What if your company makes a Counteroffer?

Upon resignation, you have interviewed, evaluated and committed to a new career path and a new company based on your career growth and opportunity, congratulations! Typically, your company and boss will express disappointment that you are leaving their employ since you are a valued employee. They will wish you the best and suggest the door is always open for you in the future.

However, some companies will go beyond the typical “anything we can do?” reaction most Managers will have and try to entice you to stay. Counteroffers are business decisions by an employer to buy time or change the situation to better meet their business operations. Counteroffers can create confusion and remorse for the employee and are typically made in conjunction with some form of flattery. For example: 
•    You're too valuable, we need you. 
•    You can't desert the team/your friends and leave them hanging. 
•    We were just about to give you a promotion/raise, and it was confidential until now. 
•    What did they offer, why are you leaving, and what do you need to stay? 
•    The Executive/CIO wants to meet with you before you make your final decision. 

Counteroffers usually take the form of: 

•    A promise of more money
•    a sudden promotion
•    promises or future considerations
•    emotional guilt trips

Most often a company is basing its decision on the cost and pain to rehire, retrain a new person in your role.  Additionally, it is a chance to buy time and planning to be able to more tactically fill the position in the future or make internal adjustments on their time.

The Reality

  • Employers don't like to be "fired." Often, a reporting Manager can be concerned that they will look bad, and/or that his/her career may suffer. It's never a good time for someone to resign, and it may prove time-consuming and costly to replace you. In addition, they know that statistically you are almost certain to leave them in the future.
  • Companies use counter offers as a stop gap to buy time, it is a business decision made typically by your manager or an edict higher than your direct reporting Manager and although delivered as a benefit or reward to an employee or from an emotional presentation, it is all business.
  • It's can be much cheaper and easier to try keep an employee, even at a higher salary. And it would be better to replace them later - on the company's time frame.
  • Having once demonstrated your "lack of loyalty" by having considered looking at another job opportunity, you will lose your status as a "team player" and your place in the "inner circle."
  • Numerous studies have shown that the basic reasons for wanting to change jobs/company in the first place will nearly always resurface. Changes made as the result of a counteroffer rarely last beyond the short-term, no matter how many promises are made.
  • Once a company decides to “buy” an employee, the companies typically, directly or indirectly becomes open to new candidates for that position, become open to ways to “restructure” and often at a lower salary.
  • Statistics show that if you accept a counteroffer, the probability of voluntarily leaving within twelve months or being “downsized or restricted” within one year is extremely high, over 75%. 
  • Accepting a counteroffer is a blow to your personal pride, knowing that you were bought. 
  • Counteroffers are business decisions by a company and they rarely support the reasons why you accepted a new position in relation to your career growth and long term career outlook.

Addressing a counter offer professionally

Often, a manager will ask if there is anything they can do or why you are leaving simply as a response to the resignation.

They will typically respect you and your decision and wish you the best in your new endeavor and offer to welcome you back should things change in the future.

If it is pressed to indirectly or directly to try to change your mind, offer to have the big boss talk to you or “go to work” on a counter proposal,  the following is one approach to diffuse those situations to avoid issues and resign on good and professional terms.

“I have made this decision after much deliberation as well as accepted and committed to a new company and opportunity which I feel is the right decision for my career.  I appreciate the counteroffer or suggestion yet I plan to honor my commitment and ask that you accept my resignation and honor my decision. I will work diligently to tie up loose ends and transfer open projects in a professional manner. However, if things for some reason didn’t work out as I expect, I would hope we would have an opportunity to work together again in the future”

This is a good way to maintain your integrity and remind them that it was a well thought decision that you would ask that they respect.  It is also a good way to take any tension out of the situation and give them a chance to open the door for later while making a highly professional resignation.