Throw away account and keeping details brief.

My current employeer is trying to stop exodus in my department. As an attempt they are offering substantial raise, which would put me slightly above average market value, but they are requirng to stay in the company for next 2 years (otherwise I have to pay back the raise if I leave before that). They also hint at another big raise after that period of time (which I can probably get in writing).

For some people it is attractive deal, because they have been with company since the beginning (10+ years), but for me it looks like a huge career limitation.

Since 2020 I've been working purerly remotely and so far managed to stay that way. I have little to no personal relationships with most of people due to culture and language barriers. Company is slowly pushing for hybrid and then 0 remote work.

By agreeing to company's terms I get a very big raise for very simple and stable job. However, I'm trading a lot of freedom and favours I've acquired. I might loose home office & possible promotion (because company has no incentive to make me happy after I sign this new contract).

Options I see:

  1. Try to negotiate with company for shorter period. I can stay in the company and train replacements and leave on good terms.
  2. Accept the offer and eventualy become disgruntled employee that can't leave company (I already know that it's not possible to negotiate shorter notice period than what's on contract)
  3. Refuse the raise. Look for another job ASAP and risk burning bridges. I can probably get better salary in new job than what my company is currently offering.

What should I do? 2 & 3 are basically to be: damned if I do, damned if I don't. Meanwhile 1 my manager can keep stalling for weeks and I can potentially miss a lot of money if I don't do anything

  • Expanding option (1), you can also negotiate for other changes to the contract - e.g. a taper on the payback so you get to keep half the raise if you stay for a year, or the right to work from home indefinitely, or anything else that would make your life better. Not sure that fundamentally changes the equation but it's certainly an option. Jun 21 at 21:26
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    Why did you agree to stay? Given all your questions / options what is the point?
    – Solar Mike
    Jun 22 at 5:45
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    1. what are the reasons for this exodus? Are you sure you want to live with those reasons? 2. if you negotiate, don't forget to make your freedom things part of the contract. 3. IF you have to pay pack the raise if you leave early, would it be a good idea to try staying there (assuming the conditions remain as good as they are) and in case of emergency you pay pack the raise?
    – puck
    Jun 22 at 7:28
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    Why would looking for another job risk burning bridges? So long as you serve your notice period, I don't see how that would be an issue. Unless you're worried about how they'll take your resignation, in which case you don't owe them anything and neither would they hesitate to get rid of you if it served their purposes.
    – Appulus
    Jun 22 at 7:46
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    It isn't a raise if you might have to pay it back. Counter with a retention bonus, perhaps one payment in a year, and another in year two. And that is on top of your raise. I'm trying to picture just how a company would actually approach trying to claw back wages they paid you...
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 22 at 13:17

2 Answers 2

  1. Negotiate

Not a great option. It's unlikely to work and you advertise that you are a serious flight risk.

  1. Accept

You can always accept, take the money and DON'T SPEND IT JUST YET. See how things are going. Maybe they will take a turn for the better and if I you like it: stay, if you find something better: leave and pay back the money (read the fine print on the contract though and perhaps talk to your tax advisor).

  1. Refuse

Bad idea: you advertise that you on your way out and you get zero extra cash, even if you can't find anything new and have to stay for way longer than you are planning to.

This is a somewhat questionable approach by the company and I don't see any moral or ethical problems with accepting and than later leaving anyway. You are NOT promising to stay, you ARE promising to return the money if you don't. As long as you do this, you are in the clear.

People with "golden handcuffs" leave all the time and it's normal and ok to leave money on the table if something better comes along. As long as everyone agrees to the rules up front and abides by them, there shouldn't be any major upheaval. If there is, you probably don't want to work there anyway.

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    Your option 2 is the key point. OP can accept the raise and still look for a new job. They just need to be aware of the consequences of taking a new job and prepare for it.
    – quarague
    Jun 22 at 7:31

Consider what you can get outside. Take into account that the company is willing to remove remote work from the equation (if you worked at the office previously, did you enjoy that time?).

Also... why is so many people leaving? Ask this to yourself, you've got the answers.

Negotiating a shorter period is something you can attempt but a) it's clearly outside company's true intent b) they might think that you plan on leaving if you accept a shorter deal.

Now, if you do accept any type of offer, get a written statement on the exact conditions of the "offer" and visit a local lawyer. These types of pacts of permanence are legal in many jurisdictions, but only under certain conditions (for example, they are commonplace when the company pays expensive training to the employee, and the only claims the company can make are the value of such training). I'm not sure requiring you to pay back a salary raise is legal in many jurisdictions, even with such a clause, but again, IANAL and you should really have a legal checkup should you accept.

Finally, I don't see that refusing a raise should be a big problem. Company will acknowledge that you might be the next to leave and look for a replacement for you, but rarely they would fire you for that reason even when a replacement appears, so you have plenty of time.

  • Thanks for the answer! From my perspective people are leaving due to various reasons (being underappreciated, boredom but most likely new experience and better salary). The current group of senior colleagues is a tight-knit community, so once certain amount of people left, the others started to shop around for options. Regarding, legality. In my jurisdiction (Europe), it's legal in my area. From my point of view, company wants to "ensure loyalty" by tying ropes to us. That's exactly the opposite effect and I fear others might see it the same way and run way even quicker. Jun 21 at 21:44
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    Sounds to me like you know what you want to do here. Jun 21 at 21:51

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