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Counter Offer Tips – How to Handle Counter Offers


How to resign and what to expect


Congratulations you have been offered a new position with an exciting company, a pay rise and a new step in your career!! The bad news is you have to now tell your current employer that you are moving on.

Resigning to your current employer is sometimes incredibly difficult, especially where you have built up a strong connection with your line manager and peers. The other part that makes it tricky is that your employer may have no idea you are not currently satisfied in your role, meaning they may not be ready to lose you without fully understanding your reasons for leaving.

It is important to have a clear idea of the reasons you are going to resign and why these issues have not been previously addressed, by doing so you will remain true to yourself and what is best for your career.

Your resignation does not have to be drawn out extensively and you should keep your delivery concise and relevant.


Counteroffer acceptance: road to career ruin


A raise won’t permanently cushion thorns in the nest


Matthew Henry, the 17th –century writer, said, “Many a dangerous temptation comes to us in fine gay colours that are but skin deep.” The same can be said for counteroffers, those magnetic enticements designed to lure you back into the nest after you’ve decided it’s time to fly away.

The litany of horror stories I have come across in my years as an executive recruiter, consultant and publisher, provides a litmus test that clearly indicates counteroffers should never be accepted……..EVER!

I define a counteroffer simply as an inducement from your current employer to get you to stay after you’ve announced your intention to take another job. We’re not talking about those instances when you receive an offer but don’t tell your boss. Nor are we discussing offers that you never intended to take, yet tell your employer about anyway as a “they want me but I’m staying with you” ploy.

These are merely astute positioning tactics you may choose to use to reinforce your worth by letting your boss know you have other options. Mention of a true counteroffer, however, carries an actual threat to quit.

Interviews with employers who make counteroffers, and employees who make counteroffers, have shown that as tempting as they may be, acceptance may cause career suicide. During the past twenty years, I have seen only isolated incidents in which an accepted counteroffer has benefited the employee. Consider the problem in its proper perspective and it’s important to consider job counter offer etiquette.

What really goes through a boss’s mind when someone quits?

“This couldn’t be happening at a worse time” “This is one of my best people. If I let him quit now, it’ll wreak havoc on the morale of the department.” “I’ve already got one opening in my department. I don’t need another right now.” “This will probably screw up the entire vacation schedule.” “I’m working as hard as I can, and I don’t need to do his work, too.” “If I lose another good employee, the company might decide to “lose” me too.” My review is coming up and this will make me look bad.” “Maybe I can keep him on until I find a suitable replacement.”

What will the boss say to keep you in the nest? Some of these comments are common.

  • “I’m really shocked. I thought you were as happy with us as we are with you. Let’s discuss it before you make your final decision.”
  • “Aw gee, I’ve been meaning to tell you about the great plans we have for you, but its been confidential until now.”
  • “The V.P. has you in mind for some exciting and expanding responsibilities.”
  • Your raise was scheduled to go into effect next quarter, but we’ll make it effective immediately.”
  • “You’re going to work for who?”

Let’s face it. When someone quits, it’s a direct reflection on the boss. Unless you’re really incompetent or a destructive thorn in his side, the boss might look bad by “allowing” you to go. His gut reaction is to do what has to be done to keep you from leaving until he’s ready. That’s human nature.

Unfortunately, it’s also human nature to want to stay unless your work life is abject misery. Career changes, like all ventures into the unknown, are tough. That’s why bosses know they can usually keep you around by pressing the right buttons, leading to an employer counter offer after resignation.

Before you succumb to a tempting counteroffer from a current employer, consider these universal truths:

  • Any situation in which an employee is forced to get an outside offer before the present employer will suggest a raise, promotion or better working conditions, is suspect.
  • No matter what the company says when making your counteroffer, you will always be considered a fidelity risk. Having once demonstrated your lack of loyalty (for whatever reason), you will lose your status as a “team player” and your place in the inner circle.
  • Counteroffers are usually nothing more than stall devices to give your employer time to replace you.
  • Your reasons for wanting to leave still exist. Conditions are just made a bit more tolerable in the short term because of the raise, promotion or promises made to you.
  • Job counteroffers are only made in a response to a threat to quit. Will you have to solicit an offer and threaten to quit every time you deserve better working conditions?
  • Decent and well managed companies don’t make counteroffers…..EVER! Their policies are fair and equitable. They will not be subjected to “counteroffer coercion” or what they perceive as blackmail.

If the urge to accept a counteroffer after resignation hits you, keep on cleaning out your desk as you count your blessings.


Beware of counteroffers


They may beg you to stay now, then give you the boot later so in some cases, counteroffers can do more damage to your career.

By R. Gaines Baty

National Business Employment Weekly

You’ve been approached by another company and offered a position with growth potential and a moderate increase in compensation. You’ve analysed and agonised over the decision to leave a good (or bad) job for what could be a better offer. However, upon resigning, your current boss asks you to stay. This appeal is known as a counteroffer or buyback.

