Why you should not accept a counter offer

As a search and recruitment consultant I have, more than once, been witness to the fact that by accepting a counter offer, an employee is basically digging his/her own grave. I have yet to come across a situation where the acceptance of a counteroffer has worked out for the employee and it is therefore my opinion that a counter offer should never be accepted!

A counter offer can simply be defined as an inducement from your current employer to get you to stay after you’ve announced your intention to take another job. We’re not talking about those instances when you receive an offer but don’t tell your boss. Nor are we discussing offers that you never intended to take, yet tell your employer about anyway as a “they-want-me-but-I’m-with-you” ploy. These are merely astute positioning tactics you may choose to use to reinforce your worth by letting your boss know you have other options. Mention of a true offer, however, carries an actual threat to quit.

Interviews with employers who make counter offers, and employees who accept them, have shown that as tempting as they may be, acceptance may cause career suicide. During the past decades, statistics has shown that accepting a counter offer only benefited the employee in isolated cases. Consider the problem in its proper perspective. What really goes through a boss’s mind when someone quits?

  • This couldn’t happen at a worse time.
  • This is one of my best people.
  • If I let him quit now, it’ll wreak havoc on the morale of the department.
  • I’ve already got one opening in my department. I don’t need another right now.
  • I’m working as hard as I can, and I don’t need to do his work, too.
  • If I lose another good employee, the company might decide to lose’ me too.
  • My review is coming up and this will make me look bad.
  • Maybe I can keep him on until I find a suitable replacement.

What will the boss say to keep you in the nest? Some of the following comments are common:

  • I’m really shocked. I thought you were as happy with us as we are with you.
  • Let’s discuss it before you make your final decision.
  • Aw gee, I’ve been meaning to tell you about the great plans we have for you. But they have been confidential until now.
  • The V.P. has you in mind for some exciting and expanding responsibilities.
  • Your raise was scheduled to go into effect next quarter but we’ll make it effective immediately.
  • You’re going to work for whom?

Before you succumb to a tempting counter offer, consider these universal employment truths:

  • Any situation in which an employee is forced to get an outside offer before the present employer will suggest a raise, promotion or better working conditions.
  • No matter what the company says when making its counter offer, you’ll always be considered a fidelity risk.
  • Having once demonstrated your lack of loyalty (for whatever reason), you’ll lose your status as a team player and your place in the inner circle.
  • Counter offers are usually nothing more than stall devices to give your employer time to replace you.

Your reasons for wanting to leave still exist. Conditions are just made a bit more tolerable in the short term because of the raise, promotion or promises made to keep you. Counter offers are only made in response to a threat to quit. Will you have to solicit an offer and threaten to quit every time you deserve better working conditions? Decent and well-managed companies don’t make counter offers . . . EVER! Their policies are fair and equitable. They won’t be subjected to counteroffer coercion or what they perceive as blackmail.

Let’s face it. When someone quits, it’s a direct reflection on the boss. Unless you’re really incompetent or a destructive thorn in his/her side, the boss might look bad for allowing you to go. It’s an implied insult to his management skills. His/her gut reaction is to do what has to be done to keep you from leaving until he/she’s ready, it should be expected from any employer.

In summary …. 10 Reasons for NOT accepting a counter offer:

  1. What type of company do you work for if you have to threaten to resign before they give you what you are worth?
  2. Where is the money for the counter offer coming from? Is it your next raise early? All companies have strict wage and salary guidelines which must be followed.
  3. Your company will immediately start looking for a new person at a cheaper price.
  4. You now have made your employer aware that you are unhappy. From this day on, your loyalty will always be in question.
  5. When promotion time comes around, your employer will remember who was loyal and who was not.
  6. When times get tough, your employer will begin the cutback with you.
  7. The same circumstances that now cause you to consider a change will repeat themselves in the future; even if you accept a counteroffer.
  8. Statistics show that if you accept a counter offer, the probability of voluntarily leaving in six months or being let go within one year is extremely high.
  9. Accepting a counter offer is an insult to your intelligence and a blow to your personal pride; knowing that you were bought.
  10. Once the word gets out, the relationship that you now enjoy with your co-workers will never be the same.  You will lose the personal satisfaction of group acceptance.

Unfortunately, it’s also human nature to want to stay within a known and comfortable environment, unless your work life is abject misery. Career change, like all ventures into the unknown, is tough. That’s why bosses know they can usually keep you around by pressing the right buttons.

Best advice … consider all the pros and cons of the new career, if you make a decision to go for it, stick to your guns!!

Adapted by Louis Botes from an article in National Business Employment Weekly.