Can you ask for a promotion during a pandemic?

The short answer is, yes. Despite the far-ranging effects of Covid-19, lives – and work – must soldier on, and that includes performance reviews, increased responsibilities and perhaps a raise.

Of course, this is no time to barge into your boss’ office demanding a better title or more money. But if a performance review is coming up or there are big changes to the office on the horizon thanks to the pandemic, you may want to prepare to have a frank conversation with your manager about your prospects.

Here’s what you should do if you feel you deserve a promotion:

  1. Read the room

    A caveat to the statement above: if your company is struggling just to get by, or senior management have been taking pay cuts, there is probably no budget or allowance for a promotion. In such a situation, it’s better to sit tight and wait for another opportunity. That doesn’t mean you can’t “get a feel of the ground”, though. You could speak to your HR on how career tracks have been affected, or feel your manager out on whether you can be given a new position with different perks besides salary.

    However, a company may be restructuring and cutting down excess in these times, and you may be just the person to perform the new tasks needed! In which case, there’s no harm in making your case for a new position or a different work portfolio.

  1. Be clear about what you want

    Covid-19 or not, it’s always important to know what you want and why you want it. What would this promotion mean to you? What are your priorities – more management-level authority, the chance to interact with other departments, or the extra perks? Be very sure of the answers to these questions before talking to your superiors.

    As it is a trying time, you could come up with some “backup” goals as well, in case your first requests don’t pan out. For example, you could offer to take on some of your boss’ work in exchange for a better position. Flexibility will show your willingness to negotiate and be a team player in your organisation.

  1. Provide evidence of your work

    A major downside to working from home is that our work becomes less visible. It’s easy for managers in charge of whole teams to lose track of who did what, and so your request for a promotion may come off as surprising and un-substantiated.

    Before making the request, make sure to keep your contributions in the office clearly documented and compiled. Also, keep communicating with your colleagues and managers to make sure they’re aware of what you’re doing and how you’re willing to help.

  1. Outline the benefits for the company

    Ultimately, your organisation wishes to do the best for itself. Hence, your request should be framed in terms of how it will help your company rather than what you would gain from it.

    A promotion may grant you access to people and clients whose experience you can leverage on better, or you may be able to finally implement those processes you always wanted to. When outlining why you want a promotion, be sure to keep the narration company-focused, with an eye on how it would improve productivity.

If you feel you are up to the task, there’s nothing to prevent you from scoring a better job even in the current climate. Read the room, prepare your pitch, and go for it!