I currently work for a government agency. The policy here for raises is that a raise can be given when one of two conditions is met:

  1. A person moves to a new position within the organization
  2. A person has received an offer from another employer and the raise is for retention

This policy is strange to me, and I'm not sure how to navigate it. I have an interview coming up for a position outside my organization. My intent is to use their offer to request a raise in my current organization. Of course, receiving an offer also means that my employer faces some risk of me leaving.

When should I mention this to my manager? One extreme would be to tell them I am applying for positions. This seems unnecessarily early, but does give them more time to think about my request. On the other hand, the other extreme is only telling them once I have a secured offer. That sounds abrupt.

  • 2
    I would approach my manager and ask something like this: "Hey I love working here, but I think I am entitled to a salary increases because of <salary below market>, <successful project> or <other good reason>. Is there anything you can do about or is my only option to apply to other companies to be able to present an offer with a higher salary?" Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 11:23

5 Answers 5


Based on the wording of the policy specifically referencing that "an employee has received an offer from another employer" I would never mention prior to the point that you have an offer in your hand. Doing so would be risky, since you'd be exposing the fact that you're shopping around prior to having an actual firm commitment from another employer.

The offer is typically given to the candidate fairly late in the hiring process, which means your window of when to tell them is pretty well defined: most employers expect a response to an offer within a few days, so you've got a window of a few days in which to tell your current employer.


Yes, that policy is strange.

Why do you continue to work where you are now if the only way to get a raise is to either transfer or threaten to leave? If someone else is willing to pay more then take the offer. Your employer doesn't value your work for what it should pay - if they did you should be able to negotiate a raise without the new offer.

If you insist on doing this then don't tell your manager until you have a written offer.

  • 3
    I'm a recent hire, and their initial offer was plenty more than I was earning previously. Also, I was unaware of this policy at the time. Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 21:23

Many of the answers here seemed like generally good advice, but because this was with a governmental organization, were not quite spot-on.

Part of working for U.S. governments (generally) is that being fired is relatively difficult. Knowing that I am looking for another position is not generally an offense one could be fired for. Additionally, the process of firing me would include many weeks or months to pass - enough time to plan an escape.

I approached this from a more cooperative stance. I asked my employer how to get a raise. They told me that there wasn't much they could do, but that an offer from another employer would be a reason for a raise. At this point, I told them that is what I would do - and I did it. With an offer in hand a raise came swiftly, partially because my employer was already aware this would be happening.

And at that point there is no real risk - if they weren't going to offer a raise, I could leave.


You tell your manager when you have a written offer from a company.

If you tell them earlier, they have no way of knowing if you are actually going to leave or just using any offer you may receive as leverage for a raise. They can then find someone to replace you as they know you are searching for another opportunity and let you go before you have any offers.


My intent is to use their offer to request a raise in my current organization

You are taking a bit of a gamble here.

  1. You need to have a written offer in hand, before you can approach your employer
  2. Your offer will come with a short deadline, so you need to move fast. Government agencies rarely move fast. They may not be able to make a decision before your offer expires
  3. Even if they can decide, the answer will be yes or no
  4. If yes, you got your raise, but you also have clearly shown that you are actively looking around. This may damage your long-term career
  5. If no, you have a hard call to make: Stay at the current salary and lose a lot of credibility or quit and take the new job. You better make sure that the new job is something you really would want to do, and not just an offer for the salary negotiation

It's a bad policy since it always creates a "loser". I wouldn't try to use it, unless all else has failed you are perfectly fine with quitting.

A better approach would be to talk to your boss and ask the question "how can I get to the next step in my career and financially. Can we work on a plan for that?" It's perfectly ok to bring up your confusion about the policy: "So I've read that you need an offer from a different company to get a raise. Do I understand this correctly and is that the expected behavior? Is that what I should be doing" and see where it goes from there.

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