To Accept or Reject the Counteroffer, That is the Question!
This week I received a call from a candidate, who had ecstatically accepted their “dream role” last week, only to be told that they had “accepted a counteroffer”. My blood ran cold as I reflected on all the previous counteroffer conversations I've had over the past 19 years and the disastrous consequences the acceptance has had on both the candidate and the employer in nearly all circumstances.
Let's take a look at the process.
It all starts with you realising that it's been some time since you bounced out of bed looking forward to the day ahead at work. You're starting to feel the monotony of the work you're doing, the work mates you're doing that work with, the politics of the organisation or perhaps you missed out on a promotion you worked so hard to achieve or a promised pay rise and you're just genuinely disgruntled. You pick up the phone, speak to your favorite consultant and tell them all the reasons why you're absolutely, totally 100% over it and on the market. You then get a call to say that there is a job that has you're name written all over it.
You interview 3 times for the position with the new company. It's a match made in heaven and they make you an offer. They've offered you everything on your wish list, you accept the offer, sign the contract and you couldn't be happier. Champers all round!
What happens next?
For the first morning, in what feels like forever, you bounce out of bed and can't wait to get to work to resign. You go with “look, it's not you, it's me” and your boss, upset at the consequences of you leaving, presents you with a counteroffer in order to persuade you to stay. Let's get real - your first reaction is probably an inflated ego. Then your boss starts to put small doubts in your mind by using flattery such as “you're much too valuable to the team” or “I was going to wait until next quarter to tell you but I was just about to give you a raise/promotion” or “we have grand plans for you here”. A frown starts to appear, your heart beats a little bit faster; anxiety about change is triggered.
Why Companies Make Counteroffers
There are a myriad of reasons why companies make counteroffers. Resignations can sometimes cause morale to suffer, you may have been working on a project which may not reach a deadline without you, there could be increased workloads to your team mates and/or the expense and time it takes to replace you might not be something the company can afford right at this moment. Counteroffers are more often than not a solution for these problems. They can be more cost effective for the business in that moment and most importantly, they buy time for the business.
Why Counteroffers Often Don't Work
It's true. Counteroffers rarely work out for you nor your boss. They very, very rarely work. Why?
Trust is the first deal breaker. No matter what either party says the trust is broken. Your demonstrated lack of loyalty by considering another opportunity will not be forgotten. Trust me, your manager has the memory of an elephant – they won't forget. You may even lose some acceptance from your immediate team mates who you were going to leave in the lurch. What's more important than this to consider though is that the original reasons you were so keen to leave will eventually resurface. You will be appeased for sure in the short term, but rarely for the long run. Unfortunately the statistics show that those who accept counteroffers are usually gone within 3-6 months, 12 months at the most.
If you're reading this as a business owner, you know it's true. Whilst your intention could be much more honorable than those depicted here, you and I both know that the person usually ends up leaving anyway. Despite you giving them a pay rise, a company car, a bonus and the extra responsibilities your staff member was hungry to have, they turn up in your office one morning and its deja vu all over again. You're gutted that you gave them everything they said they needed in order to stay and here they are telling you again that there's a better opportunity for them elsewhere, again! This time they really are leaving you at a vulnerable time for your business though! Ouch!
How Should Resignations be Handled by All Those Involved?
Before you head out to the job market, speak to your manager and explain to them why you're feeling unsettled. Give your manager every opportunity to give you what you need in order for you to continue to enjoy working with your current firm. Only when your attempts fail should you then head out into the job market. Be very clear with your consultant about your reasons for leaving your current employer and what the 'must haves' are for you in your next role. When you are offered this dream role, when you've accepted it and signed your formal letter of offer/contract, you are now ready to resign knowing that you have done the right thing by all those involved.
To show you are serious and this decision isn't up for negotiation (you've already given your employer that opportunity on previous occasions) take a written resignation and hand it to your manager so there is no misunderstanding that your mind is made up. Focus on the positive opportunity and simply say it is too good to pass up. Be professional, courteous and show gratitude for all you have learned whilst working in such a great business.
There, done! Everyone's dignity is left intact, relationships remain respectful and the future is now very exciting for everyone involved. You're about to embark on your next career opportunity, you're about to make new friends, you're about to start bouncing out of bed once again in the mornings. Business owners, you can now get excited about the 'fresh blood' you're about to add to your team, the new ideas and positive energy that's about to walk in the door and what about the new business this energy will attract? Well that's just gold!
Have a great week everyone!
Director - Creative Recruiters
m: +61 413 453 563
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