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I've decided to start looking for a new job. Currently, my contract is "at will", so I could just quit tomorrow, but 2 weeks is a typical/expected notice period.

My current role is somewhat critical. Things won't grind to a halt without me, but it will be a pretty big hit, and current projects won't complete on time. It would also probably be a pretty big morale hit to the team, but an extended notice period might not help there. At any rate, I'm considering offering them a longer notice period (preferably not more than one month), in exchange for additional compensation--any new position I take is likely to come with a significantly higher salary, and bonus time is around the corner, so I would like to know for sure that I could get paid my bonus.

The complication, as I see it, is that pretty much all advice relating to leaving a job is clear that you shouldn't say anything until you have a signed offer in hand (which I understand and agree with), but at that point, I would already have agreed to a start date with my new employer, which means my current employer has no incentive to engage in the negotiation.

How do I bring this up prior to having an offer in hand (and preferably, before I have interviews lined up)?

I'm aware that my current employer could just terminate me now, but I don't think that's likely, and it wouldn't be a problem for me, financially.

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    Do, just to be clear, you want a pay rise to leave the company? I think the result if you ask is that they walk you out the door directly. – Solar Mike Mar 13 at 7:48
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    Just negotiate a later start date with your new employer right from the outset. Worst case scenario, you'll have an extra 2 to 4 weeks of unpaid vacation between jobs. People do that all the time to get extra vacation time. – Stephan Branczyk Mar 15 at 6:15
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Short answer: No.

I think you're approaching this the wrong way. This seems to be your thought process:

When I leave the company, I'll be leaving them in a lurch. So I want to give them a longer notice period than usual. But the place I'll move to will pay much more. So that longer notice period actually costs me money - I'd be working longer at the lower salary. So why not ask the boss now 'Hey, when I find a new job, can you give me a temporary bonus to work a bit longer before leaving?'

... which just seems off. If you're right, and:

  • You leaving the company would cause them to be in a lurch
  • You'd get paid much more in another position.

... then the answer is actually dead simple:

Ask for a raise now.

Your current pay is below your market rate. Why settle for making a few hundred extra in a one-type payment? Because, when it's all said and done... that's what you're trying to get out of this scheme you've envisioned.

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Unless you are worried about them firing you immediately and being without a job for a few weeks, I don't think you need to negotiate a LONGER period with the company you're leaving. Negotiate your start date with your new company and then inform the company you're leaving. Unless you're really disliked and/or nowhere near as valuable as you say you are, I would be very surprised if they said "no, that's too long of a notice period"

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I want to be very explicit with my answer. The others before mine are reasonable at getting at the generics, but there are a few things you're overlooking.

My current role is somewhat critical. Things won't grind to a halt without me, but it will be a pretty big hit, and current projects won't complete on time. It would also probably be a pretty big morale hit to the team, but an extended notice period might not help there.

This is a double-edged sword. Fundamentally, you have no real guarantee that you are super critical to a project. A reasonable team would have the ability to fill in for you if you were out on vacation, and your departure could be translated to "indefinite vacation". Other things like morale aren't really in your scope of control, since the problem exists at a level above your presence anyway.

The complication, as I see it, is that pretty much all advice relating to leaving a job is clear that you shouldn't say anything until you have a signed offer in hand (which I understand and agree with), but at that point, I would already have agreed to a start date with my new employer, which means my current employer has no incentive to engage in the negotiation.

This is incorrect. The best practice is yes, don't bother leaving or saying anything until you have an offer in hand, but this isn't where negotiation ends - it's the only logical point where negotiation can even begin! Your current company would now understand that you were serious about leaving, and that you have an offer for X more than what they're paying you, and if they believed that they could invest in you, then they'd match or exceed the offer you got.

At that point, you could go back to your tentative new company and say that they provided you with a counter offer, and that you're looking to stay. This gives them a chance to counter that.

But even then, you're still on the winning side - either your current employer counters your new offer and offers you better wages, or you start a new job with better wages. Only thing that could cause that to fall apart is if something really nasty came back in either a background check or financial collapse at your new employer. Both instances are rare, but rare is not the same as "cannot occur", so bear that in mind.

How do I bring this up prior to having an offer in hand (and preferably, before I have interviews lined up)?

Don't.

You don't have anything to fall back on to, so you don't have any room to speak up or to make a bold declaration. You risk your employment on having no agreement in place beforehand. Until you get an offer or until your company decides to initiate a conversation after seeing why you're taking a lot of vacation time at odd times, there is absolutely no benefit whatsoever to even talking about it.

Go out there, do the interviews, and secure an offer. Only then do we start talking about departure periods.

Oh, by the way...

