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Using a job offer as leverage to negotiate a promotion or higher salary requires a delicate approach and comes with risks.
“When you have another job offer you are empowered in your negotiations,” said Deborah Kolb, author of Negotiating at Work: Turn Small Wins into Big Gains. “You feel like what you are asking for is defensible and you feel more comfortable. But any time you use another offer, it can be received as a threat.”
Approach the situation delicately
While it’s nice to feel in demand, avoid barging into your boss’s office waving the offer and demanding you get paid more.
“You have to introduce it in a subtle way” said Alex Twersky, co-founder of Resume Deli, a resume and career services firm. “Walking in and saying, ‘Hey I got this new job offer, what are you going to do to keep me?’ That bullish and arrogant approach isn’t advisable, even in [this] market.”
He added that using a job offer purely for leverage runs the risk of souring the relationship with your current employer. “Leverage is not a guaranteed strategy.”
He suggested keeping the offer in your back pocket and using it as an insurance policy. “First, approach your boss in a candid way about where you see yourself now, how you would like the role to change and responsibilities and salary to grow.”
The idea is to have a frank conversation about the value you bring to the company based on your work and your market value.
“Introduce the offer as oil to grease the wheels as need be,” said Twersky.
And if you do bring up the offer – you should be prepared to walk (or be asked to).
Bringing up another job offer can put managers on the defensive, so keep it positive and bring up the value you bring to your employer.
“When you ask, always connect what is good for you and what is good for the organization,” said Kolb.
When mentioning the offer, let it be clear you aren’t interested in leaving and want to continue to grow with the company but now you have a very tangible data point on your market value.
“Approach it from a curiosity perspective,” said Olivia Jaras, founder of salarycoaching.com. She recommends asserting your loyalty to the company and team, and then telling them about the other opportunity and asking for help in solving the problem.
But mentioning another job offer can stunt your career growth if you do stay, warned Josh Doody, author of “Fearless Salary Negotiation.” He said a boss might be more hesitant to put you on a long-term project over fears you might be looking to jump ship.
Avoid specific numbers
Don’t give away too much information about the offer if you’re hoping your employer will counter with a higher number.
“If you are making $100,000, and say you have an offer for $125,000 but will stay if you give me $130,000, you come off a bit callous and greedy,” said Twersky.
A smarter strategy is to avoid giving the exact job offer figure. If the boss wants details on how much is being offered, Jaras recommended providing a range.
If the offer is for $100,000, but you’d be willing to stay for $95,000, then she suggested saying the offer is between $97,000-$110,000.
Ask yourself why you were looking
Keeping a pulse on your industry’s job market and compensation and benefit trends is a good way to make sure your career stays on track.
There’s plenty of salary data out there that provides industry-specific compensation figures, but a concrete offer provides a more exact calculation of your market value.
But if you went looking for other job opportunities because there’s a void in your current work load, like a lack of opportunity and growth or uninteresting projects that you don’t see changing anytime soon, it might just be time to change jobs anyway.