They may beg you to stay now, then give you the boot later.
You’ve been approached by another company and offered a position with growth potential and a moderate increase in compensation. You’ve analyzed and agonized over the decision to leave a good (or bad) job for what could be a better one, and have accepted (or decided to accept the offer. However, upon resigning, your current boss asks you to stay. This appeal is known as a counteroffer or buyback.
In recent years, counteroffers have practically become the norm. “It’s almost like a part of the accepted divorce proceedings, and allows the boss to save face with his boss,” explains on departing Texas-based executive of a major airline. “And it sometimes has to take its course.” But while buyback offers can be tempting, take care not to fall into the trap for be blind-sided to your own detriment. Career changes are tough enough as it is, and anxieties about leaving a comfortable job, friends and location and having to reprove yourself again in an unknown opportunity can cloud the best of logic. But just because the new position is a little scary doesn’t mean it’s not a positive move.
Since buyback gestures can create confusion and buyer’s remorse, you should understand what’s being cast upon you. Counteroffers are typically made in conjunction with some form of flattery. For example:
- “You’re too valuable, and we need you.”
- “You can’t desert the team/your friends and leave them hanging..”
- “We were just about to give you a promotion/raise, and it was confidential until now.”
- “What did they offer, why are you leaving, and what do you need to stay?”
- “Why would you want to work for that company?”
- “The President/CEO wants to meet with you before you make your final decision.”
Counters usually take the form of
- More money,
- A promotion/more responsibility,
- A modified reporting structure,
- Promises or future considerations,
- Disparaging remarks about the new company or job, and/or guild trips.
Of course, since we all prefer to think we’re MVP’s, it’s natural to want to believe these manipulative appeals, but beware! Accepting a counteroffer often is the wrong choice to make. Think about it. If you were worth “X” yesterday, why are they suddenly willing to pay you “X + Y” today, when you weren’t expecting a raise for some time?
Also consider how you’ve felt when someone resigned from your staff. The reality is that employers don’t like to be “fired.” Your boss is likely concerned that he’ll look bad, and that his career may suffer. Bosses are judged by their ability to retain staff. When a contributor quits, morale suffers. Further, your leaving might jeopardize an important project, increase other staffers’ workload or even foul up a vacation schedule. It’s never a good time for someone to quit, and it may prove time-consuming and costly to replace you, especially considering recruitment and relocation expenses. It’s much cheaper to keep you, even at a slightly higher salary. And it would be better to fire you later, on the company’s time frame.
“We’ve make counteroffers on occasion, if a good person approaches the issue professionally,” says a former senior partner of a Big Six accounting and consulting firm. “But usually it was a stopgap measure because we couldn’t afford a defection at that point in time. We didn’t count on these people long term, and usually they’d burned bridges two or three levels up, if not with their immediate manager. It definitely put them in a career holding pattern.”
The senior partner cites a long conference he once attended with his boss and two subordinate managers, in which they approved a counteroffer and raise to an employee two levels down. “Immediately after the meeting, my boss called me and said, “We can’t afford to lose him now, but our No. 1 priority is to find a replacement, ASAP!” he says. “And we replaced him within a few months.” Another senior executive from a major Dallas-based bank says, “If it’s a real ‘hitter,’ I’ll try to get him to stay. But to be honest, any additional compensation is ‘stealing’ from his future earnings, and I’ll always question his convictions, knowing he can be bought. Further, I’ll wonder if I can really count on him