Counter Offer Guidance

By Joe Stein

 
Counter Offer Guidance
 
I recently had a person come to me in a dilemma seeking some career advice. They had just been formally recognized for their work on a project and wanted to parlay that into some additional dollars and a better opportunity.   Complicating matters was an external offer that they had just received to leave their organization. What to do?   After a couple of discussions with me, the person went to see their supervisor and was told by them to pursue the other position. Apparently as the person later found out, the employer felt they were overstaffed in that position and this provided them with an opportunity to “right staff” themselves. Hence, the dangers of the mysterious counter offer. Further complicating matters for this person is that the offer in hand, unbeknownst to anyone but him, was for less money than he was making currently! This leads to a piece of advice…don’t bluff or lie, not when your career is at stake.
 
This incident serves to emphasize the importance of one of the least spoken about and most misunderstood aspects of a job search…the Counter Offer.
 
In order for the Counter Offer to come into play there obviously must be a desire for you stay with your current employer. So, the idea is to push your current employer into making an upgrade to your current situation, which will cause you to stay.
 
 
Benefits of a Counter Offer:
 
  • Many organizations have limited opportunities for improvement of your financial situation outside of a promotion. These companies may offer only a yearly review that will provide an increase close to cost of living, which will need to hold you until next year when you do it again. Short of a promotion you will not receive another jump in income. Some organizations perform market compensation analysis, which examines grades or positions to the market. However, often times this is done to ensure that a company is competitive which does not necessarily mean paying you individually what you are worth on the market. The Counter Offer is sometimes the only way to have the Department and Human Resources consider a raise outside of the normal cycle.
 
  • It may expedite the timetable of a promotion or a new assignment that was in the cards but was not scheduled until later. This will allow you to reap the benefits earlier of something you were going to receive in the future.
 
  • It sometimes provides you with the ego boost of how the organization really feels about you if they trip over themselves in an attempt to get you to stay. Of course, one should question why you would have to leave in order to receive a boost in pay or some other type of recognition that you deserved.
 
 
Dangers of a Counter Offer:
 
  • As in my example, if you are really bluffing and do not want to leave, you may just find yourself with no choice as your current employer wishes you good luck in the new job. Many employers and Managers as a practice are not advocates of Counter Offers. If they are not open to a Counter Offer, your bluff will lead you to disaster.
 
  • Your supervisor and the organization in general may question your loyalty and question your status as a Team Player. They may wonder when you will try to leave again, which could cause them to question whether to provide you with key assignments or needed training.
 
  • If co-workers know that you accepted a Counter Offer, they may treat you differently thinking that you tried to leave seeking to abandon them. They may also speculate that you received something special in exchange for staying. Usually this leads to them thinking that you received something that they do not currently possess.
 
  • For most people, salary is not the only reason for leaving; however, Counter Offers often only address this one issue. Make sure if you accept the Counter Offer you can live with the terms of the new “agreement”. Seek clarification regarding any compensation increase and make sure that it is not being forwarded from future increases.
 
  • Your current employer is only using the decision to Counter Offer in a way to stall to allow more time to find your replacement. This is why you must hold yourself firm to the timetable given on the offer you originally received.
 
Strategy:
 
  • Prior to informing your current supervisor of this offer, prepare yourself as to what it will take to have you stay. Fully evaluate the Job, the Organization, the Industry, and the Location and make a determination of what you value. Know why you considered leaving and what it will take to stay. If a Counter Offer is feasible, that will probably be the first question you are asked, so have an answer prepared. This is especially true, since your offer will probably be on a time deadline so you want to fully explore the possibilities of a counter prior to the expiration of the offer.
 
  • Know your supervisor and culture – If your supervisor is not a proponent of the Counter Offer or your company’s culture or HR Department does not allow for Counter Offers, your desire to receive one will prove fruitless. Know this information prior to seeking a Counter Offer; it will save you an uncomfortable conversation.
 
  • Be ready to spell out your value and why it deserves increased compensation or recognition. Remember that everyone reports to someone in life and your supervisor will most likely need to get approval on the Counter Offer. Arm your supervisor with the needed information regarding why you are invaluable.
 
  • Do not sound demanding – No supervisor desires to have the proverbial “gun to the head”. The initial communication that you may leave can be very jarring to him or her. Be very calm and professional only pursuing the idea of a counter offer if it is something that your employer displays an interest in.
 
  • Emphasize that you want to stay and why. This will potentially alleviate the issue of disloyalty regarding your pursuit of a position. You may want to stress (if it is true) that you were contacted and pursued, but for many reasons would like to stay. 
 
  • Do not be intimidated – A Counter Offer may occur with a Sr. level person involved. It may occur with some real pressure to accept and accept quickly. Be sure to provide yourself enough time to consider the Counter Offer. Remember, ultimately you have to do what is right for you.
 
  • Don’t bluff and don’t lie – Not only is it not ethical, as in my real life example, but it may backfire. You will also lose any credibility you may have with the people you know and lose any chance of keeping your current job.
 
  • Don’t Burn Bridges – This is the natural segue from don’t bluff and don’t lie. Leave the door open to rejoin the organization in the future. Maybe sometime when they have a position open that is not available at this time, they will think of you. If you do decide to leave, emphasize your commitment to helping ensure a smooth transition for your replacement.
 
In a best case scenario, you will have a strong enough relationship with your supervisor that you can inform them of your needs prior to diving in deeply with prospective employers. This will allow you to have a positive conversation regarding your situation without the cloud of the other offer hanging over the conversation.
 
Overall, I am not an advocate of the Counter Offer. I have rarely seen them work as usually the issues go far beyond salary preventing any thought of long-term success. I would much rather see good career dialogue prior to an offer and if that is not possible, it probably is a reflection of a much deeper issue than money.
 
As always, best of luck in your job search.
 
 
The following has been prepared for the general information of WNY Jobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.
 
Joe Stein
WNY Human Resources Professional
Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at:
              http://www.wnyjobs.com/contact.asp