IT Employment

Is mentioning a job offer in a raise discussion a good or a bad idea?

If you're talking to your boss about a raise, should you mention that you have another job offer? Well, that depends.

If you're talking to your boss about a raise, should you mention that you have another job offer? Well, that depends.

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I received a question recently from a TechRepublic member asking whether it's a good idea to mention another job offer when negotiating a raise wtih a current employer:

"When asking for a raise is it a good or bad thing to politely mention that you have had other job offers and that if a salary increase is not given that you may be forced to pursue other options?

Is that considered threatening to the employer or is it an effective tool to let the employer know that the company may lose your services if they cannot increase the salary?"

When discussing any course of action at work, the answer depends on your current job situation.

  • What is your relationship with your boss like? Is she the type who will work with you on the issue, or will she interpret the conversation as a threat?
  • Does your company work only within salary ranges? If so, are you currently at the top of yours?
  • Do you really know how you're perceived by others in the company? It's common for people to exaggerate their importance in a company.
  • Are your skills visible and/or rare?

A job offer can be a great bargaining tool -- if you keep a few things in mind:

  • Don't issue any ultimatums when you have the talk. No one, even the most even-tempered person in the world, likes to be told "or else."
  • Don't whine. Remain professional so that your boss can consider the situation on a logical basis, not an emotional one. Be prepared to present the reasons you deserve a raise. Mention what you've done for the company (though try to avoid highlighting your contributions by downplaying those of other employees -- keep it positive).
  • Be flexible. Your boss may not be able to give you a raise, but she may be open to offering you training or other actions that could benefit you in the long run.
  • Be prepared to walk. I'm sorry, but if the company culture is to exercise the mantra "If you don't like it, then leave," your boss may issue that very statement to you. And she may ask you to leave that day if you have access to sensitive data. Her thinking will be that if you are turned down for a raise, you will take your disappointment out by causing the company harm. This is especially true if the other offer came from a competitor.

Does the community have any more advice?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

32 comments
phil.beach
phil.beach

I had an employer I approached for a raise. I showed the value I had brought to the organization, the accomplishments, the leadership, etc. Then proceeded to show the div. manager various (note various) salary surveys that indicated I was severely underpaid. The manager indicated he felt that money was not available in our area. Alas -- I got no raise and began a job search to see if that money was truly available in our market place. 2 weeks later I gave my letter of resignation and suddenly that same manager wanted to talk about meeting the offer. (Which was higher than I had requested 2 weeks earlier). I decided I did not want to work for a company that forced me to get another job offer before considering to compensate me at market value. So a job offer is not a source of negotiation. Why work for an organization that needs to be coerce into giving fair pay.

mmoroni
mmoroni

They are two different talk: 1. Asking for a rise must be done over objective parameters about where you are now. 2. Speaking of a new offer is done because you have an opportunity that is not only economical but it implies also a grouth of your responsability. Obviously from talk n.2 you can go to talk n.1 (not necessary), but going from n.1 to n.2 is a big mistake... ;-) M PS: Excuse me for my poor english.

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

I don't really know, as I've never done this. I have, in the past, asked a boss what it was I needed to do in order to earn a raise, if I was really unhappy with my current pay for some reason. i.e. Did so once as a youth, just graduated from H.S. and moved out of my parent's home. My current pay wasn't adequate to pay rent on an apartment, buy food, etc AND to pay the fees associated with a trade school I was wanting to attend. My boss at the time understood the problem. But his small business could not afford to pay me what I needed. He suggested I start job hunting, even made some suggestions as to where I might apply, but asked that I give him reasonable notice before quitting. On another occasion, similar circumstance, my boss at that company laid it out for me. I had to do this, this, and that to qualify for a raise. Fine, wonderful ... I immediately commenced to accomplish those things and did get the raise after I was successful at completing them. But everyone is different and has different ideas. For me, exact level of pay ... as long as its adequate for my needs ... is not a sole determinate as to whether or not I'm happy where I work or want to move on. For instance, at a couple places of employment where I've worked, certain job positions/descriptions had fixed ranges (beginner to top of that field). And I've been at the top within the position. My bosses in such cases essentially had their hands tied as concerns paying me more. The only way to get higher pay was to shift jobs within the company. BUT ... I did not wish to do that for one reason or another. Usually because I enjoyed the current position and duties and did not want to do one of those other jobs. I've been in management, and in project management, and in sales, etc. Could do them. And in fact in the past have had my performance in such positions rated very highly. But the truth is I LIKE being a hands-on sort of guy. Its the kind of work that makes me happiest and that I find most satisfying. In any event, at a couple of places where I've worked my boss recognized that he could not offer more pay. But instead offered alternatives. Such as that more interesting project that everyone was after. Or additional training in some particular area of my field which I wanted. Or, he'd authorize a purchase order for some nice-to-have tools, piece of software, or whatever he figured I'd probably appreciate. Okay, this may not work for everyone, but it works for me. For instance, after I completed one series of jobs (contracts) in better than hoped for fashion, one boss I had was really pleased. He called me to his office, stated that as I knew he couldn't offer me a raise. But .... and he gave me a purchase order for a generous amount (not LARGE, but generous) ... and told me to go buy some toys. Just don't buy stuff that's make the accountants or his boss pop a cork. We both understood his meaning. I promptly sought out my favorite "toy" store and picked up some tools and other equipment in the nice-to-have, and the "I've always wanted one of those." categories. Anyway, while I have had "better offers" from competitors. I've never even mentioned them at work, much less used such as "leverage" to ask for a pay raise. Except after the fact. That is, I'd already decided my current pay was inadequate for whatever reason. AND that I was not gonna get a pay increase where I was at. (Remember, I said I have gone to a boss and inquired about what I needed to do to qualify for a raise. If the answer was that there was NO WAY I was getting a raise AND I felt my current pay was inadequate to my needs ... I'm job hunting.) So I'd done the job hunting, found one and was giving my boss my notice. I always give reasonable notice. At such times I have been asked in the past why I wished to terminate my employment at that place. And I'd answer honestly. Often enough, not much much current boss could do about making a counter offer. But I remember once where while my current boss could not increase my pay, at that position at that branch of the business. He did some checking, found an opening at a larger branch of the same company, where top pay for the equivalent job I was doing was higher, then recommended me to that manager. So I stayed with that company. The pay was still not what the competitor had offered, but it was an increase that satisfied my "needs" requirement, plus a little. And I liked both the job and that company. So I stayed. But the fact is that I never jump ship, so to speak, JUST because someone else is offering more money. And wouldn't hold that fact over a bosses head like a weapon used to DEMAND more money, or else.

