The Counteroffer Catch

  • Posted by: Chaloner

When you are presented with a counteroffer, how do you weigh the options at hand? What else is at stake beyond the dollar comparison? Here are some questions to ask yourself before running right back to the same desk you were sitting in when you first thought about making a change.

What are the circumstances in which this offer is being made?
Recognize that a counteroffer is typically a product of panic. Your boss can’t imagine getting through this project or conference or season without you (or without someone doing your job). It feels flattering but in some instances a counter offer is nothing more than a way to buy more time before you can be replaced.

Why did I want to leave in the first place?
It’s possible that money was your primary reason for seeking other opportunities, but remind yourself what else prompted your search. Were there difficult personalities or unrealistic expectations? Were you seeking more flexibility or an organization you felt more mission-aligned with? Were you limited to a set of responsibilities that kept you from contributing in the way you wanted to? Those things probably won’t change with a counteroffer. However, if it was a matter of benefits, vacation time and a higher salary, perhaps a better offer from your place of current employment will satisfy your concerns.

Did I attempt to resolve those issues before giving my notice?
Tina Nicolai, an executive career coach and resume writer, says “If you have tried to resolve issues in the workplace; whether it’s more money, a new title, a better work schedule, or time off, and the situation was not resolved prior to putting in your two weeks’ notice, then the proposed counteroffer is being offered to benefit the employer. If the employer were sincere, the proposed offer would have been made when you originally approached your boss with your concerns.”

If I choose not to make a change, am I prepared for things to change?
If you remain at your current company, your relationship to your employer and your colleagues will feel different. Things may be uncomfortable for a while and you may no longer be in the inner circle. You will also lose a bit of job security- given that you’ve already ‘outted’ yourself as someone looking to make a move, you may be near the top of their list if it comes time to make cutbacks. Statistics from the National Employment Association show that 80 percent of people who accept counteroffers either leave or are let go within six months.

What about a competing offer?
If you are weighing two competing offers (neither from your current place of employment), remember to be honest with both parties throughout the hiring process. You do not need to divulge where else you are interviewing, but they should be aware that you are interviewing elsewhere.

If you are a hiring manager or a recruiter, how do you prepare yourself for the possibility of a counteroffer? As interest grows in the candidate, find an appropriate time to ask them how they will deal with a counteroffer should their current company make one. Many candidates will not have even considered this possibility.  Be sure you have learned the real reason they are looking to leave, which may not be the first reason they give. Then if a counteroffer is made, you can remind the candidate of their initial motivation and prompt them to consider which package and position will truly address those issues.

As with most things, you want to burn the fewest bridges possible. Accepting a counteroffer may actually burn two, though there are exceptions in which that is not the case. Whatever you do, don’t play games. Stay honest with both parties, and with yourself too.