Feb 02, 2016

Trading Loyalty – 5 reasons not to accept a Counter-Offer (part I)

Author: Oana Bucurica

Every now and again, a candidate happens to suddenly back out of a job opportunity, seemingly without any reason. I know my offer is top-of-the-market: big & interesting project, benefits, basically no reason to turn it down now that we’ve come so far and we’re literally setting the date for signing the contract. These candidates seem excited about the job, they have the right skills and profile, we like them, they like us, and then suddenly, they change their mind at the last minute – after all phases of the interview have gone great, when we already have an agreement, just before we’re good to go.

I’m an open sort of interviewer and I’m really passionate about my work, so I just had to ask these candidates what happen and to get ‘some closure’. Was it something about us they’ve misunderstood or felt didn’t match their views?

Turns out they were accepting counter-offers from their current employers – going back to the same job that got them wanting to leave in the first place. To me as a recruiter, however, their decision feels risky, at best – which is obviously frustrating, since I know neither me nor the candidate turning me down are getting what we want. Are we looking at this too far out of context and neglecting to see the downsides of accepting counter-offers?

The reason why you’re tempted to accept the counter-offer is obvious: you’d be getting higher financial satisfaction, and maybe some extra benefits thrown in, without all the complications that come with ‘resettling’. I see no reason to elaborate on that: the advantage is in plain view, the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Instead, I’ve made a list of 5 reasons not to accept a counter-offer, for you to consider before moving on with either decision.

1. A counter-offer is not an award showing appreciation

I’m just going to dive right into this topic and address what is probably the most common myth: many people view counter offers like their employer’s way of saying ‘You’re too valuable an asset for our company to let you go, I’m willing to pay extra so you’d stay.’. More often than not, however, what the counter-offer indicates is someone not wanting to deal with the consequences of finding a replacement for you right away, under the pressure of time.

If they do recognize your value, why weren’t you seeing that before, when you started looking for a better offer in the first place? And even if it is a case of realizing someone’s value only as they threaten to walk through the door, is it really the kind of relationship you want to have with your employer? Should loyalty be bought, or should you find an employer who sees your value right from the start?

2. A counter-offer is a sign on your forehead that reads ‘Loyalty for sale’

The sign is discreet, but everyone at the workplace can see it. That new guy. That lady in Accounting, who once brought home-made cookies to work. That co-worker who’s been looking for a chance to pick a fight ever since you came. The entire HR department. That project manager you look up to. Everyone. This kind of news will do what news does in a corporation: travel. It’s not like accepting a counter-offer is shameful or illegal. It doesn’t amount to being caught robbing the place and doesn’t even compare to the looks that guy who hasn’t watched the Star Wars saga gets. But it does mean that everyone will be inclined to assume you go for the highest bidder. The dynamic of your relationship with the company in general, and with your manager in particular, will have changed for good.

So how long do people who accept counter-offers remain hired? Join me for the next issue of this story if you want to find out, as I have a little statistic data to spice-up my next 3 reasons for not accepting a counter-offer.

In the meantime, please share your thoughts with me: have you accepted a counter-offer from an employer you were planning to leave? What made you want to leave them? Was it just the financial aspects that changed your mind? How did it work out, and how long did you end-up staying? Until next time, I look forward to your own stories.

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