TLDR; I feel disrespected in my current job, but made a promise to the manager I would tell him if I was thinking about leaving. A manager from my last job verbally promised my old job back, but I do not have anything in writing. Do I go ahead and tell my manager that I am indeed thinking about leaving?
You've seen how your company works: Someone makes demands, and they get. You are all nice and get a kick in the teeth for it. Your CTO hasn't actually done anything but promised to do something if you think about leaving. I love the guy, he knows exactly the buttons to press to exploit you as much as he can.
If you can go back to your old job at your old (higher) salary, maybe even something added, do it. Or find something even better elsewhere. Whatever you promised to your current company, you should care about those just as much as the company cares for you. Which is none at all.
And as was said, don't inform the company until you have a signed contract. There is one person that should count for you, and that's you.
I wouldn't recommend telling your company you're thinking of leaving / looking elsewhere / have applied elsewhere etc unless you have an offer that you're prepared to accept.
I would personally recommend either speaking to the company about the concerns you have with what's going on, or leaving - and explicitly never telling them you 'might be looking for another job'.
The reason for this is that it's generally considered to be a bad idea to accept a counter offer from a company if they try to retain you after you receive an offer somewhere else, yet it would likely be best not to mention you're going to be looking for another job unless you have an offer somewhere else..
Either you are able to use that as a negotiation tactic to get something very specific that you want changed if they want to retain you, or you'll be leaving somewhere else.... I'd recommend getting the offer somewhere else in writing and going there if you really are unhappy where you're at and they refuse to address it without you telling them you're considering leaving.
It depends on your industry. If there are little companies controlling most of the market, then just leave it .
Else you can talk to your ex-colleagues if and only if there are misconduct of your boss involving conflict of interest and tradition value .e.g. democracy, free speech,torture of animals ....e.t.c.
The CTO said to come talk to him before you start looking elsewhere and he'll find a solution. What you wrote doesn't mean you have promised him to let him know that you're leaving, and in fact you aren't. After all, if you haven't accepted another offer, you're not leaving, right? What you tell the CTO is that you're unhappy about the situation and why, and try to come up with a solution together.
Either the CTO can get you a satisfactory solution or he can't. If the CTO can get you a solution but isn't going to unless you say you're leaving, take that as a no. You want to present yourself as loyal unless and until you have a signed offer elsewhere.
Never tell anyone you're leaving as a negotiating tactic. If you can only get a good deal by threatening to leave, you're still marked as the one who was willing to leave, and one that the company has already made a concession for. That's not a good position to be in. Your colleague may have things work out, or he may have it bite him later. You're female, and unfortunately that means you've got to be more cautious.