can I leverage a job offer for a raise at my current job?

A reader writes:

I know that under normal circumstances, it’s possible and even savvy to use a new job offer to leverage a raise out of a current employer. But is it smart to do that during a pandemic?

I work for a large-ish company that has had layoffs and furloughs due to COVID-19. The CEO has been open about the company’s lost revenue for the year, and everyone who has remained at the company has taken a reduced salary through at least the next few months.

I love my job, though I think I was underpaid even before the salary reductions, and I’ve received interest for another role at a different company that looks promising. If I interview for and receive a job offer, is it smart of me to try to leverage that offer for a raise right now, when the company is struggling? Would that just hurt my position and relationship with management? With the current state of everything, should I only interview for another job if I have a reasonable intent of taking it?

Noooo, don’t do it! Even in the best of times, it’s awfully risky to use a job offer from another company to try to get a better offer from your current employer.

Most obviously, there’s the risk that your current employer will tell you, “It sounds like a great opportunity; congratulations and we’ll miss you”—putting you in a difficult position if you were bluffing about your interest in the other job.

Less obviously, even if your current job does make you a counteroffer in order to keep you, it can set you up for problems down the road. Often if you accept a counteroffer, you’ll find that your relationship with your employer changes as a result; now you’re seen as the person who was actively looking to leave. That shouldn’t matter—these are business relationships, after all—but in practice, it often does change the way you’re viewed. That can mean that if your company needs to make cuts in the future, you might be at the top of the list because they figure you were planning on leaving anyway.

It can also make it harder to get a raise in the future because the next time you ask for one, you’ll be told, “We gave you a big raise a while back when you were thinking of leaving.”

Even worse, sometimes employers make counteroffers in a moment of panic, not wanting to lose you without any time to prepare… but then push you out later on a timeline more convenient to them because they figure you’re likely to start looking again at some point anyway. That’s obviously operating in terrible faith, but it happens.

Some recruiters even say that 70-80 percent of people who accept counteroffers leave or are let go within a year. I can’t attest to the accuracy of that stat (sometimes numbers like that get thrown around and no one knows where they came from), but the fact that it’s often repeated tells you how people who hire think about counteroffers.

And of course, if you go all the way through a hiring process, get an offer, and use it to negotiate a better deal from your current employer, that other company is very unlikely to consider you again in the future. That might be fine with you, but if it’s somewhere you might want to work one day, you’ll be closing that door.

On top of all that, those reasons to be wary about counteroffers are for normal times. We’re not in normal times; we’re in pandemic. Your company has laid people off, furloughed others, and cut the salaries of everyone who stayed. Not only is there a really good chance that they’re not in a position to offer you more money, but they might even be relieved to get another person off their payroll without having to do more layoffs.

All of which is to say, trying to get a counteroffer is risky during normal times, and it’s even riskier right now.

To be clear, that doesn’t mean that accepting a counteroffer never works out. Sometimes it does! There are even some industries where the only way to ever get a raise is to first get a job offer somewhere else, but those are the exceptions, not the rule. For most people, and especially right now, it doesn’t make sense to seriously interview for other jobs unless you’d really be open to moving on.

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{ 70 comments… read them below }

  1. staceyizme*

    I can totally see why it seems reasonable to negotiate based on an offer from another company! It sounds logical. The problem is, even in business, people aren’t logical! They’re generally emotional. You’d be much better off negotiating with both companies separately in good faith and taking the next step based on a combination of pay, perks, growth opportunities and love of the work/ corporate culture.

    1. hbc*

      It doesn’t even have to be about emotion–often employer and employee logic doesn’t reach the same conclusion. It’s logical for the employee to show that they can get paid more elsewhere to show that it will take more to keep them, or that they’re underpaid. It’s logical for the employer to stick to their own (hopefully well-considered) pay scales and compensation plan. And as much as I hate the fact, it’s logical for the employer who has to reduce headcount or arrange training to take into account that OP is unhappy and maybe not a good bet for the long term.

