In the past, employees would stick with a company for decades. It wasn’t unusual in the 20th century for someone to stay at the same company for their entire career, consistently garnering raises and promotions until they retired with a hefty pension.
Obviously, those days are long gone.
The job market in 2017 is a cutthroat place, and you have to look out for number one if you want to advance. That can be difficult when you like the company you work for, but can’t seem to move forward. That’s why people start looking for outside offers. Whether you’re actually looking to jump ship or not, an offer with a larger salary and better benefits can go a long way to proving your value. Sometimes, you can use that to leverage a raise or promotion with your current employer.
But don’t march in and demand a corner office yet. This kind of power play needs to be done thoughtfully – or not at all.
Even if you do get a great offer, some HR experts agree that it’s a bad idea to leverage the offer with your current employer. Your boss might not like feeling pressured, even if he or she does agree to give you a raise or promotion. Even if you end up making out like a bandit at your current job, entertaining the offer and then turning it down might preclude you from being considered for any future positions at that company.
Some industries, such as most media fields, are more receptive to this tactic than others. If you know of coworkers or peers who have used this strategy successfully, don’t hold back in doing it yourself. Ask them how they negotiated with the employer and what worked.
This whole approach used to be a big no-no, but these days companies are more open to the idea of competing to retain talent. As the culture of company loyalty has dissipated, many HR departments have realized that a competitive counter-offer is almost always a better strategy than hiring and training new employees.
You’ll probably have better luck trying this with a larger organization than a mom and pop company. Small business owners tend to value loyalty more highly, and might take your ultimatum personally. At large companies, people in charge of hiring tend to be more personally detached from the process.
How to Go About It
Make sure to have a clear plan of what you’re looking to get out of negotiations. Do you just want a higher salary? Are you feeling unchallenged with your responsibilities? It’s also important to realize that you might not get 100% of what you’re asking for. Try not to have unrealistic expectations about what your boss can offer or you might end up disappointed.
The best way to approach this situation is to start an honest discussion with your employer about why you’re considering jumping ship. If you’re feeling underappreciated, bring up the specific reasons why you feel that way. If you want the company to match your new offer, state that explicitly. Emphasize that you’re bringing this up because you’d like to stay with the company, but need to put your career first. As long as you don’t come across as entitled or greedy, there’s a good chance you’ll walk away with a raise or promotion.
When you negotiate, rest easy with the confidence that you have a better offer waiting if things don’t go well. State your case clearly, sit back and let your supervisor do the talking. In negotiations, the person who talks less usually wins.
If Your Employer Agrees
If your boss agrees to your requests, it’s good practice to then stay at that position for a reasonable length of time – usually at least a year. If you get a raise and then leave after six months for greener pastures, you could burn bridges and end up ruining a previously good reference.
It’s also vital that you prove worthy of your new title and responsibilities. Don’t start slacking once you’ve gotten what you really want. That could make them wary of extending this offer to anyone else or giving you another raise in the future. Remember, no one wants to work with someone who talks a big game and then under-delivers.
After you’ve made your play to leverage a job offer, you probably won’t have as much success doing it again with the same company. Once you’ve established a pattern as a cutthroat ladder-climber, supervisors might not be so receptive to the idea that you’re only asking for a counter-offer because you love working for your current company. You’ll likely need to switch companies if you find yourself stagnating again.
Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A former reporter, she has covered murder trials, the Final Four and everything in between. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. Read about how she paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years at Debt Free After Three.