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Job Magician Never Accept a Counter Offer!  
  • Most executives who accept counter offers are no longer with that employer 12 to 18 months later.
  • If you accept a counter offer, you will be placed on the slow track at your company.
You’ve been offered a job, and decide to resign.  Your boss blanches.  “Erma, I know I’ve been slow in dealing with you.  The board has been driving me nuts for the last six months, and that tender offer we made to buy Muckraker’s kept me without sleep for the nine months before that.  But I’ve intended to deal with your salary for quite some time, and to advance your title from Director to VP/Development. I don’t know what we’d do without you. What will it take to keep you here?”

You’ve known and loved Alphonse for the eight years that you’ve worked there.  You know his wife and his kids.

But Alphonse has always been a busy guy. He always has one catastrophe or another that has kept him way behind. If you think about it objectively, you know full well that if you hadn’t told him you were leaving, you’d be getting 6% salary increases each year for the next five years.

You may feel complimented, but you should feel insulted when offered a counter offer.  If you are worth $275,000 instead of the $215,000 they’ve been paying you, why weren’t they already paying you $275,000?  Did you become more valuable overnight, as if the gold market had magically skyrocketed, and you’re a bar of bullion?

Beyond thinking that you had to hold a gun to your boss’s head to get him to give you a raise, there are a couple of other points to ponder about a counter offer:

The organization's problems won’t go away. Money probably wasn’t the only reason you were thinking about leaving. The organizational peccadiloes that drove you bananas will still be there if you stay, regardless of the promises they make that they’re going to reorganize your division, get you more help, finally give you the ad budget you need or put Hortense in her place and make her keep her nose out of your department.

If you accept a counter offer, you will be ever suspect.  Some people naively think that if they make it public that they could go elsewhere, either by resigning and then accepting a counter offer or by making it public that a search firm called them about a job, they will strengthen their value in the eyes of their employer. The opposite is true. Almost always, behind closed doors, the big brass will be saying, “Well, maybe we can consider Erma to head up that division if she’s still around.”  Or, more likely, “Let’s give that position to Lance; if we put Erma in there, no telling how long she’ll stay.”

The disloyalty will cloud your image and haunt you. You will no longer be held in high esteem, and they are far more likely to fire you over a little disagreement down the road. Or they’ll put a plan in place to groom or recruit your successor, and when the new guy is ready, they’ll send you packing.

I’ve seen a couple of surveys on this issue.  One showed that 80% of executives who accepted counter offers were gone after 12 months.  Another showed that 93% were gone within 18 months.

My experience is worse. I don’t know if I’ve seen anyone accept a counter offer who stayed with their old company for any length of time. And at least half of them left because they got fired by the boss who groveled to keep them there the year before.
Whenever one of my clients makes an offer to a candidate, I always prepare the candidate for a counter offer. “I’m not going to tell you to accept our offer,” I’ll tell her. “I can’t tell you what to do with your life. However, if you’re as good as we think you are, don’t be surprised if you get a counter offer. Don’t even consider taking it. Make up your mind whether you’ll take our job, or not, without talking it over with your current employer. If you decide not to take our offer, don’t breathe a word about our offer to them. If you do decide to take this job, stick with your decision.  If they make a counter offer and you accept, expect your reputation to be forever tainted there.”

And now, I’m giving the same advice to you.


PS:  If you’re someone’s boss, as you must be if you’re earning $100,000 or more, don’t make counter offers. As painful as it may seem at the time, let the person go. She won’t stay much longer, anyway.

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