      1. LQ*

        Yeah, in this case I think the logical thing for this employer would be to wish the employee good luck in their future endeavors. It’s not to counter offer to someone who is unhappy with compensation when you know you can’t hold to those numbers, will make other employees unhappy, and you’re going to lose this person anyway.

      2. Koalafied*

        Yes, I think this is one of those areas where bluffing is very risky. You should only try to leverage the other offer if you’re prepared to actually take the other offer if/when your current employer can’t give you your requested increase.

        If you’d truly be fine with either job, but you value the relationships/institutional knowledge you’ve accumulated at your current job so have a slight preference for staying there if possible, then sure – leverage the offer and maybe you will get a counter-offer. And if you don’t, you can always take the offer for the new job.

        If you don’t really want to take another job and are thinking of using the other offer purely for negotiating leverage, that could really backfire on you for the reasons hbc stated if your current employer declines to increase your pay and you aren’t prepared to actually take the other offer.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, this. When we started dating, my husband was working in another city a 5-hour drive away. He had moved there after he got his engineering degree, because they provided a competitive salary, and while that city housed the corporate HQ, they had offices around the country. Anyway, when we were thinking about living together, we never considered moving to his city, because all of his friends and his family lived in his former hometown where I also lived. So he applied for jobs in my (and his family’s) city and when he got an offer, he used that to negotiate a transfer here, as well as a raise. It worked, because his employer knew that he was willing to switch jobs to get the transfer. The raise was a nice bonus.

  2. Helen J*

    I definitely wouldn’t do this in a pandemic and as Alison points out, it can be risky even in the best of times. I had a coworker who tried this about 2 years ago and she was told “We can’t offer you more money right now, so you should take the job and best of luck!”. She ended up hating that job and left less than a year later.

    Also, is the offer tempting only because it pays more? If it’s about money and the CEO has been honest, you have to decide if you want to try to wait it out and see if the pay gets better or if it’s in your best interest to go ahead and take the other position. We all are working for money and there’s no shame in taking a better offer if it improves your financial situation.

    As for the question about interviewing if you have reasonable intent of taking it- I say yes. If your employer doesn’t know you are looking and they get contacted accidentally (it happens sometimes, even if you request they don’t contact your current employer- someone may know someone and something slips), would that cause any damage to your employment?

    1. KRM*

      I had a coworker who tried to leverage a job offer (that she had accepted!!) into a raise offer from our company. Then she acted hurt and offended when they said “well you’ve already accepted so goodbye and good luck”. She wouldn’t talk to me about it because I wouldn’t say “oh how awful for you that our company doesn’t value you”, and she was mad when I said that it would suck for her to suddenly tell the new job “just kidding, I won’t take this after all” while also not fixing any of the non-financial issues she had with the company we were at.

  3. BabyWhale*

    The only part I disagree with Alison on is “And of course, if you go all the way through a hiring process, get an offer, and use it to negotiate a better deal from your current employer, that other company is very unlikely to consider you again in the future. That might be fine with you, but if it’s somewhere you might want to work one day, you’ll be closing that door.”

    I work as a recruiter and honestly we don’t hold a grudge over people who accept counteroffers and decline our offer at all. It’s always disappointing, but I get it. Many times they will email me again months down the road and if we have the position open, we’ll definitely still consider them! Why lose out on a great candidate who you already know you want to hire? That’s just a bad practice.

      1. BabyWhale*

        Yes, some will, but Alison used the phrase “very unlikely to consider you again”, which is what I would like to disagree on. No company I have worked with or in would shut the door on someone because of this.

      2. BethRA*

        I wouldn’t hold a grudge, but I’d certainly have doubts about how serious they were about actually wanting the job the next time around.

        1. SchuylerSeestra*

          So if the turn down was at the verbal offer I would be annoyed but would keep the door open. I never officially turn down other candidates until after I receive the written offer from the new hire. However if they decided to pass after the signing the written offer I’d probably flag as “Do Not Hire”. Usually that means I may have to go back to the drawing board.

