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Best Career Advice: Don’t be Tempted by a Counter-Offer.

I absolutely didn’t prompt colleague and former client, Debbie Sharken to come up with this advice, but I’m so glad she did! Accepting a counter-offer is one of the most painful and discouraging events I run across as a recruiter.

However tempting it is to stay, here are the things to consider before accepting a counter-offer:
1.       You’ll burn a bridge with a prospective employer. Once you accept an offer, your new employer stops recruiting and interviewing and starts planning for your arrival. It’s a COLOSSAL let-down and breach of trust when you back out. If they’ve declined to make offers to other candidates, they may have lost them while you were in negotiations with your current employer. Once you turn a company down, it’s unlikely you’ll be invited back.
2.       Your loyalty is now in question. Once you’ve made it known that you’re unhappy and ready to walk, it’s hard to maintain the same relationships and standing as before. Being perceived as a “flight risk” can hurt your chances of being considered for a promotion, juicy new assignment, or being part of the inner circle.
3.       You’ve shown you can be bought. The reasons that led you to pursue a new job still exist. The raise, promotion or rotation promised to you will just make things more tolerable for a short time. We’re in a tight talent market again. If the value of your services was recognized, your company would have acknowledged and addressed the risk before you resigned. Threatening to quit in exchange for better treatment isn’t the way to get ahead in your career.
4.       You’ll burn a bridge with your current employer. The National Employment Association reports that over 80% of people who accept a counter-offer are no longer with the company 6 months later. A counter-offer is a band-aid that helps an unhealthy relationship limp along a bit longer. As it does, you compromise an amicable break-up, fond memories and strong references. And if you’d like to return to that employer in the future, it’s most likely that the door will be closed.

Most people don’t begin a job search with a goal of soliciting a counter-offer. (At least I hope they don’t!) It’s when they go in to tend their resignation – when they’re feeling emotional and guilty and their boss is freaking out – that they’re persuaded to listen. Instead of waiting to get to this point, here are some things to consider BEFORE beginning a job search:
1.       Is your boss aware that you’re unhappy/feeling under-valued/overdue for a promotion? Give him/her the opportunity to remedy things within a reasonable timeframe.
2.       Have you taken steps to improve things? Can your company say or do anything to change your mind? For example, have you set up a performance plan and timeline for your next promotion? Asked to be rotated on to another piece of business? Demonstrated that you’re underpaid based on a competitive salary review? Etc. What would you do if staying were the only option?
3.       Is this a chapter or the whole story? Is your company or account just going thru a rough patch that you can ride out? Are you basically happy except for a few minor or short-lived things?

Says Debbie, “Once you make the decision to resign, you should have your bags packed and be resolute in your decision to leave.” The time to ask for what will make you happy is not after you’ve committed to join another company.

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