You've had a good, long run at your current job, but you've recently started exploring the job market – just to see what's out there. Low and behold, you stumble across a position that is everything you've ever wanted in your career — more pay, good management, a challenging product line.
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Now, you're sneaking around, taking long lunches to move the interview process along, and after a lot of thought, you've decided to take the job offer.
It's a Friday afternoon when you walk into your boss's office and hand in your resignation. You explain that this is a great opportunity — too good to pass up — and announce your departure date.
But you are totally unprepared for what happens next: Your manager counteroffers.
Confused, you go home, thinking over what your manager said. They want to keep you. They had no idea you were looking. They will offer you more money, a bigger cube, and an extra week of vacation, if you'll reconsider.
You start to mull it over. If you stay, you won't have to learn a new company's culture and complexities, you won't have to take unnecessary risks, and you will get more money — for doing exactly what you have been doing all along.
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Your decision was made long ago, when you first started looking for a new job. You should not reconsider it emotionally. Something motivated you to entertain the idea of leaving. What was it? Regardless of this counteroffer, that thing still exists. Staying in your current role will only prolong your ever-looming departure.
If an employer were sincere about retaining you, they would have taken strides to keep you happy long before you handed in your resignation. It's likely that you've been unhappy for some time, and no one bothered to notice it.
Why Employers Counteroffer
An employer counteroffers for one reason: fear. Fear of having to hire and train your replacement. And after all of that pain (statistically, it takes a minimum of 6-8 weeks to fill a position), the new hires still may not work out.
You are a proven performer. You work well with the team. You are a known quantity. Your employer doesn't want the inconvenience of starting all over again. Out of sheer fear, they will counteroffer.
The problem is, they now know that your loyalty is suspect. Like a jilted lover, the employer will say anything you need to hear to get you back. Or, worse, they will keep you around just long enough to find your replacement.
The statistics are against you: 70-80 percent of people who accept counteroffers leave the company within a year – either voluntarily or against their will.
Counteroffers Can Harm Your Career
As a career counselor and recruiter, I discuss counteroffers within the first few minutes of meeting engineers who are seeking new employment opportunities. I want to be clear about what they are looking for in their next job. After all, if I am to represent them and take time out of my day to market them to my clients, I want to understand their level of commitment.
Too many parties are involved by the time the interview processes gets started, and it doesn't make sense to start with a candidate only to be halted because they have decided to accept a counteroffer. Clarifying the job seeker's intentions upfront saves everyone involved a lot of time and embarrassment – myself included.
Accepting a counteroffer can be hazardous to your career — and your character. Unfair as it might seem, some might believe that you can be bought, that you are indecisive, and that you are prone to walking out at the most inopportune time. Your reversal, while reasonable enough to you, can send an indelible ripple through your old team.
The best way to avoid a counteroffer is to state that, after much deliberation, your decision is final. That's it. You should incorporate your decision into your letter of resignation, as well as verbalize it to your manager. No need to be unpleasant: You can deliver the news and reiterate that you will do whatever it takes to make the transition easy for them. Putting the focus on your manager and away from you will allow them to process your resignation and move forward.
You are free to take your talent any place you'd like.
A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.
Elizabeth Lions is an executive career coach. You can learn more at ElizabethLions.com.