Navigating the Counteroffer
Imagine this. You go through rounds of challenging interviews and receive a fantastic offer from a new company in town. You couldn’t be more thrilled – until your boss offers you something even better when you break the news to him.
Oh no, a counteroffer. Your recruiter warned you this might happen. Told you 80% of those that accept counteroffers leave within the next year and 90% start up their job hunt within the next six months. As a smart job seeker, you know you should never, ever think about a counteroffer.
Yet, a counteroffer may be tempting to even the savviest of job seekers. “Career changes are tough enough as it is, and anxieties about leaving a comfortable job, friends and location and having to reprove yourself again in an unknown opportunity can cloud the best logic,” says Chris Benz of Bassman Growth Advisory Partners. “But just because the new position is a little scary doesn’t mean it’s not a positive move. Since counteroffers can create confusion and buyer’s remorse, you should understand what’s being cast upon you. No doubt about it: change can be scary.”
Even though a counteroffer may cloud your judgement, Deborah Vazquez, CEO of PROTECH, warns of their inherent dangers. “Employers who extend counteroffers typically do it by force because that employee may have skills others on the team don’t have,” says Vazquez. “But when offered and accepted, the relationship between employee and employer is negatively affected and trust will suffer.”
Although your recruiter or career coach may be right in advising you on the dangers of taking a counteroffer, taking a new job isn’t any guarantee of career satisfaction. Considering the fact that 30% of new hires quit within the first six months, you might realize that your past job was actually pretty awesome and it was a big mistake to leave.
Before you make the big leap of applying for new jobs, it’s important to make sure you want a new job or if work related issues might be resolved within your current company. If you could see yourself considering a counteroffer, ask yourself the following questions before you embark on a job search:
- What issues are causing me to be unsatisfied with my job?
- Could any of the issues be resolved via bringing this to the attention of my manager?
- If the issues could be resolved, what is stopping me from speaking to my manager about the issues before we even get to that point?
Counteroffer situations are messy and often don’t end well. We all have known friends or colleagues that have found themselves in these sticky situations because they didn’t even consider how their current company might be able to work with them on simple issues. When they receive an enticing counteroffer, they realize how easy their issues were to fix and suddenly the fear of the unknown (aka a new company) starts to set in and it’s nearly impossible to make a decision.
Instead, by having healthy conversations with your manager about issues that are making you think about starting a job hunt, you likely will be able to gain all the benefits of a happier career without the stress of job interviews, offers and counteroffers. Career expert Lisa Quast adds “Sometimes, what you gain by staying in a job can actually surpass what you would have learned by simply giving up and looking for new job. Instead of running away from a problem – you may actually gain more from working through the issues.”
Learning how to talk to your boss or manager about pay increases, a better work-life balance, or any other minor issue that a manager could remedy, is a valuable skill that with help you continue to climb the corporate ladder. Many people simply don’t know how to have these conversations and instead rely on job hopping, or taking a counteroffer, to get the pay or benefits increase they deserve. However, this is often not the best course of action to take in your career.
“If an employee is willing to leave without discussing issues that can be resolved, a forced counteroffer will mark that employee as someone that is not forthcoming and will question loyalty to the company,” says Deborah Vazquez, CEO of PROTECH.
What’s the best way to have a conversation with your manager about work-related issues?
“If you feel you’re underpaid, try fixing the issue before looking for another job. Pull together salary research along with a list of all your key projects and tasks and then sit down with your manager for a discussion,” says Lisa Quast. “If you want to learn new skills or improve weaknesses, talk with your manager to find out if there is budget available for you to attend training courses, seminars, or classes. If your lengthy commute to work is lowering your quality of life, negotiate with your boss so you can work from home a few days a week.”
What happens in the case of a manager unwilling or unable to help resolve issues you have? This means it’s time to start sending in applications and connect with your favorite recruiter. You’ll also have the peace of mind knowing that any counteroffer you receive is insincere, since your manager was unwilling to help solve the issues before another job offer came your way.