The misleading allure of a counteroffer
Few people start looking for a new job while happily employed. There is usually a reason we start browsing through online job postings, adding recruiters to our LinkedIn connections or mentioning to others that we are open to new opportunities. The reason could be one (or more) of many – lack of upward movement, unpleasant environment, dissatisfaction with your compensation package, and so forth. Usually you discuss the situation with your boss and only start looking elsewhere if no changes are being made and it is the end of the road for your patience levels. So, you reach out and your efforts culminate in a job offer that matches or exceeds your expectations. You think about it, discuss it with family and friends and happily accept, confirming your start date and feeling eager to join your new employer. Regardless of how much you dislike your present job, however, resigning is rarely easy. You feel comfortable in your position, used to your routine and probably enjoy at least some aspects of your current job. You might even feel uneasy about the fact that you were “sneakily” going behind your manager’s back and interviewing elsewhere. However, your mind is made up and you keep thinking of the reasons you started looking elsewhere in the first place. You walk into your boss’s office and hand in the resignation letter. What happens next? Well, if you are at least an average employee (saying nothing of being one of the top performers), here comes the obvious – a counteroffer!
Even if you are mediocre at what you do, the prospect of losing you without a possible replacement, having to look for a new employee and train the new hire is likely to displease any employer. And if, in fact, you are a top employee, your employer is not only faced with all of the above, but also with having to explain to his or her superiors how s/he managed to lose a key resource. Considering all that, what boss wouldn’t try to quickly come up with an appealing counteroffer to keep you? Counteroffers are, of course, not always about compensation. If your manager knows you well enough, s/he will also know what makes you tick and will make an offer accordingly. And if he is not as intuitive, he will clumsily offer you one thing after another throughout the whole day or perhaps throughout the whole 2-weeks of your notice period.
Ironically, the process is always similar. Your boss will try to connect with you on some sort of an emotional level and will 9 times out of 10 tell you that it is unbelievably coincidental that you are resigning precisely when she was just about to sit down with you to discuss (fill in the blank yourself – salary increase, promotion, new and exciting responsibilities, etc.). You are likely to be surprised at the timing, but as a recruiter I can tell you that I hear about this ‘coincidence’ time and time again and have personally experienced it in the past. “Did I already mention to you that we were talking about you at the last meeting with the company President / Vice-President / COO / … and he mentioned how impressed he was with your work? No? Oh well, we were just discussing your career growth and the next step for you. You are appreciated more than you can even imagine.” Yawn! No originality there – it is a tactic used time and time again.
I am definitely not implying that your boss is not genuinely sad to see you go and would not love to do anything in her power to keep you. It is, however, a bad employer, one who requires a resignation letter to finally hear and acknowledge your dissatisfaction.
So, before you accept a counteroffer, consider the following. The “coincidence of the timing” is an old and tired trick and you really should run from a boss who fails to be honest and transparent with you. What will you do next time you are dissatisfied or feel you have reached a plateau? Get another offer elsewhere only to once again use it as a negotiation tool? Don’t let this new warm and fuzzy feeling of finally being heard and your boss “opening up to you” fool you – it will fade as soon as you accept the counteroffer. The clock will strike midnight and… you probably know what the carriage turns into.