In recent years, counteroffers have particularly become the norm. “It’s almost like a part of the accepted divorce proceedings, and allows the boss to save face with his boss”, explains one departing Texas-based executive for a major airline. “And it sometimes has to take its course”. But while buyback offers can be tempting, take care not to fall into the trap or blindsided to your own detriment. 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 of logic. But just because the new position is a little scary doesn’t mean it’s not a positive move.

Since buyback gestures can create confusion and buyer’s remorse, you should understand what’s being cast upon you. When your employer counter offers, they are typically made in conjunction with some form of flattery, for example:

  • You’re too valuable, and we need you.
  • You can’t desert the team/your friends and leave them hanging.
  • We were just about to give you a promotion/raise, and it was confidential until now.
  • What did they offer, why are you leaving, and what do you need to stay?
  • Why would you want to work for that company?
  • The President/CEO wants to meet you before you make your final decision.

Counters usually take the form of:

  1. More money
  2. A promotion/more responsibility
  3. A modified reporting structure
  4. Promises or future considerations
  5. Disparaging remarks about the new company, or job, and/or
  6. Guilt trip

Of course, since we all prefer to think we’re MVP’s, it’s natural to want to believe these manipulative appeals, but beware! Accepting a counter offer from current employer often is the wrong choice to make.

Think about it: If you were worth “X” yesterday, why are they suddenly willing to pay you “X+Y” today, when you weren’t expecting a raise for some time?

Also consider how you’ve felt when someone resigned from your staff. The reality is that employers don’t like to be “fired”. Your boss is likely to be concerned that he’ll look bad, and that his career may suffer. Bosses are judged by their ability to retain staff. When a contributor quits, morale suffers. Further, your leaving might jeopardise an important project, increase staffers’ workload or even foul up a vacation schedule. It’s never a good time for someone to quit, and it may prove time-consuming and costly to replace you, especially considering recruitment and relocation expenses. It’s much cheaper to keep you, even at a slightly higher salary. And it would be better to fire you later, on the company’s time frame.

“We’ve made counteroffers on occasion, if a good person approaches the issue professionally”, says a former senior partner of a Big Six accounting and consulting firm. “But usually it was a stopgap measure because we couldn’t afford a defection at that point in time. We didn’t count on those people long term, and usually they’d burned bridges two or three levels up, if not with their immediate manager. We definitely put them in a career holding pattern.”

The senior partner cites a long conference he once attended with his boss and two subordinate managers, in which they approved a counteroffer and raise an employee two levels down. “Immediately after that meeting, my boss called me and said, “We can’t afford to lose him now, but our No. 1 priority is to find a replacement, ASAP!” he says, “And we replaced him within a few months”.

Another senior executive from a major Dallas-based bank says, “If it’s a real ‘hitter’, I’ll try to get him to stay. But to be honest, any additional compensation is ‘stealing’ from his future earnings, and I’ll always question his convictions, knowing he can be bought. Further, I’ll wonder if I can really count on him (which equates to limited future opportunities). In other words, the damage is done.”

While your employer may truly consider you an asset and genuinely care about you personally, you can be sure that your interests are secondary to your boss’s career and your company’s profit or survival. Thus, flattering offers and comments are attempts to manipulate you to act in your employer’s best interests – which aren’t necessarily your own. In other words, they’re not about you.

Accepting a counteroffer can have numerous negative consequences. Consider:

  • Where did the additional money or responsibility you’d get come from? Was if your next raise or promotion – just given early? Will you be limited in the future? Will you have to threaten to quit to get your next raise? Might a (cheaper) replacement be sought out?
  • You’ve demonstrated your unhappiness (or lack of blind loyalty), and will be perceived as having committed blackmail to gain a raise. You won’t ever be considered a team player again. Many employers will hold a grudge at the next review period, and you may be placed at the top of the next reduction-in-force “hit list”. As one executive who requested anonymity says, “Like an adulterous affair that’s been discovered, the broken trust is never fully recovered.”
  • 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 accepting counteroffers leave, or are terminated, within six to twelve months anyway. Half of those who do succumb reinitiate their job searches within 90 days, recruiters say.

“They butter you up, give you more money, nothing really changes. In fact they can get worse says one insurance executive in Utah who accepted a counteroffer. At raise time he told me that none had been budgeted (since I’d already gotten a raise), and that if I wanted, I could negotiate with the president as before”. This executive, by the way, left the company within months.

To be sure, recruiters have a vested interest in candidates not accepting counteroffers, since they can’t complete their search assignments without placing candidates.

Keep these counteroffer tips in mind, the next time you are offered one at your existing role. Attempted buybacks can demonstrate disrespect for your well-thought-out decision and commitment to the new company. Should your current employer decide to eliminate your position or pass you over for promotion, successfully countering their decision is unlikely. Besides, you’ve analysed, accepted and committed to the new company, which surely has made plans and accommodations around you are and is counting on you.

Finally, when making your decision, look at your current job and the new position as if you were unemployed. Which opportunity holds the most potential? Probably the new one, or you wouldn’t have accepted it in the first place.



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