Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Seeking a Counter-Offer Has Pitfalls

Just about everyone is chopping heads these days, it seems. Yet strong performers remain in demand – even in financial services, an industry that's downsizing more furiously than any other. So it's hardly an anachronism for an employee who's received a job offer to think about obtaining a counter-offer from his or her current employer.

A recent Wall Street Journal Q&A article explored the ups and downs of directly asking for a counter-offer. The WSJ's Toddi Gutner offered these tips:

Before taking such a step, know your firm's culture - the attitude they've demonstrated in past instances where someone brandished an outside offer to request a raise. Some employers view this as hostile behavior.

Decide if you're ready to leave before informing your current employer about an outside offer. Then, instead of asking for a counter-offer yourself, just give notice and hope your employer needs you so badly that they initiate a counter-offer. In contrast, Gutner suggests that the questioner's approach might actually place his loyalty in greater doubt than if he'd just given notice.

I'm not sure I buy that last point. A staffer lured back by a counter-offer after giving notice can be perceived as holding a gun to the boss's head even more so than one who started the negotiation by emphasizing their desire to stay.

On the other hand, a well-known rule of negotiating is, the other party always will feel better about a step or provision that they initiated, than one that you presented to them. So from that perspective, perhaps it is wiser give the boss every opportunity to counter-offer without having to be asked.

When the employee has already asked for a raise, Gutner cautions,

You may need to assuage worries … that you just got another offer to leverage a pay increase—whether or not you did…

The most important thing is to do is to turn around any negative perception that you put your boss into a bind and forced him to raise your salary with a counteroffer. If you're able to do that, are happy in your current job and believe you can keep up the quality of your work, then "your future success with your current employer should not be affected ," says Ms. Baranello [Alane Baranello of executive recruiting firm Eileen Finn & Associates]. If you're not sure you can do that, you might want to consider the offer you received – or plan to look for another job even if you don't jump at the current offer.
Is Asking For a Counter Offer a Good Idea? [WSJ]

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