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

If you have gone as far as to get another offer, listen to your inner voice, it's time to move on. Threatening an employer with another offer frequently pisses them off. Then they look for or create a reason to fire you and smear you as well. It gives them the advantage and even if you "win" you lose, because you have pulled out the big stick to get what a few more perks and a small percent raise and put yourself in a bad place from there on in at that company. Not worth it, word travels fast in a small industry and that behavior is frowned on by most managers. Just move on, with a smile, more money and a new adventure. You did ask for more, much more, and get it right?

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

If the job offer is better, then why are you even negotiating with your current boss? Be aware of what the compensation rates are in your area for your job and responsibilities. If you're below the average compensation, then mention that first, not that you've received a better offer. If you're not at the capped rate for your company, use that first, not the offer. Or use a redefinition of your position as not matching the job description and salary. I'm a 20 percenter myself. I'm not walking until I get a total package that's a 20% or more improvement over what I currently have.

Datacommguy
Datacommguy

Most often, managers are limited in what raises they can give. At best, finding some way to skew the review process in your favor will only cause them to have to downgrade someone else - who probably deserves more - to stay within the budget they've been saddled with.

MikeGall
MikeGall

As most have said you have to be willing to leave now. You just might start a fight/get the boot, the offer better not be for a job six months from now or you're screwed. Another thing I think might be important: how did the offer come about? I think an employer might take it a lot better if it came from a recruiter contacting you, not you actively searching. "Hey I was at a party the other night and this guy told me he'd love to have me for a lot more than I currently make. I'd really like to stay here but I don't think my salary reflects my current value." Sounds a lot better, than "Hey, I just had a few interviews with company's I applied for and some of them want me at a higher salary. Can you beat it, or should I take it?" One shows disloyality/discontent, the other shows it more of an opportunity that came to you. I've been fortunate that I've always had a salary that was reasonable for the job I was asked to do. When I looked for something else it was because it was a higher level position that also had a higher salary. I've also moved into the same position for the same salary in exchange for working for a company where there was room to advance.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

I'm going to go against the grain... [b]If[/b] the offer is solid, and [b]if[/b] you're willing to walk, and walk [b]now[/b], then by all means mention it! But like the song says, "Don't let your mouth write checks your ass can't cash."

marty.kruse
marty.kruse

The one question that annoys me the most is when the interviewer is holding your resume and says, "So, tell me about yourself..." Everything you need to know is right there on the paper, less the words, "amazing," "awesome" and "incredible." Are you seeking information on my personal life? Can it wait until we've gotten to know one another? Comments?

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Makes you look manipulative. Possibly one of the more despised traits known to man.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

If you don't get the raise and you stay, you'll look like a berk. If you do get one and take it, you just made the first person I'm going to do without list. If you leave no matter what outcome of the ultimatum, you've just burnt the bridge, the building, and the two little kids on the top floor flat. If you want a raise, you go for it on the basis of value to your employer, not a higher value somewhere else. Now if you go to hand in your notice and then you get a counter offer of a raise. That may need some thought. Generally I'm reluctant to take them either, I'd need a lot of convincing, and not just in money, seeing as that has never been why I chose to leave.

