|Is it a mistake to accept a counteroffer?
Counteroffers: Road to Career Ruin?
A raise probably won't permanently cushion the thorns in your nest.
A counteroffer is simply an inducement from your current employer to
get you to stay after you've announced your intention to take another
job. We're not talking about those instances when you receive an offer
but don't tell your boss. Nor are we discussing offers that you never
intended to take, yet tell your employer about anyway as a
"they-want-me-but-I'm-staying-with-you" ploy. These are merely astute
positioning tactics you may choose to use to reinforce your worth by
letting your boss know you have other options. Mention of a true
counteroffer, however, carries an actual threat to quit. Interviews with
employers who make counteroffers, and employees who accept them, have
shown that as tempting as they may be, acceptance may cause career
suicide. There are a few isolated incidents in which an accepted
counteroffer has benefited the employee. Consider the problem in its
proper prospective. What really goes through a boss's mind when someone
- "This couldn't be happening at a worse time."
- "This is one of my best people. If I let him quit now, it'll wreak
havoc on the morale of the department."
- "I've already got one opening in my department. I don't need
another right now."
- "This will probably screw up the entire vacation schedule"
- "I'm working as hard as I can. I don't need to do his work, too."
- "If I lose another good employee, the company might decide to
"lose" me too."
- "My review is coming up and this will make me look bad"
- "Maybe I can keep him on until I find a suitable replacement."
What will the boss say to keep you in the nest? Some of these
comments are common:
- "I'm really shocked. I thought you were as happy with us as we are
with you. Let's discuss it before you decide on anything."
- "Aw gee I've been meaning to tell you about the great plans we
have for you, but it's been confidential until now."
- "Engineering has you in mind for some exciting and expanding
- "Your raise was scheduled to go into effect next quarter, but
we'll make it effective immediately."
- "You're going to work for who?"
Let's face it. When someone quits, it's a direct reflection on
the boss. Unless you're really incompetent or a thorn in his side, the
boss might look bad by "allowing" you to go. His gut reaction is to do
what has to be done to keep you from leaving until he's ready. That's
human nature. Unfortunately, it's also human nature to want to stay
unless your work is abject misery.
Career changes, like all ventures into the unknown, are tough. That's
why bosses know they can usually keep you by pushing the right buttons.
Any situation in which an employee is forced to get an outside offer
before the present employer will suggest a raise, promotion or better
working conditions, is suspect. No matter what the company says when
making its counteroffer, you will always be considered a fidelity risk.
Having once demonstrated your lack of loyalty (for whatever reason), you
will lose your status as a "team player" and your place in the inner
Counteroffers are usually nothing more than stall devices to give
your employer time to replace you. Your reasons for wanting to leave
still exist. Conditions are just made a bit more tolerable in the short
term because of the raise, promotion or promises made to keep you.
Counteroffers are only made in response to a threat to quit. Will you
have to solicit an offer and threaten to quit every time you deserve
better working conditions?
Decent and well-managed companies don't make counteroffers -- ever.
Their policies are fair and equitable. They will not be subjected to
"counteroffer coercion" or what they perceive as blackmail. If the urge
to accept a counteroffer hits you, keep on cleaning out your desk as you
count your blessings.