The Counter Offer

Counter Offer Tip from Interface

Imagine, you’ve just accepted a fantastic new role and handed in your notice. You are probably still feeling a little apprehensive that you are making the right decision and suddenly you get the meeting request in which your current employer is going to challenge your decision. This is a tricky one. You want to leave on good terms but at the same time don’t want the hassle of having to go through a difficult conversation. Here are a couple of pointers when facing this situation and some tips to help you survive the process.

Firstly you have to understand that you have already made a partly emotional decision when deciding to leave, whereas for your employer the decision will be made on a more strategic and most of the time financial basis. This is not to do a disservice to all businesses. I’m sure some of them have the best intentions regarding developing their staff, creating individual career plans and ultimately providing the best platform for progression but when the ‘chips are down’ the business needs to look after itself. Your line manager will know your decision is partly emotional and so will play on this. The psychology behind this is that if you start feeling more wanted than you did previously or more guilty about leaving then your counter offer expectations will lower. You have just experienced the first stage of the counter offer by this time you will be feeling more guilty, more loved and listened to than you have probably ever done so.

The second stage of the process typically revolves around fear. You will be asked what you are going onto to do and at which company. Knowing that it is likely you will be reaching for higher goals and challenging yourself in your next position the company will try to gain as much information as they can to give them ammunition to build fear around your decision. This is typically done in a very subtle way but with the ultimate goal of finding anything that will make you worry about either the organisation you are looking to join or your ability to step up. Again this is not intended as a tool to turn your decision on its head but to soften up your potential demands to stay.

The third stage involves investigating what makes you tick…what is the ultimate criteria you made your decision on. If the company are really clever this is what they will use as the basis of their counter offer.

The fourth stage is total silence mixed with a little more of stage one where you will be indulged with a huge amount of nicety from everyone you engage with at the business and some that you haven’t previously.

The fifth stage is the actual offer. It is likely that the offer will be made alongside some backup document suggesting this was always going to be happening; it’s just the timing of your resignation has brought that date forward. So the salary increase was going to happen at the end of the fiscal year anyway, or the promotion was already in the succession plans for next month (they just couldn’t tell you for political reasons) or the head of training has already earmarked a pot of money for further qualifications etc. This is all aimed at making you feel your decision was hasty and unnecessary. At this point they will ask you for a quick decision as the company will need to offer this to someone else if you do not accept.

It’s important not to forget a number of things:

Why you made the decision to look externally in the first place.

Why you took the decision to accept the new employers offer.

Why this counter offer is being delivered reactively rather than proactively.

A financial increase in your salary is a lower cost to the business than your overall replacement cost…you are the cheaper option (When taking into account recruitment fees, loss of expertise, up skilling time and on boarding time)

A financial increase now will likely stunt further increases in the future.

A financial increase might make you unattractive to the outside market if you are to look again…are you now overpriced and under skilled?

The counter offer promise is just that, a promise…and promises can be easily broken…of all the candidates we see accept a counter offer 70-80% are career searching again within 6 months.

The company may not be addressing your real issues as they don’t have the ability to do so…more money is the only thing they can give you which is not very long term in approach.

The company will now see you as disloyal and beyond this point ensure they have your role covered should you still leave.

Opportunities for further growth / promotion / salary increase / skills development could be stunted due to your apparent disloyalty.

Here are a couple of things you can do to help get through the difficult counter offer period.

1. Make sure you have discussed your concerns, needs, desires with your line manager before looking to the outside market. They then cannot plead ignorance when your notice goes in.

2. Write down the salient points before handing in your notice. Deliver them to your line manager in an honest but professional way.

3. Make sure that HR are aware you have handed in your notice to ensure there are no delays.

4. Tell your line manager that you do not want a counter offer as it would not change your perspective.

5. Keep in contact with your new employer throughout your notice period…you will constantly be reminded the decision to leave is a good one.

6. Offer assistance to backfill the role you will be vacating.

7. Offer assistance to train current employees into the role you are vacating.

8. Negotiate your notice period down. You can do this with untaken holiday leave or just simply by asking to leave early. You can also offer to leave early but unpaid if you are very keen to go.

9. Do not let things become acrimonious but feel free to change your profile on social media sites such as LinkedIn etc giving the company the impression you have already committed to the change.

The most important thing to remember is that a company will always look after itself and so as individuals we have to look after our own best interests and in doing so we are ultimately doing the best thing for the company. It is not fair to a business to stay when in reality you have already shown your commitment is elsewhere.