Counter Offers – Why can they be so appealing?
You’re dissatisfied with the slow pace of your career at your current employers. You decide to quietly investigate a change in your career and see if there are any decent opportunities available. You contact a local recruitment specialist who manages to find a great opportunity with a prospective employer who appreciates your skills, experience, personality, and qualifications and invites you in for an interview. The meeting goes well and you are offered a new and exciting career with them. The company is going places and you like what they are involved in. You got on well with the manager, the pay and benefits are good, plus the position will add new skills whilst utilising existing ones. You’re pleased and excited to get started. The last hurdle is to write your letter of resignation and terminate your current employment contract.
However there’s one last thing that you may need to consider……The “counter offer”.
You inform your employer that you wish to leave and you have accepted another opportunity elsewhere, but they won’t accept it. They remind you that you’re an important member of the team and one they don’t wish to lose. They tell you that you’ve always been appreciated, and they didn’t realise that you were unhappy. They want to sort things out and mention that you are one of their best employees “reliable”. No doubt they inform you of some new changes that are about to happen which involve you. Finally improved salary, better hours, change in title are offered as they try to retain your services – all this just for handing in your notice (shame they weren’t this keen beforehand). Now you’re unsure? Do you stay in your comfort zone, accept the immediate improvement, forget what motivated you in the first place and cancel the offer that you were really excited about? Or do you stick to your guns, gracefully decline and take the challenge where you could see your career flourishing beforehand?……………….
This situation happens quite a lot and we are frequently asked for our opinion. As much as we may have a vested interest in a candidate accepting a post – even if we weren’t involved, the majority of the time as with many other employment specialists, we would strongly suggest declining any counter offers. Here’s why……..
WHY ARE COUNTER OFFERS MADE?
It isn’t uncommon for a counter offer to be made when you hand in your notice. Sometimes it can be unexpected for an employee to be considering leaving, so an employer will naturally try to retain their staff but usually for their own advantage.
These are some thoughts that can be on an employer’s mind when someone quits?
• “Business is increasing – this couldn’t happen at a worse time – it will be detrimental to our company”
• “This is one of my best employees. If they leave what will happen with the rest of team?”
• “We’re already recruiting and losing another will affect how we service our business.”
• “I’m already overworked and I don’t need to do another person’s work, too.”
• “If I lose another good employee, how does that reflect on me to my bosses”
•”Maybe I can keep them until I find a suitable replacement”
▪ “If I get them to change their mind it, it will look good on me”
Some of the following comments are common.
• “I’m really surprised as I thought you were as happy with us as we are with you. Let’s talk about it and see if we can rectify things before you make your final decision.”
• “we have some new exciting plans/expansion that we are looking at this year which involves you. As they aren’t finalised we haven’t discussed them – but we can bring them forward if you reconsider”
• “The Director doesn’t want you to go as he see’s you as the future of the business – he would like to speak to you before you accept anything else”
• “We were going to give you a pay increase at your next review, but in light of this, we can make it effective immediately.”
• “You’re going to go and work for who!” – followed by something derogatory usually about a candidate that joined them from there.
The truth of it is when someone resigns it can be a direct reflection on the manager to his bosses. Typically unless the company has a policy not to counter offer, or you’re really incompetent or destructive, you will be made an offer to stay. Your bosses’ natural reaction will be to see if things are salvageable and keep you from leaving until they’re ready. Unfortunately, it can also be very natural to want to stay with an improved offer unless your current work is abject misery. Any career change, like most new ventures into the unknown, is tough. That is why employers know they are sometimes able to convince employees to stay.
WHY WOULD THEY WANT ME TO STAY IF THEY KNEW I WASN’T HAPPY?
Often, employers attempt to keep good employees with a counter offer because it’s cheaper than hiring and training someone new. Typically (not always) once an established employee resigns, the employer recognises that they aren’t fully committed and although you may be staying, they start to consider a contingent plan that doesn’t involve you. Another key thing to remember is that it will be extremely unlikely for your current employer to forget you wanted to leave if another “economic slow-down” occurs and you could be one of the first to face redundancy.
It’s worth remembering that decent and well-managed companies don’t make counteroffers as they only want fully committed employees working for them. Instead they adapt a fair and equitable policy with structured reviews to discuss and resolve any potential issues. Therefore they won’t be subjected to “counteroffer negotiations”.
WHICH ROAD DO I CHOOSE?
Obviously everyone’s situation is different and what is right for one employee isn’t always right for the other. For some, staying in their current employment under better conditions works in their favour. However from our experience the majority who accept a counter offer are looking again within 6 -12 months as it becomes a slow decent into further frustration. Why? – Because usually nothing really changes and the issues that led you to consider another job remain.