    1. MissGirl*

      I think it depends on if the candidate acted professionally and in good faith. If they only interviewed to leverage a counter offer, I could see people not wanting to interview them again.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I think it depends on how it happens. A candidate who declines the offer is one I’d be happy to see reapply – if I liked them the first time enough to offer, then why close the door if what they ultimately accepted didn’t work out for them? We have had a few candidates (the minority, definitely) that tried to draw out our process to leverage a counter from their current employer or accepted and then kept pushing and pushing start dates while they negotiated with their current employers, and that handful is not a group I’d consider again. I had a really bad one last year where the candidate delayed, slow-rolled paperwork, and postponed their start date before finally withdrawing the day before their start date, by which point I’d lost most of the other top-shelf candidates.

      1. BRR*

        I’m also in the it depends camp. If someone declines an offer, that’s fine. If I was interested in them as a candidate and they applied for a job, the same role or a different role, I would want to hear what changed.

    3. Weekend Please*

      It depends on the company and how many good applicants they are getting. Would you want to waste time and resources interviewing/recruiting someone who has already demonstrated they just want an offer as a negotiation tactic if you have a stack of candidates who are equally qualified? I think it really depends on how hard a position is to fill.

        1. MassMatt*

          This would likely only happen if you reapplied very soon after the first time (which raises the issue about why you’re coming back after saying no the first time), and probably only at smaller employers.

          1. BabyWhale*

            nah, I work for a Fortune 500; we are huge and this is how we operate. I think it’s more commonplace than you think.

          2. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

            And if it’s the same job. At my company, it’s not uncommon for applicants to have skills that qualify them to apply for jobs in different departments. A candidate to whom I extended an offer to join my team could very well qualify for an interview with another team, but she would not be extended an offer to join a different team without interviewing.

            Speaking as a hiring manager who often has difficulty finding good candidates, I probably would not rule out a candidate who had previously declined an offer from another team in our company on that basis alone. But I would proceed with caution, and probe very carefully as to whether the reasons she previously declined had changed.

    4. Khatul Madame*

      Usually if we have a candidate decline our offer in favor of a counter from their current job, I ask the recruiter to counsel them on the perils of this course. Using pretty much all the arguments from Alison’s article and the stats, too – hey, they support our agenda!

    5. Meh*

      Old job did this to a candidate. Candidate took the offer back to their current company and subsequently declined to join our team. That was enough to burn their bridges for our management who said they wouldn’t ever consider making that person another offer.

    6. Sophie before she was cool*

      I’m a little bit confused about this part of the advice as well. Does it assume you’re telling the other company that you accepted a counteroffer? I did this once, and I gave only a vague reason for declining — along the lines of “I’ve thought about it, and staying in my current position is the best choice for me and my family right now. Best of luck!” I’d be really surprised if the company held it against me.
      Of course, I only interviewed for the job because I genuinely entertained the offer (and likely would have taken it if I hadn’t gotten the counteroffer).

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Yes that was my thought…. If I was accepting a counteroffer, I certainly wouldn’t mention that as the reason for declining offer from the new job.

    7. Chickaletta*

      Depends how badly the other company wants you. If they’re actively recruiting YOU, then you have a lot more capital and turning down one offer doesn’t mean you won’t get another. This happened to someone I know who is at the executive level – the first round of offers he declined because he was happy where he was, about a year later they came back with an even better offer and he decided to take that one.

      But you got to know where you stand, and you have to be truly willing to walk away from the other company – there’s no guarantee that they’ll keep wanting you.

  4. NotAnotherManager!*

    I don’t think interviewing is a bad idea, if you’re unhappy with your job/salary (because it never hurts to know what’s out there), but I wouldn’t do it with the sole intent of using it as a counteroffer. If your company is struggling financially, they may not be able to give you a raise whether you came to ask based on market data or you came with another offer in hand – even if they want to keep you, they might not be able to match and then you have to decide if you take the offer with the other company or continue at your current salary.

