Why You Should Never Accept A Counter Offer When You Resign

Why You Should Never Accept A Counter Offer When You Resign
Why You Should Never Accept a Counter Offer When You Resign

Counter offers are risky.  The reasons you resigned seldom goes away if you stay.  In addition, when you met with your boss to turn in your resignation, you showed your boss that you have been disloyal by interviewing for another job.

However, your boss cannot afford to lose you at the time that you are resigning.  Companies prefer to lose people based on the company’s timing.  This concept is easy enough to understand.  Your company is in the middle of work project that could fail if some people leave at the wrong time.  You are one of those people.

So, what happens during a counter offer?

  • You go through a standard process to keep people aboard until the company can throw them overboard.
  • Your boss asks you the reasons that you are leaving.
  • Your boss shows understanding about your frustrations.
  • Your boss promises to make adjustments to keep you on the job where you are currently working.
  • You may receive a pay raise or a promise of a pay raise.  Remember that you forced the pay raise by trying to resign.
  • Your boss may even may promises to improve things as time goes on.
  • Your boss gets the details of your job offer and shows you the flaws in going to the new company.
  • You feel pressure from the counter offer process.  You become indecisive.  Even if your company does not offer you a pay raise or change any of the conditions that have made you unhappy, the company pressures you to stay.
  • You begin to waver in you decision.

As a recruiter, I have had applicants go through so much stress, they have cried.  I had one manager who was going through a counter offer that was so stressful he called me at 2:00am.  He was in tears.  He was still in tears later that day when he called me to say that he had accepted his company’s counter offer.

He stayed with the company he wanted to leave.

Seven month later, he was out again interviewing with another company.  Nothing changed after he accepted the counter offer.

He hated where he worked.  He needed to get another job.

Unfortunately, his boss saw him interviewing at the St. Louis airport and the poor guy did not know that his boss had seen him. The guy turned in a daily report that showed that he was making sales calls.  The report was false.  His boss knew that the report was false.  His boss had seen him interviewing at the airport.  At this point, his current employer no longer needed him.  The same boss who had talked him into staying seven months before fired him.

So he lost the offer from the company that wanted to hire him. The company that gave him the counter offer had fired him.

He was unemployed.

BusinessWeek has a terrific article on counter offers.  The title of the article is “An Offer Too Good to Accept.”  The point of the article is that once a person resigns from a company, he or she is better off continuing out the door.  The damage from the resignation only makes matters worse at a company where a person wanted to leave in the first place.

Many people feel pressure when they resign.  You can reduce the pressure. When you resign, make the discussion short and to the point.  Just be polite.  Say that you are leaving.  The reasons are strictly business, but they are the confidential information of your new employer, and you can’t discuss them.  Then head out the door and keep walking.

Image credit: Andrew McGill/Flickr

Counter Offers: The Reason That You Resigned Seldom Goes Away If You Stay.

Counter Offers
Counter Offers: The Reason That You Resigned Seldom Goes Away If You Stay.

I read a BusinessWeek article that discussed counter-offers.  The point of the article is that once a person resigns from a company, he or she is better off continuing out the door. The reason is that once a person had shown disloyalty in resigning and that despite the best intentions of the managers who might try to convince the employee to stay, people who accept counter-offers and stay at the company have changed the way they are perceived at a company.

Other sources on the subject say the same thing: Forbes, The Business Journals, CareerCast, Monster, on and on.

The simple fact is that companies employ people at the convenience of the company.  As soon as the company no reason to keep a person or finds a reason to let a person go, the person would be shown the door and people who are perceived as disloyal may find themselves at the head of the exit line.

In my first year of recruiting, I saw firsthand the problems people can encounter when accepting a counter offer.  The candidate was working for a large consumer products company.  In the counter offer he found himself in front of some very aggressive and persuasive sales managers.  These managers were not going to let the salesperson leave the company.

The candidate was so stressed that he called me in tears at 2:00 AM during the counter offer process. He called me again the next day in tears. The sales managers had convinced him to stay.

Four or fives months later, the candidate called to say that the same company had fired him.

After accepting the counter offer, he continued to be unhappy at the company, and he continued to interview.

He had been at the airport interviewing and a fellow employee had seen him. However on his daily report, the candidate had indicated that he had been on a sales call.

