don't count on a counteroffer.

  • career advice
  • August 23, 2017

In the classic Seinfeld episode "The Pez Dispenser," George Costanza is certain that his girlfriend, Noel, is about to break up with him. So, Kramer advises that he stage a preemptive breakup to gain the upper hand. It works, but just in the short-term. When George tells Noel he's breaking up with her, she says "What do you want? I can make you happy." Of course, at the end of the episode, George loses his "upper hand" when Noel breaks up with him. That scene is hilarious, but it also offers a serious lesson if you’re considering leveraging a job offer to convince your current employer to make a counteroffer.

Yes, the tactic may work if it serves to raise awareness with your boss that you’re not satisfied with your current responsibilities, workload or pay. Hannah Riley Bowles, a senior lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School, told the Harvard Business Review that her research found that when people ask for a raise with an outside offer in hand, their “request is perceived as more legitimate and justified.”

However, Bowles and Deborah Kolb, author of Negotiating at Work: Turn Small Wins into Big Gains, both advise caution. “I would never advise someone to get an outside offer unless they are certain it’s going to be persuasive,” says Kolb.

Even if you believe the job offer is persuasive, the risks far outweigh the potential reward. The immediate risk is that instead of trying to convince you to stay, your boss calls your bluff and says “good luck.”

“If (the employee’s job offer is) real, then the employee is probably going to leave anyway,” says performance management consultant Dick Grote. “If it’s not, you’ve got some information about the quality of the person you’re dealing with.”

That’s a key point, and spotlights the long-term risk you create. Even if you do get a raise, you may irreparably damage your reputation and standing in the company. You’ve made your employer aware you’re unhappy, and that means your commitment is forever in question. Period. When it’s time to hand out promotions, or worse, make staff cuts, the executive leadership team will remember.

Consider that when the Society for Human Resource Management advised hiring managers on how to handle employees’ counteroffer requests, it warned that employees who are “won back” with a counteroffer are still more likely to leave the employer within the year.

Also, if your employer does make a counteroffer, the reason may not be because you are considered irreplaceable. Your company may not have a backfill for you, and your manager may make a counteroffer to avoid the hassle and expense of finding your replacement. It’s not a reward for past work.

Before you decide to start a job hunt, give serious consideration to whether you are happy with your current job, or are truly ready to leave for a new opportunity. If you do receive an offer, do not count on receiving that counteroffer. Make the decision that you’re going to accept a new job before you start actually applying and interviewing for it.

After you decide you’re ready to begin your job search, the next step is to find a job you will love. The good news is that opportunities are plentiful across the life sciences industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the life, physical and social science industry will generate 97,600 new jobs by 2024. That’s a 7 percent increase!

The bad news is that competition for these jobs among highly-qualified candidates is fierce. When an opportunity comes available, you need to act quickly and present yourself and your qualifications in the best possible light. When you partner with Randstad Life Sciences, our data-driven insights allow us to quickly identify smart career opportunities and personally guide you through the engagement process. We’ll provide you with career-shaping resources and create the best recruiting experience possible.

To begin your search, check out the Biotechnology & Pharmaceutical Jobs section on our website. You can also find out the moment opportunities become available by signing up for Randstad's job alerts. Just tell us the kind of position you want, and we'll email you when we find it.