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How to deal with a counter offer

Monday, October 17th, 2011 | Latest News | Leave a response


Should you stay or should you go?

So you’ve decided the time is right for a career move and have smartened up your CV, met with your friendly recruitment consultant, shone at the interview and landed your dream job. And then your boss throws you off balance and responds to your resignation with a very tempting counter offer.

You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t get a tiny ego boost seeing your employer prepared to put cash on the table to keep you. But before you metaphorically rush into each other’s arms to kiss and make up, take a moment to consider whether that is really the right move.

Of course your company wants to keep you. It’s invested time and money in you, and your skills are marketable, otherwise your new employer wouldn’t want you either.

A pay rise, a promotion or some added perks might make the job more bearable in the short term, but job happiness is not always about the benefits package. And for an employer, the business case for giving you a pay rise is cheaper and less risky than the time, effort and cost involved in recruiting a replacement.

A question of loyalty. Unfairly, some employers see a resignation as disloyal. If you accept the counter offer they may seem pleased to have hung on to you for the time being, but you might find a question mark hanging over your perceived commitment in the future.

Why now? If your employer really values your contribution, you shouldn’t need to submit your resignation to have your worth recognised – unless you always want to have to threaten to leave to get a rise. They might be making the offer because you are working on a key project, or because replacing you costs time and money – buying time simply means they can do that at their convenience, not yours. Or maybe the pay rise you are getting is simply your next one, reluctantly brought forward.

Working relationships. Colleagues who are also friends will know about your plans to leave. They may resent you if they feel you have unfairly overtaken them on the career ladder, turning the working atmosphere decidedly frosty.

What’s the catch? Accepting the counter offer will mean agreeing to conditions. You could see your workload massively expanded, or have to report to someone you don’t respect. Don’t pick up the poisoned chalice of a project that no one else is prepared to take on, just because you have let your ego cloud your judgement.

Keep the faith. Spare a thought for your new employers too. They have already invested in you and will be announcing your arrival and making arrangements to welcome you on board. To go back on your word at this point lacks integrity, it’s the professional equivalent of jilting them at the altar.

Canny move or career suicide? It’s a tough call. A well-managed organisation with credible HR policies does not need to make counter offers. A good employer will respect your decision, wish you well and may even ask for your help in finding your successor.

When you have weighed up all the potential consequences discuss it with trusted friends or family before you decide. An employer with your best interests at heart will not rush you into a decision.

Making the wrong choice now could seriously derail your career. People who accept counter offers typically end up leaving within a year anyway, either because the carrots that were dangled before them did not materialise, or because they were made redundant or ‘invited’ to leave.

Make sure you’re not one of them by confirming that when you say ‘I resign’, you mean it.

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