How to Lever­age a Job Of­fer to Earn More Money with Your Cur­rent Em­ployer

The Washington Post Sunday - - JOBS - This spe­cial ad­ver­tis­ing sec­tion was pre­pared by in­de­pen­dent writer De­bra Legg. The pro­duc­tion of this sec­tion did not in­volve the news or edi­to­rial staff of The Wash­ing­ton Post.

Ex­cept for a few com­pa­nies where ran­dom raises 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 a trend of sorts. In fact, the So­ci­ety for Hu­man Re­source Man­age­ment has warned hir­ing man­agers 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, says one for­mer Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton University so­ci­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor, 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 play­ing 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 your 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.

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