What To Do When An Employee Gives An Ultimatum?

A relationship between an employer and employee should be an amicable one in which everyone benefits. However, sometimes employees feel as though they deserve more, and thus, they might give their employer an ultimatum. This piece will discuss such actions and what to do when an employee gives an ultimatum .

What Is an Ultimatum?

An ultimatum is a promise to take a certain action if the other party doesn’t take the desired action. In some cases, the receiving party takes the ultimatum as a threat. It’s not always a threat, but the person giving the ultimatum may  be in dire need of what he or she requests. 

One example of an ultimatum is when a worker threatens to quit or turn in his or her resignation if the company doesn’t take certain steps by a specific deadline. This may be an employee who raises an ultimatum or a request for something such as a full-time job or benefits.

In most cases, the employee feels they have no choice but to voice an ultimatum because the employer seems to be ignoring his or her needs. Thus, the employee threatens to take away their only bargaining chip, which is their services. 

Why Employees Give Ultimatums

Employees give their employers ultimatums for a variety of reasons. These are the most common of those reasons:

They Aren’t Making Enough Money 

One of the most common reasons employees give their employers ultimatums is that they do not earn enough pay to take care of their bills and other obligations. Thus, they may need their employers to act quickly so that they can get out of debt, pay tuition, or make a large purchase, such as a home or vehicle. Employees are highly likely to give their employers ultimatums when they feel backed against a wall. 

They Have Responsibilities

Some workers have families to take care of, and others have to pay child support for one or more children. Such people may have to deal with having half of their checks taken away. Therefore, they may need to lean in on their employers to try to compensate for some of the money that will have to go to child support. 

They Have Other Opportunities

Some workers give their employers ultimatums when they know they have other excellent opportunities out there. For example, an employee might find a prospective employer that offers day-one insurance benefits and a 100 percent employer-paid premium. Such employees might give their employers an ultimatum so that they can attempt to better their lives. 

They Feel Stagnant in Their Positions

Some individuals feel stagnant in their positions. Those individuals will want to advance into a leadership or managerial role. Therefore, they might take the opportunity to give an ultimatum to the employer that threatens their resignation if they do not receive a promotion within a certain timeframe. 

Read More: “I Hate Managing Employees!” Here Are 9 Useful Tips to Make Your Job Easier

How To Respond To an Ultimatum

You may not know what to do when an employee gives an ultimatum. In fact, you might be shocked that your worker would resort to such a thing. However, you must take some sort of action if your worker threatens to leave. These are the steps you should take and some tips on how to respond to an employee’s demand:

Ask Yourself If the Employee Is Integral

The first question you need to ask yourself is whether this employee is integral. If so, you’ll need to handle the situation with care, as you won’t want to lose a crucial employee. At the same time, you’ll want to avoid letting other employees see you as an easily manipulatable entity. Thus, you must handle the situation with kid gloves.

You may not want to answer your worker right away because you might need to time to think of a response that works well for both parties. 

Measure the Fairness

Consider what your employee requests and then decide whether it’s fair to grant or deny such a request. For instance, you may want to cave to a raise request if you know you haven’t given that worker any raises in three years.

Promotions are a little trickier, but you can consider helping that worker develop if he or she seems interested in progressing.

Review the company’s policies on the matter in question, and you will reach the appropriate answer much more quickly. 

Weigh the Pros and Cons

The next step in your evaluation process should be weighing the pros and cons to see how heavily your decision will affect your company. Some employees are so valuable that losing them without much notice could cause a serious problem. In that case, it may be best to try to appease the worker as much as possible. 

Discuss a Compromise

Set up a meeting with the worker to discuss a compromise. Sometimes, workers are willing to meet their employers halfway if the employer shows that they are truly trying to help.

For example, a worker might be willing to stay and work for three to six months if it’s possible for them to receive a promotion within that timeframe.

Another worker might be willing to accept a $1 raise instead of a $2 raise. Getting a worker to compromise depends on how well you communicate with that person and how much he or she trusts your organization based on the way you’ve handled things in the past. 

Give Your Final Answer

Give the worker your answer after you thoroughly evaluate the matter and draw a conclusion. You will need to explain yourself if you choose to decline your worker’s request. For instance, you can explain the decrease in sales and use that as a reason you turn down a raise. Perhaps you can’t offer any promotions until a manager leaves, transfers, or loses his or her job.

Always begin these types of conversations with positive talk. Take the time to praise your worker for his or her efforts and thank that person for everything done since first employed. The worker will be more equipped to handle a negative answer if you stress some positive things first. 

Prepare for the Worst

In some cases, you will be unable to oblige your worker because of corporate rules, lack of funds, unavailability of positions, etc. You must then prepare yourself for if the worker decides to take action after not receiving what he or she desires.

You might want to place some positions on the job board and try to find people to work for your establishment. Hold a few interviews and get some workers in the queue so that you don’t get stuck with no help if your worker quits. 

If You Were a Top Leader, How Would You Respond To an Ultimatum?

Responding to an ultimatum takes professionalism and maturity. If handled improperly, the company could lose more than one reliable employee. Thus, you’ll need to ensure that you find the right time to have the conversation and do your best not to alienate the worker. 

Make sure you listen to the employee’s requests and any complaints that person might have. You’ll usually find that your worker has been waiting for an opportunity to arise for quite some time. Many workers will say that they feel as though they’ve been ignored. 

Give the employee a straight answer and avoid selling them an impossible dream or leading them on. One of the reasons workers quit when they don’t get there is because the boss stretches the truth and then doesn’t deliver what he or she has promised. Try to avoid being that person. With the right response, you can keep your valuable worker and make an honorable compromise. 

You should now be better equipped to know how to respond to an ultimatum at work and deal with an employee raise ultimatum. Remember not to offend the worker and to do what’s best for all parties involved.

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About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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