A post by recruiter Jack Bagshaw made major waves on LinkedIn over the summer. The topic of the post – whether or not you should ever accept a counter offer from your employer – is one we've weighed in on before, and it's highly relevant to any professional considering a career move.
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Here's the gist: Say you've been in a role for a while and have recently identified new opportunities, either with the help of a recruiter or on your own. Say you then apply for these roles, maybe because they have more progressive responsibility or offer more. Maybe you apply because the working style or company culture at your current organization no longer fits your needs anymore.
Now, say you land one of these new opportunities and negotiate a salary. Then you go have a chat with your boss wherein you tell them that you'll be moving on to a new opportunity. So far, so good. But what do you do when that boss then turns around and gives you a counter offer – a raise and/or promotion – just so you'll stay?
A counter offer, also known as a "buyback," seems innocuous and productive at first, as though you've leveraged your increased worth and skills into a raise. But lurking beneath the surface are a host of issues that might present themselves if you decide to accept the offer.
According to Bagshaw's article, 9 out of 10 people who accept counter offers have left their companies within six months of accepting the counter offer. He doesn't provide the source of the statistic, but anecdotally, we can say from our own extensive recruitment experience that counter offers are rarely successful for the candidate.
There are a few reasons for this. First of all, there's a high chance that your employer is going to see you as disloyal going forward, despite the fact that they've made you a counter offer. Even if you were quite reasonable in wanting to seek other opportunities (and everyone has the right to do so, of course), the employer issuing the counter offer now knows that you're actively on the market. Chances are, they're going to take the steps to find a replacement because they expect that you will leave somewhere down the line. You've shown that you already have one foot out the door.
At first, your employer might feel proud of the fact that they could retain you. But often, a seed of resentment soon begins to grow. All of a sudden, you have to work to establish your worth all over again, as if you were a new hire and not an employee the company has made effort to retain. It's possible that your employer will feel as if you've used a new job offer to leverage or "extort" a raise in salary or responsibility instead of making a persuasive case to your employer for that kind of advancement in an open and trusting way.
Consider also the competing company that issued you the new offer. If they find out you've accepted a counter offer, they may feel like you've leveraged the significant amount of resources they've invested in hiring you into a raise or promotion at your current job. You risk looking unserious, or worse, deceitful. Even if you actually were serious and the counter offer just seemed too good to pass up, the optics are as important as the facts.
One thing to keep in mind: A counter offer situation is a chance to talk to your employer about what might be less than ideal about your current job. But in our opinion, this kind of conversation is better broached – diplomatically of course – before you dangle a competing offer from a new employer in front of your boss and before they feel like they've been put into a difficult situation.
It's your career, and you're the boss. If you're ever in the position of fielding a job offer alongside a counter offer from a current employer, you're lucky and have a chance to use your judgment. But here's our advice: While a bump in salary might seem to make it worth staying, it's more worth it to think about all the implications of how you'll be perceived.
A version of this article originally appeared on the Argentus blog.
Bronwen Hann is a seasoned recruiter with 35 years of experience in the industry. She founded and currently runs Argentus Supply Chain Recruiting.