We have tried to give advice based on typical situations and would advise that you look at all of the Pros and Cons to be in the best position to make the right decision. A key thing to remember is that the decision needs to be the correct one for you and not your employer (new or existing). Whichever road you choose to take, it needs to offer you the most long term advantage and not just a short term gain. Commonly pay increases, company cars, new job titles, added responsibility, bonuses, etc will be “thrown into the mix” but will that solve the overall issues long-term?
Consider everything in detail and research what is actually being presented. If the new position is closer to home then work out the cost you will save on fuel – is this greater than your pay rise?, If you are offered a pay increase or company car – it carries significant tax penalties, so work out the tax you will pay on these and compare the salary after deductions. Also work out the hours and pay for both positions to get an hourly rate as you could end up working a lot more hours for that extra money.
Consider the company direction in the next 5-10 years and where you will fit into this – Would your current employer look to promote you again to the next level quicker than a new employer? – If not then would you be on more money with a new employer in 1-2 years?. Think of the company in the current market and consider if there are any areas for company development? How stable are both companies and what is their competition like in the area?
IF YOU GENUINELY WANT TO LEAVE
The best way to resign from your job is to use a written resignation. Make your intentions clear. If you genuinely wanted to leave before resigning and don’t want to be put in a difficult position, try to avoid the situation where you may encouraging a counteroffer. Word you letter with thought and be careful about your reasons that you give for leaving.
For example, avoid giving reasons such as: “I will be better financially”, “I’ll have greater responsibilities” or “I need more money.” If pushed, offer a simple, general reason instead, such as “It’s a career opportunity I can’t pass up.” Avoid expressing resignation regret – this could be interpreted as uncertainty and give your employer ammunition to pressure you to stay.
Of course, declining a counteroffer with tact and finesse is a good idea, to avoid bad feelings that might damage your reputation or affect the chance of a decent and fair reference.
IF YOU DO DECIDE TO STAY
A warning! If, after careful consideration of the facts, you decide to accept a counteroffer, be sure to ask your current employer to confirm each and every detail of their offer in writing. An imprudent mistake on your part could be very costly in terms of your long-term professional growth. Don’t accept any counter or job offer unless you genuinely intend to show up and work.
If you need to cancel an alternative employment offer, don’t leave a long period of uncertainty as it reflects badly on you and stops them finding a suitable replacement. If you have already accepted another position but decide to stay with your current employer, under no circumstances should you not cancel your contract with them. Equally don’t be tempted to stall in returning a contact whilst telling them that you are going to accept – whilst really you are negotiating terms elsewhere – keep them informed. Be professional, contact the employer either in person or by phone ASAP and give them the common courtesy of explaining your decision. Thank them for the opportunity and try to keep a good relationship. You never know if you may live to regret your decision and another opportunity may arise in the future which they can consider you for (if you do things the right way).
Everyone will have their own opinion, depending on what side of the fence they sit – but the most important advice that we can offer is: think through things carefully and ensure that you consider all of the options available that offer you a long term advantage.
It is certainly worth taking independent advice using the facts as contributing factors, and not being led by how others may react or feel if you left/didn’t start. Other people’s emotions should not be a reason to stay or go.
Remember you original reasons for wanting to leave and compare them to what’s being offered. Be honest with yourself. Do you believe that what is being offered will genuinely improve your career if you stayed – or would it just be an easier option? And why has it taken you to resign to get here?
There are also countless numbers of opinions posted on online – so research other candidate’s experiences and take them into account too (although employment specialists will tend to have a more thorough understanding and experience dealing with counter offers).
ONE LAST WORD OF ADVICE
If you are happy in your current company – but want an improved salary, promotion, change in responsibility etc – Don’t go looking for other job offers to hold your current employer to ransom!.
This doesn’t benefit anyone. It can also have detrimental effects on your long term career with the employer. Instead, take the opportunity and courage to speak to your employer and discuss what you would like to happen, and why you feel it is justified (a career review is a perfect opportunity to do this).
You may be showing your hand but most employers will appreciate your honesty and professionalism. Doing things this way you are showing your commitment to the company, and they will at least have a chance to accommodate your requests. If they are unable or unwilling to alter any reasonable requests, then maybe your future doesn’t lie with them.
When it does come to the time to resign, your employer won’t be that surprised and you will certain that you will have made the right decision. Also as you have already discussed your concerns but they weren’t auctioned – you can be justified in decision to leave.
If however you try to factor in another employment offer to hold your boss to ransom to your demands – remember our advice on why an employer may want to retain you (until you can be replaced). In addition you would have unnecessarily wasted the time of another potential employer and a recruitment specialist – who may not be so keen to work with you in the future.