afterwards (severance if let go, etc.) rather than less, because now they'll potentially be looking to fill.  Not sure of my own answer here.

I wish companies would keep their promises, but it's increasingly clear if it's not in writing it's useless.

Jun 2, 2021 - 10:34am

Associate 2 in RE - Res

One of our key team members is leaving, and, while I think it's a shitty thing to do, I'm fairly sure I could force a promotion if I suggest that I could leave. On a related note, I genuinely believe that if there is no threat of a good employee leaving them it's unlikely they will be promoted quickly.

It's not a shitty thing to do.  You don't owe your employer anything more than what they pay you for - if they've been jerking you around for a year about being promoted, why should you treat them any better?

Go in an have an honest conversation with them, that you like your job (I assume) and want to be there long term, but you've been lied to about being promoted and you're thinking of going.  You have leverage - use it.  If you're upfront and not a dick about it, it shouldn't burn any bridges.  Don't mention the other person, just say that you're personal situation has come to a point where you don't trust them to follow through, and that they can either promote you now or you'll start looking. 

Learn More

300+ video lessons across 6 modeling courses taught by elite practitioners at the top investment banks and private equity funds -- Excel Modeling -- Financial Statement Modeling -- M&A Modeling -- LBO Modeling -- DCF and Valuation Modeling -- ALL INCLUDED + 2 Huge Bonuses.

Learn more
Jun 2, 2021 - 2:45pm

This is the right answer in my opinion. Presenting another offer can backfire if your employer is a hothead/immature/misinterprets your presentation as backstabbing. Have an honest conversation with them up front and clearly express your displeasure/the concept that you are not satisfied. You might also come prepared with i) a list of your specific contributions/accomplishments since your last promotion that warrant monetary recognition; and ii) some data points for what colleagues in similar positions at other firms are getting to peg your ask. 

Most Helpful
Jun 2, 2021 - 1:49pm

So, I think you really need to know your internal firm culture on such moves. Some places seem to reward those who are willing to make power plays, and almost force people to do it to get ahead (this is sometimes called "mercenary culture"). Other places will see you being too aggressive (especially at associate rank) and just assume you will leave anyway and proceed to work you to death until you do. 

My advice, be hyper strategic, meaning make the pitch when/if it seems will be successful. Get a big win, impressed someone, saved a deal, etc. those are times to strike. There are "soft subtle" ways to approach, like asking "am I ready for promotion?" or inquiring about what it takes for the "promotion". Ideally you do this timed, ahead of normal promotion/raise review schedules (if your firm has such stuff). The key is you open the door to the conversation with your manager, and see how they react.... if they invite the conversation (like ask "well, tell me why you think you may be ready") then proceed. If they seem to push off, then you can react. Bottom line, going in too strong without reading the whole situation can really backfire. Trust me, the subtle ask carries all the same info as the bull rush, people aren't stupid, being subtle is the mature thing. 

BTW, asking anything implies you think you are ready, and it should go unsaid that if not promoted, you may leave. If you are truly, objectively ready and they don't promote you, then you may need to jump for a promotion if you don't feel your firm can keep you happy, part of the game!

Jun 2, 2021 - 7:45pm

Always try and have an honest conversation first. If you really think you deserve a promotion, have that hard discussion. You have to typically push for it. I have never seen promotions been given out easily in my experience. How the employer reacts to you in that conversation will tell you what you need to do next. Sometimes, there just isn't any room and it is what it is. They maybe don't want to pay more, or maybe don't want another director/senior associate or whatever. Its just what it is. On the other hand, this is a hot market and you could probably go get what you want. The only significant gains I made were by moving or coming clean to them after an offer fell in my lap while I was not looking and luckily for me they liked me. 

Start Discussion

Total Avg Compensation

June 2021 Investment Banking

  • Director/MD (9) $911
  • Vice President (35) $364
  • Associates (202) $234
  • 2nd Year Analyst (113) $150
  • Intern/Summer Associate (97) $145
  • 3rd+ Year Analyst (27) $145
  • 1st Year Analyst (418) $131
  • Intern/Summer Analyst (337) $82