Counteroffers – Are You Kidding Me?

Jun 29, 2010
This article is part of a series called Fordyce Forum.

Nope, it’s true…they are making a comeback!

At the 2010 Fordyce ForumJenifer Lambert led a great presentation on her research based on client needs and satisfactions.  One of the topics that came up in that discussion was the resurgence of counteroffers.  I remembered an article I had used in 2005 as we were experiencing incredible competition for talent.  I often gave this to candidates as I conducted their initial interview to try and head off counteroffer acceptances. I want to offer that to Fordyce Readers as a downloadable pdf to share with their candidates as the situation arises (and it will!).

Counteroffer – Just Don’t Take It!

Picture this scenario:  After working several years for your current company, you feel your job has become stagnant.  The working conditions have declined, or were never what you expected, your company or position has not been challenging to you, and there is little room or opportunity to reach your full potential.  Fortunately, you have secured a new position at another company and you are looking forward to a better environment, management, salary, commute, promotion potential, flexibility, or whatever the benefits may be that will be an improvement over your current situation. When you inform your manager of your decision to leave, s/he may give you an offer to entice you to stay, even promising to match whatever benefits your new position may be offering. It could be a higher salary, better benefits, more responsibilities, or a job title to make your colleagues green with envy.  This is too good to pass up, right?

While this may seem like a no-brainer, when you accept a counteroffer from an employer after you have announced your intention to leave, what you have really done is accepted an offer to stay and endure the same problems you were trying to leave behind including worse issues arising from identifying yourself as a dissatisfied employee who could leave at any moment.

A counteroffer is a proposal from your current employer prompted by your indication or announcement to leave the company.  If you have consistently demonstrated you are a competent, productive, and well-liked employee who has not caused major issues in your department, your departure may reflect negatively on your supervisor and their management capabilities.  To prevent their own career downslide, your manager will likely attempt to entice you to stay by making attractive offers focused on bringing your loyalty back to the company. The beginnings of a counteroffer may be similar to the following phrases:

  • “You’re one of my best workers. The team will be demoralized by your decision.”
  • “My performance review is coming up and this may not reflect well on me as a manager.”
  • “I’ll be honest with you; this is actually the worst time for you to tell me you’re leaving.”
  • “This comes as quite a shock, is there anything in particular you are most dissatisfied with?”
  • “Our executives have mentioned to me they were thinking of having you lead a challenging project coming up the pike. Would it be possible to discuss this opportunity with you before you make your final decision?”

The truth is, counteroffers will rarely benefit you.  Managers understand the difficulties of career changes and are going to do their best to offer a primed deal to make you stay, but don’t take it!  Consider these points before yielding to a counteroffer:

  • If your manager counteroffers with a better salary, bonus, benefits, and responsibilities, this will not change the current working environment which may be a large part of your reasons for leaving.
  • Having already demonstrated your desire to depart from the company, after accepting the counteroffer, your loyalty will be scrutinized and your reputation as a “team player” will be lost.
  • Counteroffers are often used to buy time for managers to find a replacement, so do not expect to be employed there for much longer regardless of what was promised.
  • Conditions may improve from the counteroffer, but it will only be temporary and is not worth the stress to remain in a company you do not enjoy working for. Don’t expect your manager to treat you consistently better simply because you have indicated you have another job lined up.
  • If threatening to quit prompted these offers, will you now have to repeatedly use this tactic to get a better working environment each time conditions are not what you feel they should be?  If so, it’s not worth your time and effort to improve your current employment situation.
  • Truly well-managed companies will never need to resort to counteroffers to retain their employees as they will already have reasonable and fair policies in place.

There’s a good reason why employees leave their current companies.  Don’t let a short-term fling with counteroffers stop you from improving your career.  Continue to clear your desk and look forward to a fresh start with your new career.

Please click here to download this post as a PDF document.

These ideas stemmed from an article titled Counteroffer Acceptance Road to Career Ruin written by Paul Hawkinson. The article was originally published in National Business Employment Weekly in 1983 and later published in The Wall Street Journal in 1998.

This article is part of a series called Fordyce Forum.
Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!