Seeking advice on negotating with current employers when another offer is on the table.
July 14, 2011 10:11 AM   Subscribe

I'd prefer a bidding war, but I'll take a better job: Looking for advice on getting another offer while employed.

A couple of months ago, I sent out my resume to a couple employers because I was unhappy with my job. Fast forward 4 months later my current job situation has become a lot better and I have an official offer from another employer for more than %20 than my current salary.

Given all other things equal (they aren’t but assume they are). How do I capitalize on this in event that my current boss wants to keep me? I believe and have been told that I am essential to their operation and future plans.

Should I even try this or just outright quit? I don’t want to burn bridges either.

I am also worried about resentment from my current employers that I went behind their backs to look for other opportunities.

Any other advice is welcome.
posted by rickim to Work & Money (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
How do I capitalize on this in event that my current boss wants to keep me? I believe and have been told that I am essential to their operation and future plans.
There was a recent blog post about this. The gist of it was that it's better to leave gracefully; spawning a bidding war is generally a bad idea because in your current employer's mind you might be trying to unfairly leverage the job bid against them and gain things they wouldn't have otherwise given you -- which will destroy your future career progression chances with your current employer.
posted by SpecialK at 10:27 AM on July 14, 2011

(I can't find the blog post or I'd share it.)
posted by SpecialK at 10:27 AM on July 14, 2011

"Hey boss, I'd like to talk to you. I received an offer to go to [new company]. It's quite generous and seems like a great opportunity for my career. I plan to accept the offer and leave [current company] in two weeks."

Response Possibility A: "No! We love you! Are you willing to negotiate to stay here?"

Response Possibility B: "Alrighty, have fun."

Do exactly once. More than that, multiple "bids" back and forth, you burn bridges at whichever company you don't choose. It's also better to start the conversation saying "I'm leaving" (and be willing to have your bluff called), not by saying "I have another offer. What will you do for me to keep me here?" because that's douchey and very few bosses will want to put up with that.

I have done the above twice. Once I got response A, the other time response B. In both cases I ended up leaving, but in both cases I maintained good enough relationships that they each called me up about a 1 year later to ask me if I wanted to come back. (And in one case, I did)

Your current company doesn't need to know whether you sent out a resume or whether you were contacted by a recruiter or whether you were entirely cold called by the new company because of some blog post you write that they found and liked. Doesn't matter how you ended up with the offer, it only matters whether or not you're taking them up on it.
posted by olinerd at 10:35 AM on July 14, 2011 [15 favorites]

I agree 100% with Olinerd. I think she's summed up the gambit perfectly.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:58 AM on July 14, 2011

People switch jobs all the time, and it's usually not because they're being fired or laid off.

Like it or not, your scenario seems to be how most folks get promoted or paid more these days.
posted by schmod at 10:59 AM on July 14, 2011

Great advice! Extremely appreciated.

1 small question:

Should I disclose who [new company] is? I don't see how it gives either party any leverage, but my father was advising not too. If it matters current company is teeny tiny, new company is a large academic organization.

Thanks again Hivemind!
posted by rickim at 11:05 AM on July 14, 2011

I can't address your last question, but this is significant:
...current company is teeny tiny, new company is a large academic organization.
The job at the large academic organization is likely to be A LOT more secure. Accordingly, if I were in your position then the old company would have to do a lot better than simply meeting the offer of the new company to get me to stay.
posted by jon1270 at 11:23 AM on July 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

The only problem with olinerd's approach is that a lot of people - myself included - believe that it's more often a bad idea to try to keep someone who has tried to leave. People are usually unhappy for a number of reasons, so throwing money at them usually just postpones the inevitable.

So when you say "I'm out" you run the risk that someone thinks you really want to be gone. It also doesn't do anything to help you insure that your old unpleasant situation doesn't recur.

Maybe I'm too pollyanna or old enough and far enough in my career to be kinda casual about being frank, but I'd just schedule a meeting and say that when things were worse 4 months back you let your contacts know you'd be open to new opportunities. Now things are better, but something promising has shown up. Can we have a frank conversation about that and my career direction here?

