How can I capitalize on a job offer I received but won't accept?
May 8, 2007 9:21 PM   Subscribe

How can I capitalize on a job offer I received but won't accept?

I am pleased with my current job at a major telecommunications company, but a couple of weeks ago I received an offer to join what seemed to be a great early stage start-up as a CEO. However, as negotiations progressed, I saw that the amount of risk I was going to take wasn't worth it, since 1) the salary + benefits they are offering are exactly the same I currently have (of course there are options, but there lies the risk) and 2) as I said I really like my current job and I feel I haven't been here long enough (1 1/2 years) and I would like to use it to build a stronger resumé.

So, negotiations are still taking place but I am pretty sure I'll pass on this one. Given that, I would like to use this to make me look good on my current job. :-) This is my ideal scenario:

I would informally tell my boss what happened and that I have rejected the offer because I see better opportunities in our unit etc. He would then be very pleased, appreciate the honesty and recognize me as a valued professional that is being sought in the market. My name would be marked for future promotions and success would ensue.

Is this possible? Is there any way to pull that off and not look like an asshole (that part is important)?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Use an intermediary. Do you have friends/colleagues who you could mention it to casually who might also at some point mention it casually to the boss?
posted by Good Brain at 9:48 PM on May 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't do anything about it. Once your boss hears you entertained looking elsewhere for work, even if you were approached by this other company out of the blue, you'll be perceived as disloyal.

What do you want to get out of it? More money? A promotion? A bonus? If you're happy there, and are respected and appreciated by your management, why not just ask for what you're looking for based on your performance?
posted by pazazygeek at 10:34 PM on May 8, 2007

My opinion is that it would be unprofessional to attempt to capitalize on this. I also think it's more likely to hurt you than help you if you try to.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:40 PM on May 8, 2007

The downside: You're basically outing yourself as someone who plays it safe and who is not confident enough to take a risk when opportunity comes knocking (not to mention that you are admitting to considering other positions closely enough to feel it worth making it an issue). The upside: Playing this kind of game of favor is consistent with the kind of person who plays it safe and who is not confident enough to take a risk when opportunity comes knocking. So you're being honest on some level, at least.

People see through this kind of self-promotion, and it can come off as desperate. This label will follow you, as will, invariably, the proclivity/necessity for this kind of maneuvering.
posted by troybob at 10:44 PM on May 8, 2007

Imagine the tables were turned. Your boss comes into your office to tell you he found someone qualified to replace you – but all things being equal, he decided to stick with you instead. Is there a chance in hell that news is going to please you?
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:08 PM on May 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

There is no classy way to do it. Even if your boss didn't start to wonder about your loyalty, he will wonder about your sense of decorum. Telling a boss this sort of thing (or making sure it reaches his attention) is almost never appropriate; if I were your boss, I'd wonder why you didn't know that.
posted by necessitas at 11:28 PM on May 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

1. Brag to boss of recently-turned-down offer for equal pay and greater risk.

2. ???

3. Don't profit.
posted by trip and a half at 11:35 PM on May 8, 2007

My boss has done this three years in a row, getting a big fat counteroffer every time. I wish I knew how he did it - it's Machiavellianly brilliant - but I do wonder how many times one can cry wolf. I think the key has been that he doesn't let on that he's not going to accept the offer. Also, we're in an industry where you can be nominated/recommended as an applicant for a position, so he can look somewhat passive to a point ("they sought me out").
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:01 AM on May 9, 2007

You've got to be kidding me?!?! You've been offered a CEO position and you've chosen to ask advice anonymously on metafilter?

If you have serious aspirations to CxO level positions, you need to surround yourself with mentors. Real, physical people you can trust mentors. Maybe your current manager is that person.

If so, they'd understand the nature of the offer you had declined and work with you to build skills and awareness in yourself so you'd be better prepared the next time a significant opportunity presented itself. And they'd be supportive.

If you boss isn't that person, you need to find that person and work through a plan. Metafilter isn't going to do it, and if you intend to lead, you need to believe in yourself enough to reach out openly to your own community and network.
posted by michswiss at 4:18 AM on May 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Unless they're in completely separate industries, there is a high probability that your current employer will eventually find out about the offer.

