using a job offer to get a counteroffer from your current company — does COVID change things?

A reader writes:

I’ve been interviewing with a great nonprofit since before Covid started and I expect to receive an offer this week. The company, team, and mission are great, and the offer will likely come with a medium-large pay bump.

I also love my current job and team, but it’s in a field that I feel guilty working in. Without getting into too much detail, sometimes the job requires things in the day to day that are icky.

Here’s the rub. As uncertain as things are right now, I’m as confident as can be that my current job is safe. The same can not be said of this job at the nonprofit. While it must be a good sign that they’re still hiring for the position, a nonprofit is a nonprofit and is dependent on external revenue sources which are likely to dry up soon. I asked some probing questions during the interview process and failed to get a straight answer about the job security of this position. I understand some of that is the nature of at-will employment, but I worry the org’s finances are also playing into the answers I got.

Under normal circumstances, I would absolutely take this new job opportunity and sail into the mission-driven sunset happy as a clam. As things stand, I’m genuinely concerned that taking this new position could mean I won’t have a job in three months.

Because of my track record at my current company, I expect them to make a relatively generous counteroffer. Am I crazy for thinking about taking it because of the added salary and job security it affords? On one hand, this could damage my relationship with my manager and director (though I don’t think it will) and I’d be passing up a great opportunity to do mission-driven work for a great company. On the other hand, I could come out of this with both job security and a higher salary as a sort of consolation prize.

Generally speaking, do you think Covid should factor into decision-making like this or should people proceed as they normally would have pre-Covid?

I would not leave a secure job right now for one you’re not sure will be there by the end of the year.

Many nonprofits are really struggling right now and are likely to struggle for some time. But what worries me more than that is that your interviewers didn’t give you straight answers to your questions about their finances and security. This is an organization that’s asking you to leave a secure job to work for them; they should want to give you all the info you need to make that decision, and if they’re not being straightforward, that’s not a good sign.

If they do make you an offer, I’d insist on getting that info before making a decision — and if you don’t get it, I would not take that job. It’s not worth the risk of being out of work in a terrible job market where you might not get hired again for a long while.

And of course, take whatever info they do provide with a grain of salt. Employers are notorious for saying everything is fine right up until the day they’re laying people off. And make sure to look for specifics, not just general reassurances. “We don’t have any reason to think this position is going anywhere” isn’t especially compelling. “This position is funded by a restricted grant, and we’ve already received the funding for the next two years” is more convincing.

As for the counteroffer … all the usual rules about counteroffers still apply, maybe more so. Even in the best of times, accepting a counteroffer to stay at your current job is a risky move and can get you put at the top of any layoff list because “she was already thinking of leaving anyway.” It can also mean you never get a sizable raise again, “because we just gave you that big raise when you were thinking about leaving” (three years ago).

And especially right now, when chances are higher than ever that any given company might need to lay people off this year, letting them know you were already about to leave makes it easier for your name to end up on that list. It’s not a payback thing (usually); it’s that many people feel less guilty about cutting someone who they think is already ready to leave than someone who will be devastated by it. (Obviously this reasoning is flawed; most people would be unhappy to be cut after they turned down another job to stay. But it gets used as reasoning nonetheless.)

And of course, you should never use an outside offer as a way to negotiate more money from your current job unless you’re 100% prepared to accept the other offer — because they may tell you to go ahead and take it. You might think they value you too much, but if they’re under pressures you don’t know about to reduce their headcount, this could look like a less painful way to do that.

Figure out whether you want the new job, and accept it or don’t accept it. But don’t use it as a negotiating tool with your current company.

{ 92 comments… read them below }

  1. Jules the 3rd*

    I really wish we knew more about what employment will look like in a year, it would help so much with decisions like this. But we don’t. I’m risk avoidant and will be staying put; my job supports an essential industry and I’m probably in a safe place. But if you’re young, no dependents, 6+ mo of savings – you could easily have a different answer.

