Can a Counter Offer Ever Work Out?

Job Counter-offer

Can a Counter Offer Ever Work Out?

Karen Lloyd Career, job search, candidate...

In our opinion no.  A bit controversial perhaps, but in our long experience it rarely benefits either the employer or employee. 

You might think, oh, an article written by a recruiter, of course they’ll say that counter offers can’t work; it’s in their interest to do so.  In the short term, yes of course it is.  A recruiter will potentially lose out if a candidate accepts a counter offer from their current employer, but it is long-term career satisfaction and success that I am concerned with (as should any true recruiter worth their salt).

So, what really goes through someone’s mind after a counter offer has been made?  We take a look from both sides of the fence.

Knee Jerk Reaction

Employer's View:  Great, Jane has handed in her resignation.  This is terrible timing, we have some really important campaigns coming up that she is integral to.  No one else has the relationships with our external agencies that Jane does or has worked on them in so much depth.  This is really going to put a huge spanner in the works.  

Plus, I really rely on Jane, she’s so dependable and the work she produces is a huge credit, not only to her but the team.  I just can’t afford to lose her.  I’m going to speak to HR and she what we can do to keep her.

Fantastic!  She accepted the counter offer, phew!  That was well avoided!

Employee's View:  Thank goodness that is over.  Sneaking around going to interviews was just awful, not like me at all.  

They want me to stay!  My line manager has offered a great pay rise but I don’t know whether to take it.  My new job sounds amazing, but then I am starting from scratch to prove myself again, there’s no knowing what my new boss will be like and not to mention it’s a lot further away to commute than here.  My family are all saying to take the money and stay with what you know.

That’s what I’m going to do. I’m sure the other things bothering me will improve in time.

A Few Weeks Later

Employer's View: Jane is off today, that’s odd.  Oh, hang on… she took a day off before to go to the dentist when actually she was at an interview.  Also she was off sick the other day.  

Maybe she is still looking for another job despite the pay rise that I managed to get for her.  That’s pretty ungrateful, I expected better things from her.

Employee's View:   My boss is being really strange with me recently.  I always take a day off at this time of year – it’s my husband’s birthday.  She knows that.  I don’t understand why she is doubting what I’m telling her.

I’ve always been trustworthy and proved myself so many times in the past, I really don’t understand this.

A Couple of Months Later 

Employer's View:  Jane’s performance has really plateaued recently.  I expected her to up her game after I’ve put myself on the line to negotiate her a pay rise so she could stay with the company.  But her work is just the same, it feels like she has taken advantage of my generosity.  

I’ve got a new role opening up soon to work on new product lines but there is no way that I’m going to consider her now; she doesn’t really have the best interests of the business at heart, but is just out for what she can get.

Employee's View:  Oh my gosh the pressure is really being piled on at the moment.  I’ve got work coming out of my ears and it seems the expectations are becoming a bit unreasonable.  A person can only take so much on, and the support I used to get has just disappeared.  I know I got a pay rise recently but surely that doesn’t entitle them to expect the earth in return?

Nothing else has changed either despite the promises of career progression and exposure to new parts of the business.  I’m starting to think I made the wrong choice in staying after all.

Our View 

Counter offers are a sensitive subject on both parts, it is understandable from an employer’s perspective that they don’t want to lose a valuable employee who will be difficult to replace, and for an employee, the familiarity of their current position is a comfort.

Essentially a working relationship without a degree of trust and respect between an employer and employee is non-productive for both sides.  A person’s decision to change jobs is usually complicated. 

Unless there are extenuating circumstances that can be easily resolved, accepting a counter offer normally has the effect of addressing one or two concerns whilst ultimately breaking down trust and damaging your long-term relationship, which has a poor prognosis for both parties.