How do I approach my boss about a new job offer to allow a counteroffer?
May 7, 2019 5:34 AM   Subscribe

There may be a new job offer on the horizon for me. I wouldn't mind staying at my current job and would like to give them the opportunity to make a counteroffer. How do I actually go about having that conversation with my boss?

I have been at my current job for three years. In that time I have received excellent performance reviews and some great bonuses. I know my work is valued and valuable. I am generally happy but the department is small and I do not have opportunities for promotions. I have asked for a title change (essentially adding "senior" to my title). My boss says he supports this request but HR does not. There is some talk that I could be in line to take over for my boss when he retires in a couple years but that has not been discussed in great detail.

I am not really looking for a new job but applied to an interesting position a couple months ago and now have a third and final interview later this week. I do not know for sure that they will make an offer at that time but I have a feeling they might. If the offer is good, I would probably accept it. Better pay, includes the advancement I'm looking for, etc etc. However, I like a lot about my current job and I would like to allow them the opportunity to make me a counteroffer to get me to stay.

How do I actually have that conversation? In this question, for example, the asker says "However, when I approached my boss he counter-offered." What does that approach look like? What are the nuts and bolts from when you receive an offer from the new employer to talking about it with your current boss? What should I try and say? How do I frame the conversation so it doesn't feel like I'm trying to muscle them into giving me what I want? Should I ask the new employer for a certain amount of time to make a decision? What are the actual logistics of doing this?

My other two job changes were situations where I was dissatisfied and was moving across the country so counteroffers weren't something I needed to think about.
posted by Tevin to Work & Money (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You may want to consider some of the reasons why counteroffers can be a bad deal for you. (Sincerely yours etc, Capt. Buzzkill)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:45 AM on May 7, 2019 [6 favorites]

I don't want to threadsit but I have informed myself about counteroffers. I have considered the pros and cons of having this conversation in the first place and I am only looking for advice on how to have the actual conversation, not whether or not I should at all. Thank you!
posted by Tevin at 5:49 AM on May 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Once you have the job offer in-hand, it's time to make a decision. If you want to be counter-offered, then state that outright. Say, "I have a job offer that's really good, but I like X, Y, and Z about working here, and I was wondering if there's any way you could match/better this offer so I could stay?"

In most scenarios, that probably isn't going to happen, because a lot of companies have policies about when and how raises and bonuses and such work, and if counter-offering happens under anything but extraordinary circumstances, it may make compensation untenable for most managers. But if you are willing to walk out the door and into the new gig, it's worth a shot, and the most simple way of getting something is to first ask for it.
posted by xingcat at 5:52 AM on May 7, 2019 [8 favorites]

I think you either need to be willing to leave or willing to not get the raise. Which one are you?

If you’re willing to leave, you need to resign and tell your manager that you’d be willing to stay if they matched or exceeded the offer you’ve accepted. But mentally prepare yourself: you’re almost certainly leaving your current job for the new job.

If you’re willing to give up the potential raise, decline the other offer. Then tell your current manager that you think you deserve a raise, and that the market rate for your job is {other offer} and ask if they will match it. Tell them that another organization tried to poach you and you weren’t interested. But mentally prepare yourself: you probably aren’t going to get the raise, certainly not immediately.
posted by mpbx at 6:23 AM on May 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

Also, if you have a good relationship with your boss there’s no reason you can’t jump ship now and apply for his job when he retires in a few years. Your reasons for leaving are totally valid and any good manager will understand that.
posted by mpbx at 6:26 AM on May 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

that probably isn't going to happen, because a lot of companies have policies about when and how raises and bonuses and such work

As a counterpoint, getting an offer and requesting a match is the dominant way of getting raises in some very large and bureaucratic organizations. It's particularly true of government work, but there are some big Fortune 500 types where it truly isn't considered offensive to go get an offer (and in fact is that those that ascend tend to do). If the money simply isn't there in the budget or they've been told that they can't have any more grade 15s or whatever, their hands may still be tied.

OP, if I were you, I'd frame in the context of the previous discussion of moving to senior, and let them know that while you have the opportunity to move to that elsewhere that you enjoy your current employer/team and would like to see if they can create a senior position for you there.

Know what you're looking for - is it a more senior role, more money, or both?

It helps if you can show that they need a senior whatever your job title is in terms of the workload and that having one will deliver enough value to the company to pay for it. You might also be prepared to answer whether you think your current position would need someone to be hired to replace you if you move into a senior role - it's not technically up to you, but if you're trying to sell the idea to management, getting them in you frame of thought can be advantageous.
posted by Candleman at 6:26 AM on May 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

You already made the internal decision to leave the moment you started interviewing (Michael Lopp calls this "Shields Down"). And you've noted that the new position offers more in-hand opportunity than waiting for a potential promotion/raise/pony from the current employer. And you probably know deep down that most of those promises will never happen.

IMO the conversation to have is "none". If you get the offer, turn in your notice and go.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:02 AM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I work for people who believe econ 101 in the best way possible, in that you can say out loud that you care about money. YMMV if your boss is more about loyalty, face, or the opportunity to do good.

0. Have this conversation after receiving a written offer and before responding to it. Sometimes people say "counter-offer" to mean, they gave notice and their bosses started throwing money at them. I think even in 2018, some places will look askance at people reneging after accepting an offer.

1. Talk about the offer as a matter of price discovery, not as an option you're seriously going to take. E.g., "I applied for another job just to stay in touch with what the market thought was fair for people like me. It sounds like the going rate is $X and Senior $Y."

2. Emphasize that you like it here for various non-financial reasons, and you're looking for a way to stay here without paying so much financially. E.g., "There's a lot I like about this place: ...Obviously, the best of both worlds would be to enjoy all those without taking a pay cut for it."

3. Ask in an open-ended way what they can do for you. Since you've told them the relevant details of your offer, they won't be confused about what you want. However, it gives you more room to say, "Eh, close enough" without losing face and credibility. If you say, "This or I walk," then you've effectively given them full control of whether you walk, and ruled out any possibility of finding some unexpectedly acceptable third option. E.g., "I'm wondering if there's any room in the budget / org chart to get me more in line with what the rest of the job market is doing."
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 7:02 AM on May 7, 2019 [12 favorites]

I don’t think there is a “one size fits all” answer for this. So much depends on your relationship with your boss, the corporate culture of the company, the company’s rules and operating procedures and how flexible they can be. Have you heard of other people at your current job doing such a thing?

When I heard of people doing this at my last job, counteroffers never worked out because there was too much bureaucracy in the way: a boss who really didn’t want to lose a key employee could try to move heaven and earth, but still could not get an attractive counteroffer approved within 2 or 3 weeks. The boss might make all kinds of promises, but the prevailing wisdom was that it was unwise to rely on such things. Even if he puts it in writing - next month you get a new boss, who isn’t going to feel bound by those promises.

It could be different at your company.

Finally: I think mpbx above might be on to something: go to the new job, but keep an eye on things at your old job. When your current boss leaves, apply for his job. It’s not bad to have a long-term strategy, and I don’t believe it’s even morally or ethically an issue: if it works out, you’ll end up with a salary and title appropriate to your abilities, and the company gets someone with expanded skills and experience.

Of course, in the words of Woody Allen: “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”
posted by doctor tough love at 8:40 AM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

The small number of people I know who have benefited from a counter offer have all done it by just resigning and giving one or two months notice. At some point during the notice period the employer decided it would be easier to make a counter offer.

I think the key point is that the offer has to be their idea, otherwise it will seem like you are coercing them into paying you more.
posted by Lanark at 10:43 AM on May 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

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