    1. LC*

      Agreed – your life stage will come into play here. I am currently at a nonprofit and am unsure if my current job is secure, and am waiting for an offer for a new position at a university (specifically in admin support for a program that has ~50% international students). Since international students provide mass funding to universities, I’m worried that if take this new job, I’ll be out of a job come September. However, I’m young, have an emergency fund, and live with my parents, so it’s a risk I’m willing to take if it pays off!

      1. Startup Fan*

        “Agreed – your life stage will come into play here.”

        This is very ageist. Why do you assume that younger workers are more risk-loving and older ones more risk-averse?

        1. hamsterpants*

          “Life stage” is not ageist — “age” would be, though. We all go through different life stages, and at lots of different times.

        2. Avasarala*

          LC isn’t making statements about age. They’re saying if you’re in a life stage where it makes more sense for you to take risks, then your calculation will be different than if your life stage is different.

          Could just as easily be a young worker without the work history and savings to allow for months of unemployment, compared to an older worker with substantial savings looking to make a change even if it’s a bit risky.

          1. LC*

            Thank you for clarifying for me! My apologies if it came off the wrong way. Here’s to all the different life stages we may find ourselves in, at any age!

    2. JF*

      Yeah, I decided to pause a job search earlier this year because of the uncertain economic situation, and then got laid off, so what might seem like the cautious decision may end up not being the right one either.

      1. Audiophile*

        I’ve learned the hard way not to put long pauses on job searches, even when I was really happy in jobs. I’ve been laid off a number of times and in job markets that were less chaotic than the current one we find ourselves in. At this point, I sort of always keep my eyes open for anything.

    3. nonprofit nancy*

      I agree. Who knows how long this is all going on, and your life is happening right now. I wouldn’t stay in a job I thought was icky – but I have a higher than average tolerance for career risk, with no dependents and a good savings cushion.

  2. I'm A Little Teapot*

    OP, I always consider this tactic to be playing with fire. In the current environment, I think it’s even more so. Be very careful you don’t get burned.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Agreed. Especially if OP relies on work for health insurance. This is not a time to risk being without.

    2. Legal Beagle*

      Agreed, and I also wonder if OP’s current employer is even in a position to consider a counteroffer. OP’s manager might not be able to offer a raise, even if they are very motivated to keep her. If there’s a way for OP to quietly dig into that before trying to make this play, I’d start there.

    3. Snuck*


      How has your current company handled this situation before? Do they generally counter offer to retain, and what is the career trajectory and retention rates after that? What about in your specific work area/role/team/management lines?

      Are there any new projects or pressures that could be seeing mass staff reductions? Mass staff increases (some areas are putting more staff on as pressure builds in specific industries too), that might lead to promotion naturally for you? How well can you answer these questions about your own current company?

      Who funds the NFP (I believe that a lot of NFP funding is rapidly drying up?) and how secure is that funding (I hear a lot of skirmishes are happening between government levels for funding and a lot of changes occur on a trigger based on what ever your President tweets in the middle of a tantrum?)

      How icky is icky? Is there a way to re-frame your ‘icky’? I once made more than a dozen regional groups close entirely, a couple of hundred highly institutionalised and specialised staff gone… but because this was completely ‘icky’ to me, I convinced management and went about it in such a way that there was not a single forced redundancy out of it. I made sure we communicated early and effectively, provided cross training and job options, encouraged people to follow dreams, and wide spread supported the few legacy people for quite some time… but eventually met the company and the individuals needs in a fair and reasonable way… and still set up a single national point with full staffing on the other side of the country, without union complaints. “Icky” is only icky if you let it be, unless you are being asked to do something you can’t find a way to do with compassion and integrity. If your job requires to you act against your strong moral and ethical standpoints then work out if this is the time to raise that flag, or if you can make small changes that radically alter your impact, or other options.

      A bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush…

  3. Kettricken Farseer*

    OP, I would not leave a secure job for one that seems to have a lot less security. While it would be great to move on and have a much higher salary, the current environment would make it a really risky move. I had also been looking for other positions before COVID started, but I’ve suspended it for now until we have more answers. And this is a bad time for you to tell your bosses that you’re looking, for the reasons Alison stated. There’s just too much that is unknown at this time.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I am not looking for jobs and am very happy, but I had a headhunter contact me a couple weeks ago with a “great opportunity”. The job was with a local competitor who had major layoffs last year. I used to work there a very long time ago and survived 4 layoffs in 3 years. He didn’t seem to understand why I wasn’t interested. I’m all about job security, and my current company of 15 years has only had 2 layoffs since I’ve worked there.

