Business Career Recruitment — 25 August 2011
Counter Offers – Just say “no”!

I am prompted to write this post because a recruiters’ worst nightmare happened to me 2 days ago: a candidate who has signed and accepted my client’s job offer told me 3 weeks later that he has decided to remain in his current company and accepted a counter offer. This is not withstanding the fact that he has to pay my client liquidated damages for rescinding the contract!

With increasing talent shortage due to a buoyant economy, cases such as these are aplenty. And many of these candidates live to regret their decision later. Here are a few reasons why:

  • I am making the assumption that even before one contemplates leaving his employer, he would have taken the necessary steps to address whatever problems or issues that had prompted him to leave in the first place. How then, I wonder, does one think the issues would magically disappear just because you have tendered in your resignation? Wouldn’t the cultural misfit, or the horrible boss who is blocking your career progression still remain? Many a times, a candidate who accepts a counter offer and stays on in his current role leaves the job again 6 months later anyway. This is because getting a counter offer does not eradicate the reasons why you have decided to move on in the first place.
  • So maybe you’ll say the situation has changed — your boss finally gave you the promotion you have been gunning for; or the salary that you’ve always wanted. Well, instead of rejoicing and staying on, I say that should further reinforce the fact that you’ve made the right decision to move on! What kind of employer would it be, who only bothers to recognise the value of an employee when he resigns?
  • We often hear the phrase “No one is indispensable to any organisation”. I would prefer to say everyone in an organisation has a different role to play, and some functions are naturally more important than others. Most employers would naturally put up a fistfight to retain its top talent. But at the end of the day, if the company is unable to give the employee the challenges and/or career progression that they are seeking, it is only fair to give their blessings to the employee who has found greener pastures, address the gap internally and move on. Many times, employers may act for their own selfish needs. They retain you because they need you to carry out your responsibilities as there is no one else who can take over your duties immediately. Or worse, they resort to emotional blackmail. If your company is using emotional blackmail on you, again be glad you have made the right decision to leave.
  • Candidates may think that we as recruiters want to persuade them against the counter offer for our own selfish reasons. Sure, we lose a potential placement with a client, but we soon move on to find a replacement quickly. But what does the candidate stand to lose? His integrity, his professionalism, his reputation in the industry, and future opportunities to ever work with the prospective employer again.

So think about it before accepting a counter offer.

At the end of the day, recognise that you are responsible for charting your own career, and you know what is best for you. So don’t let anyone else sway your decision and convince you otherwise! Once you have committed to a new job, be firm with your decision and exit your company with grace, and get ready to embrace your new challenge!


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(14) Readers Comments

  1. I saw a great quote in a blog post recently (for the life of me I cant remember who wrote it) but basically it said “beware the bright lights” which I thought was great advise. That sparkling counter offer with extra money and flashing lights will not solve the underlying problems that caused you to look for a new company in the first place.

    Good advise to take a step back and think about that counteroffer and why it was made after you resigned.

    Nice post Erin,

    • Thanks for your coments Stuart! I read the “Beware the Bright Lights” blog too! It’s written by Chris Savage :)

      • Brilliant, thank Erin I have now booked marked that article now.

  2. What a great article Erin. I to have had my fair share of counter offer situations and I dislike them immensely. I would suggest that all recruiters and hiring managers should during a hiring process, address and qualify the likelihood of a counter offer and the thought process of the talent at every opportunity. Being open about hypothetical situations may seem silly at the time but it will significantly reduce the likelihood of a counter offer being accepted and wasting your time and the client’s.

    • Thanks for your comments, Kyle! I actually did anticipate the possibility of a counter-offer with this particular candidate, and his reply to me then was “C’mon! We are professionals…. this is not going to happen”. The client also tried to pre-empt that by getting him to sign a contract for liquidated damages should he rescind his contract. But well.. it still happened anyways… :(

  3. Great article Erin, you’ve raised such valid points. I agree with Kyle it’s definitely part of the screening process to pose the hypothetical counter offer option.

    In my experience most employers who make counter offers do so with the knowledge that it will be around 6 months before you leave. Part of what they’re doing by offering you more money & more incentive to stay etc. is literally buying time for them to find a replacement. As recruiters we’re constantly approached by clients ‘window shopping’ in the market, with no official role on the go just an awareness that their top dog isn’t as committed to the company as they were previously. By accepting a counter offer an employee is putting themselves into a negative situation where they no longer have the upper hand. When the need arises to downsize, employers are more likely to oust the one who had been planning on leaving in the first place.

