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The Negotiation Tactic That Turns Good Jobs Bad

Topics: Negotiation
Seventy-five percent of respondents to our survey who asked for a raise received a pay increase. The other 25 percent? Well, it’s a good bet that some didn’t know how to ask the right way.
competing offer
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Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that everyone who doesn’t get the raise they deserve is using the wrong negotiating strategy. Sometimes, the timing is off, or your employer has decided to use their compensation dollars to reward something (or someone) else.

But sometimes — just sometimes — you don’t get a raise because you’re leaning on bad advice. For example, you may have heard that the best way to get a raise is to get a competing offer. But using another employer’s offer to get more money at your current job is risky. Here’s why:

Some Employers Have a Policy Against Negotiating in Those Cases

It may not be stated outright in the handbook, but many companies have an unofficial rule not to negotiate when an employee brings a competing offer. Why? Because they figure you’re going to leave anyway.

An HR director once told me that he never made a counter-offer in this situation, because the employees invariably left within six months to a year, and it wasn’t worth finding room in the budget.

If you’re truly essential personnel — if your skills are in high demand, or you’re in a hot job role — you might be the exception. But even in that case, negotiating with a competing offer can backfire, as my next example shows.

You Might Get More Money … But With a Cost

Let’s say you get the raise you asked for. You may find that your salary isn’t the only thing that’s changed. Your boss’s attitude may also have shifted … and not for the better.

“Employers often make counteroffers in a moment of panic,” writes Alison Green of Ask a Manager at U.S. News. “…But after the initial relief passes, you may find your relationship with your employer—and your standing with the company—has fundamentally changed. You’re now the one who was looking to leave. You’re no longer part of the inner circle, and you might be at the top of the list if your company needs to make cutbacks in the future.”

Do You Know What You're Worth?

You’ll Burn Your Bridges Elsewhere

Most industries are very small worlds unto themselves. Turn down a job offer, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever get another from that same employer.

Now, of course, turning down job offers is something every job seeker must do for a whole host of reasons. But if the other employer feels played, they’ll be less likely to think favorably of you in the future.

Does all this mean that you should never bring a competing offer to the negotiating table when you’re looking for a raise? No, just that you should be aware of the potential consequences.

When all’s said and done, the best way to get more money may be to look for a new job in earnest, and not as a bargaining chip. Just make sure you know your worth before you make the leap.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever tried to bluff your way to a higher salary — and did it work? We want to hear from you. Talk to us in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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