  4. Snarflepants*

    Be VERY cautious about accepting this new job. I work at a financial mission nonprofit with stable funding. That the new place has questionable (unstable contracts? Donations?) funding is extremely risky. What they’re offering you as the year contract May Be It. Then you’re job searching in an economy that’s expected to be in rough shape.

    1. Snarflepants*

      Hmmm. I may have gotten a bit muddled on the specifics of what the new job is and how it’s funded. In any case, going to a nonprofit job that might have layoffs in the next months is very risky. Also, using the counter offer with your current employer is risky for the reasons Alison stated.

    2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I did years in nonprofits, and in the words of one of my bosses, “Well, we don’t want to tell people we have a no-refunds policy, we want to get their money first, before they find out.”

      My experience with other bosses, at other nonprofits, was pretty much that philosophy.

    3. WoodswomanWrites*

      I’ve worked at nonprofits my entire career, and I’ve never had an interviewer avoid answering questions about their financial security and how it would affect the position. Evading your question is a huge red flag and I wouldn’t pursue it further.

  5. AnotherAlison*

    “On one hand, this could damage my relationship with my manager and director (though I don’t think it will) and I’d be passing up a great opportunity to do mission-driven work for a great company. On the other hand, I could come out of this with both job security and a higher salary as a sort of consolation prize.”

    I don’t think it damages the current relationships if you actually leave but it does if you accept a counteroffer. That potentially damages your job security there and that consolation prize is not so shiny. If THEY need to lay people off, who might be on that list? They also may not make the counter offer, and you’ll go to the new company and that job won’t last.

    I think you’ve seriously overestimated the upside of quitting and angling for a counteroffer. I understand parts of your job are not great now, but I am in camp ride-it-out. Normally, I would say try to make changes at your job that would make you happy while this COVID situation plays out, but it doesn’t sound like you can (like if you are a debt-free person doing loan processing or something, that’s just the job, no changing it).

  6. Cordoba*

    Trying to work a counteroffer into more money from your current employer is really only a viable idea if you are 100% willing to accept an outcome where you wind up without *either* job.

    Sometimes that really is the situation, and I think those people should go for it.

    I suspect COVID-19 has probably decreased the number of people for whom this is the case, though.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      And the counteroffer ploy only even works if the current employer goes for it. Right now, many companies have frozen salary increases because they don’t know what their revenue will look like in the next few months. OP may try to get a counteroffer, and her current employer could say, “Sorry, we can’t give you a raise right now. Good luck with the new company.”

  7. emmelemm*

    Yeah, I think you have to consider that the much higher salary at new job is basically like the $600/wk unemployment bonus right now. Yes, if you take the new job, your salary jumps, but if you only earn that salary for the next 4-6 months, do you really come out ahead?

  8. Ali G*

    The vague answers are a HUGE red flag. I am an exec at a non-profit and we’ve been 100% transparent with our staff about our financial situation. If we were recruiting for a new position we would definitely pass that same info on to prospective staff, especially if we were going to extend an offer.
    In the best of times non-profits need to answer questions from candidates about funding for their positions, and in this time, it’s even more critical so people can make informed choices. The fact that they blew you off is a big deal.

    1. ElQuesoEsViejoYMohoso*

      I’m curious what kinds of questions candidates should ask to get this info? Coming from the corporate world, I have no idea how one would ask a question about whether the funding for a position is secure. What’s your advice on asking those questions?

      1. Ali G*

        You can glean a lot by checking out their 990 beforehand, but it’s perfectly acceptable to just ask. A couple of good ones:
        1. Where does the majority of your funding come from? What is the breakdown of grants for projects, individual giving, foundations, etc.?
        2. How is this position funded? (you also want to know if you are responsible for raising funds for your position)
        3. Do you expect the budget to be impacted by the pandemic? If so, how and when do you think those impacts will hit? Do you have a plan to mitigate those impacts?

