Taking the right perspective on counteroffers…

First – no matter the context, there will always be some question as to your loyalty if you decide to accept a counter-offer and stay with your employer. Rarely does the acceptance of an offer culminate as expected – or promised. If your departure is truly unexpected, a counter-offer can be used for several reasons:

  • To buy time to find a replacement
  • To preserve the status quo and not disrupt morale
  • To keep an appropriate level of staff in place
  • To prevent negative implications for the supervisor
  • To manage the work flow

In examining this list, do you find any mention of your needs? Most likely, you won’t; so a counter-offer can be construed as disrespectful to you and your goals. This is truly an interesting revelation – most people who are countered are actually quite flattered. Keep the proper perspective if you’re offered enticements to stay with your current employer after accepting another position.

Universal truths behind counteroffers…

  • Be aware – in accepting a counter-offer, you are breaking a commitment. It doesn’t matter that you have four years with your current employer and no time with a prospective employer. A commitment is a commitment – don’t make it if you don’t intend to keep it. Don’t use a job offer as a bargaining chip. And if you do make the commitment, preserve your professional reputation by honoring it. Word can get out to prospective employers.
  • In many instances, by accepting a counter-offer, your integrity with your current employer can be impacted – and impacted negatively. You could be viewed as having broken a commitment on two sides – to the prospective employer AND to your current employer — in terms of your loyalty. This is particularly true of companies that depend upon a high level of teamwork and interaction – your loyalty will most likely be questioned along with your tactics.
  • Most counter-offers are nothing more than a ploy to buy more time. It makes sense for your employer to pay a little right now – either in promises or money – to avoid heavy losses (of business and morale and possibly additional staff). Put yourself in your employer’s shoes and try several “what if” scenarios. Plug in the potential loss of your clients or your staff – and be sure to calculate the dollars. Now, how much did you say you’d be getting if you stay?
  • Ask yourself – why did you have to accept another job in order to achieve the opportunities now being offered? Truly re-examine your reasons for leaving…and then ask yourself, “Are these reasons really going to go away?” Operational issues rarely change overnight. Personalities seldom change in an instant. “Was my only reason for leaving to gain more compensation/vacation time/a promotion?”

Why you should never accept a counter-offer…

After two and a half months of interviews, the top sales manager with a Mid-West Financial Services Company receives an excellent offer of employment which includes a compensation package that has been painstakingly developed with the hiring authority. She accepts the offer – and then reneges after being dazzled by a lengthy “sales presentation” with her current company’s Regional Manager. The Regional dangles the opportunity of becoming the Branch Manager for the prestigious Greater Chicago market as an enticement to stay. Heavy emphasis is placed on the “hefty compensation and bonus” potential attached to such an opportunity. Two months later, the President of the company announces that the company has been sold to a major competitor – and that the project has been “in the works” for six months. This manager is suddenly out of contention for the Branch Manager position – and possibly out of a job. What was the Regional Manager’s motivation in countering the other job offer? To keep the top producer – and her customer base — in place until the transaction could be completed. What did her actions earn? Besides the obvious, she seriously impacted her professional reputation with the organization that had put much time and effort into selecting her for their operation.

Is this an isolated instance of the “counter-offer” scenario? Absolutely not. Counter-offers occur frequently in the business world. However, from the standpoint of the candidate, a counter-offer can have hidden risks that don’t become apparent until after critical decisions have been made.