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Down side of counter offer?

Q. I like my job, and the company I work for, but they have been slow to come up with any raises, or even a bonus over the last two years. Before that, raises were not more than 3% a year, which isnít going to make me any money any time soon. I have been looking for a new job, and I think I can get an offer that will pay more, but my job is still better. What do you think about trying to get an offer and then trying to get my company to counter offer so I get an increase and can still stay here?

A. That is quite the plan. I am impressed that you can evaluate your job in separate components of the salary and the work. Many organizations choose not to be the high payer in their industry if they are known to have better opportunities for professional growth, more cross training, or a better work environment. This might be the case for your employer, or they be bound by financial challenges posed by the economy in the last 3 years.

How compensation is set, how raises and bonuses are determined and whether counter offers are made are all part of a corporate culture.

Most people would like to be paid more, and part of that evaluation is identifying how much more money would make it worth your while to leave, lose seniority, and move into a new corporate culture you may not like as much as the one you are in. In this economy, placement and retained search professionals are reporting it may take up to a 30 percent increase for people to leave their current employers.

With all the lay offs over the last few years, few organizations offered annual increases, or bonuses; in fact many companies had staff take pay cuts. You didnít say whether your company did provide raises to some people identified as key contributors, or if you had tried other methods to get a raise or bonus. Preparing to have these conversations within your current company can help you review your strengths and accomplishments which provides resume and interview data as well.

If you believe that another organization will pay you more for a very similar role, you should test that assumption with research. Hard data can make any discussion you have with your current employer, or with a potential employer more effective as you try to negotiate for more money. There are many online and networking resources available where you find accurate data on compensation information for specific roles in specific geographies. Arranging a formal meeting with your manager to review the current market rate for your role, and your value to the organization, the impact you make, with quantitative data is a good first step at review time, or at the end of a big project, or a financial quarter.

Counter offers are not without problems for both the organization making the counter offer, trying to retain a person who has made the decision to leave, and the person who has self identified as unhappy with some aspects of the job, and ready to move on.

First, if you do get an offer and come back to your employer with the information, they may wish you luck in your new role, leaving no room for continued conversation. Next, they may want you to stay, and ask why you didnít approach them before you started looking outside the company. Your loyalty comes into question, and even if they decide they would like you to stay, you will most likely be seen as risky. Unless you are seen as a highly valued performer, you may get a counter offer designed to keep you for the short term, but your long term value and the companyís investment in you will most often be affected. If they had you in succession plans, you may no longer be involved.

The company that offers you a job may not be happy that you used their time and resources to gain leverage to get a counter offer from your current employer. Despite the common belief that by not divulging to the hiring company that you have accepted a counter offer that they company wonít find out, many do. In the age of LinkedIn, Google, etc. itís very easy for hiring managers to track where you land. Therefore, itís critical to proceed with caution since human resources professionals and hiring managers share information and you donít want to impact your reputation negatively.

Most organizations that do make counter offers regret doing it, and say so right up front. Most people who decide to accept a counter offer and wind up leaving the organization more quickly than they anticipated Ė most often because the relationship to the company has changed. Evaluate your long and short term wants and needs. There may be a better strategy.

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