There have been plenty of articles written on this but a post “Why Counter Offers Are Good (except for headhunters)” on recruitingblogs.com by Amos spurred me to write about this for my audience. I was incredulous to read his article whole heartedly encouraging his candidates to elicit a counter-offer to get the promotion they want. Sure, it was a brave post to a hostile audience and sure you might think, ‘of course you’ll disagree Rob’, but for those that know me well, trust me when I say, whilst in my benefit it is not for my benefit, but yours. This is wrong advice on so many fronts 9 times out of 10.
I am not going to write anything revolutionary here but it is worth pointing out the facts so that if anyone does encourage (outside your current boss who obviously will) you* to take the counter-offer, you have a reference point. Read them carefully and keep them at hand.
*Quit pro quo: the presumption here is I am talking to an audience with a strong ethical and moral value system here. If you would happily sleep with your best mate’s sister to get ahead in life then your moral compass is probably too far gone for this to be relevant.
The fundamental facts are wholly aligned against counter-offers and are as follows:
1. Statistics. Six to nine months later, 90% of those candidates who accept a counter-offer are no longer employed with the company that extended the offer (Martin Varnier Research)
2. Have a plan. Decent and well-managed companies don’t make counter-offers….EVER! Their policies are fair and equitable. They will never be subjected to counter-offer coercion, which they perceive as blackmail. Do you want to work with one that does?
3. Personal brand damage. By accepting a counter offer, you have committed the unprofessional and unethical sin of breaking your commitment to the prospective employer making the offer.
4. No smoke without fire. Any situation is suspect if an employee must receive an outside offer before the present employer will suggest a raise, promotion or better working conditions.
5. Re-active environments. Counter-offers are only made in response to a threat to quit. Will you have to solicit an offer and threaten to quit every time you deserve better working conditions?
6. Tactics. Counter-offers are usually nothing more than stall devices to give your employer time to replace you. Your reasons for wanting to leave still exist. They’ll just be slightly more tolerable in the short term because of the raise, promotion or promises made to keep you.
7. Team player? No matter what the company says when making its counter-offer, you’ll always be a fidelity risk. Having once demonstrated your lack of loyalty (for whatever reason), you will lose your status as a team player and your place in the inner circle. (1-7 Source: Wall Street Journal)
These are all very serious and compelling truths about why you shouldn’t stay. However, the ones I want to focus on are 1) and 2):
Because it is a researched fact, not whimsical argument
Because fundamentally whatever the short term benefits of agreeing to a counter offer, do you really want to work for a company that is neither decent nor well managed. Will it serve your career goals in the long term?
Finally, my advice to avoid this situation which is actually the ultimate goal as opposed to turning down counter offers, is this:
If your company is not professional or mature enough to promote someone that they clearly need to and that deserved it because of a lack of corporate discipline i.e. 'managers too busy' or any such excuse, then you should take control (this is the proper 'taking control of your life' part as opposed to forcing control as a last ditch attempt to get what you think you deserve).
Walk into the CEO/Managers office with a plan. Say you want a promotion and deserve it and articulate why. Being promised "it will come" is not good enough. Do not leave without agreement on your plan or the understanding there will be no promotion because of x, y, z. This plan should be a 3 month SMART goals based plan with Results that lead to Actions. It will maybe take you about an hour to knock up (if anyone wants help with this please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Consequences of not hitting these goals needed to be outlined for both sides i.e. Joe Bloggs doesn’t get the promotion if falling short and the company X must promote if hitting or exceeding goals. Within 3 months you will have reached your goals (if you don’t then focus on getting training on where you fell short and do the same again – all planned and time lined). At this point they have no choice but to honour the agreement or break it. If honoured, break out the champagne. If not, then you now have the ethical and moral high ground to look elsewhere. What happens after that is clearly up to you still (which is a good thing). If you get offered elsewhere and counter offered then of course you could accept it. The good thing is here; you wouldn’t lose the loyalty bonus or ethical standing as they broke their promise first.
However, my aside at this point would be that you are too good for this company. You know you have gone above and beyond, been pro-active, and even implemented a career progression plan for them which they then broke a promise on. So if I was you and the company had rescinded on such a professional, clear plan of action that I had brought to the table, I would know whatever the short term benefits of the counter offer, long term the company did not have a belief or value system that I could happily work within and my career would be better off elsewhere.
My advice to candidates would be to always do it like this, in a professional and planned way. The other route is way too unplanned, emotive, risky and potentially career damaging.