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How to Deal with a Counter Offer

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Counter Offers - What are they and how should you handle them?

Counter offers happen, and a small percentage of them even work out. However, for the majority of us it's a bad move. Let's take a look at what they are, why they happen and how you should handle them.

The scenario:

You've interviewed for a position with a new company. The company likes you - and they've made you an offer! After some thought, you decide to accept. What happens next?

You submit your resignation, but it doesn't go as smoothly as you'd hoped. Your boss is upset about losing you and presents you with a counteroffer: an attempt by your current company to persuade you to stay.

What you should consider:

Money? Most people think this is the top or sometimes only factor to consider. Yet research shows money is the third reason why people take a job.

The first two are job challenge/opportunity and career growth potential. Ask yourself if more money will provide enough satisfaction to override the top two. Also ask yourself if the money is enough to overcome the possible other reasons you looked at the new opportunity in the first place.

Familiarity? Change can be scary. It's natural to have anxiety about leaving a comfortable position. You're familiar with coworkers, the strengths and weaknesses of the company, how things work, where to go to lunch and how long you can take.

Don't let familiarity cloud your judgment. Ask yourself whether the new position is a positive step toward advancing your career. Will it be better for you than your current position? If the answer is yes, then proceed with pursuing the position. Familiarity will follow!

Why Companies Make Counteroffers:

When an employee (like you) resigns, morale is likely to suffer, particularly among your closest coworkers. Your resignation may be perceived as an unfavorable reflection on your boss. Your absence could jeopardize a big project; lead to increased workloads for colleagues and even complicate scheduling. Furthermore, it could be expensive (in terms of time, energy and money) to replace you.

A cheaper "solution" for the company is to make you a counteroffer. This may consist of a raise, a promotion, change in title or job description or a combination of these factors. It may even be just a promise of change to come. Be aware that this "solution" may actually be a stalling technique. By buying you back, the company has bought itself some time to finish that big project, reorganize other team members, or search for a suitable replacement for you.

Why Counteroffers Don't Work:

Counteroffers very rarely work out for the best. There are several reasons for this:

Trust. You have demonstrated your lack of loyalty by considering another opportunity. Trust and acceptance among your immediate colleagues may be irrevocably lost. Managers, too, have long memories and won't forget your lapse in loyalty --no matter how brief it may have been.

Most likely, your basic reason(s) for thinking of leaving will eventually resurface. Changes made as a result of a counteroffer may appease you in the short term, but rarely last for the long run. Statistics show that if you accept a counteroffer, it's extremely likely that you'll voluntarily leave or be terminated within a year.

While it may be true that your current company values your work, your interests and career will always be secondary to your boss's career, and the company's profit or survival. Reconsider the flattery that makes up a counteroffer: is it really about you?

If your counteroffer involves an increase in money, consider the source of the raise. Is this just your next raise, granted early? In that case, will the counteroffer simply prolong your review cycle? Remember that all companies have budgets which include strict wage and salary guidelines.

What You Can Do:

Rather than setting yourself up for the feelings of confusion and guilt that may arise when a counteroffer is presented, be prepared. When resigning, avoid any possible misunderstanding by submitting your resignation in writing.

Focus on the positive opportunity you've been offered with your new company. At your resignation meeting, don't feel pressured into giving reasons for resigning. Simply state that you've been presented with an opportunity that you cannot pass up.

Handle your resignation properly the first time you do it. Be professional and courteous, not disgruntled or weak. Offer to help during the transition time, and then follow up with your best effort.