The two-week period is meant for the company in that they have two weeks' notice to start the HR engine to begin hiring for your replacement. If the team wants more of your time than that, then you should negotiate in clear writing how long it will be and how much you'll be compensated for it. If neither party can come to an agreement, then it makes sense for the original agreement to stand, and you'd leave that company at the end of the two week period.

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Different countries have different notice periods. Say two weeks in the US, and often three months in Europe. The important thing is that you have the same notice period as everyone else. In the USA, your current employer knows he can fire you quickly and you could leave quickly, your new employer knows you can start quickly, it all works out. In Europe, your old employer knows they can't get rid of you quickly and you can't pack up and leave; your new employer knows they may have to wait for three months until you can start, it all works out.

Having a different notice period than everyone else works against you.

Now your bonus is two things: It's a reward for good work in the past year, and it's a bribe to make you stay longer. You will get a bonus if your employer is legally required to pay it. And sometimes only if it's in your bank account before you leave. The only way to guarantee your bonus is to give notice after the bonus is in your bank account.

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I'd just ask the company from whom you have a pending offer if they could have your start date be a month out from when they give you the offer letter. Then, at that point, when you're giving notice to your current employer you give them a one month notice instead of a two week notice and bam, problem solved.

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  • My reason for having the longer notice period is not pure altruism/loyalty to my current employer. If I'm going to stay with them longer, I want to be compensated for it. Any new offer I take is likely to have a significantly higher salary, and it's also around the time where bonuses are paid, so I'd like to know for sure I will get that bonus. – user124784 Mar 12 at 19:32
  • @user124784 - I don't think you're likely to get that. You'd probably have better success proposing to be a 1099-NEC contractor for them (assuming you're in the US). eg. you put in 40h / week with your new job and then, in your free time, do 10h / week for $100 / hr for your old employer. – neubert Mar 12 at 19:35
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I feel like you're missing the point: The notice period you have is there for the protection of the company; it's specifically there so that, if you were to leave abruptly, you are legally not allowed to leave so abruptly as to cause significant damage to the company and/or their systems. If the company has allowed you to work "at will", then they take with that the understanding that you may walk into work one day and say "I'm not coming back to work starting tomorrow", and they have contingencies for that (or if they don't have contingencies, then they have planned extraordinarily poorly; either way it's not your problem).

Now, your question seems to be something along the lines of: "Can I convince my company to pay me more money in exchange for not leaving them in the lurch when I find a new and better job?" And the answer to that question is no. And the reason why the answer to that question is no is that, baked into your "at-will" contract is the inherent situation that they have already planned for the potential that you will leave abruptly, and therefore you doing so will not actually leave them in the lurch, as you assume. In this respect, assume you have no leverage; even if you think you do, the truth is you actually don't, at least until such time as you are told differently (at which point you do have leverage and can begin to negotiate). Put simply, you are not as important as you think you are.

Now, as for the considerations vis a vis "bonus time" and whatnot, if you are not urgently looking to leave for some other reason, just wait. Wait until bonuses are paid out, and then once that happens, you can start your job search. If you're antsy about it, then you can start searching now but when the offer comes around, let them know you want some extra time before the start date. Assuming you don't ask for something unreasonable (on the order of multiple months), most companies should be OK with some little bit of leway.

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  • The notice period really cuts both ways. It can protect the company and the employee. – Gregory Currie Mar 13 at 1:38
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The best strategy is to let them ask for longer notice and then agree at more compensation.

So hand in two weeks notice and hope they realise it needs more time, and then regretfully decline citing personal commitments until they pay you to stay longer. Everyone's happy and it looks like you're doing them a favour.

If you initiate it then in all likelihood it will be denied.

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  • How do I negotiate at that point though, if I have already committed to a start date with the new employer? "When can you start?" is a pretty typical interview question, and not yanking my new employer around is more important than getting extra for a longer notice period. – user124784 Mar 12 at 20:36
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    Give the notice earlier than you need to, you're taking a gamble, you don't make much money by playing safe. If you know they need you for longer, you take a calculated risk. If they don't actually need you then your whole original premise is false (most likely scenario, but you would know best). I've made pockets full of money from previous employers who didn't realise they needed me until it became expensive. – Kilisi Mar 12 at 21:28
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    Thanks, that's definitely an approach I hadn't considered, and while you're probably right that ultimately I'm not in the "I'll pay you whatever you want for any extra time you can manage" category, this could be an effective approach for someone who is. – user124784 Mar 13 at 1:49
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    The normal way is just to leave according to your contract and make sure you're contactable. Then if they need you they can pay you as a consultant. No need to play games with notice periods etc, consultants make much more than employees. – Kilisi Mar 13 at 2:49

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