The company was well within its’ right to fire the guy for cause. He lied on his daily report.  At the same time, the company had other less punitive options: a letter of reprimand, probation, or increased management presence.  However, they chose this time to fire the salesperson.  .

The poor guy had just been unfortunate to accept an offer that was too good to accept.

Image: Damian Gadal/Flickr

“The World’s Noblest Headhunter!

Counter Offers: The Stress of Trying to Leave a Company


There is some interesting history on this article.  The first day that I posted it, I copied it from a database template, and pasted the article into this website.  The content of that template somehow brought down the entire the website.  I could still see the back-end of the website but site visitors could only see a blank page.

When I published the article from the template, the article went out in feeds on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Feedburner, The title was “People are stranger than horses.”

I restored the website, rewrote the article in a text file, and published then it.  However, with an article titled “People are stranger than horses” already published, my rewrite seemed to need a new title that reflected the earlier article.

I was really having a challenge with this article.  I was experiencing a bit of stress in getting a very simple article published.

The relationship between the title and counter offers is that people may exhibit very strange behavior under the stress of making a job change, just as my website surprised me in crashing the way it did and was causing me a bit of stress.

People who accept counter-offers often find tried that they have gone running back to the problems they had been trying to leave behind.  Having made two job changes myself, I have experienced firsthand the pressure that a job change can cause.

What brought up the subject of people and horses and now computers pertains to experiences I have had as recruiter.  I have read that three of the most stressful things in life are the birth of your children, buying a house, and making a career move.  I can think of other things perhaps equally stressful, and births, marriages, and career moves for some people are not stressful at all.  They are part of the miracles of living.

In a letter of congratulations that I send to applicants who have recently signed a letter for an offer of employment, I tell them that the purpose of my letter is to help them prepare emotionally as well as understand what to expect in terms of a counter-offer.

A company prefers to lose people based on the company’s timing.  This concept is easy enough to understand if you follow sports.  Some of the more mediocre players are very valuable in the middle of the season.  They are trained and they know the playbook.  When the season ends, the mediocre players with no contracts for future work see their value drop to zero.

A counter-offer is simply a negotiation process.  The employer tries to convince an employee to stay with anything from an increase in pay or responsibility or convenience or nothing but praise.  The employee can engage in the negotiation or just sit there and listen with a deaf ear.

One of the toughest people I have ever known served as an Army ranger in Vietnam.  He and I worked at the same company for over three years.  He was a father of four and felt that he needed to make more money.  He sought and landed a job that gave him a pay increase.

When he resigned, he went through a counter-offer process with some people who were skillful sales people and could be skillfully intimidating.  The former ranger felt that the people who were making the counter-offer had betrayed him earlier in his career at the same company.  He sat with the people making the counter-offer for over an hour.  He politely listened to what the management team had to say and asked questions for more details.  He dragged out the process like a prizefighter drawing out a fight just to punish another boxer.  Finally, one of the managers making the counter-offer said, “So you have decided to stay with our company?”

This Army ranger stood up and said, “Yes, I have, but I need to make more money for the sake of my family.  He took out a pen, pulled a piece of paper from across the desk of the manager directly in front of him, and wrote down a number.  Then he turned the paper for the manager to see and pushed it back across the desk.  The number was twice his current salary.  He looked at each of the two people he viewed as Judases and then said, “Call me when you can move my salary to match that number.”  He then walked out.  No one called him.

As it turns out, this post has taken a different direction from the one that brought down my website.  I was certainly not going to copy and paste it from the same deadly document I have used before.  Since I noticed that the post was already out there on the Internet before I had finished it, I felt compelled to complete rewriting the post tonight.

However, tonight I could not focus on the strangeness of horses and computers relative to people.  This post discusses different life experiences from those in the deadly post.  Yet I plan to tell those other stories, soon I hope.  The experiences in that story were experiences that today are valuable to me.  On this night, I am just wondering about that Army ranger, who must be nearing retirement now.  I liked the guy.  He was a friend, but other people were put off by the guy, and put off when I tell how he handled that counter-offer.  They see him as arrogant.  I don’t know.  Maybe he was arrogant.  To me, he was a war survivor, a tough person in business, a friend, and a person who was not bewildered in the flow of life changes.

Image: Stephen Day/Flickr