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Counter-offers can be flattering, but are they in your
How to Tell If the Grass Will Be Greener
By Gaston F. Ceron
From The Wall Street Journal On-line
Take the money and run, or take the money and stay?
It's a choice you may well face at one point in your career:
Whether to jump to another company that's trying to seduce
you with a fatter paycheck and better perks, or use the job
offer as leverage to push your current boss into producing
a package that would make it worthwhile to stay.
For most employees, this sounds like a dream scenario, allowing
them for once to turn the tables on an employer and come out
ahead. But it's a path fraught with risks, and employees looking
to play the make-me-an-offer-I-can't-refuse game must tread
"It can be done," but "it is sort of a dicey
and delicate thing to deal with," says Bill Coleman,
senior vice president of compensation at Salary.com, a Needham,
Mass.,-based on-line provider of pay information. " It's
the equivalent of holding a gun to your employer's head,"
adds Steve Hall, director of professional recruiting at FGP
International, a staffing and executive-search agency in Greenville,
caution against doing it without thinking about consequences
first: Don't say you're thinking about leaving unless you
mean it, because your manager may call your bluff. "Sometimes
when you go to your boss and tell them you got a better offer,
they wish you luck," says Mr. Coleman.
you're prepared to proceed, job experts recommend that you
be as specific as possible with your current boss on what
it would take you to stay. Robin Ryan, a career coach based
in Newcastle, Wash., says it's important to do this because
in these types of negotiations time is often an issue -- the
outside company that is trying to lure you wants to hear back
soon, and your current boss will need at least some time to
see if the offer can be matched. "There's usually a time
crunch," says Ms. Ryan, so "phrase it in a way that
states what you want" -- for example, saying "for
me to stay here I need a $12,000 raise or that title that
I've been wanting."
employees who want to stay with their current employer, provided
that a competing offer can be matched or even topped, career
experts recommend giving their supervisors ammunition they
can use to help sell an improved compensation package to their
higher-ups. Ms. Ryan recommends that employees spell out the
value they add to their organization and why it would make
sense to keep them, even if it takes a raise or promotion.
Tell your manager, "These are the three things I'm going
to work on the next six months that are going to add to the
bottom line," she says.
Ryan recalls a woman working as an office manager for a hospital
clinic who had an outside offer and wanted to see if her boss
would match it. "She told me, 'I really would like to
stay,' " Ms. Ryan says. " I told her, 'When you
talk to the person you must tell them why you're worth it.'
" The woman took Ms. Ryan's advice, writing a letter
that highlighted her contributions to the company, and she
ended up keeping her job after her employer countered by offering
a salary increase.
the Boss on Board
important to justify why you're seeking a counteroffer --
and get your boss on board with that rationale -- because
even if one is made and you stay, you could still be viewed
with suspicion. Your managers and fellow employees may question
your loyalty to the company.
don't like to be fired, they like to do the firing,"
says Mr. Hall, FGP's recruiting director. "Anytime you
show up late in the morning, anytime you're not viewed as
a team player, there's tremendous resentment by the boss,"
Mr. Hall says. Perks you negotiate as part of the counteroffer
could make co-workers jealous. "If you're now getting
Friday afternoons off, you're going to be resented by your
teammates," he says.
a counteroffer does surface, employees should think before
taking it. It's natural to view salary as the ultimate reason
for employment, but there are many reasons aside from pay
that make employees think about leaving a company. So even
if your current boss matches that rival offer, it's wise to
think about the other, less tangible qualities that make one
employer more attractive than the other.
Walker, division director at the Chicago office of Creative
Group, a staffing service owned by Robert Half International
Inc., says employees should review all the reasons that originally
made them consider leaving before accepting a counteroffer.
"It's not always compensation," she says. "Is
that really the reason why you're unhappy? It might be that
there's not more of a challenge from a work
perspective. Counteroffers don't always address all of the
issues that prompted a person to seek other employment in
the first place."
a counteroffer sends a different message than the one intended.
Mr. Coleman, at Salary.com, recalls an incident that occurred
several years ago when he was working at another company.
"I had had a performance review and was told I was doing
very well, everything positive, 'you're a keeper,' that kind
of thing. I questioned my salary, and I was told budgets were
tight. Completely coincidentally, I got a call from a recruiter
with an opportunity. I went on the interview and got an offer
that was effectively a 35% salary increase without negotiating,"
Mr. Coleman says. "I went back and gave my notice. Within
half an hour the salary was matched." Mr. Coleman was
taken aback at his employer's abrupt about-face just weeks
after being told that tight budgets precluded a higher salary.
"I questioned the previous conversations," says
Mr. Coleman. "I felt like I was being cheated and lied
to." So he left.
Career experts recommend that employees put their managers
on notice that they're unhappy with their jobs before looking
for outside employment and seeking a counteroffer. Mr. Hall
recommends sitting down with your boss and telling him or
her that you feel undervalued, explain why and ask if there's
anything that can be done.
also important not to burn bridges. If you take a counteroffer
from your current employer, the other company that was recruiting
you may feel it was used as a negotiating pawn. Reputations
can be lost in these types of situations if officials of the
other company feel you weren't honest with them, recruiters
negotiating a counteroffer, many employees will try to milk
the situation for all it's worth. But that, too, can be a
mistake. The tables could turn again, and someday, if the
job market cools, you could find yourself at your boss's mercy
-- and he or she may remember you played hardball earlier.
a tough balance to achieve," says Mr. Coleman, since
people want to be paid what they're worth. But he cautions
against asking for so much that you price yourself out of
the market. If your boss agrees today, your high pay may be
held against you when raises or bonuses are parceled out in
the future -- or even when it's decided who will lose their
jobs in a round of layoffs. Over time, says Mr. Coleman, "
companies generally tend to take outliers and put them back
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