        1. ElQuesoEsViejoYMohoso*

          Thank you for those examples, it’s really helpful to have that language. I was feeling a little weird about asking a potential interviewer about this, so I really appreciate the reassurance that it’s normal and okay to ask!

          1. Legal Beagle*

            This is great advice from Ali G. Definitely ask how the position is funded and don’t feel shy about it! That’s very normal in the non-profit world.

        2. MayLou*

          I didn’t actually ask these questions at interview, perhaps naively (I was very underemployed and had been for several years and we had managed, so it wasn’t essential that I got a job, though I’m now very glad I did for other reasons) but a few weeks after I started we were applying for a new mortgage and I asked my manager how likely my contract was to be renewed. She told me that no one had ever been laid off for financial reasons, which although it isn’t a guarantee of future funding was pretty reassuring to me.

    2. Redacted 33*

      Agreed. I recently hired for a nonprofit and we proactively told the new hire about some potential issues with funding even though it wouldn’t impact the new role for at least a year. Thankfully those issues were resolved and we’re all set but trust your gut with the vague answers. At the very least they’re not allowing you to make an informed choice.

      1. Amaranth*

        Another thing to watch for right now is that some grant-funded positions can be technically funded, and still on shaky ground. My daughter works with a lab program that would give her all the hours she wants, except they need samples that aren’t being gathered right now. Also, I volunteer with a nonprofit that works with at-risk kids and receives a lot of grants, but they have no idea what is happening now that their in-school program is closed, they can’t meet with most kids due to lack of technology, and they can’t meet deliverables.

  9. Just Wondering*

    Has anyone experienced the reverse of this situation—job hunting because you think your current gig might be in jeopardy (or because you know it is)?

    1. 867-5309*

      I think Alison has covered this in other posts and I’m certain it’s talked about in the Friday open forum for work questions, if you want to check there.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        ONE MORE THING – in these times – you don’t want to leave a job with a solid foundation for a shaky situation. My moves were always done in prosperous, robust times.

        I’m now semi-retired… working part time, but my health bennies are under Medicare. I would never strong-arm my current employer.

    2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Oh yeah. Several times in my career.. Now I’ve never worked for non-profits, but always for enterprises that were trying to make a buck.

      I’ve had to bail out – one, in particular – the company I was working for was a very successful subsidiary of a very successful Fortune 500/Dow Jones 20 company BUT corporate decided to bust us up and sell off the units – I was in the corporate IS/IT end. Rather than wait for a package/severance and stay aboard while the ship went down, I jumped. At the time I had a mortgage, car payment, three mouths to feed, and a daughter who was going to be going to college.

      In such a situation – sticking around for a package in six-eight months would have been a sucker move on my part.

      I’ve also been one ahead of the bill collectors (making so little money, the company I was working for starved me out during the Jimmy Carter inflation era) and one step ahead of the ax at another company (where I wasn’t a good fit – environmental, I wanted to develop and grow).

      You have to play the game carefully – but DO remember this – always act with caution – always remember to take care of “number one” (yourself) – and finally remember that rats that flee a sinking ship for safer ground have a better chance of survival than those that stay aboard to go down with the boat.

  10. 867-5309*

    I agree with many of the other commenters with one caveat… Are the “icky parts” of your job things you don’t like or make you feel guilty (as in, do you have to call people overdue on payments), “icky” as-in against a personal belief (e.g., you work for Planned Parenthood because they offer women’s health in under-served communities but you’re also pro-life), OR is it “icky” as in they are doing something illegal, unethical or truly amoral?

    It doesn’t sound like you’re desperate to leave your current job so I assume it’s something more akin to numbers 1 and 2, in which case the other advice applies. However, only you can decide what that will do to your soul, and how financially prepared you would be to weather a possible layoff down the road.

    1. pancakes*

      I don’t disagree with anyone advising the letter writer to be very cautious, but I want to push back on this a bit:

      “. . . a nonprofit is a nonprofit and is dependent on external revenue sources which are likely to dry up soon.”

