Accepting a buyback is commonly considered tantamount to throwing your career under a bus full of members of Weight Watchers and reversing over it for good measure.
Headhunters argue vehemently against buybacks. Admittedly, you can say that headhunters would – they don’t collect their full fee if, at the last moment, a candidate decides not to move. On the other hand, they may also have candidates’ wellbeing (somewhere) in mind.
Buybacks are picking up in line with hiring. Rumour has it that one senior rates banker who resigned in the past few weeks was wooed by his previous employer for the three full days before making the definitive decision to leave. As well as dangling more money, promotions, and title inflation, banks are said to be resetting underwater options as an inducement to stick around.
If you want to go and your current employer wants you to stay, the best course of action is to say as little as possible about where you plan to go to. Failing this, repeat points one to five below at regular intervals. Remember: buybacks rarely make sense.
1) If you accept a buyback, your manager will never forgive you
“If you ask for a buyback, you’re basically putting your manager in a
difficult position as he is forced to go back to his boss to provide
more money, which makes him look weak,” says David Reynolds at Scott Reynolds Search Partners.
“If a manager has to go to his bosses and say, “We need this guy to stay”, there is a lot of politics, which may include them asking, “Why didn’t you tell us ?”,” says Dominic Connor at P&D Quant Recruitment. “He has the problem of saying, “If we pay him 40% more, he will stay,” which can go bad if he leaves anyway.”
2) If you accept a buyback, you’ll get dumped as soon as it’s humanly possible
“Buying someone back can simply give the firm time while they look to
hire a replacement,” says Peter Harwood at Principal Search.
“If you allow yourself to get bought back, you’re simply giving your
current employer the chance to hire someone else to fill your position as you have demonstrated that you are not fully committed to the institution,” says Reynolds.
“If you take the buyback, you’re playing a very dangerous game. You’ve declared your intention to leave, and will be first to go if tough times return. In every down cycle, we’ve seen the people who accepted buybacks let go first,” says another headhunter who preferred to remain anonymous.
2) If you accept a buyback, the rest of the team will never forgive you
By taking a buyback, you are suggesting that you are really only working there for the money. This doesn’t say particularly nice things about your sentiment towards the rest of the team. The buyback may also be paid out of this year’s bonus pool, which could particularly irk them.
3) If you accept a buyback, you’ll get a terrible bonus as soon as it’s possible to pay you badly
The buyback may involve a guarantee for one year, but once it’s lapsed you will suffer. “Your manager will remember, and will scr*w you in future,” advises one headhunter.
4) If you accept a buyback, you will leave anyway
Having accepted a buyback, your working life may prove so unpleasant that you will leave anyway.
Alternatively, having accepted more money, you may find that the real reasons for leaving – a disagreeable boss, an uninspiring job, a lack of promotional prospects – are all exactly as they were previously, and leave anyway.
All headhunters point out that two years after a buyback, few people are still in the same position.
“Money is a short term motivator,” says Michael Moran at outplacement and career coaching company Fairplace. “If there are issues around your manager, people don’t change.”
5) You’ll get a bad reputation among headhunters
This may not feature high among your reasons not to accept a buyback, but it’s worth bearing in mind that if you do it too frequently, headhunters may not want to work with you. As we pointed out at the beginning, if you don’t actually move, they don’t collect their full fee.
When buybacks DO make sense
This isn’t to say that buybacks are always completely irrational. Every now and then it may make sense to accept one. These rare occasions will be when…
1) The buyback involves something totally amazing
“If you’re offered something incredible internally and it appears that it will be very different to what you’ve been doing previously, then stay,” says one headhunter. “For example, if you really wanted to go to Asia, but it was previously blocked and is now possible, you’d obviously stick around.”
2) The buyback is in keeping with your grand plan for your career
It’s easier to develop additional skills and competencies by moving internally than by changing jobs, says Michael Moran. For this reason, if your buyback involves a promotion or sideways move that will allow you to do this, then stay.
“What you don’t do is to accept more money and keep on doing the same old job,” Moran says.