You’ve interviewed for a position with a new company. The company likes you! – and makes you an offer. You analyze everything: career development, growth potential, salary, benefits, and intangibles. After some thought, you decide to accept the offer.
You attempt to resign from your current company. Oops! It doesn’t go as smoothly as you planned. Your boss is upset about losing you and presents you with a counteroffer. A counteroffer is an attempt by your current company to persuade you to stay.
Career changes are tough enough as it is, and anxieties about leaving a comfortable job, friends and location and having to reprove yourself again in an unknown opportunity can cloud the best logic. But just because the new position is a little scary doesn’t mean it’s not a positive move. Since counteroffers can create confusion and buyer’s remorse, you should understand what’s being cast upon you. No doubt about it: change can be scary.
Don’t let familiarity cloud your judgment. Ask yourself whether the new position is a positive step toward advancing your career. Will it be better for you than your current position? If the answer is yes, then proceed with pursuing the position. Familiarity will follow!
Why Companies Make Counteroffers
Some companies never make counteroffers. In others, it’s a fairly common practice. Consider what happens when an employee (like you) resigns:
First, morale is likely to suffer, particularly among your closest coworkers. Management will notice, and your resignation may be perceived as an unfavorable reflection on your boss. Your absence could jeopardize the progress of a big project, lead to increased workloads for colleagues who remain behind, and even mess up vacation schedules! Furthermore, it could be expensive (in terms of time, energy and money) to replace you.
A cheaper solution for the company is to make you a counteroffer. This may consist of a raise, a promotion, change in title or job description, or a combination of these factors. It may even be just a promise of change to come. Be aware that this solution may actually be a stalling technique. By buying you back, the company has bought itself some time, perhaps to finish that big project, reorganize other team members, or search for a suitable replacement for you.
What Does a Counteroffer Sound Like?
Because your company wants to attract you to stay, a counteroffer will usually come cloaked in flattery. It may sound something like this:
But you know were right in the middle of a big project! And you’re much too valuable to the team to desert us now!
We didn’t want to tell you until next quarter, but we were just about to give you a raise/promotion to show you how much we appreciate your work. Why don’t we make it effective immediately instead of having you wait any longer?
Why, we had no idea you were unhappy with anything here. Let’s discuss this further before you make some rash decision. Whatever it is, we can work it out.
You know we have great plans for you here! But the company you’re going to work for? What can they do for you?
Why Counteroffers Don’t Work
Counteroffers can be tempting and ego-inflating. You also may detect an underlying threat that by not accepting the counteroffer, you’ll be throwing away your entire career, future, life.
Its true: counteroffers very, very rarely work. There are several reasons for this:
Trust. No matter what the company says, you will forever be a marked employee. You have demonstrated your lack of loyalty by considering another opportunity. People will feel jilted, even if you accept a counteroffer and stay. Trust and acceptance among your immediate colleagues may be irrevocably lost. Managers, too, have long memories, and wont forget your lapse in loyalty –no matter how brief it may have been.
Most likely, your basic reason(s) for thinking of leaving will eventually resurface. There are a myriad of reasons why you may have considered a change: perhaps something in particular bothered you about your position, or maybe you were presented with an irresistible opportunity. In any case, changes made as a result of a counteroffer may appease you in the short term, but rarely last for the long run. Statistics show that if you accept a counteroffer, its still extremely likely that you’ll voluntarily leave or be terminated within 6 months to a year.
While it may be true that your current company values your work, your interests and career will always be secondary to your boss’s career and way down on the totem pole compared to the company’s profit or survival. Reconsider the flattery that makes up a counteroffer: is it really about you??
If your counteroffer involves an increase in money, consider the source of the raise. Is this just your next raise, granted early? In that case, will the counteroffer simply prolong your review cycle? Remember that all companies have budgets which include strict wage and salary guidelines.
Apart from a short-term, band-aid treatment, nothing will change within the company. After the dust settles from this upheaval, you’ll be in the same old rut. A rule of thumb among recruiters is that more than 80% of those who accept counteroffers leave, or are terminated, within six to 12 months. And half of those who accept counteroffers reinitiate their job searches within 90 days
Finally, when you make your decision, look at your current job and the new position as if you were unemployed. Which opportunity holds the most real potential? Probably the new one or you wouldn’t have accepted it in the first place.