Job Offer vs. Counteroffer
- By: Rebeca Marquez, MBA
I was once roommates with a girl who had moved all the way from another part of the country to get a fresh start. She was working as a construction-site office manager while going to college part-time for a degree in Dietetics & Food/Science Nutrition.
I came home one day to find her vigorously cleaning the apartment. It smelled wonderful, but this could only mean one thing - she was stressed and taking her frustrations out on the toilet bowl and dust mites in the apartment. With a squeegee in her yellow-gloved hands, the look in her eyes clearly reflected her inner turmoil. I asked if she wanted to talk about it. “Yes!” she exclaimed. We washed up, poured some iced tea, and sat comfortably on our couches to talk.
She had given her two weeks’ notice to her boss earlier that day because she received a competitive job offer at a construction site much closer to our apartment. This job offer meant substantially less commute time for her. “Oh,” I said, “that must have been a difficult conversation.” She said, “No, the part I’m stressing about is, my boss counter-offered! He said, “What do I have to do to keep you here?” Can you believe that?!” I whooped and then I laughed. She looked at me as if I could not possibly understand her plight. I said, “Yes, I can believe it. You’re good at what you do and your boss knows the value of the asset he would lose with you gone.” I explained to her that what she has now is a rare opportunity to negotiate for what she wants - assuming she knows what that is. She said she didn't know what she wanted now because she was not expecting her boss to counteroffer. So, I started in with the questions.
“First, would you stay? If he offered you something - whatever it is - would you stay? Or are you determined on moving to the new job? Because, if you accept his counter, that means you continue to commute - no complaints”. She said she would stay, but she didn't think there was anything more he could offer her. I paused in thought, then asked, “You’re still going to school, right?” and she nodded. “And you’re still interested in finishing your dietitian degree, right?” She nodded and said, “Of course!”
“So, tell him if he wants to keep you, he’ll pay the tuition and books on the remaining classes for your degree.” The look of shock and disbelief on her face was one I’ll always remember. “WHAT?!” she screeched. “I can’t do that. Can I ask for that? He’s not going to agree to that.” I smiled and then argued all of her points, “Yes you can, yes you will, and yes he will. If you’re serious about school and he’s serious about keeping you, he’ll pay your tuition. And you’re going to ask for a stipend for the wear and tear on your car from the commute.”
We went back and forth a bit, but I reassured her that this request was well within her right to ask. Her boss had asked an honest question and this is an honest answer. “Besides,” I said, “it is a write-off for him and a scholarship for you. It’s not like you’re asking for an increase in pay, this request is not going to cost him a thing because it is all deductible. This shows you’re serious about school, about advancing your career, and he’d be making an investment.” She finally agreed and said, “Okay.” I responded with one last question, “So, let me ask you again, would you stay? If your current boss countered with this offer, would you turn down the new job offer and stay? Remembering that you hate the commute and are committed to going to school.” She emphatically said, “Yes, I’d definitely stay!”
The very next day when we were both home from work she rushed out to see me and had the brightest eyes and biggest smile on her face. “He said yes!” she said. I couldn’t have been more pleased right then. She recounted in detail how the meeting went and that when she told her boss that she would stay on the condition that he invest in her and in her education by paying her tuition and books 100%, she said he didn’t skip a beat and agreed right away. He also included a modest increase in pay. She said she had no idea that she could ask for tuition as a condition of employment and boy am I so glad that she did.
I am proud to have been an influence in someone’s personal growth by providing a means to fund their education. College education is increasingly expensive. The task of raising money to fund an education these days can be daunting when you’re in it alone. In addition to applying for the numerous scholarships available, asking your employer to pay for your tuition is a valid and reasonable compensation request. If we are not actively searching for alternative means to pay for college, we will all be stuck with an unmanageable amount of debt like the US government is today.
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Rebeca N. Marquez holds an MBA degree and is a business consultant in the Greater Seattle, WA area. She specializes in entrepreneurial startups, company profitability, marketing, and finance.
See more at her website and click here to see her articles, marquezbusinessconsulting.com/articles(http://www.marquezbusinessconsulting.com/articles).