By Colin Kleine

If there were a 10 commandments of recruitment, the first and most important commandment would be that thou shall never accept a counteroffer. A recruiter has called you and proposed that you look at an employment opportunity which is too difficult to resist. Perhaps it was even one of the ZACK Grouper-ers that called you.The benefits are great, the salary is great and this looks like the opportunity you have been waiting for. Despite being satisfied in your current job you make the decision to leave and are in the process of handing in your notice. You walk into their office and have an awkward conversation with your current boss who tries to change your decision. As soon as you tell them your decision they responds by saying “what a coincidence! the board just approved your promotion. That will mean more benefits for you so let’s just forget about your resignation shall we?”. Stop for thou is about to commit recruitments biggest sin!

Companies want to keep their best staff and when a top employee turns in their notice, the manager will work hard and make a series of promises to retain them.

If you think things will be easy when you accept your current employers offer, think again. As a professional recruiter I can tell you that taking a counter offer is a terrible idea. Not only have I seen the damage one can do to their career by accepting a counteroffer, it is generally agreed by the HR and recruitment professions to steer clear of them. Here are some factors you need to be aware of when dealing with a counter offer:

Broken trust. Expect a change in the way your employer will see you. They will no longer consider you a part of their trusted confidants, you have been looking behind their back. Having once demonstrated your lack of loyalty, you will lose your status as a team player and you will be kicked out of the manager’s “inner circle.” Once they prove you are having sweet talks with other companies, their trust in you will be weaken. Your employer might say they will bury the memory of the whole thing, but every plan you execute in the company will surely be met with suspicious eyes. As recruiters we see this happen time and time again you may not want to believe it but it is an unfortunate reality.

Damaged reputation. A manager’s competence and effectiveness are evaluated through his staff’s performance and satisfaction. With an employee resigning their competence as a leader will now be in question and their chances for advancement will suffer. It can change the way they see you.

Costly replacement. Keeping you and offering you incentives are less complicated than replacing you. The hassle of finding a qualified candidate and the cost of recruitment can be pretty significant. Are they trying to keep you because they value you or are they doing it to avoid the cost of recruiting?.

Realization of an undeserved promotion. Are you comfortable being in the position you do not truly deserve? Will you be happy thinking that the promotion and raise your employer gave you is not based upon your merit? If you have to turn in your notice to a company just to get a raise and a promotion, then that is not the company where you can grow and advance as an individual. If the reason for the sudden leverage is just to keep you, keep your dignity and do not bite the bait.

Once everything goes back in place, the chances are high that this raise and increased remuneration would be retracted. The company will later realise it should not keep someone who does not deserve a promotion and gain an achievement due to the employer’s fear of departure.

Loss of respect. Once you retract on your decision to leave just because of a tempting counteroffer, you will lose the respect and reputation you built for many years. They will think of you as low and easy to manipulate. Someone who does not know how to stand on their decision is not worthy of any promotion. You should know that leaving a company is something that is normal to everyone in the world of work. Minimise the potential career damage by sticking by your decisions.

It looks unprofessional. By falling for a counteroffer you have committed the unprofessional and unethical sin of breaking your commitment to the prospective employer who accepted you in the company and gave you the chance to advance.

Decent and well-managed companies rarely need to bait their staff with counteroffers. Instead of offering their staff with irresistible incentives, they treat them with dignity, respect and ensure they are happy. Their policies are fair and equitable won’t pressure someone to stay by giving a counteroffer. They will honour your decision as an individual who knows how to put their career into their own hands. They will tell you, “Thank you for lending us your service and sharing your knowledge to our company. We hope that you have become a better person and employee by working here. If you ever want to come back, we would love to have you here again”. I will never make a counteroffer, if someone wants to leave ZACK Group it is either because I have failed them as a manager or because this new position really is better for them.

Counteroffer: a kiss of death to your career

Counteroffers are magnetic enticements from your current employer to keep you after you’ve announced your intention to leave and transfer to another company. They are only made in response to an employee’s decision to quit in the hope of better working conditions. These are positioning tactics trying to put value on your worth. True counteroffers however carry the burden of putting threat to your career. Interviews with employees who accepted counteroffers show that falling for such deceptive tactics– tempting as they may be – is tantamount to career suicide.

What will the manager say to keep you in their shell?

These comments are common:

  • “I am really surprised, I thought you have been doing well and that you are happy. Let’s talk this over in private before you make a call”.
  • “ Wow that is a coincidence, I have actually been meaning to tell you about our growth plans for you. If you stay then we will talk about your promotion”.
  • “ The managing director has you in mind for an exciting new project, they want to speak with you ASAP to get started”.
  • “That is unfortunate timing as we had you earmarked for a raise next quarter. Perhaps we should give you that raise now?”.
  • “You’re going to work for who? I have been hearing they are not doing well”.
  • “The team will be lost without you. How can you do this in the middle of a major project? We were counting on you and your expertise”.

What do counteroffers say about the employer?

When someone quits, it immediately reflects the effectiveness of the employer. Unless you are incompetent or just not up to scratch, the boss might look bad for not keeping you. It will be a hard slap to their management skills. So their reaction is to do what has to be done to keep you from leaving. That’s human nature. The employer will find the right buttons to press to keep you from going.

Counteroffers are usually nothing more than a strategy to give your boss a time to recruit another and replace you. The truth is, they still remember your reason for wanting to leave and they is more than willing to raise your salary and grant your promotion just to prevent the company from losing a key player without a substitute.

In my career I have had 5 candidates decline a role to take a counteroffer once their boss pressed some button for them to stay. Every single one of those candidates was on the lookout again in 6 months.

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