I have been in that place. I’ve been staring at a boss who jut refused to give me a raise that had been promised to be a year before, even though my performance had been exemplary, and wanting desperately to say, “Well then I might just have to start looking at other options.” It is so tempting.
When an employee is feeling mistreated or unappreciated, we all have this idea that threatening to walk out of the door will make our bosses finally realize just how amazing we are. They’ll pay us more. They’ll grant our requests. They’ll stop asking us to do menial tasks that are completely wasting our time. It’s the entire, “You want what you can’t have,” concept and romantic comedies have told us that this principle is undeniable.
Except threatening to quit your job does more than just make your boss think about your possible departure. For one thing, if you do so in the middle of a meeting, it can make you look brash and impulsive. It will seem like you’ve just lost your temper and carelessly threw it out in anger. More than that, threatening to quit can immediately wipe away the trust between yourself and your boss. They’ll be perpetually afraid to promote you because they don’t want to worry upsetting you and losing an important position in the company. They’ll be wondering if you’re looking for a job for the rest of your tenure with the company.
Now I’m not saying that you should never mention looking for another job to your current employer. If you begin your job search, of course you might want to be honest or open about it. But that conversation should not happen during a negotiation. It shouldn’t happen when you’re trying to get something out of your boss.
You should only mention the possibility of leaving to your employer if you are positively committed to finding a new position. And you should probably have your resume out for a bit. At that point, you can sit down and explain that you’re looking to grow in the career and while you’d love to do that with you’re current employer, you’re also entertaining other offers. No threats. Just a polite notice.
Threatening to leave to try to get something you want just means that you’ve failed at negotiating, you’ve failed at proving your value to your company. It means that you’re desperate, because there’s no where to go beyond that threat. Instead, you need to focus on the positives and what you’re bringing to the table.
The worst example of this threat backfiring happens when an employee really doesn’t have an intention of leaving. Now they’ve made an awkward threat that they know they won’t follow through on. It’ll linger in the air there. And if you do it more than once, people won’t take any of your negotiations seriously.
Threatening to leave might feel good. It might even get you what you want once, but it’s not a good long-term strategy. It’s not a good negotiation tactic. And you’ll almost always be better off if you put a lid on that impulsive standby.