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Why do you become so valuable when you are leaving the company?

I work for a good software company and for the last 2 years they didn't do any appraisals. This year we worked like hell on a big project within the company and were expecting to get a decent raise but due to bad economy the appraisal were not done. The company still pays the market rate and due to bad economy none of the employees were thinking of switching jobs. Suddenly I got this job offer from another cool startup and I told my CTO on phone (because he was on vacation) that I am leaving. We had a long conversation on phone and I asked for a day to decide on it. He calls up again after 10 minutes and told me that if its a monetary decision to leave the company than I can tell him and the company do something about it and the company willing to offer me employee stock options to retain me. Not that I am leaving the company because of monetary reasons but how come suddenly I became so valuable that I am being offered stock options and some more money whereas no one talked about it for the last 2 years?

Is it a market phenomenon to get a raise by threatening to leave?

I didn't accepted the counter offer as my decision to leave was purely to work on some new technology but I feel bad about the other employees who are not given the option and still working hard. I guess they are just waiting for the right opportunity to make a switch as soon as the market improves.

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