Tell your boss NOW that you're negotiating with the other company and that your current company may need to make a counteroffer to keep you. If your current company reacts poorly to the perception of disloyalty, it's better to find that out while there's an offer on the table from the other company than three months from now, when word of your treasonous perfidy (as they'll see it) works its way through the rumor mill to your current company. (You probably don't want to work for such a company anyway -- any company that values loyalty ahead of productivity will get its clock cleaned by more nimble competitors.) If they're more concerned with keeping a valuable employee who has attractive options outside the company, they'll work with you.
posted by backupjesus at 5:48 AM on May 9, 2007

This is only one piece of your puzzle. Take it as a confidence booster and know that you have desirable and marketable skills. Use that confidence to be more assertive. Define the next steps to move up from your current position. Inform your boss that you want to be a director or CEO (whatever the next big step would be internally). Ask him/her how you acheive that. Ask for bluntness about your weaknesses. If you want to send them a signal, say something like "I really enjoy working here and, by far, my *preference* is to stay here for a long time." That is usually a good indication that you're at least keeping your eyes open.

Know that if what they say is unfair or completely unattainable, one company was willing to make you their CEO. And there will be other (possibly lesser) opportunities. But opportunities nonetheless.
posted by redarmycomrade at 5:54 AM on May 9, 2007

Michwiss makes a good point, though to be consistent you may have to disregard that advice too.

Slight variant on backupjesus's aggressive strategy: approach boss by saying "Listen, it's a small world, and I wanted to let you know before you heard it from someone else: I've been approached by X, and they're really trying to create a good opportunity for me. To be frank, I think it'll be hard or maybe impossible for them to match what I have here, but I'm flattered and I've been listening to what they had to say -- I figured I owed it to myself. But I really believe in the team here at Y, and that's why I wanted to just let you know."

For me, saying something after the fact has no bargaining leverage and just makes you look like a prick -- the assumption will be that you had some good reason to turn it down, and that now you're trying to get paid for it anyway.

But this could be messy, and there may be repercussions.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 6:18 AM on May 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised by the number of responders who say you will be considered "disloyal" for interviewing elsewhere. My mileage varies. Given today's business climate and the possibility of layoffs we all endure, there's no such thing as loyalty in this space.

My personal goal is to interview every four months, whether I'm actually considering leaving my job or not. My ability to interview well is arguably my most important job skill, and the only way to be any good at it is to practice, practice, practice.

And to the person who said "How would you feel if your boss was interviewing people for your position?", my answer is "impressed". When I was a manager, I often interviewed new candidates when I didn't have an existing position open for them. As a manager, it was my responsibility to stay on top of what the job market looked like. And if I found a stellar candidate, we would have found a way to make it work.
posted by browse at 6:28 AM on May 9, 2007

Someone very close to me was approached by another company in her industry. The new position would have been a step up in terms of prestige and pay, but had other negative aspects. She told her boss "Look, I have this other offer. I'd rather stay here, but I have to look out for myself," and by the end of the day, her company had beat the other offer.

Obviously YMMV, but I can't imagine that telling your boss "I have declined another job that pays the same, please give me a raise" would do much good.
posted by adamrice at 6:52 AM on May 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

I was in a similar situation a few months ago and I decided not to tell my boss about it... but then one day a conversation occurred between the two of us where it fit in, and so I mentioned it.

She wasn't shocked (like I thought she'd be) and there was no theme or feelings of disloyalty at all. She asked me questions like "Why didn't you take the position?" and "What was attractive about it?" She also asked my permission to tell higher ups so that I could get more help for my team. (And we'll be hiring a FTE in July as a result.)

In the end, I think the info that I was attractive to another company made my current employer value me more. YMMV, and FWIW I'm in higher ed (the job offer was from industry).
posted by 10ch at 7:22 AM on May 9, 2007

Is there anything about your current job you would change if you could? I've had success with:

"I really like my current job and working with you, but I was approached by a company that made me an attractive offer. I do want to stay here, but I have been wondering if there was any way that you could make X change. Do you think that's possible?"

I also think that it's naive to pin much on company loyalty (unless this is a particularly strong aspect of your company culture). People in business are rational adults and realize that everyone needs to look out for themselves, within reason. Another job offer is a totally reasonable time to re-negotiate aspects of your current position.

If you are not interested in pursuing this route, say nothing.
posted by underwater at 7:39 AM on May 9, 2007

Clyde may be right -- I have been called Machiavellian by friends -- but it strikes me as both dishonest and counterproductive to make yourself sound loyal and happy with your current position when you're not.
posted by backupjesus at 9:02 AM on May 9, 2007

If you feel both offers are the same then you have nothing to lose by leaving either. Either negotiate for a better offer for the CEO position, or negotiate for a better offer from your curent job. You can always sit down with your current boss and say that you are very happy with your current position but are considering an offer from another company, but you have to know what you want. You need to say they are offering you a better salary, options, responsibilities, something. Otherwise your boss has nothing to focus on. Then you and he have a discussion. You think about it. You tell him you want him to know that you are staying and he's a big part of the reason, or something like that. Don't do this if you are looking for extra credit though. That's ambiguous and tricky.
posted by xammerboy at 9:21 AM on May 9, 2007

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