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Avoiding the Counter-Offer

Congratulations! You’ve been offered an outstanding position with another company and after a logical and rational decision process, have decided to accept the position and tender your resignation to your current employer.

However, if you are good at your job and your company is in reasonably good shape, there is a likely chance that when you resign, your employer will try to convince you to stay. Their reasons are obviously in the company's interest:
  • finding and training a replacement for you will be expensive and time consuming
  • the company may lose money due to lost business from your work not getting done
  • other employees may be influenced to look for another job if they see someone else making a successful change
The normal mechanisms the company may use can include:
  • more money in terms of base, bonus, stock, etc.
  • a promotion or some other change to your job that may be desirable
  • promises that changes may come in the future
There are at least three reasons that a counter-offer can be very attractive:
  • Your emotions may already be stressed by the thought of leaving friends and co-workers, relocating, and starting a new job.
  • Change brings with it fear and some uncertainty.
  • When your employer wants you to stay, it is a great ego boost.
If you entertain the counter-offer, you may be sorely tempted to reverse the decision you made for the best objective reasons and to do what is not in your best interest.

So what is so bad about getting more money or a big promotion with your current employer versus making the change? As tempting as it may sound, let's think about what it means.
  • You may no longer be considered to be a person who can be trusted. When it comes to critical future assignments, the management may not be comfortable depending on you. What effect will that have on your career?
  • Once the management has solved the immediate problem of your leaving, they may work you out of the critical path and let you go when the time is right for the company. So you may find yourself relieved of this job which is what you wanted in the first place, but now unemployed with no jobs in sight because you were no longer looking. Being unemployed and looking for a job puts you in a much different situation.
  • The reasons that caused you to want to leave your job are not going to change because you get more money or a promotion. If you let the counter-offer convince you to stay, the same factors that caused you to want to leave will likely have the same effect again in the near future.
The best way to avoid making this mistake is to prevent the counter-offer from happening. If you are confident that you are doing the right thing for the right reasons and you have chosen to accept another job that will help satisfy your objectives, then you should be able to resign with a clear statement that your decision is irrevocable and that you would appreciate it if the company would respect that your decision is final and not open to negotiation. If you do not have this confidence then you should not resign. If the company does not respect your request and still tries to negotiate a counter-offer, you have every reason to demand that the company cease the pressure tactics.

Making good career decisions is in your best interest; do not let someone else force you into making a bad decision. Counter-offers are poison. Avoid them like the plague.

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