Many people who resign a position find themselves faced with an employer making a counteroffer in the hope of changing their mind. Everyone perceives this act in a different way but before we can dig too deep into this we have to unpack this step-by-step.
Let’s begin with WHY a company makes a counteroffer.
1. To retain an invaluable employee: There are times a person is simply too valuable to let go. Companies can recognize this value and will, as a result, make a counter if faced with their resignation.
2. Circumstances dictate necessity: In many professions time of the year, workflows, and other factors can temporarily inflate an employee’s value. Busy renewal season is a big one in insurance.
3. Reactionary: For many organizations the process of countering is simply reactionary. That is to say, they do it almost on instinct or out of habit without much contemplation.
Okay, we’ve address the WHY, so now let’s take a look at HOW a company will likely make their appeal.
1. Value: This one is simple. They’ll talk about how valuable you are, how much they’ll miss you, or how lost the organization would be without you. You’ll like hearing this, we all want to be wanted and valued.
2. Guilt: If you work as part of any kind of team, department or other relationship of interdependence this one is really common. “How could you do this to us”, “This is awfully selfish of you”, or “You’re really going to do this to us now” are the kinds of things you may hear said. You can actually even hear “if we’d known you were unhappy we would have addressed this”, implying it is your fault this conversation is even happening. Guilt works really well on people who are team players, dependable, and accountable; that is to say, good employees.
3. Fear: This is more aggressive than guilt but can be a last effort. They can try to scare you about a company you are going to (don’t ever share that by the way), the market, or general instability. They may point to relationships or even make threats to badmouth you in the industry.
With the WHY and the HOW covered, we’re rolling along to the WHAT. What all might a counteroffer include?
1. Money: Bigger salary, commission, or bonus is easy to throw out.
2. Perks: Working from home more, added vacation time, etc.
3. Job Function: More responsibility. Moving you into leadership. Added support.
All seems pretty easy to understand, right? There are a few scarier truths I’ve saved for the end. Most all counteroffers are about self-preservation.
When I say most, I mean basically every single one. This is a gut-punch to all of us who want to believe we are special, valuable, or too important or beloved to let go. Those are things we readily believe when they tell us because we badly want them to be true. The reality, again, nearly always, is that companies don’t like to be caught off guard and see someone leave. It is easier to throw a little extra money out to keep them and immediately start looking for their replacement. I can’t tell you how many people have taken a counteroffer and then had their role “eliminated” or “reorganized out” within a couple of months.
Fun fact: a $10,000 raise offered as part of a counteroffer costs a company exactly, are you ready, $2,307.69 if they can replace you in 12 weeks.
That is a very low cost to get production from you for three extra months while they find your replacement on their own time. You’ve already proven to them you will look elsewhere so they aren’t going to sit around and wait for you to do it again. You can’t really fault them; their job is to look out for the company but it won’t often end well for you. Remember...
Promises are just as easy to break as they are to make.
Anyone who has taken a counter will tell you they seldom get all that is promised to them, even for the few months they generally stay. Many times that raise takes a couple of payroll cycles to “kick in” so that ridiculously low figure above gets even smaller. Roles take time to change or evolve and you can’t just toss out more PTO or work from home arrangements in the morning. Many of the things will never come and you’ll be back looking before long but with the opportunity you wanted likely gone.
If it were all true, you’d never be in this position to begin with.
This is the ugliest part of this whole thing so I saved it for last. The reality is that if you were invaluable, vital, or that essential or beloved you’d never be having to resign to get the things you want and deserve. Good companies take care of good employees. Let me say that again, good companies take care of good employees. If you are a good employee and valued they would take care of you, at least if they are a good company.
If they are not a good company would you want to be valued there at all anyway? Your leadership should be engaged and entuned with your career goals, wants, needs, etc. If they are, you never look outside of the organization in the first place. The best-case scenario of being in a counteroffer situation is you work for good people, in a good company, who are clueless or just don’t care enough to be proactive. Again, do you want to be there longer? Of course not.
I wish I could call on a decade of experience and say counteroffers mean all we wish they did but that simply is not true. They are almost always an act of self-preservation masquerading in the costume of something more wholesome. Avoid the uncomfortable situation of being back in a job hunt within 12 months and just resist the allure of being catered to and desired.
It isn’t real.