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How can I use a competitive job offer to increase my pay without leaving my current company?
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Here’s how you can use a competing offer to try to get a raise at your current job, even if you don’t plan to leave.

The question

I like my job and boss a lot, but I am underpaid. I received an offer from a competing firm for 30% more. How should I use this to increase my current pay, given that I have no intention to quit and don’t want to harm my current relationship with my manager?

My manager already knows about the pay issue, and currently does not believe that my position warrants a higher salary. He also insists that we do not have budget for it. Also, I know that my manager really values my work, and we get along very well.

My answer

“My manager…does not believe that my position warrants a higher salary….Also, I know that my manager really values my work, and we get along very well.”

Your manager probably does not value your work appropriately

Imagine that you tried to sell me a $50,000 car, and I said, “I love this car and I can see how valuable it is. I will buy it for $10,000.” I doubt you would say, “He really values this car.”

And so it is in your situation: Your manager doesn’t seem to be valuing your work appropriately, but I can see why he would want to keep you around if he’s getting your work for a 30% discount.

Unfortunately, you’ve said that you have no intention to quit and you don’t want to harm your relationship with your manager. That means you have very few options and you’re more or less dependent on your manager’s generosity.

What you can do

You have very few options, but you do have some options. Since your manager has said there’s no budget for a raise, this will likely just result in you confirming that you are underpaid and that you add more value to the company than you’re being paid for. But this is still a useful outcome (I’ll explain why later).

Start with some more market research to confirm that you are indeed significantly underpaid. Look at, and other sites that may help you determine the pay range for your skillset and experience in your industry. See if you can determine whether other companies would also pay you a 30% premium over your current salary (ask friends in the industry if that sounds right to them). And if you’re able to find out what someone doing your job at your current company is making (perhaps you know someone who left for greener pastures recently?), that will help you confirm whether your company doesn’t have the budget, or is simply unwilling to pay you more.

Building your case

Once you’ve confirmed that you’re significantly underpaid, I recommend building your case for a raise.

Here are some examples of changes that might justify a salary increase:

  • Your qualifications have changed. For example, you may have earned a certification, or a degree, or taken some training, or learned a new skill.
  • You have taken on more responsibility. For example, you are managing people or projects that you weren’t when your current salary was set. Or maybe you’re managing some part of the business that you weren’t before.
  • The job market has changed. For example, there’s been a shift in the market so that your skillset is in higher demand now than it was when you initially took your job.
  • You’ve always been underpaid. It’s possible you were hired at a lower salary than you could have commanded, and that you only realized this recently.

Start building your case by recording your accomplishments and accolades in a summary format that you can reuse later.

Accomplishments are things you’ve done to demonstrate that you’re ready for this promotion. Here’s an example:

Documented teammate onboarding process to make it reusable and to help decrease the time to productivity when new people join our team.

Accolades are praise and awards you’ve received over the past several months. Here’s an example:

ACME Corp—”Shannon really nailed this project. She kept us on track and informed the whole time, and did a great job of identifying risks well ahead of time. She made this project easy for us.” —Tom Thompson, VP of HR

I recommend keeping an email folder dedicated to documenting your accomplishments and accolades so you can easily find them later.

Prepare your case in writing

The best way to prepare your case is to write it down. As it turns out, you’ll also want to have a written summary of why you deserve your raise later on, so we’re going to kill two birds with one stone in this section by building an email that summarizes your case.

Here’s what your case for a raise will look like once you’ve written it down. This is written as an email template you can modify for your specific situation. You can modify the pieces that are [bracketed in bold font]. Note that you’re just drafting this email now—you’ll send it later on.

To: [Your manager’s email address]

Subject: [Your name] salary adjustment discussion—follow­up

Hi  [Your manager’s name]

Thanks for your time the other day. As we discussed, it has been [amount of time] since [“my last significant salary adjustment” OR “since I was hired”], and I would like to revisit my salary now that I’m contributing much more to the company. I’ve been researching salaries for [job title] in [industry] industry, and it looks like the mid­point is around [mid­point from your research].  So I would like to request a raise to [target salary].