    Some places are also weird about counteroffers. I’ve worked under policies that do not entertain them at all, and I’ve worked places that use them to take a serious look at market and provide at least some increase, if it’s someone we want to keep and we can do it within paybands or with a full payband adjustment (that gives raises to comparably situated people as well). My experience has been that someone unhappy enough to be interviewing seriously elsewhere is unlikely to stay longer term, even for more money, so it’s got to be a situation where it’s only money that is a problem, there’s a market parity issue with comp, and it’s a strong performer.

    1. Artemesia*

      It works in academia where that is often the only way to get a real raise BUT those people have tenure. I know two people who counted on how useful they were to try this and one was told ‘congratulations, bye’. The other got a counter offer but then soon felt that they were now expendable during the next big downturn and so ended up interviewing and leaving later that year.

      And I also know someone who negotiated a year’s leave with right to return and felt confident he would be taken back because he was very good at his job — alas the company decided they could live without him and when he returned he was told that things were tight and they couldn’t offer him his job back.

  5. Zach*

    Unless you’re working at a company where it’s known that this is the only method to get a raise (I worked at a startup like that once and got a $15k raise this way), it’s not worth the risk of them finding a replacement and laying you off in 3 months. And even though I did successfully get a raise using this method, what I should have done was left the company for being so damn stingy in the first place.

    1. Totes Ma Goats*

      My last position I was told that the only way to get a raise was to come to them with a counter job offer. I tactlessly told my boss I wasn’t going to play that game. If the company decided that the only way to value me financially was for me to look at other opportunities, then those other opportunities would be my priority for moving on so I could get a “whole package.”

  6. AdAgencyChick*

    “Best of times” advice is industry-dependent. Mine has a perpetual talent shortage coupled with shortsightedness on giving raises to current employees, such that often the only way to boost your salary in any significant way is to change jobs. And because of the talent shortage, that means counteroffers are on the table quite a lot.

    I used to think “never take a counteroffer,” but I’ve now seen quite a few people do it and then stay where they were for quite a while (well over a year) after that. And whenever I ask recruiting to make someone an offer for a position on my team, I mentally prepare for that person to get a counteroffer and don’t consider the hire complete until the recruiter has confirmed that not only has the candidate accepted, but also that several days have passed and the candidate is still planning on working with us.

    COVID times…although advertising as a whole has been hit hard, my niche of it hasn’t. But if I did work somewhere that had had to make cuts because of COVID, I sure as hell would not be trying to turn a competing offer into a raise. I’d just accept the offer if it’s a good one.

    1. ENG MATT*

      I believe the what your describing is becoming a lot more common. In the past, it may have just been like this in a few, high demand and talent shortage industries, but now it is common in a lot more places.

      Companies just underpay current and long-time employees across the board. Accepting a counter-offer is usually just bringing you back to market value and on par with the salaries of recent hires. I’ve seen it done several times with much adverse reaction.

      The “Best of Times” advice she provided is slowly becoming outdated.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        That’s what *I* would do, but I am not TPTB.

        The people who decide compensation generally are not the ones trying to get the work done. So what that usually means for me as a hiring manager is that I’ll have a rockstar working for me who’s underpaid; rockstar quits (with my blessing) for a raise and a promotion somewhere else; compensation committee decides what salary the opening will be offered at; internal recruiters present me with a slateful of candidates who are way less experienced than the one who quit, because those are the ones for whom the salary would be a step up. Only if I’ve gone months without being able to fill the slot will they consider upgrading the salary for the position.

        Boo, hiss.

        1. Gone by Spring*

          I’m the rockstar in my team looking to leave for a variety of reasons, my only worry is being too transparent how much I loathe the way place and the way they treat their staff. It’s an incredibly toxic and dysfunctional environment, I would probably leave for the same salary but luckily that wont be the case. I just need to hold out until I find something good. I feel a little guilt for my friends in the team but i need to leave and hope they do too eventually.

