Beware of the Counter Offer!

September 16, 2013

Let’s face it, conducting a search for your next great career move is a stressful, time consuming, and exhausting process.  Unless the new opportunity just comes “knocking on the door” with an offer you can’t refuse, it usually involves a great deal of planning, research, email solicitations, applications, interviews, more research, more interviews…..you get the point.

For most people, the reward, at the end of this laborious process is the promise of a new career, with a new team, new vision, fresh start, and most likely a better deal (financially).  It doesn’t always end up with a happy ending (some individuals do not always get selected for a given opportunity, no matter how much of a fit they feel they are).  But when it does happen, when you finally reach the point of the process that an offer is extended, it feels awesome!  After all, it is exactly what you were looking for, right?  And you were ready to make a change, right?  You gladly accept the offer, and get ready for the winds of change to take you on our new career path.

Then, it happens.  The moment when you have to tell your manager that “we have to talk”.   It is time to give notice, and tell your current manager that you have taken an offer and decided to move on with your career.  Unless you were REALLY ready to go (or your job was in jeopardy due to performance or pending reductions in work force), then this event can be quite traumatic.  Especially if you had a decent relationship with the manager, and the company was a fine employer…but neither were meeting your needs.  So, you let them know that you have found another opportunity, and effective immediately (and following a customary 2 week notice) you resign from employment.  Then……..what happens next can determine the future of your career.  Either the manager graciously accepts your resignation, or they hit you with shock, surprise and ultimately make you a counter offer to stay.  Damn!  Why did they have to go and do that?

While a counter offer can be flattering, and perhaps even financially rewarding, it can also be a huge mistake to take.  Why?  Because the odds are, this is just a reactionary tactic given by your manager in a last ditch effort to have you stay.  Of course, there is always a chance that the counter offer is legitimate, but history and statistics have proven year over year that the vast majority of employees that take counter offers are no longer employed by the countering company even 6 months after the counter offer is accepted!  What is worse, both parties feel a sense of resentment towards each other and important personal bridges may have gotten burnt in the process.

Why? Again, while some counter offers are legitimate and warrant real consideration to stay, the vast majority of counter offers are a desperate attempt for a manager to not have to deal with the mess of replacing you.  Even though you found a great career opportunity and the future looks bright for you, things just became messy and complicated for your manager.  The decision to leave usually means your needs as an employee were not being met in one way or the other.  Why all of a sudden are you important enough to be heard?  Why now do you finally get that raise, after multiple time asking?  Why now do you get that title or a promise of a new path for you?  Chances are, if you never resigned, you would have never received this attention and consideration.  But for the manager, it is easy to temporarily fix the problem by giving you false promises of the future, and or even agree to give you a raise.

The problem is that the relationship has been breached.  The manager cannot help feeling betrayed, if not jilted by your decision to explore and interview for new relationships.  And when you accepted another firm’s offer, that just flat out hurt their feelings (at the very least surprised them) and left them with the task of back filling your position.  These feelings tend to stick, and after a couple of months, you find yourself on the outside looking in, disconnected to the manager who asked you to stay, feeling a sense that you are no longer doing a good job or even welcome on the managers team.  Something feels different and it can’t go back to normal.  Now, you can do no right, and the manager had plenty of time to find your backfill.  And, unfortunately, in most cases, you end up quitting or getting terminated and find yourself right back on the job market.  Except this time you are unemployed while you are searching.

The moral to this rant is to be very careful when it comes to making a decision to change jobs, and beware of the counter offer.  It usually does not end up well for either party.  Once you make your mind up, it is best to stick to your decision, and go through the messy exchange of giving notice.  Don’t fall for the counter offer.  Let your Manager know how much you appreciate the gesture, how flattered you are and how much it means to you, but that you made your mind up and are going to stick with your decision.  They will respect you more for it and your relationship with your former manager and company will remain intact.