Encountering the Counter-Offer
Once in a while, when a job seeker submits their resignation and offers a two-week's notice, they get a surprise in return: a counter-offer. Quite frequently this includes a match on salary with the new company and sometimes an increase in responsibility. In this situation, many things can go wrong for all involved.
The Candidate Perspective
I recently had a friend go through this experience and he was perplexed as to which path to take. He was the one to instigate a job search process, so I was a little surprised there was even a decision to be made. After all, once you start a job search, it's likely you have already decided, for whatever reason(s), that it is time to go. The counter-offer covered both money and responsibility. Even long-term growth potential. My friend had a long list of concerns, but in the end, I asked a simple question: "When you drive to work each day, what is it you want to do when you get there?"
In other words, no two jobs or companies are exactly the same. When the current company offers you reasons to stay, you need to remind yourself why you wanted to leave. Will those issues be addressed? Even if there are promises to address them, will they be able to live up to their intentions? Does past performance indicate they are true to their word? Without an employment contract, their word is all you have.
Just remember, money and title are nice. But 40-70 hours of work per week is a long time to spend doing something (or being somewhere) you don't enjoy. Most people want to accomplish something professionally. Be sure to consider which opportunity truly offers this chance?
The Current Employer Perspective
No one likes to lose good employees. Especially if we have groomed them, trained them, and depended on them for a long time. However, when an employee makes the hard decision to leave, you must accept you missed the boat somewhere and didn't address the issues along the way. Trying to band-aid the situation by keeping them on board will likely prove to be temporary. The joy of a raise and new title is short-lived in the working world. Six months later, they will realize they still want to move on.
Sometimes the boss offers a counter just to protect their own reputation. Are you the first to leave the group in a while, or part of a series of folks leaving? Is the timing really bad for the company? You need to assess why the offer is being presented. Is it simply because you are too good to lose? And if so, why did it take a resignation to prompt this kind of action?
If you accept the counter, you should realize that some companies will start a search for a replacement anticipating your future departure. This is a disastrous situation as you may be potentially fired (or overlooked for future promotions). Instead of people moving on and new people moving in allowing for growth for all involved, the situation turns stagnant, and sometimes unfriendly.
The New Employer Perspective
No company has time to waste in a job search. They do not like interviewing candidates who turn out to be just "kicking the tires" and "seeing what's out there." They want to meet candidates who are ready to join their team, not consider it.
When a candidate rejects an offer to stay where they are, the relationship between the two is strained or severed. In essence, the company feels the candidate was not honest during the process.This impression is all they remember (and likely marked in their records/database).
If you are only curious about opportunities at a company, take one of their current (or past) employees out to lunch so you can get a true perspective of what it's like to work there.
When considering whether you want to leave, make a sound decision. Ask yourself right at the start, "If my company countered an equal offer, would I consider it? And why?" You may just need to have a heart-to-heart with your boss and ask how you can improve your current situation through increased responsibility or redirection of your role. If you do decide to leave, don't look back unless you're absolutely certain your old job will become better than the new job.
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