KSoniat
KSoniat

If the company does not appreciate you or cannot afford you independent of another job bringing it up will not help. If you need to change jobs do so, but in my experience once you have "one foot out the door" people expect you to leave regardless or you will be the first laid off. I would not take a counter offer. I would not be leaving unless I had explored every option of staying and decided it would be best to go.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Unless, like Oz, you are in a high demand highly competitive situation, in a sales organization, then consider this: mentioning an offer shows that you are focussed on the money and in the short term, not the long term career potential at your employer. I would only mention an offer after an honest effort to get a raise had failed, and only then if I was prepared to walk. To mention an offer while negotiating a raise could be seen as blackmail rather than leverage. James

SilverBullet
SilverBullet

You would be out of your mind to walk into that trap. Even if you think you are the best at what you do, mentioning an offer by some other than who you are talking with, I would bet you would be out-the-door. It's shows a lack of respect and not very professional.

JamesRL
JamesRL

You are correct that standard review performance based raises are somewhat constrained, but at least in many large companies there are "market adjustments" and other methods to get exceptional raises. If for example, you are in a high demand skillset and your company pays considerably less for that skill than average, some companies, mine included, will do a market adjustment. James

JamesRL
JamesRL

It should not be: Gimme a raise or I will walk cause I have an offer. It should be: I have an offer than I am strongly considering, but I thought I'd give you the opportunity to counter. My brother is an expert in this field, he is very well thought of in his industry, and has offers coming at him all the time. He never tells his employer about the offer until he is committed to leave and giving notice. They then try to negotiate something with him to keep him. He usually listens out of politeness, but he has been persauded to stay. James

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

before you threaten, the fact that you are a complete idiot pretty much guarantees you won't get the raise.

bfpower
bfpower

I hear that a lot. As an interviewer, I know that you could go to a career planner who will write an excellent resume for you. But what I want to know is how you perceive yourself and how you express that in an out-of-the-ordinary situation. It's not even just the answer itself that I'm looking for - it's the way you present it. Self-respect and friendliness without pushiness is a highly potent job skill in many fields. That said, I don't usually use that particular question, except in the case of high-profile positions (like the three CEO candidates last week). In their case, it gave those present the opportunity to see if the candidate would be a good cultural fit for our company.

ian.obrien
ian.obrien

You are forgetting politics in your equation. If the boss is short sighted and vindictive, yes you will be on the first to go list. On the other hand it burns a lot of political value to push to give you a raise to retain you to throw you under the bus at first pass. Your boss's boss has to wonder if he/she really knows what they are doing. Saving face with upper-management can be a great motivator.

Twilight23
Twilight23

I don't understand why anybody should feel badly about being perceived as focusing on the money. Every large company I've ever worked for/at has been completely focused on the money with no loyalty to employees so why should the employees not behave the same way? I've only done this once and the most important part is be prepared to walk. Do not bring up another job offer if you are not willing to leave and accept that offer. At my first job, I more-than-doubled my salary by politely telling the owner that I had received another offer at a much better salary but that I would like to stay at the current company if they could come close to matching the offer. I was not confrontational and I was prepared to accept the other position (which I'm sure was clear to the owner).

SaulGoode
SaulGoode

Once they counter offer and you accept they will "own you".

Twilight23
Twilight23

Well said. I tried (less clearly) to say the same thing in a reply to one of your other comments above. To sum up: be prepared to walk and do not be confrontational.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

A professional would always act... well... professionally :)

Jellimonsta
Jellimonsta

Although, I will retort, in government that is not entirely true. ;)

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

that I could/should have left it at [i]Possibly one of the more despised traits known.[/i] etu

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

as siting your desk in heavy traffic. Eventual outcome on either route could be the same in that, the raise is a short term stopgap, or that the value you add is so critical, your employer will want to find someway of ameliorating the risk. The thing is, either way you are going to look like a mercenary, given most businesses both expect and demand loyalty in return for merely employing us, that's not a good rep to have. Not fair I know, but we didn't make the world, we just work in it. I've never seen a manager censured for cutting a cost, they are so short term they'll forget who raised them in the first place. After all screwing up and causing extra cost, is never a problem as long as you've left before the figures come out....

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

"I don't understand why anybody should feel badly about being perceived as focusing on the money. Every large company I've ever worked for/at has been completely focused on the money with no loyalty to employees so why should the employees not behave the same way?" I have no reason to doubt what you've experienced. However, I don't believe this is utterly true for ALL companies. For many, there is a strong urge to be concerned about their employees. An attitude more prevalent, I've found, with mid-sized to smaller companies. And more prevalent with privately owned companies as versus publicly traded corporations. I've seen this numerous times, in Minnesota. Mentioning Minnesota as I note you appear to live and work there, as I do. Of course, its a balancing act. A business may well have a great deal of empathy and concern for their employees but in the end must remain competitive and profitable in order to stay in business.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

That the sum of the IQs of management was above moron level. Not always a wise assumption. So if you can't back up the threat and you do make it, and it works, ask for another raise immediately.... :p

santeewelding
santeewelding

Cleaving to the one, longing not for the other.

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