  7. Person from the Resume*

    LW, your company is struggling and had laid people off and has reduced everyone else’s salary. If there is any possibility that you’ll like the job, you should 100% complete the application and interview process just in case. Maybe you will get laid off, furloughed or hit by another pay cut before the process ends. Maybe the job will sound great and it comes with a pay increase over what you USED to make.

    I am of the opinion it’s not a good idea try to leverage a counter offer in nearly all cases. You certainly should not do it during a pandemic.

    1. shannanigans*

      I was coming here to say the same thing.

      If you do get an offer, use it to get off the apparently sinking ship, not to upgrade your deck chair on the sinking ship.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        If it actually IS a sinking ship. Sometimes managements use “The Sky is Falling!” mantra to deny increases and promotions, and if you read the P&L sheet for your company or division – you might learn otherwise.

        Or what’s a wild success might be described with a dire spin turn. I was in such a place.

  8. MassMatt*

    Even if you succeed in getting more money from your current employer, what kind of victory is that, where they undervalued you and only figured out how to loosen their purse strings when you mention you have another offer. They are quite likely to consider it an advance on raises for the foreseeable future and you wind up back where you started.

    I do wonder about stats such as Alison mentioned about counteroffers, overall I lean against the practice but it seems as though hiring managers would be biased against the practice. I’d be curious to see a real study of the subject but it’d be hard to conduct.

  9. A Simple Narwhal*

    When I saw the title I thought this was another “I know using an offer to get a raise at your job is a bad idea, but here’s why I think I should do it anyway” and not a “Using offers to get a raise at your job is a great idea, but maybe it’s not right now?”. A nice change, I suppose!

    Except in very specific situations and industries (like academia, or so I’ve heard), it’s never a good idea to use a counteroffer, for all the reasons Alison listed. You’re better off making a genuine case for a raise, or just flat out going somewhere else for more money. And unless you are incredibly valuable and irreplaceable, a company that has laid people off and cut people’s pay probably isn’t going to give you a raise.

    1. LW-11182020*

      LW here! I come from an industry where counteroffers are often used to negotiate raises, which is why I assumed it was like that across the board. But regardless, I knew that I shouldn’t move forward with the interview process unless I thought there was a real possibility I would take the position — there wasn’t, so I didn’t do it.

    2. Professor Ronny*

      It is absolutely the case in academia. I know more than one professor who tried to get a raise and was told by the dean to come back when they had another job offer.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        I worked at an IS/IT firm where that was the norm. Years later I talked with a former director there and he acknowledged – it was a dumb policy and – they lost a lot of good people over it, because once they walked into the office and resigned, some would absolutely not consider any counter offer.

        Some warned as they were dared to test their market value – “if I quit, I’m gonna quit. I really want to stay, so please don’t put me or my family through this wringer, we’ll all be better off.”

        Then when the employee actually does quit, they throw all sorts of counters at the guy or gal… it doesn’t work.

        Of course, the policy can work in management’s favor, especially if they truly want to get rid of someone who’s an excellent worker – but they don’t like him/her but don’t have cause to fire him/her. And a firing of a great worker who not only gets the job done BUT is popular with the rest of the staff is nearly impossible.
        Managers DON’T want to create martyrs. Yet they do so unintentionally at times. Different topic for a different thread. Best to just make the job uncomfortable and unpleasant and get the worker to leave on his own volition.

  10. BasicWitch*

    I think Alison’s advice is spot-on, but I HATE that this is our cultural attitude around work. Employers will fire you in an instant if it’s what benefits the bottom line, but the character of their employees is questioned if they acknowledge they are looking out for their own interests and shopping around for better pay. I know it’s not how things are now, but we shouldn’t be afraid of losing our jobs, our jobs should be afraid of losing us. Without that pressure it quickly becomes a race to the bottom, and ultimately that’s bad for everyone.

    1. Colette*

      If your job told you they were going to lay you off and then changed their mind, how likely would you be to accept and assume you’d be able to stay there indefinitely?

      1. Littorally*

        Right! In fact, how common is it that people start job-hunting the moment there’s a whiff of layoffs, even if they’re nowhere near the chopping block?