      For-profit companies depend on external revenue sources too! And many fail. I don’t think generalizing to this degree is helpful.

      1. Koala dreams*

        Yeah, I find that confusing too. Plenty of for profit companies have seen their income stream drying up in the last month’s too, with no idea when, or if, it will come back.

      1. Snarflepants*

        Good point about for profit funding streams. However, the OP would still probably be the first person laid off at any new employer. If they stay where they are, OP has some security.

      2. 867-5309*

        That’s okay, Pancake. I agree with you so I’ll let the comment stay under mine. :)

    2. Archaeopteryx*

      Yes, it’s definitely important to make a plan to move away from something ethically compromising eventually, even if your timeline is delayed by the pandemic. It just depends on whether the level of icky we’re talking about is more in the realm of, say, upselling people/working with companies you don’t support, vs. something truly heinous like, say, those cruise companies making their salespeople lie to elderly clients about there being no risk of coronavirus on their cruises. If it’s more like the latter, it’s worth taking more of a risk in order to preserve your integrity.

  11. Felix*

    I want to underscore Alison’s point about being put at the top of a layoff list, the first person in my area who was laid off from the crisis had just leveraged another offer into a promotion and raise. People higher up the org chart were the ones who called them out specifically as the first to be let go, which would not have been their manager’s choice. So even if your manager might think you’re invaluable, their boss or boss’ boss might force them to cut you for all the reasons stated above.

    1. 867-5309*

      This is especially appropriate in OP’s case:

      6. Good luck getting that new employer to ever consider you again. If you go all the way through their hiring process only to accept a counteroffer from your current employer, then the former is going to be wary of considering you in the future. If it’s a company you’d like to work with, you might be shutting a door you’d rather keep open.

  12. Kiki*

    I’m pretty risk-averse so keep that in mind, but I wouldn’t be voluntarily switching jobs right now unless I were really certain the company I’m moving to is stable. I don’t know exactly what your current job is so I don’t know how icky aspects of it are, but I don’t think it’s wrong to prioritize stability for a while if you’re otherwise happy there. It could be that the ickiness is bad enough that you feel compelled to leave earlier– this is truly up to you. But I personally would stick with my current job and not bring up a counteroffer unless you feel like you are significantly underpaid for the work you are doing.

  13. TootsNYC*

    My department just escaped actually laying people off because someone had given notice.
    So if I came and said, “I have an offer, but I’d rather say,” my boss would absolutely say, “We can’t meet their salary; you should take it.”

    1. TootsNYC*

      I did once go to my boss and say, “I just turned down a job because I’d rather stay here, and I thought you should know why. You’ve fixed most of the problems with this job, so I’m happy. It’s kind of weird to tell you this, but I thought it was a way to demonstrate that you’ve been successful, and to provide positive reinforcement for the effort.”

      She said, “I hear all the things you are telling me,” and then I got a $1,000 bonus. Which was a lot at that time. Not as good as a raise, because it wasn’t ongoing, but it was something like 2% or 3% at the time.

      1. Ray Gillette*

        It’s always nice to be able to tell that kind of story, even if it might be a little weird. I once told my boss that I’d declined to meet with a headhunter who was recruiting for another local company because I was happy where I was, and I think that was good for the relationship.

        (it ended up being the right call from a purely selfish position as well – the company that had tried to recruit me closed down their branch in my city about a year later, transferring a few and laying off most of the people who worked there)

  14. juliebulie*

    I think it’s a bad idea to accept a counteroffer at the best of times, and you may not get a counteroffer anyway. But if you do, consider this:

    Will the “icky” part of your job be any less icky if you’re paid more for it? I don’t know if “icky” means something like cleaning fish or more like high-pressure sales, but either way, it will still be part of your daily job.

    If you are willing to live with the ickiness, I would recommend that you not pursue the other job, and especially not bank on getting a counteroffer. For all the reasons everyone’s given above.

    If you really can’t live with the ickiness, then take that other job (if offered) and don’t look back.

