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In a flagging economy it seems there are 50 applicants for every one job. Because of this, it can be tempting to stay where you are even if you’re no longer happy in your current position. Many jobseekers secretly search for the perfect replacement job, sneaking off to interviews on their lunch break and running off copies of their resumes on the company printer.
When they finally get the job offer they’ve been waiting for, they put in their two-week notice and get ready to move on with their lives. Things get complicated when the boss hits them with a counter offer.
A counter offer is an enticement to stay in your current position. Now that you’ve given notice, your employer may suddenly realize how much of an asset you are to the company. Not wanting to lose you, he’ll likely offer a raise, promotion, better benefits or a combination of all three. Suddenly, you’re stuck in an uncomfortable position. What he’s offering may now be more than what the next corporation has on the table.
What do you do? Do you accept the counter offer and go back to your desk? Or do you politely decline and move on to your next opportunity? The decision to accept a counter offer may be as simple as understanding its pros and cons.
If you’re happy in your current position; in other words, you job is fulfilling and you enjoy your coworkers but you absolutely need more money, accepting a counter offer might work for you. You’ll get to stay in the company you’re comfortable and familiar with while getting paid a fair-market value for your services. This is one of the most common reasons employees accept a counter offer and decide to stay with their current company.
You may also find that your employer was wholly unaware of how undervalued you felt and he may offer more than just an incentive but a heartfelt pronouncement of his appreciation for you. For a large majority of workers, money isn’t the only object. Whether you admit it or not, you want just as much to feel valued and appreciated for the work you do.
For the management side of things, an employee accepting a counter offer can be good business. The company is able to retain the employee they know can get the job done. There is no need to train a new recruit to get him or her up to speed in the company. The employee they have knows their position and what is expected of them. This is why many companies are willing to pay a little extra to avoid future losses.
Unfortunately, when it comes to accepting a counter offer, there are more cons than pros. When an employee is unhappy in their current position and doesn’t feel they’re being treated fairly, accepting a counter offer will do nothing to change the situation. They’re just being paid more to stay in a company where they feel undervalued and unappreciated.
Also, and this is a big one, telling your employer you’ve accepted a new position and then accepting her counter offer may tell her you’re only interested in financial gain. She may question your loyalty and always be waiting for the other shoe to drop if another, better offer, comes your way in the future.
Marcia LaReau, Ph.D. of Forward Motion Careers.com puts it this way: “The home-company has reason to doubt the loyalty of the employee, which will be reflected in future advancement decisions. Long-term advancement for the employee diminishes because trust has been broken.”
You may be making a slightly larger paycheck but the dynamic of your work environment could change drastically. Nothing is sacred in an office environment and no matter how hard you try to keep the fact you received another job offer just between you and management, the information is going to leak. Not only will your employer have difficulty trusting you, but it may cause rifts in your relations with your coworkers as well.
Plus, if you’re planning to move on with a direct competitor of your current company, your home company may grudgingly put a counter offer on the table because they’re worried you’ll leak valuable insider information. This is never a good reason for your employer to ask you to stay. It breeds suspicion and resentment.
Fred R. Cooper, Managing Partner of Compass HR Consulting.com explains one of the biggest mistakes an employee can make when accepting a counter offer: “Not having realistic expectations on what can and can’t be done in relation to the promises made…this goes for the changes and the time frames for the changes put forth by the company. What are the remedies if some of the counter-offer details are not delivered either on time, as promised or at all once you’ve decided to stay? You’ve probably cut off any chance to have the now-rejected other company give you serious consideration even if the position is still open.”
When trying to decide between two companies, it can feel as though you’re flailing around at sea between two boats, not sure which one to grab. Reach for the wrong one and you may find it’s sinking while the other is now too far away to save you. Nobody wants to feel that level of panic.
Another common mistake employees make is giving notice with the expectation of receiving a counter offer. Maybe the new company interested in you isn’t actually offering more money or a more rewarding position but you’re using their offer as a way to get more out of your current employer. Asking for or expecting a counter offer can really blow up in your face. Especially when your current boss shakes your hand and says, “It’s been nice working with you. Good luck in your future endeavors.” Now you have no choice but to move on the other company…whether the offer is better or not.
Author, financial advisor, and business consultant, Mitchell D. Weiss offers some blunt advice to employers who are thinking of enticing an employee to stay: “As painful as it may be, let the employee leave. Depending on how professional the departure is handled and provided, [and if] there’s a longer-term interest in the departing employee, there may be an opportunity for a round-trip at a later date.”
Whether or not you decide to accept a counter offer may depend on want versus need. Grab a piece of paper and a pen and write your own list of pros and cons of staying and leaving your current job. Find out what’s really motivating you to want to look elsewhere. Is it that you really need the pay raise but you’d like to stay in your current position or is it a feeling of being undervalued as an employee?
Weighing your options before taking the plunge can mean the difference between sinking or swimming when you’re finally ready to move on.