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          It depends on the reason for the layoffs.

          If a company is (IN TRUTH) in dire straits, then most post-layoff survivors will still have their morale, and many will do what they can do to stay aboard – yet, there’s always an “aftershock” – guys, gals think “Hell, I’m next” and they start preparing to leave…after the standard post-layoff “mother hen” staff meeting … “there, there, the blue meanies have gone, no more layoffs.”

          If a company does a layoff for “harum scarum” purposes, to scare employees into increasing performance or tighten the screws on them – or reduce personal expectations from them – well, the purpose behind the layoff was to actually destroy the employees’ morale and break their spirits, was it not? Managers should know “as ye sow, so shall ye reap.”

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      My concern about counteroffers has nothing to do with expecting loyalty or gratefulness for a job – it’s a fee-for-service arrangement, and both sides have an out if it’s not working for them. My concern is that people who leverage counteroffers are rarely only dissatisfied with the pay, so giving a pay increase only postpones the inevitable. People who simply want more money tend to come and ask for a raise; people who are unhappy with the job tend to interview.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        So, this is where I land.

        As someone who thought more money would make me like my job more, I decided to do something about it…by getting a new offer, leveraging it and then realizing more money, in fact, did not make me like my job more. I was gone 9 months later. It seems like several people I know have done this dance.

    3. hbc*

      It’s not considered a character issue to look around for another job with better compensation. It *is* considered a character issue to waste the time of a hiring manager for a job you have no chance of taking, just as it’s a character issue for a company to stage interviews for jobs that don’t exist. The concept of a company cutting a position for their bottom line is the same as an employee resigning for a better job or a move, and no one thinks any of that is morally questionable.

  11. Anon Anon*

    I think this is very industry dependent. I know in some industries applying to other companies and then negotiating a counter offer happens all the time. But, in my industry and most of the ones I come in contact with it’s considered exceptionally bad form to waste their time applying and interviewing for a job you have zero intention of taking. And, at least in my experience, even if you do receive a counter offer of some type it doesn’t resolve the issues that you potentially have with your current organization. And, it can leave a bad taste in their mouth as well.

  12. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I know two successful counter-offer stories, but they were both special cases. In one, the person asked the employer to interview their spouse, who was trying to change careers, for an entry-level job, and then stayed on and helped train the spouse for their new career. (Also the company did not do well and the office at that particular location shut down a few years later, so the employer didn’t really have the time or the energy to exact revenge, even if they somehow wanted to.) Second case, the person stayed on, went back to school for an advanced degree, and moved down a new to them career path, that they hadn’t been pursuing before, moved into management, etc. So it wasn’t a case of “Fergus wasn’t happy with his job to the point where he interviewed and got an offer, but now with the extra 10K/year, Fergus is happy with the same exact job and all is well in everyone’s world”, which of course is never the case.

  13. Threeve*

    I know I don’t actually have a right to judge, but as someone currently job hunting fairly desperately, in the current climate I really wish other people weren’t applying and interviewing if they have no intention of accepting the position. Sigh.

    1. LW-11182020*

      LW here! I was contacted by a recruiter about the position, which was the only reason I was contemplating interviewing for it. Ultimately I decided against it. I’ve never applied for a job I had no intention of taking.

  14. LW-11182020*

    LW here! All of this lovely advice is what I’d already suspected and I didn’t end up interviewing with the other company or trying to leverage an offer at all — I was mostly arguing with the little voice in my head saying, “But you could use this for your advantage!!” Ultimately I knew that if I had no intention of taking the other job at all then I shouldn’t interview for it.

    1. Anon Anon*

      Good for you! I know that there are industries where it is totally appropriate, but the fact that you were concerned probably means that in yours its not.

      And sometimes even if you apply without those motives, but you decline the offer and the other organization feels that you used them for a counteroffer it can damage your future prospects at that other organization.

