How to decide about accepting a counter offer and resigning

Should I stay or should I go?

The dilemma of changing your job can be a difficult one. You weigh up the benefits and concerns and eventually, make the decision to move on from your current job.

You find your perfect job, successfully pass several interviews and/or assessments and finally receive a well-deserved offer of employment.

Finally, you pluck up the courage to hand in your letter of resignation to your current line manager.

Once done, you feel greatly relieved and start looking forward to starting your exciting new career.

Then your line manager throws a spanner in the works by making an unexpected counter offer.

Understanding the Counter Offer

If you are a valued employee, then your current company will clearly not want to lose your services. Counter offers are common place and many employers are likely to propose a competitive alternative offer to keep good employees. It is a flattering incentive designed to tempt you into changing your mind. As tempting and ego-gratifying as it may be, accepting a counter offer could be a costly career mistake.

The Hidden Agenda

In order to keep you in the company, your current employer may offer a broad range of counter benefits, from increasing basic salary or commission to attractive promotional positions. And often, there are truly humane reasons for these counter offers. But it is most likely that there are also numerous hidden agendas:

  • Replacing an employee can be expensive.
  • It might mess up their budget to re-recruit that time of year.
  • They have no time to re-recruit right now.
  • They want you to finish the project you’re working on.
  • They don’t have the time or budget to train someone new at the moment.
  • Losing staff may be perceived as a negative reflection on the company, or management.
  • Your leaving might constitute a threat to them in terms of the current customer relationships you have, especially if you are joining a competitor. The counter offer minimises their risk by keeping your business relationships intact.

Don’t surrender!

Before you let the flattery of a counter offer tempt you, consider the real reasons you’re wavering on that exciting new career.

Don’t jeopardise your future

A counter offer may sweeten the deal in the short term. But remember your reasons for wanting to leave in the first place. If you were really in-line for a promotion, or about to be given extra benefits for your hard work and commitment, why did they wait until you resigned, to offer you what you’re really worth to them?

A new title or benefits will not necessarily compensate for a lack of interesting assignments. Your future starts now – which is why you were looking for a new job and to further your career.

Why not accept the cash?

More money may make you happy in the short term. But accepting a pay rise in order to stay may simply appear to your employer that you were attempting to use your job for financial gain.

Studies show that 89% of those that accept a counter offer, leave the company within 12 months anyway.

Money cannot buy you job satisfaction.

You were probably offered an increase to join the new company anyway. But also think about the career prospects and other qualities that attracted you to the role in the first place.

 

Think about your reputation!

No matter what the company may say, in future you are likely to be considered a loyalty risk. Having once demonstrated your ‘lack of loyalty’ by having looked for another job, you will lose your status as a “team player” and your place in the inner circle.

Some ‘jilted’ companies have long memories and believe that even if you decide to stay, statistically you are almost certain to leave them again. You will always be suspected of attending a job interview whenever you are absent. The counter offer, therefore, is usually nothing more than a stalling device to keep you around until your employer can quietly find a cheaper or more dedicated replacement for you.

Job offers work in two directions – It’s about both the employee and employer. If you reject a company’s offer in favour of a counter offer you have effectively wasted their time, money and abused their trust. They are unlikely to consider applications from you in future, and in closed industries were reputation counts this will certainly damage your personal brand.

What about the company’s reputation?

For very good reasons, well-managed companies don’t ever make counter offers.

They believe their policies are fair and equitable and will not be subjected to what they see as being blackmailed by ‘counteroffer coercion’.

What about your relationships with colleagues?

Accepting a counter offer after you’ve made the decision to leave will probably weaken your relationships and decrease the trust your colleagues and superiors have in you.

In their eyes, you could be off again at the next opportunity, or when things aren’t going your way. It can be seen as an attempt at forcing your hand to get a better deal.

If your colleagues really are your friends, you will remain in contact long after you have left, and avoid straining your friendships through tense environments at work. It will be so much better to chat about how excited you are in your new role, than go over for the 20th time, your reasons for disliking your current job.

Be prepared

Rejecting a counter offer can possibly further alienate you from the company.

Your goal should be to resign in a manner that avoids a counter offer from ever being made in the first place.

Acting with the courage of your conviction will create a positive impression for you, and will most likely generate respect in what can possibly be a difficult situation

Be clear

Be sure to state in unmistakable terms that your decision is final. A less direct approach such as muttering something that sounds like, “I’m thinking of changing jobs” or “I’m leaving for more money” is likely to leave the embarrassing impression that what you are really doing is attempting to use your job to gain extra allowances.

Write your resignation letter

To eliminate any possible misunderstanding, always submit your resignation in writing. Your written letter should be brief and should contain a clear-cut statement of resignation, an expression of thanks for the professional association you have enjoyed, a final date of employment, and a cooperative statement expressing your willingness to help during the transition period prior to your last day of work.

Keep your pace up

Do not underestimate the importance of your performance during your final weeks. Don’t allow yourself to become ‘mentally unemployed’ and de-motivated whilst working out your notice. Give it your very best effort right up until the last minute you’re there. You will never be sorry you did, and you can be sure of a good reference to take with you.