Career Management

One of the most common reasons given for non-acceptance of job offers in modern-day hiring and recruitment is undoubtedly the classic counter offer scenario. A counter offer is whereby a candidate is incentivized to stay with his or her present employer after he or she has announced their intention to take a job with another company.

This usually takes the shape of one or a combination of the following actions:

  1. A significant salary increment.
  2. Greater flexibility on package, working hours or associated “hygiene” factors.
  3. The promise of greater levels of responsibility, autonomy, status or seniority.
  4. Emotional blackmail (“I thought we were friends” , “How could you do this in the middle of our busiest quarter?” , “I thought you were better than that” etc)

The candidate’s dilemma:

Tempting as they may initially seem, acceptance of counter offers usually amounts to little short of career suicide. If this initially sounds a little dramatic then here are several key factors to consider if a counter offer has thrown an unexpected but nonetheless tasty spanner in the works of your career move:

  • Why are you worth £4,000 more today than you were yesterday?
  • Why do you have to threaten to quit for this to happen?
  • What sort of company does this make them?
  • Where is this money COMING from anyway?
  • Is your being “bought” at the eleventh hour not something of an insult to your intelligence and integrity?
  • Will your loyalty to the company and to your colleagues ever be truly seen in the same light again?

And most importantly of all…

  • What was the original reason that led to your seeking an employment move? Is it this or your pride that the counter offer is addressing?

Getting back to our original question then…

What does a counter offer REALLY represent?

To get to the bottom of this question, it is best to consider not what the counter offer represents to the employee but, more importantly, what the counter offer represents to the employer. Nine times out of ten the answers all invariably converge upon one central theme: damage limitation (and little besides).

While there is clearly never a good time to learn that a competent employee is looking to move on, most employers will be well aware that the counter offer is no permanent fix but more an exercise in buying time while a replacement is found. Ideally a replacement that will not “try it on again for another few grand next year”.

More alarmingly still, statistics show that between 80% and 90% of people who have accepted counter offers resign within 6 months anyway or are terminated between 6 and 12 months!

Stick to your guns:

Ultimately, this whole equation comes down to the fundamental difference between the two key drivers of dissatisfaction and demotivation:

  • Counter offers usually address dissatisfaction.
  • However, it is usually demotivation that leads us to seek career moves in the first place.

This glaring mismatch brings us back to what is really the ONLY question to ask oneself when presented with a counter offer:

What was the original reason for seeking a move?

If you do accept a counter offer you will, almost without exception, find that this original reason for leaving will still be there. It might be slightly more tolerable in the short term, but it will still be there, and it will still be there in three months as it will still be there in six months, nine months, a year or even longer.

You too, employers!

None of this is news to the best companies out there of course. Winning businesses will know full well what counter offers really represent and, as such, good companies will NEVER counter offer. EVER.

Instead, they are managed fairly and correctly to begin with, recognizing individuals’ strengths, motivations and aspirations and implementing robust recruitment policies (based as much upon values as skills) to foster engagement, trust and a sense of unity in common purpose.

They will NOT allow themselves to be coerced or blackmailed.

Nor should you.

Author: Craig Leach is Business Manager at Poole Resourcing. You can contact him on LinkedIn.


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