Who Benefits?: Questions to ask before accepting a Counter Offer

Well done – you’ve gone through the process and scored yourself a brand new job!  Now to hand your resignation and get going, right? Wrong.
Companies are keen to hold onto their top employees, therefore, don’t be surprised if your resignation is followed by a counter offer.

In theory, giving your notice should be like Caesar crossing the Rubicon – once done, there should be no going back.  The die is cast (or as Caesar may have said “ales iacta est”), your fate is sealed and you are ready march over to conquer a new future for yourself.

In reality, a counter offer is flattering and, by design, tempting to accept, however, before doing so, ask yourself:

Have I suddenly become more valuable?
Sadly, the answer to this is probably no – a counter offer doesn’t mean you’ve suddenly become a more valuable employee. It’s simply a way of your manager avoiding the disruption your departure will cause.

On top of that, the process of recruiting, onboarding and training a new employee is an expensive one.  It’s far more cost effective to retain a current employee – especially where senior roles are concerned so the likelihood is the counter offer is nothing more than a way of saving the company money.

Too little, too late?
A counter offer will often involve a pay rise as money may be your main motivation for leaving. However, it’s important to ask yourself why you haven’t been offered this after your last performance review.  If your current employer is willing to adjust your salary when you resign then they are knowingly underpaying you.

If you have tried to negotiate a pay rise in the past but were refused, it can suggest your employer is trying to get away with paying you less than you are worth and this is a pattern that may continue.  This may not be the only issue which could continue.

What about other underlying issues?
In other words, why did you resign in the first place?  You may feel like you are stagnating in the organisation with few opportunities for advancement or you may feel you can’t reach your full potential despite the comfortable environment.  Other factors may include unresponsive management or unfavourable/toxic working conditions.

At best, a counter offer offers a short term solution to these issues.  It rarely addresses the underlying reasons for you leaving.  Even if a promotion is promised or involvement in more complex projects is assured, it could only be a matter of time before you feel the same way you’re feeling now and are back on the job market.

Et Tu, Brute?
Accepting a counter offer can bring a whole new set of problems on top of any underlying issues which prompted your wish to move in the first place.  In the same way as Caesar questioned Brutus, your employer will no longer see you in the same light and your resignation could, in your boss’ eyes, be seen as a lack of loyalty to the company. 

This can impact your relationship going forward as they will never be certain how much longer you will remain with the company – it could even see you overlooked for projects or put you at the top of the pile should the company need to downsize for any reason.

Accepting a counter offer could also affect your relationship with your potential new employer – they may feel that they were nothing more than a bargaining chip you used to gain leverage and that their time has been wasted interviewing you. 
Talking of your new employer…

What do they see in me?
Your future employer sees a potential in you that your current employer clearly doesn’t.  Taking on a new hire is a risk for both them and you.  If they are willing to take the risk, why aren’t you?

“What if…?”
It is likely you have visualised how your career will develop if you continue with the same company.  It may be “more of the same” like same environment, same people, same development opportunities.

Sometimes, it’s worth exploring the new possibilities and whilst no-one can predict the future, at least you won’t be left wondering what if you had rejected the counter offer.

At the end of it all, this whole article can be summed in one question:  Who Benefits? (or “Cui Bono?” if you’re pushing the Caesar thing as far as we are).

The long-term answer is always going to be your current employer.  They save money, time, effort and energy whilst you are placated for the short term.  Plus, if trouble starts to appear on the horizon, you’re a pre-established target for the dagger underneath their toga (last Caesar reference, we promise!).

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