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How to use a new job offer to re-negotiate your current salary

Here are two common situations and how to handle them.
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Salary negotiations can be a tricky game to play. If you’re currently very happy in your job, but an offer finds its way into your lap (say, through a headhunter reaching out, or a previous employer trying to win you back with an offer you can’t refuse), should you leverage this offer to negotiate a higher salary?

The answer would really depend on your willingness to tarnish the relationship with your current organization, and your willingness to jump ship should a manager call your bluff. With those risks in mind, the end result could be positive and result in a healthy salary increase. Should you decide that leveraging an external opportunity is the route you want to take, here are some “Dos and Don’ts” to keep in mind when stepping into these kinds of negotiation talks.

Situation 1:

You love your current job but you’re willing to leave and accept the external offer if your current organization is unwilling to match the salary.


Only have the conversation if you’re 100 percent ready to take your new external offer. Assume you’re going into the conversation with the mentality that you would take the offer should your manager not be willing to match. If you’re not fully ready to accept the new offer, you could be left in a worse off position than before as you risk hurting the relationship you have with your current company.


Take some time to objectively look at your own performance and position, as well as the relationship with your boss. If you know you’re a top performer on your team, and the organization would do whatever it takes to keep you, then you could be very successful with negotiating through an external offer. However, if you’re not leading the pack, your boss could have an easier time parting ways with you than expected. How long have you been with the organization? If you’ve just started, making high demands could likely reflect poorly on your professional brand.


Be hostile in any way. Rather, highlight your loyalty to the organization, passion for the role, and desire to stay on board. Alan Zel, President and CEO of Aikinu staffing, cautions to be very moderate, and approach this conversation with a soft pedal, as it will reflect upon you negatively if you come across as exploitative or aggressive. In this situation, it’s important to highlight that you really want to stay within the organization.

Situation #2:

You love your job, but you’re not willing to take the external offer should the conversation not go in your favor. Remember to think through if you’re willing to play the negotiation game.


Gain data and confidence. If you’re not in a space where accepting the alternative offer is a realistic option for you, you can use this offer as data about your value within the market. With this data, and hopeful boost of confidence in mind, you can set up a meeting with your boss to review your role, your accomplishments, and discuss how your compensation lines.


Use your external offer as a negotiation bluff. If you’re not prepared to follow through with the offer, then going into negotiations will make yourself vulnerable and tell your boss that you’re looking for a new role and potentially checked out. This could create a hostile environment for you to be working in as it will leave a sour taste in your boss’ mouth.

Unfortunately, in many situations, you might need to light some fire under your company in order to get the compensation you deserve. If you’re job seeking, and you want to leave for reasons beyond salary, then accepting any counter-offers won’t be worth your time as you’ll remain unhappy. However, if the salary is your main point of contention, then leveraging an external offer might not be a terrible move. While there are many associated risks, if you play your cards right, show your company that you’re still committed, and can build a case for your value, you could reap major rewards!

Stacy Pollack is a Learning Specialist with an MA in Educational Technology. She is passionate about building leadership programs that engage and contribute to the success of her organization. She loves to share her perspective on workplace development, career building, and networking for success. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or at

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