“That’s funny, they could live without me yesterday.”

You’re happy. You’ve gone through the interview process and beaten out every other candidate for that plum of a job. The hotshot company with the great boss has made you a job offer and you have accepted. It’s Friday. You have reservations for a celebratory dinner this evening with your significant other. You walk in to your boss’s office to give your two weeks’ notice and then…things begin to get a little weird.

He’s shocked. He tells you that the company can’t live without you. He wants to know how you could ever consider leaving. He throws a few darts at the shiny new company you’ll be going to work for. He says he wants to speak with the company president and then meet with you again. Now you know. There may be a counteroffer coming.

At your next meeting your boss and his boss are there. They are buttering you up like crazy. They’re telling you that you’re vital to the organization. “We can’t live without you.” They throw a few more jabs at your future employer. Then they offer you a small raise equal to or slightly better than the one you’ll be receiving at your new job. They make promises about the future.

It’s all very flattering but the reality is that what they are trying to do is solve their problems, not yours. When they say, “we can’t live without you,” you should be hearing, “we can’t afford for you to leave today.” By leaving on such short notice you are jeopardizing important project deadlines, increasing other staffers’ workloads, missing a trade show or an important sales meeting. You have thrown the entire department into sudden chaos.

Then there’s the cost issue. The company may need to use a recruiter to replace your position. That will cost them 25-30% of the replacement’s salary. They will lose another 20-25% due to time lost, diminished productivity and all around agita. They won’t have refilled your position by the time your two weeks’ notice is up and it will take six to twelve months for your replacement to get up to speed. They may have to relocate the new hire and that can cost another 15-20% of salary. Add it all up and losing you could cost the company 60-75% over and above the cost of the replacement’s salary. Talk about busting the budget! So, did they offer you a 50% raise? Or even the 25-30% it will cost to bring in a recruiter? If they bumped you up 10-15% that’s a pretty good deal for them. It’s not such a great deal for you.

Most of the time people don’t change jobs mainly for salary reasons, even if money is a secondary consideration. Negative reasons for a job change include: being blocked from promotion, a change in work duties, stagnating work skills, unobtainable bonus targets, unrealistic deadlines, bad bosses, and/or poisonous work environments. On the positive side, people change jobs for: career growth, promotions, gaining additional skills, tough but achievable targets, better work environments, and more prestigious companies. If you stop and think about it, most of the reasons you decided to make a move in the first place will not have changed.

The real dark side of accepting a counteroffer is that there can be unanticipated negative consequences. Remember your current employer is trying to solve their problems, not yours. While they may be extremely inconvenienced to lose you today on short notice, they now know that you are dissatisfied. They may seek to keep you only until they can find your replacement. As a recruiter, I have received lots of calls from companies seeking to do a confidential search for a position that they have temporarily kept filled with a counteroffer.

You should also be concerned about where the additional money they promised you came from. Did you just receive your next raise or bonus a bit early? The same can be true of promotions. If your current employer offers you a raise or a promotion you should also demand a three year no cut contract. That protects you from becoming a victim of a confidential search. And after all, they have just told you that you are vital to the company’s future prospects. Make them prove it. It shouldn’t be so hard for them to commit to such a key player…right?

Watch and see.

If they’re not offering you a promotion you should consider, “will I still be in line to get one?” Now that you have already “quit,” your loyalty will always be in question. You are no longer part of the team. Once trust is broken it can never fully be repaired. Things will never be quite the same. In fact, you should probably be pretty concerned the next time the coffee machine chatter turns to a rumored upcoming layoff.

To sum up: your “sudden” departure will create a headache for your boss and the company. With today’s tight margins, everyone is doing the work of two people already. They can’t afford for you to leave or everyone else’s workload will get even crazier – including their own. You will be jeopardizing projects that need to be finished, deadlines that need to be met, sales presentations that need to be made, etc.

To try to get you to stay on (at least for now) they will play on the fact that making a career change can be a difficult and emotional decision. You will be leaving work friends and “the devil you know.” You will have to prove yourself to a new boss and a new company. They will try to exploit the natural fear of change. Prepare yourself. Be ready for it.

If they convince you to stay, they will have solved their problem but it doesn’t solve yours. Your reasons for leaving will still exist. Conditions may be made a bit more tolerable in the short term because of a raise, a promotion, or promises made to keep you, but the reasons you wanted to leave in the first place will soon return. You will have turned down the opportunity that holds the most real potential. That’s why you chose it in the first place.

What I’ve seen in my thirty-five years as a recruiter is that not many people who accept a counteroffer are still with their company a year later. Nobody who is still with their company a year later describes themselves as happy. You have made a brave decision to move ahead and improve your life and your future. Don’t let them steal that away for a few temporary trinkets. Stand firm.

©Tom Keoughan 2016