I'm an assistant prof. in a public US university. I have to go up for tenure this year. The department I'm in is somewhat mismanaged, with lots of politics and favoritism. Many have left the department in recent years, and I don't see any motivation for the chair or the dean to improve the situation. Hoping for a better position, I've searched for other TT positions this year and received an official offer from a private higher-rank university with a much higher salary than what I earn now (a dream position for me). However, unfortunately due to personal problems, I cannot accept that offer and have to stay where I am.

My question is: can/should I use this new offer to negotiate my salary in my current department?

Given that I have to go up for tenure, I'm afraid that showing that I have an offer harms my tenure and evaluation. I'm afraid that the chair, dean, and my colleagues see this as an "unfaithful" act or, thinking that I may leave sooner or later, don't advocate for my tenure as much as they can. Additionally, since the department knows about my personal problems, they can easily call on my "bluff" and be pretty sure that I won't be able to accept this new offer and leave the department this year. So, it could be an easy "no, we can't give you a raise" for them. On the other hand, I don't want to take this chance of having a better salary from myself, if there is not much harm in asking for it. Plus, I think, this could potentially show my worth to my current department.

In this situation, would it be wise to ask for a salary raise? If yes, how should I approach it?

Thank you!

  • 6
    Why did you apply to a job you knew you could not accept? That is likely to be seen as unethical behavior, and as such, is unlikely to improve your tenure prospects. Similarly, trying to use a job offer people know you have no intention of accepting to negotiate a raise is also likely to be seen as shady/ethically questionable behavior.
    – Dan Romik
    May 23, 2022 at 16:30
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    Hi Dan. I didn't know I could not accept the offer when I applied for it and during the whole negotiation process. I was trying to find a way to accept the offer and join the new department until now. But, sometimes unexpected things happen and everything doesn't go as planned. It is a dream position for me. But, unfortunately, I don't have the option to accept it. As for being an ethically questionable behavior, I'm wondering why it should be unethical? It's a salary I'd seemed to be worthy of. I'm showing that an external entity has approved this worth. Why unethical?
    – santor
    May 23, 2022 at 16:48

2 Answers 2


In a negotiation, never use a threat if you can't make hard. Certainly if you have much to lose.


Since personality seems to be dominant here, take any advice with a grain of salt (or a pound).

But reading what you have written, it sounds like you are trapped and it might be a mistake to advertise that. Certainly ask for a raise at granting of tenure.

But it is likely a mistake to "bluff". It sometimes works in poker, but calling it is also pretty common. "Why should we do anything extra for you if you are trapped????"

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