  15. Aelstuart*

    I wonder if this varies by field. My partner works in tech and this is a very common (and highly successful) tactic among his colleagues. Ordinarily, I agree with Alison’s advice, but the tech culture may be a bit different.

  16. Essess*

    Personally I wouldn’t do it unless you need the extra money right now and have a good reason for not actually taking the new job offer. 1) the company is willing to pay people full value unless they are backed up against a wall. You won’t have this leverage every time you think you are due for a raise. 2) The company now knows that you are willing to leave and essentially blackmail them into a pay raise (or else leave them scrambling to replace you unexpectedly) and they may agree to give you a raise to cover the short-term time until they can hire someone to replace you at the lower rate then fire you to save themselves from continuing to pay a higher rate. 3) they may give you the higher rate now, but then step over you for promotions/raises later because you’ve been making a higher salary longer than your peers when it comes time to give raises across the board. 4) you’ve now burned a bridge potentially with the new company if the situation does come up that your current job gets rid of you (either for the salary issue, or just if they end up going under entirely).

    1. Essess*

      oops.. just noticed a typo in my #1 – I mean that the company ISN’T willing to pay people full….

  17. Cindy*

    My husband did this once — and felt like you could ONLY do this once. He received an offer he was willing to take, and used it to get a significant raise. He ended up staying for another 7 years, on very good terms. And only interviewed at the end when he really wanted to leave. He remains on good terms with this company (same industry). So this is a hand that needs to be played carefully, but it can work out.

  18. Jean*

    Only seek a counter-offer at your current company if you’re 100% ready to accept the outside offer. If you wouldn’t be happy accepting the outside offer, don’t even bring it up. The best course of action can also be highly dependent on your relationship with your current boss, your workplace culture, and the reputation/capital you have at your current job. I recently was able to navigate this situation successfully and get a modest raise from my current employer, but I also have a very positive and honest relationship with my current boss, and I trust that he and I can speak about these things without it having a significant negative effect.

  19. learnedthehardway*

    Don’t use another offer to leverage a raise at your current employer – and be really, really careful about accepting a counter-offer too. (A lot of those are made to keep you in place until they’re ready to replace you.)

    However, what you can do is to look at salary information about your role in your geographic area and industry. has some info you can get if you input your own info (anonymously). Also look at opportunities out there that have salaries posted, and do talk to recruiters to get a sense of what is out there and what roles are offering (if they’ll share that info. If they won’t, tell them what you think you are worth, and see if they feel their clients/hiring managers would consider that range.)

    Also, make a list of what your contributions and accomplishments are at your employer – how have you added value in your role and how have you perhaps added unexpected value beyond your role? Be specific when you can – eg. if you’re outperforming sales targets, put down by how much in dollars or percentages and in the specific time periods. It’s more impressive to point out that you’ve outperformed your KPI targets by 120% for the last 4 quarters, than it is to simply point out that you have done very well in your sales.

    Then have a meeting with your manager and discuss your compensation, make the business case for why you should be paid more, and what timeframe you are hoping to get a raise in. You can even mention that you’re being approached by recruiters with roles that are in $x-y range, but make it clear that your commitment is to your company.

    That’s more likely to get sustainable results that will enable you to stay for the long term. If it doesn’t, well, then you can job hunt.

  20. Chickaletta*

    “With the current state of everything, should I only interview for another job if I have a reasonable intent of taking it?”

    I think the answer is Yes, even in normal times. I believe Alison’s stated here before that if you have no intention of taking a job, then you shouldn’t interview for it because you’re taking an interview space from someone who does actually want that job, not to mention you’re wasting the hiring company’s time.

    If you’re only using this as an opportunity to get a raise at your current company, you’re better off using other methods. Even then this might not be the time to do this, I’d wait six months or a year (depending on how things go) before considering it.

  21. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    I read the first sentence and thought that was the opposite of what Alison advocates. Don’t base your negotiations on what another company will pay you. Ask for a raise based on tangible accomplishments in your position. And if you are looking for a new job, think about why you would take a counter offer? Was the only reason you were leaving the money? What about six months or year from now? Will you still be content?

