Counteroffer Acceptance Road to Career Ruin
A raise won't permanently cushion thorns in the nest
Matthew 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.
The litany of horror stories I have come across in my years as an executive recruiter, consultant and publisher, provides a litmus test that clearly indicates counteroffers should never be accepted... EVER!
I define a counteroffer simply as an enticement from your current employer to get you to stay after you've announced your intention to take another job. We're not talking about those instances when you receive an offer but don't tell your boss. Nor are we discussing offers that you never intended to take, yet tell your employer about anyway as a 'they-want-me-but-I'm-staying-with-you" ploy.
These are merely astute positioning tactics you may choose to use to 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 as tempting as they may be, acceptance may cause career suicide. During the past 20 years, I have seen only isolated incidents in which an accepted counteroffer has benefited the employee. 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? Some of these comments are common.
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 by "allowing" you to go. 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 changes, 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:
If the urge to accept a counteroffer hits you, keep on cleaning out your desk as you count your blessings.
Mr. Hawkinson is publisher of the Fordyce Letter, a monthly Missouri-based newsletter for the personnel, executive search and employment counselling fields. He was formerly an executive recruiter and consultant.
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