CAREER SUICIDE

This is an old article, but it still applies today, as much as it always has.

Never Accept a Counteroffer

It’s nice to be wooed back, but don’t expect to stay long

By Paul Hawkinson, National Business Employment Weekly

A tax accountant with a Chicago based public accounting firm accepted a top corporate position at a local manufacturer that paid $15,000 more than he currently earned. But the accountant changed his mind after his firm’s senior partner made him a counteroffer. The partner dangled a plethora of incentives, including the promise of a partnership in the near future. Three months later, after the tax season ended, the accountant was fired.

A manufacturing manager with a medium sized metal products company in Albuquerque, NM, accepted a new position that included a higher salary and better benefits. But he decided to stay put after his company agreed to match the offer and told him of great things on the horizon. However, he wasn’t told that the firm might be merging with another. Six months after the executive decided to stay, he was merged out of his job. Following nine months of unemployment, he landed a lower paying position.

Ask any executive recruiter and you’ll hear dozens of heartbreaking stories like these involving counteroffers. Unfortunately, more executives seem to be getting and accepting them because of the inconsistent economy. Companies are operating with reduced staffs and any defections from the ranks create problems for those who remain. It’s much easier for employers to sweeten the pot to keep executives from deserting than to conduct grueling and expensive searches for replacements.

Mathew Henry, the 17th century writer, said "Many a dangerous temptation comes to us in fine gay colours that are but skin deep." The same can be said for counteroffers, those magnetic enticements designed to lure you back into the nest after you’ve decided it’s time to fly away. But in good times or bad, the dictum remains constant. Counteroffers should never be accepted…EVER! Those few rare instances where accepting one is beneficial occur about as frequently as being struck by lightning.

The Right Perspective

A counteroffer is an inducement from your current employer to get you to stay after you’ve announced your intention to take another job. It doesn’t include instances when you receive an offer but don’t tell your boss, or when you tell your employer about an offer you never intended to take in a classic "they want me but I’m staying with you" ploy.

These are merely positioning tactics that can reinforce your worth by letting your boss know you have other options. Mention of a true counteroffer, however, carries an actual threat to quit. Interviews with employers who make counteroffers, and employees who accept them, have shown that accepting a counteroffer - tempting as it may be - is tantamount to career suicide. Consider the problem in its proper perspective.

What really goes through a boss’s mind when someone quits?

What will the boss say to keep you in the nest?

"You’re going to work for who?"


Just a Stall Tactic

Let’s face it. When someone quits, it’s a direct reflection on the boss. Unless you’re really incompetent or a destructive thorn in his side, the boss might look bad for allowing you to go. It’s an implied insult to his management skills. His gut reaction is to do what has to be done to keep you from leaving until he’s ready. That’s human nature.

Unfortunately, it’s also human nature to want to stay - unless your work life is abject misery. Career change, like all ventures into the unknown, is tough. That’s why bosses know they can usually keep you around by pressing the right buttons. Before you succumb to a tempting counteroffer, consider these universal truths.

Any situation is suspect if an employee must receive an outside offer before the present employer will suggest a raise, promotion or better working conditions.

No matter what the company says when making its counteroffer, you’ll always be a fidelity risk. Having once demonstrated your lack of loyalty, (for whatever reason), you will lose your status as a team player and your place in the inner circle.

Counteroffers are usually nothing more than stall devices to give your employer time to replace you. Your reasons for wanting to leave still exist. They’ll just be slightly more tolerable in the short term because of the raise, promotion or promises made to keep you.

Counteroffers are only made in response to a threat to quit. Will you have to solicit an offer and threaten to quit every time you deserve better working conditions."

EXCEPTION. Certain Designations/Certifications should be at the top, right behind your name, such as CPA (Certified Public Accountant), FNP (Family Nurse Practitioner), MBA (Masters of Business Administration) or other career specific designations.

By accepting a counteroffer, you have committed the unprofessional and unethical sin of breaking your commitment to the prospective employer making the offer.

Decent and well managed companies don’t make counteroffers….EVER! Their policies are fair and equitable. They will never be subjected to counteroffer coercion, which they perceive as blackmail.

If the urge to accept a counteroffer hits you, keep on cleaning out your desk as you count your blessings. And, if you decide to stay, hire a lawyer to put your newly won promises in the form of a long term no cut contract.

Mr. Hawkinson is publisher of The Fordyce Letter, a St. Louis based monthly newsletter for placement specialists. He is a former executive recruiter, personnel manager, and consultant.