Personally I'd be a lot more inclined to want to keep someone around who had had that conversation with me than someone who said they were leaving. If for no other reason than the fact that it's often impossible to keep a resignation secret. It'll take them some time to figure out their response so a few days go by, word gets out, it makes other people think you can get a raise by threatening to leave... It's just a worse situation to be in as a boss.

As jon1270 says, is staying the best move? It it what you really want to do or something you'd just do for a buck? Because I've made more and made less and never once has making more made up for a shitty environment and not feeling good about what I do. If the new joint will be better on both then think about your 20% and smile.
posted by phearlez at 11:56 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Never solicit a competing bid from your current employer and never accept one. If you stay it may seem like everyone worked out an amicable resolution, but you can be almost certain that your loyalty will be suspect going forward. I've known people who have done this only to be canned months later as soon as the employer could find a replacement.

There are probably a handful of exceptions to this rule. Discern very carefully if your situation qualifies.
posted by dgran at 1:30 PM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

What dgran said.

Never accept a counter offer. They should have been paying that to you in the first place.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 1:45 PM on July 14, 2011

A friend of mine in a similar situation told the job (truthfully) that it would be financially irresponsible of her to turn down the better offer. The job offered her more money, she's still there, and it seems to have worked out well for both of them.
posted by Signed Sealed Delivered at 2:39 PM on July 14, 2011

Putting these two together They should have been paying that to you in the first place. and your loyalty will be suspect going forward leads to me to this possible option:
Ask your current job for the raise (promotion/perk/whatever) that would make you turn down the other offer and do not mention the other offer. If they accept, you do not have to appear disloyal and you get what you wanted. If they do not accept, you can take the other offer and explain to your current company that you got a better offer.
posted by soelo at 3:20 PM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't agree with this "loyalty will be suspect for all time."

As a manager, I certainly don't expect deep loyalty from the folks I supervise. I expect them to do their jobs well and ethically (don't lie or sell secrets, etc.), but I also know that everyone has different priorities and I don't own their souls. I'll get the best work out of my team if I find ways to help them achieve their ambitions, within reason. For some folks, work is about creative effort or the end products or the company's mission. For others, this place is a stepping stone to somewhere else. And for still others it's a paycheck that allows them the freedom to pursue their true passions when off the clock. If a top performer had an offer from the competition, and if I was financially able, I'd definitely try to keep him or her. If s/he turned me down, oh well. If not, I'm thrilled to be able to keep this great person on my team.

As a worker, I left Employer A when Employer B offered me a lot more money. I liked Employer A a lot, but the money and the prospect of taking a slightly different approach to the same basic job appealed to me, so when Employer A offered to match Employer B's salary bid I said, "Thanks, but I'm going." Some time later, Employer A called back with a new offer, and this time - disillusioned with Employer B - I said yes. A year after returning, I have received good reviews and fair treatment from my boss, and no indications that he questions my value to the company.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 3:24 PM on July 14, 2011

Like dgan, I have known a few people who have played this hand, accepted the higher pay to stay with their company, and then been let go when that company found a replacement.
posted by Houstonian at 6:11 PM on July 14, 2011

I'll add one thing: Even though people might not think you're disloyal if you accept an internal counteroffer, people will probably still think that you are more likely to leave than not.
posted by yellowcandy at 7:51 PM on July 14, 2011

I think soelo's option is clearly the best approach. It's honest, and opens the dialogue without antagonism. Threatening to leave is just that -- a threat -- and it's going to leave a bad taste in everyone's mouth no matter what the outcome.
posted by CaseyB at 8:36 PM on July 14, 2011

I also like soelo's option. To clarify, croutonsupafreak, I'm also a manager and I know in my heart that I too would treat this situation fairly if one of my reports requested a raise in light of a higher salary offer. The places where you can do an in-service salary negotiation safely are rare though. It shouldn't be like that, but I stand by my advice to the OP for practical reasons.
posted by dgran at 6:21 AM on July 15, 2011

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