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The Counteroffer Conversation

You’ve accepted the new job.  Excitement abounds.  Congratulations!

This process has been in the works for months now.  You’ve stressed, agonized over what is the right path forward.  Maybe your decision was based on a search for a better quality of life.  Maybe you’ve been tired of being overworked and underpaid.  Maybe it was the continued promise of a raise that you haven’t received in 3 years. Perhaps it was based on the fact that your company has an express elevator to 9th floor (HR) every last Wednesday of the month, where layoffs have killed morale.  Maybe your boss is a possible sociopath. Maybe you are tired of the squids you work with who constantly complain and all seem on the verge of having a heart attack or stroke.

Regardless, it was time for a change.

Now comes the difficult part – telling your current company and existing boss sayonara.  Resigning is never an easy task.  Perhaps you have forged relationships through the years that are going to be difficult to walk away from.  Perhaps you have unfinished business to complete and you don’t want to leave your colleagues high and dry.  Perhaps it is fear of the unknown.

Regardless of the reasons, nothing has likely changed between the time you made the decision to seek out a new opportunity and now.

So brace yourself, and anticipate a counter offer.

Consider these questions before having the counteroffer discussion with your employer upon your resignation:

  • Will the problem disappear after accepting a counteroffer from my current employer? Many job seekers who accept counter offers return within months to start their job search again, because counteroffers are a short-term solution to long-term underlying issues. What does this type of management approach say about the workplace culture and employment brand anyway?  If your employer is willing to adjust your salary when you “threaten” to resign, then your employer is knowingly underpaying you for your talent and efforts, an indication of non-appreciation of their employees.
  • If I accept this counteroffer, will I come to regret it?  Statistics show that if you accept a counteroffer, there is a very high chance you will be out of the job within six – twelve months.
  • Will I have a bulls-eye on my back?  Often, resignation is seen as “lack of loyalty”, and your current employer may now question if they can count on you, which will limit your future growth.  In a survey from Heidrick & Struggles of senior executives and HR leaders, 40% of them said that they thought someone who accepted a counteroffer would see their career negatively affected mainly because of that diminished trust with the immediate boss, with the organization; basically, people feel blackmailed.
  • When times get tough, will my employer begin the cutbacks with me?  Your employer will never see you in the same light again, and in the boss’ eyes, your resignation has demonstrated a lack of loyalty to the company.  When promotion time comes around, will my employer remember who was loyal and who wasn’t.
  • What kind of culture will exist going forward? Perhaps there were already cultural issues or concerns from your end.  You won’t be making it any easier by accepting a counteroffer.  You are certain to create colleague resentment and/or charges of favoritism if word of your acceptance of a counteroffer spreads around the office.
  • Where is my allegiance?  Do I really owe your company anything more than the effort you’ve put forth?  In corporate America currently, companies will not hesitate to cut their bottom line when it comes time for earnings, so you should ask yourself where your loyalty truly lies.

As professionals in the recruiting field who have seen this scenario play out hundreds of times, our simple advice is to be prepared to receive a counteroffer when you are ready to resign.  Aim to preempt any attempts by walking into your manager’s office and simply saying – “I appreciate everything you have done for me throughout my career here, but I feel now is the time to move onto the next chapter.  This is one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make.”

Do not burn bridges.  Do not go out with a flamethrower.  Walk out with a smile.  And then exhale.

Now go celebrate, you’ve earned this next chapter.

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