Using the wrong tool can doom a job from the outset. If you want to use another job offer to score a raise or promotion from your current employer, you have to proceed with care—and leave your rhetorical sledgehammer at home.
When presented with the right context, another job offer can prove an effective lever in getting the results you want, noted Victoria Pynchon, a negotiation expert and co-founder of She Negotiates. But navigating the process requires skill and finesse. Here’s a step-by-step look at how to obtain maximum leverage in this sort of situation:
Set the Stage for Success
Make sure you present your case to a decision maker who actually has the ability and political will to get something done. You may be unable to reach a speedy, resolute deal if you work through an intermediary.
Then, put the law of reciprocity into play by inviting that person to lunch. Choosing a neutral, informal venue helps take the edge off the negotiations.
Finally, have the right mindset. Remember, this isn’t a haggling session or a duel. In your own mind, frame it as a business discussion between two people who are trying to work out a solution to a shared problem.
“Understand the problems, pressures and fears your manager is facing,” Pynchon said. “Then, merge your interests with theirs to come up with a mutually beneficial solution.”
Know What You Want
Don’t walk into the meeting unprepared, advised Michael Toebe, a negotiation expert and mediator. Be ready to ask for a specific salary or a promotion. Don’t just rely on the other offer; increase your leverage by citing your accomplishments and objective salary data, since providing a wealth of documentation legitimizes your request.
“Have a Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement, or BATNA, in mind, in case your manager can’t or won’t meet your demand,” Toebe said. “The objective is not to get a deal, but a good deal.”
Don’t Issue an Ultimatum
Don’t put your manager on the defensive (or paint yourself into a corner) by mentioning that you have a competing job offer right off the bat. After engaging in small talk, the best way to start your conversation may go something like this:
“You know, I really enjoy working here and I think that I can continue to contribute to the organization. However, what I’m hearing from the marketplace is that my value is 20 percent higher than what I’m earning now. I’m hoping that we can solve the problem.”
A savvy manager will get it and may even ask if you’ve received another offer. Be truthful if confronted, but reiterate that you would like to stay—positioning yourself as a loyal team member gives you the most control over the situation. Again, your goal is to obtain maximum leverage without alienating your boss or slamming the door. For example:
“Although I do have another offer, I haven’t reached a decision, and again, I’d rather stay with the company. But the other firm is offering a much clearer path to the C-Suite, so it’s tempting. Do you think we can work something out?”
Of course, there’s a chance that you may have to walk away or that your boss will call your bluff. But Pynchon calls the notion that you can’t leverage another job offer for more money an “HR myth.”
Be Fearless but Flexible
Here are some additional tips for success:
- Don’t accept vague promises. Go with the other offer unless your employer puts your new deal in writing.
- Don’t be afraid to suggest a performance bonus, promotion or other workarounds if your manager can’t meet your salary demands. After all, you’re in the driver’s seat. How he responds to your BATNA can reveal his true intentions and make your decision easier.
- Use silence. One of the best times to use the power of silence is during a negotiation.
- Use pressure appropriately. While you shouldn’t hold a gun to your boss’ head, you need to be clear about your intention to move forward if you can’t work out a deal. For instance: “XYZ Company is pressuring me for an answer. And though I’d like to work things out, I need to give them a decision by next week.”