  22. Melody Pond*

    I did this almost exactly a year ago. I was initially hired for one purpose and took on many other roles over the course of a year. I essentially went from teacup polisher to teacup polisher at 3 sites/ assistant polish manager at 1 site and polish advisor for several others. I was well known to management as someone dependable and intelligent, Out of the blue I received a request for an interview, went and got an offer. It was 12K more a year but I really didn’t want to leave my job. I liked it I was just tired of working 2 jobs. I spoke to someone who had been acting as a mentor in the company that was also a grandboss who told me to try. So I spoke to my manager and told her about it and asked what could be done with my current salary. She said I know your role has changed since being hired can you write me up a list of what you do now. I told her sure and discussed it with my other supervisor since he worked with me more daily. The next day she copied me on an email telling others I needed a raise and it would take 2 people to replace me. They offered me 8k more and it was enough in my view. 3 months later I was further promoted and honestly they were right it was going to take multiple people to replace me. Unfortunately COVID happened and my region was decimated and all but a select few are out of work.

  23. Me*

    “I know that under normal circumstances, it’s possible and even savvy to use a new job offer to leverage a raise out of a current employer. ”

    It seems like OP somewhere got the advice that this was a good thing to do. It’s not in almost all circumstances. Just think that needs to be reiterated to the point of overkill as they clearly have gotten bad advice somewhere.

  24. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    Without reading the official answer: given the choice between a current company that has already had layoffs and furloughs vs a company that is actively recruiting: I’d be inclined to move to the new company, rather than just use the offer as leverage.

  25. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    This is commonplace in some industries (in normal times). In IS/IT – it’s VERY common.

    Now, some will say “never never accept a counter offer they’ll only keep you until they can get rid of you—ooooh counter offer bad bad bad … ” but note that those dire gloom and doom warnings tend to come from headhunter/recruiters – who work, get you a job, and you end up staying with a counter. Of course, if you’ve been in a place nine-ten-years or more, you’re not going to jump ship for a tiny raise.

    Your boss or your company doesn’t set your market value = THE MARKET DOES, AND YOU SET YOUR OWN VALUE BY EXPLOITING THE MARKET. Intelligently, of course.

    Anyway – when you bring a job offer to your management – one of four things is going to happen –

    1) You’re going to be told “don’t let the door hit your (rear end) on the way out. Good luck.” And you must be prepared for that happening and accept that you’re closing one door and opening another. Don’t bluff. You have to be ready to say you’re leaving and go through with it.

    2) Management might get reactive in a bad way = “Disloyal! How could you do this to US after all we’ve done for you!” Guilt trip “You are hurting me!” Money “no money in the budget, no money no money (squawk)” – and this might not necessarily be true as many companies have an off-budget slush fund to cover these situations – in normal times.

    3) Management might start tap dancing, golly gee whiz, yeah, but next year, next year, next year, maybe — DON’T FALL PREY TO THAT UNLESS THE TIME FRAME FOR DELIVERY IS SHORT. Managements often promise great things down the road, yet often figure out ways to break them – “there’s a wage freeze!” “we can’t promote you for (blah blah blah)” and if there’s a change in your management team “haw haw haw but ***I*** didn’t promise you that!”

    4) Management might say “all right – you’ve made your point, we probably should have done this earlier, but let’s straighten this out NOW… let’s fix it. How much are they offering you? And when do you have to let them know?”

    1) and 4) above are probably the most honest routes to go. But you’ll see 2) and 3).

  26. DiplomaJill*

    I did a version of this.

    I interviewed, received an offer, and … Turned it down. (I had concerns about the structure of the organization.)

    It was review season at my gig, so I emailed leadership and essentially said I had been offered a job and turned it down, but the compensation was “eye opening.” I said I’d like to discuss further in my review. I got a raise to equal the other offer.

    I’m still at my gig, it’s been a year since that. And the things I considered leaving because of have generally improved, and the things I like are still part of my day.

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