What kind of promotion is this?

I’m an administrative clerk at a small company. This is my third year of working after college. Last week, I received a memo informing me of a 7% pay increase effective on the first day of the coming month. The increase was made in connection with my promotion “from job grade level six to grade level seven.” The memo was accompanied by a copy of my new job description. I have not clarified with our human resource (HR) department whether grade seven is a supervisorial job. Who are my direct reports? What is the extent of my authority? Please clarify. — Without a Hint.

Don’t be shy. Go to HR and clarify these things. Each company has its own set of policies on promotion. Of course, I’ve got some ideas on what could be happening with you but I can only speculate without knowing the full context of your story and the company policy.

Generally speaking, many companies have separate job grade levels (JGL) for non-management, supervisors, and managers. For example, entry-level rank and file workers are typically JGL one (the lowest position in the organization), paying 5-7% higher than minimum wage.

For employers who can’t afford it, entry-level can be minimum wage. The problem with this is that the wage scale can be distorted every time the minimum wage is reset.

The maximum JGL for rank-and-file workers could be as high as level 10, setting the maximum amount they can receive in monthly base salary. Sometimes, the maximum JGL can be as high as 15 depending on the nature of the business and its complexity.

A rank-and-file worker receiving more than the maximum amount stipulated in the JGL is called a “red circle” worker. If this happens, the solution is to “promote” that person to the next higher JGL to justify his pay, accompanied by a corresponding higher workload.

The other option is to promote that rank-and-file person to junior supervisor or higher, depending on circumstances like work experience, performance, unique skills and length of service.

Some rank-and-file workers may reject being promoted to a junior supervisor position. They may not want to supervise others. Many workers don’t want to risk becoming unpopular with their colleagues by rising to a supervisory level. Little can be done should this issue arise except for forced promotion or an offer of early retirement.

Since I don’t know your current pay and the nature of your job, it’s difficult to speculate whether you’ve become part of management or not. Only your HR department can answer that. However, given your situation I believe you’ve retained your non-management status and that you received a level promotion with a corresponding pay increase based on the new JGL that you’re occupying.

This should have been clearly stated in your promotion papers.

Typically, a promotion comes with a note detailing your direct reports, a new job description, and the extent of your authority. In many cases, a promotion will include an organization chart that answers the following questions:

To whom does this newly promoted person report to? Who are the other job holders reporting directly to the same boss or authority? What other positions must report to this position, if vacant?

If these are not answered in your “promotion” papers, then it’s clear that you were promoted to a level position and not a rank position.

Think about this for a moment. How is it possible to fast-track becoming a manager, say five years after college graduation? In your case, that means you have only two more years to do just that. It’s possible, but you’ll need to work smart while minimizing failures.

For you to become part of the management team involves a different set of requirements. They likely include how your job is valued within the organization. With this in mind, look around for any opportunities to grab that demonstrate your value.

Obviously, you need to deliver actual results. Your chances improve if your organization has a robust promote-from-within policy and a succession plan buoyed by an objective performance appraisal system.

Have a positive mindset. Exceed expectations. Volunteer for difficult assignments. Be amiable and visible. Chances are, you’ll become a supervisor in five years and become a manager after three more years, perhaps before reaching the age of 29, as I did.


Participate in Rey Elbo’s “Kaizen Study Mission Japan” on July 23-29, 2023 and visit Toyota City to understand kaizen and lean thinking much better. Chat with him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or e-mail elbonomics@gmail.com or via https://reyelbo.com