Do You Take the Counter Offer?

The first rule of informing your current employer about your plans to leave the company is to be completely sincere about the declaration.  Never use resignation as a threat to get what you want.  If you are not sincere about leaving, and your employer calls your bluff, you could be in serious trouble.  Even worse, if you have a position where you have access to vital company information and passwords, you may be asked to leave or be escorted from the building immediately.


Do not bring up the possibility of leaving, unless you are either willing to follow through with the threat, or be ready to be walked out at that moment.


At The Essex Companies, we help businesses find the perfect person for a job.  We have seen people leave positions they did not want to leave because they used a letter of resignation as a tool to try to get what they want.  It is a bad tactic that backfires more often than not.  Many times people will give notice on the expectation that the boss or management will be so surprised or upset that they will be given a counter-offer to stay.


On rare occasions, the tactic might work.


If your employer values you as a person and as an employee, they may want to keep you on board and happy.  They may ask why you are leaving and might even propose a counter-offer.


There is a belief by many that you should only inform your employer that you are giving notice and leaving when you have no other option but to leave.  You have now told your employer that you do not value the company as much as they do.  Even if you accept a counter-offer, you have planted the idea in their minds that you were ready and willing to leave.  There is the possibility that the employer will only want to keep you around long enough to replace you at their leisure and on their time.  The thought is that you should never take the counter-offer.

Is this true?  Here are a few things to consider before giving your notice or doing so and possibly accepting the counter-offer.


Do you want to leave? 


Being unhappy at a job is usually about the boss or culture of the business rather than the job itself.  People will stand around the water cooler and complain about the boss or the company as a way of bonding.  Sometimes you catch yourself doing it to be a part of the conversation.  The negative talk does have a way to take root, and the idle talk starts to affect how you feel about the job and the management.


Take a step back from the negative water-cooler talk and assess whether you have a problem with the boss and business, or if after the discussion, you do want to continue in your current position.


Can the counter-offer fix what’s broken?    


If the company can quickly fix your problem, you may want to attempt to resolve the issues before approaching your boss with a threat of resignation.  You may bring such matters as compensation, benefits, flex-time, or being able to telecommute to management or human resources in a way that keeps you in a positive light with your company and management.  They may even take your concern regarding these issues as a sign that you are committed to a long-term relationship with the company.


If you go to your boss with a letter of resignation in the hopes to remedy these sorts of concerns, you are starting the conversation off in a negative way, and your boss may feel as though you are giving them an ultimatum. 


However, some things aren’t so easily remedied, like office culture, pervasive bias against a particular section of people, or overall disagreement with work practices.  Even if you resign and receive a counter-offer, will the company be able to resolve the issues you have?  They might be able to offer more money or additional vacation time, but will they be able to fix a culture problem?  If your issue with the company is that deep, then a counter-offer would be a short-term gain, but the root cause of your unhappiness is still there.


Quite frankly, no amount of money in the world should induce you to stay somewhere that is affecting your health or ability to sleep at night.  Give your resignation, give a thorough, yet tactful, exit interview, and know that your responsibility towards such a company ends there.


Does this offer address your reasons for wanting to leave?


Sometimes, an employer will throw together some minor raise or a meaningless promotion that doesn’t deal with the issues you have.  They are throwing you a bone so that they don’t have to find and train a replacement for you.  Until they decide that they want a person who will work for less money and a lower title, don’t let that extra dollar an hour lull you into staying at a place that is still going to make you miserable at the end of the day. 


Can you put the past behind you?


Whether you get along with our co-workers or not, if you accept an offer from your boss that ends in you being a supervisor of people you previously worked with, the dynamic will change.  The question then becomes, can you perform this new job respectfully yet authoritatively?  It can be hard to change learned behaviors if everything and everyone else stays the same.  If a promotion is what you have been working for within that company, then accept the counter-offer.  Otherwise, looking elsewhere is your best bet for achieving a better position without having to deal with old biases.


Also, giving notice, even respectfully, is an adversarial move.  Some people cannot recover from that.  The boss could take the resignation personally and never fully trust the employee again.  As the employee, you may have it in your mind that you are now being put under a microscope.  You may not be able to put that adversarial feel aside and be comfortable in your new position.


Will a new job be a better fit?


Think about what you want from the new job and ask yourself if this is something that you can achieve.  Are you just idealizing a position that can’t possibly be as satisfying as you imagine?  Realistically, decide whether a new company or job or industry will provide you with fulfillment where the old one failed.  Pros and Cons lists are excellent in this endeavor.  Ultimately, you must make your decision with a combination of practicality and instinct, but either way, you are taking a risk.


Sometimes, it’s just time to move on even if you don’t have any significant concerns or gripes.  Maybe you want to learn new things and change careers altogether, or perhaps you finally got an offer from that company that you always dreamed of when you started this career. 

If a new job is what you want and you can afford to look, don’t let yourself be distracted by anything your current employer may offer.  Start looking in earnest until you find the position that checks all your must-have boxes.