Exploring Alternatives to “Yes” or “No” in Noncompete Negotiations

Negotiating a noncompete agreement can be a delicate and intricate process, as it involves balancing the interests of both parties involved. Traditionally, noncompete agreements restrict an individual from joining or starting a competing business for a specified period after leaving their current employer. However, the binary nature of a simple “yes” or “no” response may not always be conducive to achieving a mutually beneficial outcome. In this article, we will explore alternative approaches to consider when negotiating a noncompete agreement, allowing both parties to find common ground while protecting their interests.

  1. Narrowing the scope: Instead of an outright refusal, you can propose narrowing the scope of the noncompete agreement to make it more reasonable and acceptable. This approach allows you to address the concerns of your current employer while still preserving your professional growth opportunities. By negotiating limitations on geographic restrictions, duration, or specific industries, you can strike a balance that satisfies both parties’ objectives.
  2. Buyout or compensation: If you are reluctant to accept a noncompete agreement, you can propose a buyout or compensation package as an alternative. This approach acknowledges your employer’s concerns while providing you with financial compensation for the limitations imposed. By suggesting a fair and reasonable sum, you may be able to alleviate their worries about potential competition while securing your future career prospects.
  3. Prioritizing confidentiality and trade secrets: Instead of a noncompete agreement, you could emphasize your commitment to maintaining confidentiality and protecting your current employer’s trade secrets. Assuring your employer that you will not misuse or disclose sensitive information after your departure may help alleviate their concerns about potential competition. This alternative approach focuses on trust and professionalism, allowing you to negotiate terms that prioritize ethical conduct without significantly restricting your future options.
  4. Collaboration and non-solicitation: Consider proposing a collaborative agreement that emphasizes cooperation rather than competition. By suggesting a non-solicitation clause, you agree not to actively seek your current employer’s clients or employees after leaving. This alternative allows you to pursue your professional goals while respecting the relationships and business interests of your current employer. By finding common ground on non-solicitation, both parties can move forward while maintaining a mutually respectful relationship.
  5. Time-limited restrictions: Instead of an open-ended noncompete agreement, propose time-limited restrictions that align with the reasonable needs of your current employer. By agreeing to a shorter duration, you can negotiate terms that allow you to explore new opportunities after a specified period. This alternative recognizes the evolving nature of industries and allows you to adapt to changing circumstances while providing your employer with the temporary protection they desire.


When negotiating a noncompete agreement, a simple “yes” or “no” may not be the most effective approach. By exploring alternatives such as narrowing the scope, suggesting buyouts or compensation, emphasizing confidentiality, proposing collaboration and non-solicitation, or opting for time-limited restrictions, you can find a middle ground that satisfies both parties’ interests. Successful negotiations require open communication, creativity, and a willingness to consider various alternatives, ultimately leading to mutually beneficial outcomes in noncompete agreements.

Video Transcript

When Negotiating a Noncompete Agreement, What Are Alternatives Besides Yes or No?

In other words, let’s say there is an employer who wants a noncompete agreement signed by an employee, and the employee says, “I don’t want to sign that.” Or maybe it is a contractor. Or maybe the employee or contractor already signed it and is now trying to figure out, “Can I get out of this?” A lot of times, people think, well, you can either sign it or not, but what are alternatives to that?

One common proposal that I have seen is where there will be a noncompete period, let’s say it is two years, but the employee will be compensated for the business at a certain rate each month that that business wants to keep that noncompete period. So, for example, the agreement might say, “If the business fires the employee or the employee quits, for every month the business wants to enforce the noncompete agreement for up to two years, the business will pay 80% of the employee’s prior wage to the employee.” What I like about this approach is the business has the option to protect its legitimate interests and keep the employee from competing. But it also is paying the employee something significant for that. And to the extent the business doesn’t actually need the noncompete to be enforced, it can stop making payments, and the employee can then go out and compete and get a job in that industry or in that space. So that is one example.

Another example I have seen is where instead of agreeing to a noncompete agreement that says the employee can’t compete in an area, the parties instead agree to a non-solicitation agreement. Here is what that is. A non-solicitation agreement says the employee will not solicit customers, prospects, or employees of the employer. So the employee can leave and go compete but won’t interfere with the relationships that drive revenue for the employer.

So, for example, the employee might go out and start a competitive business but will not solicit any of the prospects that the employee had a relationship with, or the customers, or the prior employees of the employer for a period of time, maybe two years, for example. In most states, if not all, non-solicitation agreements are enforceable. In many states, noncompetes are banned or significantly limited. So whether a noncompete is even enforceable in your state is an issue of state law.


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