    1. Ellen Ripley*

      I was thinking something similar. Obviously lack of job security is a major concern at the moment, but if there’s a significant aspect of your current job you can’t stand and makes you feel awful, moving might be worth the risk. Even if you lose the new job after a while, you’d have a track record in that area and could hopefully parley that into something similar.

      Obviously you know the specifics and the risks better than we do.

    2. boo bot*

      This is exactly what I wanted to say. If you’re doing something that you know is wrong and you already feel icky about it, then getting paid more isn’t going to make what you’re doing any less wrong (or make you feel less icky).

      If it’s a fish-cleaning kind of icky (ichthy!), then definitely I would stick with the stable job. But if your job has you acting against your own conscience, it might be worth giving up the guilt of that in exchange for some uncertainty.

  15. Jedi Squirrel*

    In this environment, this one is a no-brainer for me: stay where you are and say nothing. Why make yourself vulnerable?

    Sometimes you just gotta deal with the icky parts.

  16. BRR*

    Throwing out a different suggestion is you could look at the organization’s form 990 and their audited financial statement if available (although neither would be up to date). I could see your interviewers just being secretive about financials because that’s how people are and there’s never a guarantee of a job but I’m like everyone else in that I wouldn’t risk it by the sounds of things.

    1. BRR*

      Also I’m not sure how important this theme is from your letter but moving from icky work to mission-driven work may or may not be everything it’s cracked up to be. You can work at a nonprofit and it can be awful (it could also be great).

  17. Rachel*

    Hi Alison, there is currently a banner ad running to the left side of the site on Chrome that cuts off the left ~10% of text on the screen so it cannot be read. It’s clearly still there but covered by the ad because you can see it before the ad. Also sorry for alerting you to this in an off-topic comment but the ad also happens to cover up wherever the submit button is on the report an ad tech or typo issue page so couldn’t do it there.

    1. Mari*

      yep, I had to switch from Chrome to Safari just to read this! I thought I was going crazy

    2. BRR*

      There’s a link above the comment box to report ad issues which I know Alison takes very seriously. It helps her if you can get the hyperlink the ad goes to.

          1. FYI*

            I’ve also had it where if you click “stop seeing this ad” one of the options it will give you for not wanting to see the ad is “covers content”.

  18. fisharenotfriends*

    I completely understand how frustrating it is to have been job hunting before the pandemic to move from a job that wasn’t completely in line with your values. I was in exactly the same position a month ago, with a shiny degree and an urge to pivot my career into a field that would give me more responsibility.

    I thought about it this way– if I was unemployed six months later because I took a job in the middle of this that didn’t work out, I’d feel ashamed to ask for a reference from the company I’d left during a pandemic, assuming they didn’t see that as a bridge burned. Not because I’d feel bad about leaving if it was in my own best interest, as Alison says, we have to operate in our own interest because the company is operating in theirs, but because to move from being an established entity in one position to being the new person whilst trying to work remotely and moving into a field that had less job security in this economy changes the stakes about what truly is my best interest at the moment.

    And FWIW, this is how I felt both not being dependent on my job for insurance, and not moving into the non-profit sector.

  19. Sleepy*

    I suggest you dig into the funding model this nonprofit uses a bit more when deciding if you would be willing to work there, and don’t threaten to jump ship unless you are willing.

    I work at a nonprofit that has historically been a bit…rickety…financially. However, we’ve been able to weather this storm okay because a lot of our funding comes from grants from foundations that are sheltered from the storm right now. Some funders are even being more generous and flexible than usual. We don’t know how long that will last, but we *never* know how long foundation funding will last, and we are actually better off financially now than we were two years ago at this time. Being part of the leadership team, I have experienced the stress of scrambling to make payroll even at times when the economy was hot.

    Unless the nonprofit has a robust fee-for-service model, it will *always* be inherently a little bit unstable if it depends on individual donors or foundations. I realize that instability is riskier now than in the past, but it’s something to consider if you’re looking at that sector.

    Some staff have been asking us questions about how much stability we can promise them. It’s hard to answer because I don’t feel that I’ve ever been comfortable making promises about the future. At the same time, my nonprofit has been in business for more than 15 years and we have very low staff turnover.

