Except for a few companies where raises as ransom were part of a dysfunctional corporate culture, leveraging a job offer to get goodies from your current employer used to be a no-no fraught with long-term consequences.
These days, though, it’s trend of sorts. In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management has warned hiring managers that they should expect an increase in offer trolling from candidates who aren’t so much looking for jobs as they are seeking leverage with their current employers.
In a way, one former George Washington University sociology professor says, companies that spent decades telling workers to take charge of their careers and navigate constant change have themselves to blame. Companies that were mercenary about showing employees the door in tough economic times shouldn’t be surprised that talented people in high-demand fields are getting aggressive about opening doors now.
Though negotiating a counteroffer still has a potential downside, doing so is more acceptable than it was even a few years ago. Oftentimes, your chances of success depend on how you present your argument.
If it appears to supervisors that the offer is being used strictly as leverage—exertion of force in order to gain maximum advantage—you might get what you want in the short term but your long-term prospects will dim.
You can, however, use a job offer as an opportunity to start a conversation about your role at your current company, your career goals and, yes, your pay.
This will require you to first do research about your market value, your opportunities at both companies and the risks involved in staying and going. If your offer came as the result of a position you sought, you should have this analysis already. If you were recruited, you might need to catch up.
Once you have the information in hand, approach your boss and schedule a meeting. While it’s tempting to do this on the fly—the “got a minute” approach—in hopes your supervisor won’t have time to do her research, that’s dirty pool.
The tactic could easily be perceived a threat, even if that’s not what you intended. No one likes to be blind-sided. It could also cut into your “likeability factor,” and bosses are never particularly motivated to fight for employees they view as petty or underhanded.
Instead, give the boss an opportunity to prepare for a reasoned discussion with a rational tone. Go in with a plan for what you’re going to ask for. Remember to start high so you have room to meet in the middle—but not so high that your request is quickly laughed off. This is where your research into market value comes in handy.
Get creative about non-monetary possibilities if your supervisor seems unwilling or unable to show you the money. Perks such as flexible scheduling, partial telecommuting, extra vacation or a company car are possibilities.
Keep this in mind, though: Even today, a successful counteroffer could have as many pitfalls as it has advantages.
Any raise you receive could be merely an advance on a pay bump you were going to get anyway. It could also be the company’s way of buying time to train your replacement. There’s a risk of resentment among coworkers, and you will have to rebuild the trust you once enjoyed with the bosses. You also risk burning bridges with the company that made the new job offer.
According to the Society for Human Resource Managers, even in this era when counter offers are becoming the currency of exchange, 80 percent of the people who accept them are still out the door within six months anyway. You could just be delaying the inevitable.