"9 out of 10 people agree that accepting a counteroffer is a terrible idea" - Ken Brown
Can we just start this article out and all agree the title of this article is true? Anyone who has a decade or more of career experience just comes to know this statement as a universal business truth. Accepting a counter offer is a terrible idea. Let me say that again. Accepting a counter offer is a terrible idea. Okay, let's start at the beginning. It all started a few months ago. You felt neglected. Mistreated. Or at the very least overlooked or under-appreciated. You didn't get the promised review or the boss forgot to give you a raise. You set out to make things right. You ask your boss to resolve the matter. Crickets.
At some point you determined your situation was unresolvable and you decided to venture out and begin interviewing. You interviewed. And you did it. You got the job! More money. A better company. A new position. Better clients. Now the dreaded moment. You have to tell your boss of many years that you're leaving. It's stressful and not fun. At all. But it's over quick. Sometimes the boss wishes you well. These are the smart bosses. They only want the people who want them. It's a healthy point of view, trust me. As Simon Sinek so famously said, clients will never love a company until its people do. If people quit and then are pressured into staying for money and/or title, I can assure you the employee doesn't love the employer and thus neither do the customers.
The unloved company is doomed for mediocracy at best and at worst, complete failure. Sometimes bosses offer you more cash, a better job title, or both to stay. These are the elephants. I'll explain later. They are trying to save face to their boss. Save a project. Maybe even save their job. Maybe a few others recently left and they know it will reflect badly if multiple people leave. Sometimes they are just trying to create a band-aid situation until they can find a more permanent solution like fire you and bring in a cheaper guy. Wink, wink. Don't believe me? I've seen it happen. Heck, they could have been planning to fire you in a few weeks.
Now they feel good about it and will literally keep you for their needs for the next 4 weeks and make you miss your new job. I've seen it happen. It's terrible what some employers will do to employees. Whatever the motivation, bosses have their best interests in mind when making a counter offer, not yours. The funny thing about "counter offer bosses" is that they never forget. That's why I call them elephants. They never forget and that doesn't bode well for you. The second you resign the trust is broken. It can never be restored. Broken trust makes people act crazy.
The fallout of the decision to stay after trust is broken can play out in many ways. Does the company and the manager have a bruised ego? Of course they do. They most likely say things to themselves like after all I have done for them they are going to leave me for a couple more bucks? The more maniacal bosses will even think to themselves I'll show this guy, I will have the last laugh. Managers often times take a resignation very personally to their leadership abilities. It's akin to being dumped. To then turn around and expect the boss not to have a bruised ego is very naive. To expect the boss to love you and promote you and that everything will be perfect in the future is downright stupid. I hate to be so brash but it's true. It's dumb to think a couple more bucks and a word on a business card is going to make it alright.
Let's go through a couple scenarios and I'll try to demonstrate some of the pitfalls of counteroffers. First scenario. Let's say a few months later the economy turns for the worse or the company loses a major client. Who do they let go? The person who tried to leave already, because it's a clear choice, right? Of course it is. Different scenario. Let's say a few months later the economy turns for the better or the company gains a major client? Who do they promote? They promote the most loyal person in the room. The person they trust. They don't promote the person who tried to quit last year.
Why? They might try to quit again. Leave us in the lurch. Once trust is broken it can never be put back into place. You will be passed over time and again. What about the simpler day-to-day mechanics of work? Let's say it is six months later. Your work conditions have not improved. Maybe it's the holidays. You eat a bad piece of chicken for dinner the night before. You wake up. You're dying, throwing up, and turning green. You need to rest and drink lots of fluids right? You call work last minute and miss work for an entire day. Guess what your company assumes? That you've been interviewing and you are on your way out the door again. That missed day alone might be enough of a catalyst for them to start searching for your replacement. Don't believe me? I've seen it happen. The manager fears they will be left in the lurch.
Why? Because trust is broken. My question to those of you who do accept counteroffers is simply this: Why did you have to quit (the most drastic action there is...) just to get a review and/or a raise? Why didn't they do it prior when you were working long hours or holidays or hit the desired milestones? It seems pretty terrible that you have to literally go and find another job just to get your employer to pay attention to you. Don't you deserve to be treated better than that? Of course you do. We all do. It has been said that 80% of people who accept a counter offer are unemployed within six months. Not employed somewhere else. They are literally jobless. It seems to make sense right?
Here's the 30,000 foot summary. A person and a company don't get along well. Issues remain unresolved. The person tries to leave. The employer begs the person to stay. The person stays but now things are worse not better because the employer likes the employee even less, doesn't trust the employee and is upset they are paying more for the same person. Issues stay unresolved and the employee finally leaves once and for all as it is the only way to improve their situation. Employee realizes their initial decision to leave was the right one. Employee agrees with the article title. :) Let's sum it all up. Don't get suckered into a counter offer. It's the worst decision you'll ever make. Take the offer. Get the raise from the new employer.
Nothing will change at your current employer. And you'll hate yourself everyday after you accept it because let's face it, nobody likes getting pressured out of something they really wanted. I've been recruiting for 15 years. I've seen this happen to more people than I can count. It's terrible and I feel bad for them. The company goes on fine. But sometimes it takes years, or decades to make up for the lost progress that could have been made at a new, better firm. Best of luck to you! If you accept a counteroffer you're gonna need it!