How to Use a Job Offer to Negotiate With Your Current Boss

It’s risky, but done carefully, it could give you much-needed clarity about whether to stay or go

Leah Fessler
Published in
6 min readJul 24, 2019
Photo: Tom Werner/Getty Images

EEven if you peruse job listings casually or entertain only the occasional recruiter email, the fact that you’re looking at all is a sign that something in your current role could be better. Maybe you’re happy enough, but could do with better benefits, a higher salary, or maybe more responsibilities and people to manage.

Exploring all your options is often a smart move, but if your wandering eye actually leads to a job offer somewhere else, your choices are: 1) stay; 2) go; or 3) try to use this new offer to get what you want out of your current role.

The last option, though tempting, could carry unforeseen consequences. “In many cases, this [panicked negotiation] will fundamentally change your relationship,” says Alison Green, author of the Ask a Manager blog and a book by the same name. “You’re now the person who was one foot out the door, and you might be seen as more dispensable if your company needs to make cuts in the future.” There’s also the chance that your boss won’t be able to match the outside offer, and will encourage you to leave — essentially making the decision for you.

Still, if you like the people you work with, you know your boss isn’t the type to fire you for job searching (which, Green stresses, is totally unacceptable), and your preference is to stay where you are, just with more perks, talking to your boss could be a good move. Here’s how.

Take stock of your relationship

Most manager-direct report relationships can be grouped into one of two categories, says organizational psychologist Liane Davey, author of You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along, and Get Stuff Done.

The first type involve bosses who approach management more “holistically.” They see themselves as wide-lens career mentors as well as managers, and are often happy to discuss new job opportunities with their team members. The second type features the bosses who will interpret your interest in outside opportunities as a lack of loyalty to the company, and maybe…



Leah Fessler

Investor at NextView Ventures. Journalist. Thinking about gender, equality, and pugs. Formerly at Chief, Quartz, Slow, Bridgewater Associates, Middlebury.