Why counter offers rarely work

Regardless of which sector or profession you work in, it’s a fact of life that most of us will be on either the receiving or delivering end of a counter offer. In our experience, and from the anecdotal feedback we’ve had from clients and candidates over the years, it’s a simple fact that counter offers don’t work long term.

It seems strange that with such overwhelming evidence, articles such as this one and general anecdotal feedback, that counter offers are just as prevalent today as they ever were. It seems so counter-intuitive to go through the whole to-ing and fro-ing involved in a counter offer that we’re genuinely confused as to why it’s still such a common practice.

How to decide if a new job is right for you
It’s rarely an easy decision for a happy employee to choose to hand their notice in and go somewhere else. In many cases, we find something has happened at work that made you decide to go through a selection process to get a job offer. And although each individual case and reason will be different, but drawing up a list of pros and cons of your current workplace versus your potential future employee may help crystallise ideas in your mind and help you understand your deeper motivations. And it’s absolutely critical that you do all of this BEFORE you hand your notice in.

Despite all our warnings, counter offers do occur but you need to be comfortable with the risks associated with accepting them. We can only think of a handful of reasons why you may want to consider accept a counter offer:

  1. Pay rises are on hold, but a competing job offer can release that restriction
  2. You never intended on leaving, but now have market pay rates to convince your boss to pay more

If you’re faced with a counter offer, what are the things you need to think about:

  1. Consider whether you should share details of the new job with your current employer
  2. Don’t overlook the reasons why you started looking for a new job in the first place
  3. Evaluate whether your job will be on the line if you decide to stay
  4. Will you be treated any differently if you accept the offer and decide to stay
  5. Are you really valued as an employee? In which case, why didn’t they pay you more in the first place (assuming money / promotion is the prime motivator for a move)
  6. How you can turn the job offer down without burning bridges
  7. How you can turn the counteroffer down without burning bridges

It’s not always about the money. Culture, flexible working, career progression, commuting distance, other perks and benefits all influence whether a new role is right for you.

What happens when you hand your notice in
First and foremost, your company may now see you as an ‘unsafe’ employee. Even worse, you may now be viewed as a ‘traitor’, particularly in smaller, family or lifestyle businesses. In this scenario, if you accept a counter offer you may be internally blacklisted and over time, engineered out of the business at a time that’s suitable for the employer rather than your own timescales.

Your action can have a damaging, detrimental effect on other employees. It can cause them to think about their own roles, their worth in the marketplace and whether they can do better elsewhere. For this reason alone, management can often want to avoid the whole counteroffer scenario because someone who has threatened to leave once may be considered more likely to do so again. And whilst they’re within the ranks, they can cause unrest amongst their colleagues.

The only way that a counter offer usually works is if you have a strong relationship and open communication style with your line manager or senior management. Managers that have high levels of emotional intelligence will understand the factors that have motivated you to get to this point, yet will potentially understand your motivation to stay. It also depends on how valuable you are as an employee. If you’re a high biller, or have excellent candidate and client networks, an employer may be tempted to counter offer and secure your services for longer.

The role of recruiters and counter offers
A good recruiter will have explored your motivations for moving prior to submitting your CV, way before you go to interview and certainly well in advance of handing your notice in. Recruiters invest a lot of time and effort in sourcing the right candidates for the right roles. They don’t want their candidates to accept counter offers because that’s not only lost business and time, but it can negatively impact the client’s view of the recruiter. They could also have submitted another candidate for the role too, one that wouldn’t have accepted a counter offer!

So a good recruiter will talk through your motivations and want to understand why you’re looking to move roles. They’ll need to know if the role or roles they’re working on are likely to tempt you away from your current employer. And they’ll need to understand that they’re not wasting their time with you.

Agencies and recruiters naturally want to find a good fit between candidates and clients, so a little time invested up front to explore motivations will hopefully avoid the difficult counter offer scenario. As we’ve hopefully shown counter offers don’t really benefit anyone in the end.

Harrison Sands has a lot of experience with recruiters at all levels and can offer practical advice and insight into the state of the UK recruitment market, helping you understand your worth in the market and working with you to uncover your likely motivations. Talk to us to find out more and see how we can help you with your next move in the recruitment industry.