So you're moving on. The ink on the contract is dry, you have a confirmed start date, bitten the bullet and handed in your resignation. It is an exciting time and after all your hard work you probably feel quite relieved. Then all of a sudden from out of the blue your boss comes up with a counter-offer: so what do you do now?
A counter-offer can be tempting and is almost always flattering. The company values you so much; they can't bear to see you leave? Your managers are recognising your significant contribution and will pay you more than you thought was possible? A counter offer usually requires some careful consideration; especially since it is not as rosy as you might first think.
What does a counter offer look like?
A counter offer happens when you have accepted another employment offer and your current employer comes back with new terms in order to entice you to stay with your current company. It is not an uncommon scenario and you should be prepared to address this possibility before it happens. Essentially, there are two types of counter offers that you might encounter: financial and emotional.
Financial: When you advise you have accepted a new job and are handing in your notice, your employer presents you an offer to increase your current salary. Sometimes, if they know your new remuneration terms, their offer might match or beat this level; otherwise it could be a ballpark guess at what salary might retain you.
Emotional: This is a tough one as it often relies upon your sense of loyalty and can really tug at your heartstrings. This occurs, not in the form of a formal offer, but in a reiteration of your value and sometimes suggestions or promises of better things to come. Your employer might ask you to stay, with a reminder that things are going to improve at work, a renewed promise to find new resources, an agreement to promote you as soon as possible or even an appeal to your sense of loyalty by asking you to stay with the team until a project is delivered.
There is no doubt that either a financial or emotional offer is likely to get you thinking. Is it possible to achieve your career goals and salary expectations while staying put? Why would you leave if you can just stay here where you know everyone? How can you possibly walk away from your team at such a crucial time? STOP! Don't even venture down that path without first considering that there are some serious issues relating to counter-offers:
Financial benefit: When your boss came to you with that new salary offer, it wasn't just because you are fabulous; it's also because it's financially better for the company to keep you onboard by sweetening the deal for you. The cost and effort in recruiting and training a new employee is substantial and could well outweigh the cost of offering you a pay rise to stay. Consider; if your company has now recognised that you should be paid more for your work, where was this appreciation in your last promotion or performance review? Bear in mind, your new employers have recognised your value from the outset and agreed to an offer that reflects this. They also recognise you are fabulous and it's not a cost saving afterthought. If your current company really wanted you to stay, why didn't they take preventative action before you were motivated to look elsewhere? And, really, is this just your next raise coming early?
Loyalty Factors: It's always great to be wanted and needed, but believe it or not you are replaceable. If your current employers truly can't replace you, why did you have to wait until you resigned to discover this? The problem is, if you decide to stay, you have now permanently blotted your trust record and demonstrated a perceived lack of loyalty to the company by resigning in the first place. This can jeopardise your situation, not only with management, but also with your immediate colleagues. How will they feel when they realise you already have one foot out the door? In reality this decision is all about you, not the project, nor your team or your manager. Remind yourself of the reasons why you began to look for a new role in the first place; has this really changed?
The truth about counter offers - they don't work!
It is very rare that a counter offer is successful in the long term. It is probable that even after accepting an appealing offer, you will be gone within 6 -12 months. Either, your initial reasons for leaving will resurface and you will resign or you will be terminated by the company that convinced you not to leave.
Do keep your end goal in sight. Remind yourself why you wanted to leave in the first place. Write down your reasons and read over them when you feel pressured or uncertain.
Don't buy into the emotion. This is a business decision, a career decision and a new journey for you. Don't let guilt, blame or persuasion divert your decision. Stay professional and in control of the situation.
Do resign professionally and clearly in writing. Handling your resignation with confidence and leaving no room for doubt will help you avoid conflict.