You’ve excitedly accepted a job offer and now comes the hard part—you need to tell your boss. Surprisingly, he comes back with a counteroffer. Since your boss didn’t pay much attention to you, nor did he help guide and grow your career, this comes as a complete shock. Your manager professes that he was unaware of your unhappiness. He claims that the company had big, important plans for you. He says, “We were literally just talking about a promotion for you in our last meeting!” Your inside voice says, “Hmm, one of many meeting that I’ve never been asked to join.”
Don’t fall for the counteroffer trap. This is the corporate equivalent of a person breaking up with her boyfriend. After hearing the bad news, the boyfriend pleads, “I love you! Please don’t leave me! I promise to be different this time. I’ll change. I’ve even bought an engagement ring. It’s here somewhere in the apartment. I just need to look for it.” The pressure, puppy dog eyes and guilt trip start to wear you down. It’s interesting that in both instances the person only cares when you’re walking out the door.
In today’s competitive hiring climate, where there is low unemployment, companies are apt to give counteroffers. They know that it will be difficult to find a replacement at the same or lower salary than the one earned by the person leaving. It is seen as easier to offer some reassuring words, toss the departing employee a little more money and then they don’t have to worry about finding and training someone new.
If your boss lets you leave without a fight, he has to find someone else to cover your work while simultaneously interviewing candidates. It’s much easier to offer a counter as a temporary Band-Aid solution. “We were going to give her an increase anyway, so it won’t even cost us anything extra,” the boss will rationalize.
Here’s the catch—the counteroffer is often a stalling tactic. Management will now view you as a flight risk and will surreptitiously start looking for a replacement. They’ll think that you will eventually leave, so they might as well have someone else lined up.
If the counter is accepted, your boss and management will act a little nicer. This will last for about one week. Then, everything goes back to the way it was, except now it’s worse. Everyone will view you as the evil villain in this scenario. It was you who betrayed the company by interviewing and getting a job offer. You will then be accused of using the other offer to coerce a higher salary for yourself. Your supervisor and others will view you as extorting them. When it comes time for a raise, your boss will scoff and claim that you already received it in the form of the counteroffer.
Everyone will start acting a little colder and become much more suspicious. If you come in a little late, take a long lunch or have a few too many sick days, your boss will think that you’re interviewing again. You will give rational explanations, but nobody cares. The mood becomes hostile. Eventually, you will feel so isolated and grow tired of the accusations and acrimony that you start searching for a new job. You will most likely jump at the first offer just to get out of this place.
If you have not been treated fairly and your company had months or even years to take care of your concerns, but only addressed them once you informed them that you’re leaving, they don’t care about you. This may sound cold and cynical, but it’s the truth. They had their chance to do right by you and they elected not to. They blew their chances and you deserve better treatment.
If you have a new job offer lined up, don’t be tricked or tempted by a counteroffer from your current firm. Remain confident in your decision and pursue the opportunity as a fresh new start.