If you’re in a job where you feel like you’re underpaid, or there are things about the job that you’d like that change, then you may be considering some different paths to getting what you want.
And one of those options that you may be thinking about is threatening to quit as leverage. But is doing so a good idea? What risks does it present to you if it doesn’t work out?
This article is going to unpack the implications on threating to quit as leverage and offer some recommendations for alternative paths to try and improve the situation with your job.
Can I Be Fired for Threatening to Quit?
Yes, technically you can be fired for threatening to quit. The reason is that most employment relationships are at-will, meaning that the employer or the employee can terminate the relationship at any time.
So, if an employer decides that they didn’t like the way that you threatened to quit in order to get what you want, they could make the decision to fire you.
Is Threatening to Quit Blackmail?
No, threatening to quit is not blackmail. As defined in this article, blackmail is basically threatening to publicize information that would be damaging to the other party in order to gain money.
In the case of threatening to quit as leverage, you would not be publicizing any negative information about your employer, just trying to use the leverage of potentially leaving the company to get what you want. With that being the case, threatening to quit would not be considered blackmail.
Should I Threaten to Quit as Leverage?
In general, no, I do not recommend threatening to quit as leverage.
The primary reason is that I think that there are better, more professional, and less risky ways to get what you want than offering an ultimatum.
By threatening to quit as leverage, you’re putting your employers back against the wall and forcing them to make a decision. That provides significant downside risk for you if they don’t give you want you want in that they may decide they didn’t the way you approached the situation and could choose to let you go.
Beyond that, forcing your hand via an ultimatum at the least has the potential to foster negative relational dynamics by showing a potential lack of commitment to your job.
Ultimately, if you feel like you’re underpaid, want to grow in your career, or have something else that you want to improve your work situation, I definitely think that you should advocate for yourself.
But I think that there are better ways to do it than by threatening to quit.
A better approach for advocating for what you want in your job is reviewed below.
How to Professionally Ask For More Money or to More of What You Want in a Job
I think that there are more professional and effective ways to ask for more money, or whatever it is you want in your job, than threatening to quit.
Here are some tips and recommendations for how to approach negotiating more of what you want in a job:
1. Leverage the Performance Review Process
Many companies have a bi-annual or annual performance review process where your job performance is evaluated and discussed with your manager. Pay raises are often tied to the annual performance review, and they also provide good opportunities to discuss career goals.
In my view, the performance review provides a great opportunity to advocate for yourself.
If you expect to get a strong performance review, I would recommend coming into that meeting prepared to discuss what you’d like to improve about your job situation, whether that be money, work/life balance, a promotion, etc. At the end of the performance review, use your positive feedback as an opportunity to highlight the good work that you’ve done, talk about how much you like being at the company, and how the company providing x thing that you want would help to further your commitment to the organization.
2. Bring the Data
Building on the point about using performance reviews as an opportunity to advocate for what you want, I would also recommend support your arguments with data wherever you can.
For example, if you think that you’re doing a good job, are underpaid, and should earn more money, then bring comps for jobs that have similar titles and levels of experience that have higher pay to provide evidence for why you should earn more.
3. Look for Another Job
If you follow the above recommendations for asking for more of what you want, and find that the company is not agreeable to that, then you’ll have a decision to make. Do you want to stay at the company under your current circumstances, or go get another job offer.
Now, when it comes to having leverage to grow your pay or improve your work situation in some way, there’s no better way to do it than having another job offer. Another job offer gives you a tangible thing to leave to if the company doesn’t match or meet your requests. It’s also far better security for you in that you have something to leave to if the company doesn’t like your request.
Just be prepared that before going to your employer with your other job offer, that you’ll need to be ready to walk to the other employer if your company doesn’t respond well.
4. Negotiate on the Way In
The last recommendation that I would offer is that, when it comes to crafting a work situation that’s in line with what you want, the best time to do it is on the way in. What I mean by that is the period that you’re going to have the most “leverage” when it comes to negotiating for money, flexibility, or whatever is important to you is prior to joining the company and when you’re negotiating the specifics of your role.
In fact, it’s pretty well accepted at this point that switching jobs often provides more financial upside than staying at your current employer (an unfortunate fact that would require a whole separate article to unpack).
So, be sure to negotiate what you want on the way in. And if you’re not able to come to a financial situation that’s in line with your goals, you can always decline a job offer due to salary.
In general, I don’t recommend threatening to quit as leverage. I find that there are much better, more professional, and more effective ways to get what you want when it comes to your job situation. If you follow the recommendations above, hopefully, you’ll be able to craft a work situation that’s in line for you and your employer.