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5 Key Things to Consider When Receiving a Counter-Offer From Your Employer

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So, you’ve decided to quit your job. Prepare for the dreaded counter-offer.

A challenging scenario most, if not all, good employees will face in their career and one that requires a little bit of strategising to make sure you don’t torpedo further job opportunities!

 Counter-offers, on the face of it, seem like an easy thing to accept. You already know the employer, you already understand the working culture and expectations, and finally, they’re stepping up and meeting what you always wanted - either a new role, better pay, more recognition, maybe the company car or better benefits. But think long and hard about that part - finally? It took you quitting to get what you wanted?

Do you want to work for an employer that doesn’t see the value of your hard work already? Counter-offers are, unfortunately, rife, especially in the age of candidate-dominated recruitment. Most sectors are facing worker shortages, and employees in almost every working sector understand their skills are in high demand. In light of this, counter-offers are inevitable as employers seek to hold onto talent. But before you go signing on the dotted line, take a step back and revisit the question above: do you want to work at this employer who only now sees your true value, when you have one foot out of the door?

We say follow our rule of 5 - a series of quick-fire analyses of your role, your future, and how your boss has approached the counter-offer. It should give you the right sort of mindset and framework in which to make a response:

  1. Remember why you wanted to leave in the first place!
  2. Is this an offer of desperation, or are they truly valuing your continued presence at work?
  3. Does the offer meet your future needs?
  4. How has your employer framed the counter-offer?
  5. How does this affect your own personal brand?

1) Remember why you wanted to leave in the first place!

This is a lesson in self-restraint and patience, but every employee must remember the driving force behind why they wanted to leave in the first place. This doesn’t mean discounting the counter-offer entirely. But context is everything - does the counter-offer answer the main questions behind your drive to leave?

2) Is this an offer of desperation, or are they truly valuing your continued presence at work?

You have to explore the possibility a counter-offer has been made in desperation - faced with the possibility of an unfilled role and a drop in productivity or service provision, the employer does everything they can to keep the person in the role. This may mean your employer meets every demand - on pay, work benefits, L&D options, on promotion. But at what cost? Does this indicate the employer is valuing your time at work or is it that they cannot afford to lose you? Critically, the question stands - why did it take quitting to get what you want? Is that the sign of an employer who wants you in their company?

3) Does the offer meet your future needs?

"80% of candidates who accept a counter-offer from their current employer end up leaving within 6 months”.

This means looking beyond the immediate gold plated counter-offer of more money or better benefits - is the offer meeting your career goals of the future, and is it the type of offer that will keep you happy in the long term? Or, is it a sticking plaster on a wound that won’t heal? Statistics show in the vast majority of cases - no, the offer doesn’t meet your needs, and you will end up quitting in under a year anyway.

4) How has your employer framed the counter-offer?

This is where managerial competence comes to the fore: has your employer rejected you leaving out of hand, and emailed you a renewed contract offer, or have they taken their time to understand why you’re leaving, and personalised a counter-offer that both values your time and engages you for the long term? The difference between these two types of counter-offer styles is obvious - a panicked email offering cursory growth and affirmative action on the basics of a new role indicates knee jerk management and a considerable lack of empathy with the real reasons for why you’re leaving. Empathy rules - a more personal, more understanding boss looks beyond the money and the contract and engages with the career-handling element of quitting a job.

5) How does this affect your own personal brand?

Simply put: you’ve just told your employer you’re quitting. How do you think this will adjust their thinking of you? Will your employer continue trusting you knowing you just quit? How will your co-workers feel about you quitting if and when the news reaches them? And, if you accept the offer, how will the dynamic in work change as a result of you reneging on quitting and coming back to work?

“Most employees that accept a counteroffer often end up feeling “pushed out” of their current organisation. And, sometimes, companies go as far as to create a contingency plan and start looking for someone to fill your position before you can find a better offer”.

Questions of loyalty and commitment to the job will be going around your employer’s head, even if they want you to stay in the role. This is, obviously, not conducive to a smooth working environment. Second, to that is the risk your employer will now be conducting a silent replacement campaign against you if they feel you’re a risk to their team or that your heart is not truly in it.

The bottom line

Counter-offers are often framed in poor terms - they’re both destructive to an employee's career and can reflect incredibly poorly on an employer's culture of work and management. However, in the end, it’s a personal decision whether to accept or not - with the right sort of empathetic management, counter-offers can be framed in supportive and understanding ways, and they can, on rare occasions, be exactly what employees need. But, as the above analysis shows, the vast majority of counter-offers are not done to benefit you, the employee - they are offered to bide time, shore up services, or offered in a fit of panic. Make sure you make the right choice! 

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