    • Thanks for your comments, Sandra and what you’ve said is so true!

  4. Counter Offers are part and parcel of life. The reason is the fact that good talent is in scarcity – more so someone who is good AND knows the system. There will be a drop in service quality or creative or whatever, if someone new comes along and will naturally take time to settle in. Plus there is the cost of recruiting someone new and the possibility of the new recruit not fitting in at all!
    No I am not justifying anything about Counter Offers, having being subject to a lot of those myself over a 30 year career!. All I am saying is that it is part of the environment, much like anything else and it is something that one should take cognizance of and keep temptation at arm’s length!
    I think this is especially true – “What kind of employer would it be, who only bothers to recognise the value of an employee when he resigns?” My personal belief is that employees are neither assets not are they resources. Assets depreciate over time and resources (unless new sources are found!) deplete over time as well! Classical definition of assets and resources from a fiscal standpoint! Unfortunately employers do not recognize this at all. Therefore employees in my book are just people – people with hope, aspirations and a future. And as long as the employer recognizes that and keeps the aims, objectives, performance and reward structure in line with those hopes, aspirations and future, in my book, the employees will be happy and attrition will be reduced significantly.
    Sorry for this rather lenghty post!

  5. succintly written, erin.
    i, too, would “eliminate” such a candidate.
    give me professionalism & integrity anytime.

  6. Hello Erin,
    This article is written completely from the point of view of a recruiter. But, the reality and facts from an employee’s point of view is completely different. Most of your points are based on the assumption of an ideal workplace where every employee is fairly evaluated and apprised. But, this is far from the truth and causes the phenomenon of counter offers. You raised the question, “What kind of employer would it be, who only bothers to recognise the value of an employee when he resigns” – well, look around and the reality is that most organizations work this way. Most organizations do not have proper processes and mechanisms to reward and understand the aspirations of it’s employees. This leaves the employees in a situation where they have to take drastic steps to change their ‘valuation’ by an organization. You can read some of these sentiments from an employee here:

    I also do not agree that accepting a counter offer puts the employee in a disadvantageous position in the organization. You cannot view all incidents of counter offers as a way to arm twist and black mail the organization, a lot of times these are desperate effort from the part of an employee to value him/her properly. This does not mean that the employee is not loyal to the organization, nor does it mean that the employee will jump ship in the near future. I have seen many real life scenarios where employees who have accepted counter offers have continued to perform well with an organization.
    As recruiters, you will need to accept and prepare for counter offers, because we live in an era of non-ideal workplace practices.

    Jiju Vengal.

  7. Well, some interesting points taken in this article. My take on this is that there are 50/50 chances of counter offers in an organization. They are sometimes counter offers is made due to the guilt of the company or due to his/her reputation towards its clients and business needs, his/her presence is required in order the company to continue business.

    Counter offers need to be assess in situations and I believe counter offers is partly good as it shows our worth to the company. Normally most reasons why an employee leaves the company is when they are looking for a better job opportunity (in this case a better salary).

    Challenges in the corporate world as an employee is the usual, so I think that will not be the case. Most cases, people change jobs just to to get a decent salary to accomodate the high cost expenses of living nowadays.

    In short, I think counter offers is good but slightly in certain cases it might be the other way round. Nevertheless, what we can do is to be careful and always think positive in everything that we do. I myself is also looking for a better decent job salary to cater on the growing demand of cost of living. I hope I can score something good this year.

    Thank you.

    Wan Azhareezal Wan Aziz

  8. My only response to counter offers – “too little, too late.”

  9. I am a victim of a “counter offer”. And I love it!! I was working as a project officer for an Utility got bored and moved on, got lost in the wilderness for a while and finally sold cars for a living. An opportunity arose to take on a position as a project manager at another utility (although only a 12 month contract)and after being convinced by my fiancee to take it on’Cos you never know what might happen” I put in for it. I interviewed well but didn’t get the job. Back to selling cars… BUT the person that was given the job was hedging his bets with another job and after being offfered the position then declined and took on the other position- Do ya reckon I was pleased to get the call to find out if I was still interested- S**t yeah!! I’m still here- have a permanent position and love my job. The guy that got the job originally didn’t last in his other job and is who knows where. Some time counter offers work for the right reasons and give someone else that really wants something to have it. Karma I do believe its called.

    • Hi Tim,
      Thanks for your comment.. Given that the other person who accepted the counter offer didn’t last long in it proves my point exactly! Belated congratulations to you on getting the job, all the best in your career forward and do keep supporting our blog posts!


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