Thinking twice about the counter-offer

By the time you decide to accept the offer of a new job, you have already put a significant and clear distance between yourself and your current employer.  You believe that all that’s left is for you to resign, pack up and say goodbye before entering the new chapter of your career that you have decided would be good for you.  When it’s time to resign, you will have probably visualised how you want this last stage to go, thought about what you will say and imagined how you will feel.

That’s why receiving a counter-offer can lurch you into a sudden and unexpected state of confusion and indecision. With two offers on the table, what should you do?

If your intention to work for another company has made your current boss suddenly realise your value and now acknowledge that your company needs and wants you, you may feel that you are in an ideal position to negotiate and solve the reasons why you wanted to leave in the first place.  They might be open to promotion and increased remuneration; better responsibilities, improved work and working conditions.  It might look like this may well be more beneficial to your career, over the long-term, than the new offer you just decided to accept.

In general, most executive search specialists advise against accepting the counter-offer.  You may believe that this is because they have a vested interest in you taking the job they head-hunted you for, but it’s not as simple as that.  Hiring experts are well-aware of the pitfalls of accepting the counter-offer.

It is one of the most precarious scenarios you can experience in your career; and the risks need to be carefully considered as you weigh up which of the two offers might work out best for your career.

Here are 4 common pitfalls that you need to think through:

1 . Will you become a ‘fidelity risk’?

It might not seem fair in this age where career mobility is often seen as an acceptable and even, desirable indicator of one’s ambitiousness and competitiveness, but perceptions of your loyalty may still hold a lot of clout. If your current employer and team members regard your offer of resignation as evidence of your lack of loyalty, you may find yourself mired in a hostile work environment, shut out of the inner circle, and in a situation that can seriously compromise your career success.  Being regarded as a ‘fidelity risk’ is a common reason why those who accept the counter-offer soon fail.

2.  Are you agreeing to be the ‘stop-gap’?

Counter-offers can often be made in a moment of desperation.  Faced with the possibility of sudden loss, your boss has sprung into action and made a fast agreement to keep you in place, for the time being.  You need to assess whether you really believe that your current company has had an epiphany about your value, or whether they may be buying the time they need to find your replacement.

3.  Is the counter-offer truly a ‘fix-all’?

You had your reasons for looking for a new job.  It may seem that an offer of advancement or an increase solves all the problems that you had with your company; but is this true?  Reflect back on all your reasoning that led you to considering a new opportunity or searching for another job.  Does the counter-offer actually address all the issues you had then?  If so, how do you feel about the fact that it took your offer of resignation to get what you wanted along from your company.

4. Will it put your reputation at stake?

Accepting the counter-offer can do damage to your reputation both with the prospective employer who saw value in you, and with your current employer.  Your boss or team members may well view your offer of resignation as a manipulation to get more from the company and brand you as a less than savoury character.  The prospective employer may well feel that their time has been wasted and that you didn’t take them seriously, turning their interest in you to disdain.  Consider well the impact that accepting the counter-offer may have on your personal brand in the market.

The commonly-held view is that accepting the counter-offer rarely works out well.  There are statistics that show that many end up leaving within a year; mostly in troubled and stressful circumstances.  Does this mean that you should not accept the counter-offer?  No, it does not.  You may well be in a position where staying where you are would be the best career decision.  It would help you to determine this if you are in the position to have frank, honest and reassuring discussions with your present company about the possible drawbacks.