Counter Offers

Thomas Lang

Retail Hardware Executive Search Manager

Should you accept that counter offer?

There’s no feeling quite like it. You’ve just put down the phone, and you’ve heard those magic words… “Congratulations, when can you start?” Time to finally hand your notice in. You’ve been imagining this scenario for a little while, anticipating your managers reaction, carefully planning your words. But then, what’s this?! “They’d like me to stay?” You thought they might… but you weren’t expecting them to try quite so hard. A nice little raise and talk of change to come. Maybe the hours weren’t THAT bad, and the expectations not THAT unreasonable…

Maybe you could make it work after all? Maybe not.

When the job market skews in favour of the candidate, we start to see a stark rise in counter offers. As an Executive Search manager it’s something I’ve come across more than a few times. Companies are keen to keep top-talent on their side, especially when resignations start to outnumber applications for open roles. For candidates, a counter offer can open the door to conflicting feelings.

In recruitment business, we’re no strangers to candidates coming face-to-face with this inner turmoil once they’ve handed their notice in. Change can be scary, right? And it can be all too tempting to stay with the devil you know, rather than take a step into the great unknown. But in my experience, accepting a counter offer rarely results in happily ever after. Here is some of the advice I revisit time and time again as I manage candidates through their offer and resignation process:

Consider your real motivations.

Usually, when you start looking for a new job, it’s not just about the money. Yes, a new role will often come with a nice pay-rise, but money shouldn’t be the only factor driving your decision. If you’ve landed a job offer, I’m willing to bet you’ve got a list of reasons outside of compensation for looking elsewhere or having had your head turned in the first place

Gillespie Manners Blog
Consider all of those reasons carefully – if you’ve experienced a lack of progression, a toxic culture or bureaucratic frustrations up until now, it’s not likely that they’ll disappear overnight if you decide to stay. Yes, more money could make those pain-points more tolerable for a short time, but it won’t quell your dissatisfaction forever.

Follow the money-trail.

If you’ve been offered a significant pay rise as part of your counter offer, you might want to ask yourself where that money has come from. This is especially relevant if you’ve been denied raises in the past, or experienced dissatisfaction with your compensation package. Many companies follow fixed protocols when it comes to raises, and it could be that this offer eats a chunk out of your next planned compensation review, or even causes you to miss a review cycle entirely. What’s more, if they had the money to give you a raise all along, why did it take your resignation to get it? In offering a raise, your incumbent employer is acknowledging that you’ve been under-compensated so far.

Consider all of those reasons carefully – if you’ve experienced a lack of progression, a toxic culture or bureaucratic frustrations up until now, it’s not likely that they’ll disappear overnight if you decide to stay. Yes, more money could make those pain-points more tolerable for a short time, but it won’t quell your dissatisfaction forever.

Cards on the table

Your secret is out – you’ve not been completely happy, and now it’s in the open. It’s great to have an honest dialogue with your employer, but having your grievances made public in this way could open the door for uncomfortable moments down the line. Your employer now knows that you’ve considered leaving, and you never know if or how it’ll effect your relationship with them. Make sure you’re comfortable with the potential dynamic shift that accepting a counter offer could create.  

Play the long game

Statistics compiled by the National Employment Association confirm the fact that over 80% of candidates who elect to accept a counter offer are not with their company six months later. Yes, accepting a counter offer might buy you some time. A few extra months in a comfortable environment. But those underlying frustrations will simmer away in the meantime. Eventually, you’ll be back where you started, scouring the job-boards or changing your profile settings to ‘Open to opportunities’. Wouldn’t those six months be better spent establishing yourself and making progress in your new role?

Ultimately, the decision will come down to you. In Executive Search, we aren’t in the business of pushing people towards decisions they don’t feel 100% comfortable with. It’s in our best interest that you’re thriving in your role, whether that’s old or new. What matters most is that the right people are in the right roles. Of course, for some people the decision to accept a counter offer will work out. In my experience though, the vast majority of candidates who accept counter offers will be back through the door sooner or later. What’s important is that you carefully consider all of the above questions and possibilities.

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