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Counter Offers… Accept Them or Reject Them? February 16, 2010

Posted by stanleyreidrecruiting in Interviews and Offers.
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You’ve decided to look around for a new position.  You’ve interviewed with multiple companies and gotten an offer you want to accept.  Hoping to avoid too much conflict, you tell your boss you need to talk.  You stumble through your resignation, and then suddenly your boss asks, “What can we do to get you to stay?”

Congratulations! You are about to receive a counteroffer, and your next few days are going to be confusing and stressful!

Your old company suddenly treats you like you are the most important person in the world. Your manager and your manager’s manager meet with you. You have the discussions you’ve been wanting to have for a long time – about your career, the things that have been bothering you, the future of the company, and the key role you can play.  You’re offered a raise, perhaps a retention bonus as well, and maybe even a promotion.  You walk away from these discussions feeling wonderful – finally, the management team understands you and is going to make the changes you need and fix the problems.   They value you, they are listening to you, and you’re seriously considering calling your new company and telling them you’ve changed you mind.

Don’t. Accepting a counter offer is always a bad idea.  Always.  Here’s why…

You just threatened to leave your employer, and they are offering you a bribe to stay.  Trust has been broken, and nothing else has changed.

It really is that simple.  If your old company lets you leave, they lose the revenue and profit you’re generating, and they have to scramble to find a replacement.  In the short-term, it makes sense to bribe you to get you to stay.  In the long-term, you no longer have any good career options at the company.  They know that you decided to leave them – you interviewed, you accepted another offer, and you blindsided them when you resigned.  They see you as not having the company’s best interests in mind – they see you as only being concerned about yourself.  Trust has been broken.

That sounds harsh, but it is true.  Google “accept counter offers” and see the scary statistics…

You might read all this and still think that your situation is the exception, and that the company will trust you and take care of you in the future.  Even if that is true, it’s still a terrible idea to accept the counter offer.  Consider the following question:

Why didn’t the company fix the problems BEFORE you decided to look for a new job?

Companies are like people.  They are very slow to change.  You interviewed for a reason – you weren’t getting what you needed at your old company.  Maybe they’re offering you more money and painting a rosy picture of the future, but do you really think you suddenly created a massive change in the culture of the company by threatening to leave? It’s still the same company, with the same decision-makers, and the same problems that motivated you to consider a new job in the first place.

The employer-employee relationship is analogous to dating.  Let’s assume John and Susan have been dating for a while, and Susan has become unhappy enough with John that she’s found a new boyfriend.  Here’s Susan’s “resignation” and John’s “counteroffer”.

Susan: “John, it’s over.  This isn’t working, and I’ve found someone else.”

John: “Wait a minute, Susan.  If you’ll dump the other guy, I’ll buy you a big diamond, and I promise I’ll pay more attention to you in the future.”

Susan: “Gee John, that’s swell!  I’ll dump the other guy!”

Do you think Susan and John are going to live happily ever after?  Don’t accept a counteroffer.  It’s a bad idea.

Ron Stanley

Ron is the co-owner of Stanley Reid & Company, an Intelligence Community search firm.  Ron unfortunately accepted a counter offer early in his career…

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