    Tl;dr If the leadership cannot promise stability, that might be in the nature of the model, and not because they are shady or trying to hide something.

  20. anonforthis*

    My organization has let hiring managers know that retention bonuses and counteroffer funding are specifically and explicitly not in the budget now due to COVID-19. I would not bet on receiving a counteroffer at all.

    1. a good mouse*

      Interesting! I’m not in HR so I’m not privy to this sort of thing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if my company was the same. Like I mentioned below, my company is 2/3 furloughed and I’m sure if someone said they had an offer they might take, the company would be more likely happy to bring back a furloughed person.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      Ha – I just said that above. That money is unlikely to exist for OP even if the company wanted to give it to her.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Even if the money exists, I think it’s a bad look for someone who asks for it. My company is fine now, yet the whole “we’re in this together” attitude exists. While they’re going through all these company-initiated changes to make sure we can work at home, in the office, or on job sites safely, which surely costs extra in the short-term, it’s tone deaf that someone would go in and say they need more money just for themselves because they aren’t happy and have another offer. I mean, you aren’t happy here rn? Really? Welcome to Earth. No one is happy.

  21. MistOrMister*

    I would also think that if you did manage to leverage a raise out of a counteroffer, that might make you a more atractive candidate if they have to consider layoffs. If you’re in a complrable postion to others but are making, say 5 to 10k more, it would see like you would be more likely to be on the chopping block.

    Also, please take into consideration that many places are putting/have put freezes on raises amd bonuses. My place hasn’t officially announced a freeze on raises, but it’s been put in place. I assume if someone was to leave there would be no talk of counter offers unless it was one of the few people it would be almost impossible to replace easily. And even then, good luck. I think it would cause resentment for people to know that no one is getting a raise/bonus for 2020, but hey this guy over here got a whopping increase via counteroffer.

  22. a good mouse*

    I think your options really should be a) take the other offer, or b) stay put. Not c) ask for a counter offer.

    I wouldn’t ask them for a counter offer. Yes, you might end up getting more money, but there’s a higher than normal risk that they’ll tell you to take the other offer. Like Alison said, a lot of places are facing pressure to reduce headcount. Slightly different situation in that I work for a company that is 2/3 furloughed, but I’m sure any person leaving is greeted with relief because that’s another person they can bring back.

  23. Jane*

    Personally, I would not do this. I work in the nonprofit industry and you’re right that revenue is drying up. Everyday I’m hearing of colleagues that are furloughed or laid off – entire teams, not just one person. I might take this position IF the nonprofit was providing direct service (something like Feeding America or your local United Way if they have a Covid-19 relief fund) and IF the role was frontline, ie. a gift officer. If it’s a hospital organization, those have been hit hard because elective services and travel were on pause. On preview, I agree with Sleepy above. What is their source of revenue?

    1. MissDisplaced*

      It’s hard to know without knowing what it is. As with many things, some may be positioned to do fine and need extra help. Others not so much. But man, I’d be really trying to find out more about their financial situation and operations before making that leap!

      Truthfully, it’s that way in the for-profit world too. I see lots of jobs, but a lot seem to be from startups and software companies I’ve never heard of. That’s fine if you’re out of work, but as I have a pretty decent job, it’s not what I’d jump for right now.

  24. Dan*


    You write this: “As things stand, I’m genuinely concerned that taking this new position could mean I won’t have a job in three months.”

    If that’s truly the case, why on god’s green earth would you want to take that risk? I mean, it’s really up to you, your risk tolerance, and how risky you think the job stability likely will be. We can’t tell you what your tolerance is and what you should or shouldn’t do.

    Second, another downside to trying to tease a counter-offer from your current employer is that you would be getting more than they really *wanted* to pay you. If things at your current employer do get tight (I believe you when you say that the position is stable as can be, but nobody knows what COVID19 is going to do in the long run) you’re now a bit lower on the “value” chain, and therefore likely higher on the list when “tough decisions” have to get made.

    Now isn’t the time to play games with a stable job.

    1. Amaranth*

      I wouldn’t want to put it in their head that I have been actively looking and interviewing, and could still have one foot out the door.

