What would it take for you to quit your job?
Too easy to answer?
Then what would it take for you to stay at your job?
Considering how hot the job market is, that question could come up sooner than you think.
Chad Busta, a commercial producer from Onalaska, Wisconsin, was presented with that decision when another television station invited him to come in for an interview and offered him a job on the spot.
Busta, 41, hadn’t even applied for the job, but there was something the new employer offered that was worth more than money: location.
“It’s seven minutes from my driveway, compared to my half-hour commute,” Busta says. “My kids were getting older, too, so I’m like, boy, how good would it be just to be like, ‘I’m leaving a little early today and going to their game.’”
On the other hand, he really liked his current job and the autonomy it offered. So Busta called his current boss, told him about the offer and asked if the station wanted to make a counteroffer.
“Within 20 minutes of making the initial phone call, I had the head guy in my office saying, ‘Let’s talk,’” Busta says. “Initially, I was like, oh crap, am I in trouble? You know, is this going to be a ‘We hear you’re looking for something else, so see you later?’”
Instead, the CEO had stopped by to offer Busta the option to work from home, along with a 6% pay raise, which was comparable to the salary offer from the prospective employer.
Rather than rushing to accept either, Busta made a list of what each company had proposed and attached a monetary value to it, including his current employer’s option to work from home.
“If I had to put a numeric figure on it, the flexibility they give me, to me, is probably worth anywhere between $8,000 and $10,000 per year,” Busta says. “It’s that important to me.”
In the end, Busta decided that the flexibility and autonomy were worth more than a shorter commute, so he accepted the counteroffer from his current employer. He’s had no regrets.
“They showed they want to keep good employees,” Busta says.
Are you ready to use another job offer to get a better deal? Then check out our expert advice for negotiating.
How to Use Another Job Offer to Get a Raise (or Other Perks)
Let’s say you get an enticing job offer from another company. Before charging into your current boss’ office to make demands, first consider which job you really want, says Michelle Tillis Lederman, CEO of Executive Essentials and author of “The Connector’s Advantage.”
“You don’t want to start negotiating for something you’re not going to ever accept,” Lederman says. “That is the way we burn bridges, that is the way we ruin relationships and that is a very short-term perspective.
“You think, ‘Oh, I’ll play one off of the other,’ and it leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.”
If you decide that you’d like to stay at your current job but find it difficult to turn down the prospective offer, Lederman has six steps for successfully leveraging a job offer to get a raise.
Research the State of Your Company
Before you even consider negotiating, investigate whether your current employer is in a position to offer you anything, advises Lederman.
“Is the company healthy?” she asks. “I would go Google the company in the news and find out what’s being said about them. Are there lawsuits pending?… Research your company a little bit and find out what’s happening before you go in thinking you know it all.”
Next, assess your standing within the company from your employer’s perspective.
“What was your performance review comments — did you exceed expectations or did you just meet expectations?” Lederman asks. “If there’s been any complaints about you, that’s not a time to negotiate.
“Maybe you’re not as a valuable as you think.”
2. Decide What Is Most Important
Ranking the relative importance of everything you want to ask for will help you plan your negotiation.
And although a raise may be high on your list, Lederman points out that some companies have rigid policies about pay ranges for a particular position or level.
“If you’re in that level, and you’re at the top of that range, there’s nothing they can do,” she says. “So what language do you need to use in the discussion? Is it, ‘I want to talk about how I get to that next level.’”
And remember that money isn’t everything; benefits are also part of your compensation package. Consider negotiating for a title change, increased vacation time, education reimbursement or flexible work arrangements.
3. Approach Your Boss for a Counteroffer
Once you know where you stand and you know what you want, it’s time to talk to your boss.
To let them know you’re not simply giving your notice, open the discussion on a positive note, Lederman advises.
“You need to tell them… I wasn’t looking, it came to me, I was curious about my market value, the industry piqued my interest,” says Lederman, who notes that any of these phrases avoids giving the impression that you don’t like your current job.
“You kind of have to give reasons why you don’t want to take that job, but it’s more important that you tell them why you want to stay.”
4. Be Honest
Now comes your employer’s reply. The next step is critical to negotiating the best counteroffer, according to Lederman.
“They’re going to ask what that offer is,” she says. “I would be honest; I would share the information.
Revealing the exact offer and giving your boss the first option to negotiate demonstrates a deference to your current employer, but it also forces your boss to make the next move.
“It gives you more negotiating power to say, ‘I haven’t negotiated with them,’” Lederman says. “So this is their offer — beat it. Without saying that.
5. Prepare to Compromise — or Leave Your Job
Your employer’s reaction is out of your control, but you should prepare for more than a simple yes or no.
If the counteroffer is “We like you, but we just can’t,” that’s not necessarily a no, Lederman points out. It could just be a “not now.”
“Even if you can’t get the things right off the bat that you want, put into plan for when and how you would get those things,” she says. “What do I need to do? Can we review this in six months?”
Despite all your preparation and willingness to compromise, don’t forget you are still taking a risk by telling your employer you’re considering another job, Lederman warns. So be prepared to walk away.
“You could be backing yourself into a corner saying, ‘OK, I got another job.’ They might be like, ‘OK, then we’re going to fire you,’” she says. “ Even if you don’t quit, they might be like, you’re not committed, and you’re in the next round of layoffs.”
6. End Negotiations on a Positive Note
No matter what the outcome is, ending the negotiation on a positive note leaves the door open for future opportunities.
If you’re leaving your employer, there’s no reason you can’t suggest that you’d consider returning at some point in the future, according to Lederman.
“A lot of times we do need to walk away from a company to come back at a higher level,” she says. “Leave on really good terms. Say, ‘It’s an opportunity I couldn’t turn down… I’m hoping to be able to go out and get more experience and bring it here.’
“Make sure you don’t burn a bridge on the way out.”
If instead you accept the counteroffer, it’s time to prove to your employer that you are committed to staying, Lederman advises.
“They reinvested in you, you need to reinvest in them. Show it through your dedication, through your work,” she says. “Also, you can verbalize it. You can say, ‘Thank you for trusting in me and for recommitting to me.’”
Don’t you just love a happy ending?
Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She covers benefits, hidden jobs and work-from-home opportunities. Read her bio here or catch her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln.
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