Counter-Offers: Avoiding Enticement
By Kevin T. Buckley, CPC
Here’s the situation: You are submitting your resignation with the sincere hope that your present employer will accept your career objectives. You are expecting them to graciously give you their blessing as you head off for new challenges.
At first, they accept your resignation without reacting. You feel you have done the right thing by giving adequate notice, and you start wrapping up your work. Then, towards the end of the day, your boss comes back with a serious look, and suggests that you meet and discuss this further. You are a little taken aback but think that you should agree to be polite.
You are now involved in the counter-offer process. They are indicating their refusal to accept that you are leaving. How are you going to handle this with tact and diplomacy and still keep your goal in sight? In the counter-offer process, emotional manipulation may make you change your mind. Management appeals to your loyalty, your sense of guilt, or buyer remorse and tries to find your weak point in order to convince you to stay.
It is the day after you submitted your resignation. You are getting the cold shoulder. They are interrogating you about which competitor you are joining, how much salary you are getting, and why you are even thinking of considering a move. You are sitting in front of your boss and perhaps another senior executive. They are painting a rosy picture of your future at the company.
The next day, colleagues from all over the company are calling you and telling you how sorry they are to see you leaving the team. They are taking you out to lunch individually or as a group and, over coffee and friendly conversation, are asking you about your new job: who it is with, what you will be doing. They are emphasizing how things will be different when you are gone.
This is a common tactic to make you reconsider your decision, based on the emotional attachments you might have formed with certain people in the company.
The next day, your employer announces to you that they will use the opportunity of your resignation to finally give in to your earlier unmet requests for a raise. They are assuring you that they were going to do this anyway. You are starting to think that they are finally beginning to recognize your worth.
At last, they see how valuable I am to the company. It took awhile, but now they see the light.
What has actually happened is that you are putting pressure on them, and they are reacting to it. They are facing the prospect of replacing you. It is cheaper and less of a problem to offer more money, to match or exceed your offer, and hope you’ll solve this problem for them. You haven’t received the extra money because they think you deserve it—you have the extra money because they feel they have no choice but to offer it in order to keep you. If they felt you deserved it, you would already have it.
Here is another common approach: your employer doesn’t have extra money to match/exceed your offer right now, so they are promising that soon things will improve—there are new projects developing, and if you can just hang on a little longer you can be involved, and maybe move upwards in responsibility or authority.
That is the promise of future rewards offered in lieu of cash. It is one of the toughest counter offers to resist. Your employer is responsible for hiring, firing, and developing staff. Management has invested money in you and your training. They don’t want to lose that investment. You are good at your job, and customers and staff like you. You have made your decision, but now you are starting to question yourself and why you are leaving.
The pressure continues, day after day. You are confused and a little upset that they won’t let matters be. Hold to your decision, and don’t be bought by promises that things will get better, or that you will be given the opportunities that weren’t available for you before you resigned. Don’t forget why you chose to leave in the first place. It is hard because you do have friends there. You like some of the people you work with. It isn’t easy to leave people that you have good feelings about. Good friendships survive these situations. You don’t have to cut all ties.
You know that the future is waiting for you at your new employer. You understand that it is time to move on. You have made your decision carefully after weighing all the factors. There is a transition time between tendering your resignation and joining the new firm. Remember that you have at most two weeks to go until you step forward to your future. It is natural to feel a little nervous. Change requires courage and confidence. You have made the right decision. Your employer has their company’s interests foremost in mind. This is natural.
You are giving your employer a problem to solve. They don’t want to replace you. They may genuinely like you as a person and want you to stay, but ultimately they know that people do move on in their careers. They probably did the same thing also to arrive at where they are today.
Believe in yourself and your decision-making despite the pressures put upon you to stay. Your decision does have validity; it is your decision after all. Your boss wasn’t born in the company. They came from another company and made a decision to get there just as you have made a decision to move on. See why they are doing this. Don’t take it personally. They have a job to do, as management, to keep staff. It is important to keep relations friendly and to stop further discussions about what you require to stay.
You know what you want. You tell them you are happy to wrap-up your work and that you have fond memories of working there. In a friendly yet firm way, you ask them to respect your decision. Your decision is final. You ask them how you can get on with transferring your files and tying up loose ends. You don’t have to burn any bridges. Keep your eyes on your goal. Your goal is a brighter future with new challenges and new opportunities to learn and grow. That is where you want to be. Make the change.
This is your future.
Counter offers take many forms: instant salary increases, promotion to higher responsibilities, promises of future promotions, vacation time increases, and so on.
It is tempting to surrender to the pressure and seize the opportunity presented to you to stay. It seems as if the employer has finally come around, and is seeing things the way you want them to. They are reacting to the pressure of the moment, and they are thinking about their interests. This is normal; companies want to protect their investments, and they have made an investment of time, money and training in you.
The decision that you have made to choose your own future is not being respected. Even if you receive everything you want, these rewards did not develop naturally. Your employer is on the spot.
They did not spontaneously decide that they were paying you less money. It is in their interests to make promises to you to get you to stay. Wouldn’t you want to protect your investment? Review time may bring some surprises when what was promised may not materialize in the fullness of time.
Emotional manipulation is used as a tactic to make you feel bad about your decision and to play on your fears of change. The employer may try to make you feel guilty about not being a team player, letting down your friends, throwing away all of your hard work. Your integrity, the value of your word, and the promise you freely made in accepting the new employment are in the spotlight.
Here is what they are saying to you:
• You are a valuable team player, and we don’t want to lose you.
• Haven’t you seen that conditions are getting better. This isn’t the time to leave?
• We wanted to promote you soon so you really should stay.
• Okay, I will match whatever the other company is offering, plus a little extra.
• You want that extra week’s vacation we talked about? You’ve got it!
• Why do you want to lose all the benefits of your seniority here?
• You tell me what or who you are having a problem with, and we’ll fix it.
• You have so many friends here; why do you want to leave them?
• I’ll talk to senior management and see what we can do for you.
• This is not a great time for you to leave because we really need you now.
• Things are going to get better, just hang in a little longer.
These kind of comments can have you second-guessing your decision. Promises made begin to create remorse and confusion.
Am I being too hasty? Am I doing the right thing?
Career changes are challenging because you will leave a comfortable job, friends, location, etc. for an unknown opportunity where you have to prove yourself all over again. Fear of change can cloud your thinking. No matter how good the new opportunity is, it can sometimes seem more comfortable just to stay.
Sometimes the emotional pressure brought to bear on you can be very intense. An employer who is competitive by nature may take this on as a crusade to win you over and deprive your new employer of acquiring your services simply because they just don’t like to lose. Trying to make someone guilty about his or her decision is a classic example of this type of emotional manipulation.
Stick to your decision, and politely but firmly close the door on further discussions. Tell them that you have made up your mind, and confirm that you will be joining the new employer.