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I've worked at a US software startup for 2.5 years. In that time I've been promoted and given consistently positive feedback for my work. The raise that came with the promotion puts me just ahead of inflation since my start date. I've repeatedly asked for raises, whether in cash or equity, only to be told it can't be done. We're a cash strapped startup so I believe that, but I know I'm not one of the top paid people, and there have been people who quit, so there should be some wiggle room. When my salary was reduced by 30% for furlough, I finally started applying for better paying jobs.

If I get an offer that I like, I want to leverage it into a counter offer from my current employer, since I really do like my coworkers and our mission, and switching jobs is a pain. Since we're in furlough though, I know my chance of getting a raise is even lower, but could I expect a written promise (not legally binding) of a raise in the future? Or some equity? Some other type of guarantee?

Essentially I want to give them a chance to make a counter offer, w/o giving an ultimatum they can't fulfill (asking for more money than they have). I'm willing to move on if they really have nothing to give me, but hope there's some way I can negotiate a good enough deal to stick around.

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I'm going to try and not let my personal emotion affect this answer so let go.

could I expect a written promise (not legally binding) of a raise in the future?

I mean a written promise would be binding so I think any company that is furloughing employees should not be promising their employees pay rises after it's all over. The company won't confirm anything like that right now.

Or some equity?

Same answer as above. You might think this is an alternative but it actually isn't as the company is most likely going to have to raise more money probably right now. Giving out equity in that situation makes raising money much more difficult and just complicates the whole thing.

Some other type of guarantee?

Unclear what this would be. At the moment the company is given you a guarantee that they will take you back once this all calms down.

I'm willing to move on if they really have nothing to give me

I would seriously suggest waiting a few months before doing anything rash like handing in notice. It's not long and you might find that if the company survives all this you will get that extra money for sticking around. If you move right now it's going to be difficult to get things like interviews done and you might find yourself on the back end of this without any job.

The reality is at the moment we all have to put career development on the back foot and just try to stick it out until it starts to calm down a bit. When that time is I can't say right now but it's months not weeks or years. The reality is that's not a massive amount of time to sit around in your house being furloughed.

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  • Thanks for responding to each of my main points. The context of this is I was unhappy with a lot of things (beyond pay) at the company pre-covid, and it just made everything worse. The other offer I have is an essential position with the feds, so pretty solid (though as others have said, nothing's 100% right now) – Errorum Apr 9 at 0:15
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To be quite frank, there is a good chance that this won't end well for you. Your best option would be to wait until Covid and furlough is over.

You’re on furlough which means the company are struggling to pay your current salary, your chances are next to zero of getting more, no company in their right minds would increase that in these times. As you said you're working for a cash strapped start up, ask your self would you do it if you ran the company?

Just because other staff members leave, it doesn't mean that their salary is immediately up for grabs, generally cash strapped companies in ordinary times need to evaluate the best use for that money, giving other staff pay rises likely isn't top priority.

Moving at this time is very risky, especially as job offers being rescinded is becoming normality for people who got job offers from opportunities they applied for.

This is a text book ultimatum regardless of how you dress it up. Generally going to a company with an ultimatum you better make dam sure that the other offer is solid and you're guaranteed that you have it, but as I said before these times are unusual so you're likely not to have a 100% solid offer as the climate of this situation is changing daily and companies who are sensible will be looking to try ride out the storm which likely means no new hires unless they are strategic and 100% needed. And walking in there asking for a raise (after being told multiple times, no) or you'll leave, especially at a time where companies need little excuses for redundancy - is not likely going to end well for you.

If you’re not willing to contribute to the survival of your company, their mission and your coworkers by staying on furlough, they’d be totally right to just let you walk.

So to be honest if you still want to do this make sure any offer you get is 100% solid - if that even exists in a Covid world, good luck in your new role if that offer doesn't get rescinded.

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    "contribute to the survival of your company, their mission and your coworkers" Just feel like I should point out that this kind of emotional investment into a company is one of the major ways in which companies get away with underpaying employees and can lead to particularly toxic workplaces. Especially in start-ups or non-profits. That aside, you make the right point that if either party feels the business relationship is no longer working out they should walk. – Lilienthal Apr 2 at 8:31
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    Thats true you are right, I was just going on what the OP said that they liked the mission etc and it does depend on the motivations of individuals behind what they are satisfied by most too. And in times like these, a small sacrifice from everyone wont hurt for the bigger picture. – UIO Apr 2 at 8:39
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    I don't think any offer is 100% in a time like this. in the course of a few weeks, a multi-billion dollar company like Oneweb, went from being a competitor to Startlink (SpaceX) to filling for bankruptcy. My point is that, a company could offer the author a job, and 2 weeks later they could be filing for bankruptcy. – Donald Apr 2 at 13:43
  • @Donald totally agree. Even, depending on what country you're in, the financial incentives/support that companies have been offered to help them survive might not be enough. – UIO Apr 2 at 13:46

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