I'll try to keep this to the point (and probably won't succeed, sorry).

I left a former employer 8 months ago for my new position. I wasn't happy with my new role and expressed my dislike to a former coworker. That coworker than pestered me for months begging me to come back to their group (different group than what I left). I stated I would rather stay at least a year, and they indicated that to make up for my leaving early I would get a significant salary increase.

They opened a position for me, I applied, I interviewed. Now it turns out the rules of my former employer limit how much extra money I can get. I am also beginning to question returning to my former employer, I left it for a good reason and have been more interested in trying to develop myself at my current place, even though my current job may not be what I want. However, my spouse was VERY supportive of my going back if the money was worth it. Former coworker has now back tracked and claim they weren't begging me to come back and they just thought they were doing what I wanted and that I was the one asking to come back, making it really confusing. However, the offer is still expected to come from HR/higher ups and it will likely be less than I currently make but a small increase over what I made there prior.

Ethically I would almost rather just decline the offer and walk away. Former coworker has indicated there is someone else they are interested in (though they still say they would love to have me) so I'm not really leaving them in a bind. But if I don't counter, my spouse will be upset that I didn't try to get the money we thought it was going to be in the first place. They are offering 7% over what I made before, my counter would be along the lines of 22% (over former pay). Is there a very short/easy way to ask for that without coming across as rude but also not so compelling they really try to meet it? Former coworker told me to just decline and they will go after their other person. But if I don't counter my spouse will be upset I didn't try. But I'm also not sure the 22% is even enough for the drama level. I'm looking for a very succinct script that I can counter-offer to HR that will satisfy my spouse that I tried but not really inspire HR to try to meet it without saying I don't want them to try very hard straight out. I know in an ideal world my spouse would be supportive of me not negotiating, but they are going to feel betrayed that I didn't try to get the money initially offered and I don't want that to be a point of disagreement for the next several years while I likely stay where I am at.

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    This is not an employment question. This is a relationship question. You need to figure that problem out first. – lunchmeat317 May 23 '16 at 22:44
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's not about the workplace. You're asking about how to negotiate for a job you don't want? Walk away! If your spouse gets upset, that's a problem for a different forum (or no forum at all -- "Honey, the Internet thinks you're being petty. I'm with them." That won't turn out well.) – Kent A. May 23 '16 at 23:55
  • @lunchmeat317 The OP needs to figure out the employment situation first, by asking for a specific salary or turning down the offer. Then figure out the relationship problem. – mcknz May 24 '16 at 0:02
  • TechnicalEmployee, have you considered asking your current company for a raise? Might this smooth things for your husband/wife? It seems like you're caught between a rock and a hard place (you forecasted having an issue for the next several years), and I am truly sorry for that. – lunchmeat317 May 24 '16 at 1:32
  • @KentAnderson I understand maybe I didn't word it very clearly, but I was asking for advice on approaching a response to an offer not on how to approach my spouse. That's why I asked it in workplace. – TechnicalEmployee May 24 '16 at 22:24

Is there a very short/easy way to ask for that without coming across as rude but also not so compelling they really try to meet it?

You simply say you need to be paid X in order to justify a job change.

It is not rude to counter-offer. It is rude, however, to negotiate in bad faith, with no intention of accepting the job for any amount.

Now it turns out the rules of my former employer limit how much extra money I can get.

Rules of the employer are not your problem -- they may control internally how much the company offers, but do not control how much you can ask for.

You need to give them a number that you will accept if offered -- you should also discuss that number with your spouse. If your spouse recommends a number lower than you are willing to accept (which could mean money means more than your career satisfaction), that raises a larger set of issues that are way off topic for this site.

Remember to think about the worst-case scenario, and ask yourself, if I was being paid X, could I really deal with this day to day?

If there is no such amount, the best thing to do would be to walk away.


If you don't want the job, do walk away.

If you can't walk away, convince yourself you want the job.

Pick one.

  • "Pick one." - nice! +1 – WorkerDrone May 24 '16 at 16:57

Is there a very short/easy way to ask for that without coming across as rude but also not so compelling they really try to meet it?

This might be considered dishonest; you are running the risk of your bluff being called (at which point you'll burn bridges with your old employer AND anger your wife if you reject the job). Ultimately, you need either to come up with an amount which you'd be genuinely prepared to say yes for; if not, you need to decline the offer.

Let's assume you can find a number you're willing to commit to (but would be equally comfortable if they declined): a reasonable way forward is to explain why the job is not ideal for you in your counter-offer. This both explains why your salary figure is higher than normal and signals to them that you may not be as enthused about the job offer as they might hope any other applicant would (which might lead them to conclude you may not be as motivated as another employee would). For example, the body of your response might read:

Thank you for your letter, and the opportunity to explore the position at the interview. As we have discussed, I am interested in developing my career at this point, and the scope for this within the role you're offering is limited, and unfortunately I notice the salary on offer fell some way below my expectations. However, I'm willing to work out a compromise on the details of the role provided you can meet a figure of XXX for the salary.

The upside is that you're sending a message that if they want to keep you they'll need to promote you; the downside is that if they don't, they'll know you want to move on (and might, e.g. look to lay you off when your project completes)... and until they've decided, you're unlikely to see any pay rises (whether inflation-linked or performance-based).

Make sure you and your wife are agreed that if they don't agree to the figure in your letter, you will decline, even if they make (probably non-binding) suggestions/promises of promotions, salary reviews, interesting projects, etc. - and that if they do meet the figure, what your red lines are when it comes to any other aspects of the role.

Finally, check that you know what to expect when it comes to length-of-service benefits: unless you've got it in writing to say otherwise, you'll probably be starting from scratch when it comes to these.


You're a nice guy.

You don't want to upset anybody. That's really the main issue here.

This is the main reason you're feeling pulled apart in every direction. This is also the reason your spouse feels the need to interfere in every little decision you make, because she thinks everyone is going to take advantage of you because you're just going to let them. And this is the reason why your former employer is treating you like crap and like a backup plan when they need to hire someone.

You need to put your needs first, even if that means upsetting your spouse, or your former employer. But Rome wasn't built in a day. You need assertiveness training, in addition to counseling to undo all the bad past habits you've learned.

But this is not the place for this unfortunately.

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