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Counter offers cause career catastrophe for finance professionals in Asia

Only happy in the short term

Only happy in the short term

Tendering your resignation to clinch a promotion or pay rise from your current boss seems to work, at least in Hong Kong. As we reported yesterday, 78% of financial professionals in the city who have used the drastic tactic say it led to them being counter offered with more money or a better role.

But beyond such short-term gains lies a world of potential long-term career pain for those who give notice for the sole purpose of clinching a counter offer, say recruiters in Hong Kong.

Related articles:
Hong Kong finance professionals threaten resignation in push for pay rises, promotions
When finance recruiters in Asia tell you NOT to quit your current job
The argument for – and against – accepting a counter offer

Your boss will lose face

Your boss may genuinely want to retain your skills, but having to make a counter offer may well cause them to lose face. “Trust between you is likely to deteriorate as a result,” says Chris Jackson, associate director of risk at Pure Search in Hong Kong. “Holding your boss to ransom to get more out of them is likely not something they will forget anytime soon.”

A junior may steal your job

Counter offers often come with a sting in the tail: your manager, concerned that you are disgruntled and may leave in the near future, will likely groom or even hire your successor. “This more junior person will probably receive training and development that would have otherwise gone to you and will be well positioned internally to alleviate any negative perception of your expected departure,” says Kate Harper, an associate director at recruiters Eximius Group in Hong Kong. “You’ll need to back yourself that this whippersnapper, hot on your heels, doesn’t overtake you.”

You’ll miss out on other ways of being retained

If you create the appearance that you are staying put largely because of your increased salary, you may not be included in your firm’s (non-financial) retention initiatives. “Many banks are going about retaining staff in positive ways, outside of salary and bonuses – for example, high potential-programmes, division rotation, global mobility and robust diversity strategies,” says Harper.

Team morale will suffer

Resigning and then taking a counter offer is a recipe for generating resentment within your team. Critical relationships with colleagues could suffer if word leaks out that your pay was bumped up independently of your annual review. “A pay rise or promotion should be earned and not gained in a way that many would consider lacks integrity,” says Christine Wright, Asia managing director of recruitment agency Hays.

It could cost you a promotion

“Over the long term, when there are promotion opportunities, are you going to be looked upon as favourably as colleagues who have never resigned?” says John Mullally, associate director, financial services, at recruiters Robert Walters in Hong Kong. “Resignation damages internal relationships and the effect tends to linger.”

And it could ultimately cost you your job

“I don’t recommend resignation as a negotiation technique because nobody knows when supply and demand in the labour market will reach an equilibrium or when it will become an employer-driven market,” says Scott Cheung, managing consultant, corporate banking, at recruitment firm PSD Group in Hong Kong. “When the economy goes south, employees who used resignation to bargain for a pay rise may be top of the let-go list.”

Citing market information is better

You can make your manager aware of the fact that your skills are sought after elsewhere without resorting to resigning. “For high performers, a better strategy is to cite comparisons to similar-level employees,” says Peter Chong, associate consulting director at search firm MRIC Group in Hong Kong. “I wouldn’t recommend a blatant resignation unless all other avenues have been tried. Asking for things is better than demanding them; managers like to have options.”


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