I’ve been working very hard to find ways to contribute value to our company. Here are some of my accomplishments over the past several months:

  • [Accomplishment]
  • [Accomplishment]
  • [Accomplishment]
  • [Accomplishment]

And here is some feedback I’ve received from clients and coworkers over the past several months—their feedback speaks louder than anything I could say:

  • [Accolade]
  • [Accolade]
  • [Accolade]
  • [Accolade]

I believe these accomplishments and feedback show that my work merits a higher salary, and [target salary] seems well aligned to the current market. I look forward to hearing what I can do to help make this happen.

Thanks again for your time and consideration!

All the best

[Your name]

NOTE: You’ll notice I did not include the fact that you have an offer from another firm at 30% more pay. You’ll mention this verbally, but putting it in writing may not be the best idea if you don’t plan to leave your current company if they don’t give you a raise.

Present your case

It took me a while, but I’m finally getting to your actual question: How should you use your offer from another company to increase your pay by 30%?

Now that you have that email written (but not sent), you have your case summarized very nicely in an email. This will make it very easy to present your case to your manager before you send the email.

Schedule a meeting to ask your manager for your raise

If you have regular 1-on-1s with your manager, then you should bring this topic up in your next 1-on-1. If you don’t have regular 1-on-1s scheduled, or if your 1-on-1 is frequently cancelled, you should reach out to your manager and let him know that you would like to meet soon to talk through some questions you have.

Once you’re having this conversation, you can say something like:

“I’ve been doing some research, and I think I might be pretty far below the midpoint for my job in the current market. In fact, another firm just offered me a job at 30% more than my current salary. I wonder if we can talk about what it would take for me to get a raise to bring me closer to the market value for my job.”

Hopefully you’ll have a productive conversation with your manager about your readiness for and the company’s ability to accommodate the raise your requesting. Then let your manager know you’ll follow up with a short, written summary of your request after your meeting.

Send your email after you’ve spoken to your manager

Once you’ve spoken to your manager, review the email you drafted in the “Prepare your case” section above, and make any changes that seem necessary after your conversation. You don’t want to send outdated information in the email. Once you’ve made any updates, go ahead and send it along to your manager for review and consideration.

You’re sending the email as a follow-up so your manager has a document to circulate as she works with HR and Finance to determine the feasibility of granting your request. Once you’ve sent the email, the process is largely out of your hands.

As I mentioned above, you may not want to discuss the 30%-greater offer you have in the written email. That may be best left for verbal conversations since you don’t plan to leave if they can’t meet your request. Putting it in writing would be a little more aggressive and would imply that you’re serious enough about this request to put another firm’s offer in writing to your current company.

The bigger question for you

You’ve already talked to your manager about a raise and he has indicated there’s no budget for it, and you’ve said that you don’t want to leave your job. It will be worth your time to think very carefully about why you’re willing to stay at your current job if you’re so drastically underpaid. This is a personal decision, and there could be a lot of drivers behind it.

You may just really love the work that you’re doing with this particular company for this particular manager. If that’s the case, and as long as you’re aware that you’re sacrificing quite a bit of money to continue working in your current environment, then I think that’s a fine decision. There are lots of things more important than money.

On the other hand, if you’re sticking around and accepting less salary because you’re afraid to make a change, or because you don’t really believe you’re as valuable as your research says, or other reasons like that, you’re costing yourself a lot of money without an obvious benefit.

You have the information you need to make the right decision for you

Now you’ve done the research to conclusively demonstrate that you are underpaid, and it’s up to you whether you’ll seek an opportunity that pays you appropriately, or if you’ll continue to sacrifice salary in order to continue your current arrangement.

Please report back if you can

I would love to know what you decide and how this situation plays out for you. It’s a unique situation where it seems you really like your current situation and you know you’re significantly underpaid. It would be great to hear how this works out.

Other resources

An article I wrote about things to consider when pursuing a raise: Do you have to quit your job to get a big raise?.

The method for preparing and presenting your case for a raise is from my book Fearless Salary Negotiation—a #1 Best Seller on Amazon. Get the chapter on "How to get your next raise" for free here: How to get your next raise.

Or get the full book here: Fearless Salary Negotiation: Get it here