In his first column of 2013, recruitment boss Thomas de Freitas looks at why you should never accept a counter-offer
It is a truth universally acknowledged that bosses want you to leave a company on their terms, not your own.
Thus if, on receiving your resignation, they immediately offer to increase your salary or advance your status, it is not with your best interests at heart but their own.
‘But receiving a salary increase or promotion is a sign I’m doing the right things’, you might think. ‘It suggests my boss wants to keep me onboard as I’m a valuable asset’.
Well yes, you are an asset – but only because it will cost more to replace you than keep you, especially if your resignation has come as a surprise or at a time when your company cannot be without resources. Boosting your salary or status is a means for your boss to keep you within the organisation until you become more disposable.
In short, it buys them time to complete necessary short-term projects and implement the search for your replacement when it best suits them.
Of course, this isn’t to say you’ve not been valuable to your organisation and they won’t be sad to see you go; if you’ve proven your worth, it is unlikely they will want to lose you. However, good bosses and hiring managers understand that people do not remain with one company their whole life, and that moving onwards and upwards is a natural part of a career cycle. A counter-offer may be a knee-jerk reaction to the prospect of losing a valued employee, but all good organisations know that personnel change is part of the ebb and flow of running a business.
So why exactly is accepting a counter-offer such a costly career mistake?
Your career is yours alone: you make it what it is. If you’ve decided it’s time to move on and have been offered a new role, you must see potential in that new opportunity which outweighs your current situation. Perhaps that is a higher salary or better bonus package. Most likely it represents a greater opportunity for career progression. Your future is in your hands. Don’t put this on hold simply because it is easier to remain where you feel confident and comfortable.
A counter-offer is tempting because it flatters the ego. It makes you feel wanted when your boss goes out his way to ensure you remain with his company, your skills irreplaceable. However, think logically about this one. If you are so valuable to your company, why did they wait until you resigned to offer you what you’re really worth? Where was the extra money, benefits and responsibility a few months earlier when you were working hard for them and adding value to their business? A counter-offer should, really, be considered an insult as it means your current boss thinks he can buy your time.
Accepting a counter-offer wrongs both the company you remain with and the company who offered you a new position.
At the former, your loyalty will be forever questioned, and the management team is not going to forget that you had one foot out the door. This inevitably alters the relationship going forward. Thus, when the time comes to offer bonuses and make promotions – or to make cuts – your employer will remember who was loyal and who wasn’t. Your future will always be in jeopardy.
Further, turning your back on a new opportunity will not be viewed as favourable by the company you were interviewed at. Businesses devote time, energy and resources to recruiting the right people and, in choosing you, will have let other suitable candidates slip through the net. Your rejection of their vote of confidence in you may be seen as a personal slight on their business. Hiring managers and recruiters will never forget your indecisiveness, and you may well shut off future opportunities. Certainly, you will never be considered for another position at the company you changed your mind on.
Your Bank Balance
A better pay packet may make you happy in the short term, but these financial gains are unlikely to be last. Since the extra money to keep you on board has to come from somewhere, it is likely this was simply money allocated for your next bonus or raise, diminishing the true value of the counter-offer.
Remember, your bank balance will not change the reasons you wanted to leave in the first place – you don’t like your working environment, you cannot progress any further in your current role, you don’t get on with your boss/colleagues. Money does not buy job satisfaction.
Accepting a counter offer after you’ve made the decision to leave marks you out as indecisive and causes people to lose trust in you. Your relationships with both colleagues and superiors will certainly change. Your team might wonder why you were cut a special deal when they have not received such benefits, despite never threatening to leave. This can breed resentment and may mark you out as a scapegoat when things go wrong. After all, who is going to support you when it looks like you were going to run, only to be enticed to stay when you got your own way?
Being level-headed, logical and rational is key to any successful career, yet accepting a counter-offer lessens your credibility as a decision-maker. If you have been through a lengthy recruitment process, impressed the hiring managers, made a decision to accept an offer and then reverse course, this hardly marks you out as an individual who exercises reasoned judgement. You will be considered indecisive and easily swayed, and thus not someone capable of taking on too much – if any – decision-making responsibilities, limiting your career progression.
Tendering your resignation is never the easiest conversation to have, and is made even more difficult when the temptation of a counter-offer is dangled in front of you. Certainly, in the current climate, counter-offers are likely to become increasingly common as companies want to hold on to their best staff. If you encounter this situation, take a deep breath, thank your employer, and stick to your guns. Remember, a counter-offer is nothing more than a stalling device to keep you around until the time is right to let you go – at which point you will have injured your reputation, damaged your career prospects, and lost the opportunity of ever joining the company who offered you a new post.
Far from being a vote of confidence, a counter-offer is the career kiss of death.
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