  25. IHerdCatsForFood*

    There are enough highly qualified people looking for jobs right now that you’re taking a big risk trying to leverage a counteroffer when your company could put out an advert this afternoon and have 100 people applying by tomorrow morning.

  26. MissDisplaced*

    I’m sort of searching right now, and was pre-COVID, because while I mostly like my job, there are a few things (mostly to do with another department) that I find exceedingly frustrating and make me want to leave.

    I’m being very picky, but should I get an offer I would be very wary of using that to get a counter from my current place of employment. I think you’d have to determine what amount of risk you’re willing to take with the new job, given it’s prospects, and make the decision to go or stay without entertaining a counter from current job.

    However, If you really truly did love the nonprofit and you definitely feel this is your best move, and it will make you happy, then by all means take it and don’t look back.

  27. PollyQ*

    Don’t forget Option C: keep hunting for a job you want that looks like it’ll actually be around for a while. True, this is not at all a good time to be searching, but some places are hiring, so it may be worth the effort if you’re really unhappy at your current job.

  28. OP*

    OP here, some clarification, icky doesn’t mean illegal it just means my company does things that are objectionable. Someone brought up pushy sales which is a pretty good comparison. I appreciate all the responses from everyone and I will certainly give an update once things have settled down a bit.

  29. Lizzo*

    OP: You can probably dig up a fair amount of info by looking at the nonprofit’s 990s (tax forms they’re required to file) from the last few years. GuideStar is a good resource for this if the org doesn’t have them posted on their site. It shows sources of funding, executive salaries, how much they spend on administrative costs vs. program expenses, and other things that will give you a sense of the organization’s financial state. Their Annual Report would also be a valuable resource.
    None of this will confirm whether they’ll be stable going forward (because who knows right now?!), but it should shed some light on the past and whether the folks you’ve been interviewing with have been transparent with you…or not.

    1. Lizzo*

      Also going to +1 the other comments that making a move right now and attempting to raise your salary with a counteroffer sounds very risky. You know your own risk tolerance, but I personally would stay put and start thinking about what you are going to need (financially speaking) to be okay if you do get laid off within the next three months. Good luck–be well and be safe!

  30. Six Feet Under Par: A Chip Driver Mystery*

    I am now much less likely to counter-offer than I used to be because I’ve had experiences where I really go to bat to get people substantial ones, and then a little while down the track, they’ve had another offer out of the blue, even though they weren’t really looking blah, blah, blah fishcakes.

    At that point, it starts to feel like a Band-Aid I would have to rip off sooner or later, so why not rip it off now? I understand people need to make the move that’s best for them and I glad they’ve found a great opportunity, I am just cautious about how many exhausting and time-consuming hoops I want to jump through to get to the same ultimate outcome.

  31. allathian*

    Does anyone have any stories about counteroffers actually working? When we met and started dating, my husband lived in another city a 5-hour drive away, where he had moved for his first full-time job in his field after university. He used to drive back home nearly every weekend to visit his mom and hang out with his friends, so he only knew people from his work there.
    He wanted to transfer to the branch office in our current city, but his employers only let him when he had an offer of another job here. He even managed to negotiate a small salary increase. This worked for two reasons, his employer wanted to keep him and realized they would lose him if they didn’t agree to his terms. This was 12 years ago and he switched from one company within the conglomerate to another 6 years ago, but basically he’s still there.

    1. Sleepy*

      I know two people who got counter-offers and decided to stay in their position. However, one of those only stayed for another year because she was still unhappy–nothing changed except her salary. The other stayed for several more years, but slowly grew more bored and disengaged with the work.

  32. NJ Anon*

    OP, I once turned down an np job because their finances were not in good shape. Look at their website and see if they publish their financials. If not, there’s ways to get them. I think there is a website you can go to called Guidestar and get them.

  33. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    Regardless of the pandemic, Alison’s last sentence is the key IMO. You never threaten to leave unless you’re fully prepared to do so. You may be an awesome employee and feel as though they’d never let you leave without trying to keep you, but do you really want to find out the hard way that it may not be the case? I’ve seen plenty of good people leave jobs with zero effort to keep them.

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