I am a programmer and work for a small company (no more than 50 people) but we have international clients and offices. Recently, our performance has been in decline, and we took a major hit in revenues as a result of a client leaving us. This led to a massive downsizing (relatively speaking), which means our small company is now smaller.

Some key employees have left us, or are currently leaving us, or are thinking about leaving us (and we don't seem to be replacing anyone who leaves). Among those in the third group is me.

There are many factors which lead me to want to look for employment elsewhere, but that's not my question. Suffice it to say, I've contributed a great deal to my company and am regarded by my colleagues as an expert in our technology. But I'm not too confident staying in what seems, to me, to be a sinking ship.

Recently, I've been gently approached by a C-level executive and was told that I am needed by the company, and implored me not to seek opportunities elsewhere. I don't know how they caught wind of my plans (lucky guess?). They did say there was some positive news forthcoming, but didn't say what.

So now I am in a situation where I know the company values me highly, but with the complications above. If I leave, I don't think I will get a counteroffer to stay, considering our situation. And if I stay, then I imagine my value will be "diluted" if the company recovers, and I will be less valuable then - and if it doesn't recover, I'll suddenly be jobless.

I feel like my value to my company is much higher now due to my contributions and expertise, but also due to circumstance. I would like to translate that into a raise, but I don't think that is possible at the moment. I am sure that if I go elsewhere, I can get a small pay bump as well. But I am keeping in mind that I've been told that good things are coming, and I'm wondering if that has to do with the company, me, or if it's just something said to make me stay.

At the end of the day, it seems like my value is very high at the moment, maybe exceeding my current salary. It feels like I could gain something valuable from this experience, like a negotiation skill I've not been good at using so far. I think that if a raise is not possible, I can at least negotiate a better deal if the company does well and I decide to stay. I could also wait until the good news is announced before I make a decision.

So my question is, what are my options? How do I leverage my situation so that I can protect myself, but also gain some value for myself?

This question is not about pay but about security and making the right choice.

  • 1
    How certain are you that good things are actually coming, especially since it sounds like a manager has begged you not to leave without offering any incentive to stay?
    – user34587
    Apr 4, 2018 at 16:07
  • @Kozaky I'm not certain at all. Maybe I should seek to clarify. It's not like the business is going to go bad tomorrow, so there is that. Apr 4, 2018 at 16:17
  • @RuiFRibeiro That's what I'm afraid of. I'd definitely like to avoid getting taken advantage of. Apr 4, 2018 at 16:18
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of How should I properly approach my boss if I'm feeling underpaid?
    – gnat
    Apr 4, 2018 at 16:37
  • 1
    I does not seem a duplicate of that question, and in this situation, due to previous bad experiences, I would not even try to negotiate. I would take care of my life. Apr 4, 2018 at 16:39

2 Answers 2


Jump ship and jump ship fast. They are saying they need you and imploring you to stay to cover their hide. If things were going well and the outlook was positive, they would not be hemorrhaging staff and clients. If this company loses another client or declares bankruptcy, do you think they are going to continue cutting you checks to cover bills and your mortgage/rent?

Unless you have in writing that they are giving you a substantial financial incentive for sticking around, you should have been gone yesterday. Your colleagues who are leaving are going to get the open jobs in your current market, your bosses/C-levels are going to take a nice exit bonus/parachute, and you will be sitting there jobless when it goes belly up.

As some comments said, look out for yourself first, foremost, and always. This is business. If your company really needs you in this dire time, they need to make it attractive because right now, it is definitely not attractive for you.

  • I would not put it better. They are just covering their hides as long as they can afford. Apr 4, 2018 at 16:32
  • Thank you. These are words I needed to know. I'll definitely look out for myself first. I was afraid that they might be just blowing smoke. I was not aware that C-levels get a massive exit bonus for a company in decline, and that certainly colors the picture very differently. Apr 4, 2018 at 16:41
  • @markovchain That is my assumption, it is not a fact. There are lots of times that execs are guaranteed a certain amount which makes their departure quite comfortable. The people in the trenches don't have such luxuries.
    – dfundako
    Apr 4, 2018 at 16:44

In my experience, sticking at a company in the middle of hard times and helping it turn around is a lot of work. It is inherently a high-risk venture, because as you point out:

  1. If the company fails, then you are out of a job.
  2. If you push too hard on the company, they can become bitter, label you as a mercenary, or otherwise jeopardize you having a future there assuming the company does turn it around.

Some people aren't willing to stay in a high-risk situation, but if it's not out of the question for you, then ought to at least try to make it a high-risk / high-reward situation. Here are a few possible rewards I would consider as part of this decision:

  1. Do you have or is it possible to get an ownership stake in the company? If the company prospers and you have an ownership stake, then you have something guaranteed for yourself. This is something they can provide even if they don't have a lot of cash on hand.
  2. It's fairly common for companies to offer bonuses as incentives for employees to stay. Usually it works something like this: you sign a contract promising you X dollars which you get in Y amount of time as long as you are still employed by the company on that day. You usually also still get it if you are laid off. Basically, you're guaranteed X dollars unless you take a new job or are fired. You could seek something like this.

I recommend trying to get one or both of those. Companies are awesome at making vague promises they may or may not have intentions to make good on, and C-levels have massive incentives to look very optimistically at any ability to turn a company around, as well as golden parachutes that protect them if it all fails.

In any case, you ought to look at what you have available to you in the job market. Having your resume ready and some irons in the fire will protect you if it all goes south in the event you decide to stay, and it will help you not settle for some tiny amount of money they offer you to get you to stay. If you don't look at what's out there, then you're only investigating a very small number of your options.

  • 1
    Thank you. I'll definitely continue my job search elsewhere to protect myself. You've given me a lot to think about. Apr 4, 2018 at 16:36
  • I think the most important part of this answer is the ownership stake. It's something the company can give you that does not cost them anything right now, but if the company recovers, it should be worth way more than what you would get if you go to another company. Also make sure that you have a lawyer checking all documents if they give you a stake.
    – Wilbert
    Apr 5, 2018 at 10:53

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