If you accept a counteroffer, you will be eviscerating your career all over the pavement. Your boss will remember your intention to leave and will quietly despise you. Your colleagues will be made aware of your intended treachery; you will be hated.
If you receive an offer of employment somewhere else, tell your current boss you’re leaving, and then change your mind and decide not to anywhere when your existing employer suddenly produces a generous pay rise/promotion/promise of future glory, you are a fool.
This is what headhunters and recruiters will tell you.
Resigning from one employer and joining another involves psychological warfare. The more senior and more valued you are, the more aggressive the warfare will be.
On one hand, the new employer and the headhunter will want you to resign. They are not impartial. The new employer wants to fill their vacancy; the headhunter wants to collect his/her fee.
On the other hand, your existing employer wants you to stay. They are not impartial either. Replacing you is expensive; they’ve suddenly realised how valuable you are. Expect to be locked in rooms with senior staff flown in especially to flatter you. Expect to be offered more money; expect promotions.
Maybe you should accept.
Fear and opportunism
When it comes to dismissing counteroffers, headhunters know which buttons to push. As Sital Ruparelia points out, they commonly claim that 75% of people who accept a counteroffer are looking for a new job again within 6 months.
This statistic is not verified.
John Nicholson, chairman of business psychologists Nicholson McBride, says people working in investment banks tend to be both more fearful and more opportunistic than in other professions. Accepting a buyback represents the triumph of opportunism. Refusing a buyback represents the triumph of fear.
When a counteroffer is right and proper
Whatever recruiters say, there are situations in which a counteroffer should be accepted. Fear and opportunism should play no part in the decision-making process.
Instead, think rationally and dispassionately about the following points:
1) The value of your network at your existing employer
If you have worked somewhere for a while, you will have built up a significant internal network. This is extremely valuable, says Graham Ward, a coach, programme director at the INSEAD global leadership centre and former co-head of the European equities business at Goldman Sachs. “To move and rebuild your network elsewhere is a significant undertaking,” he points
2) Your history at your current employer
Why were you thinking of leaving? Was it opportunism? “Everyone likes to be asked to dance,” says Ward, “That doesn’t mean you should leap onto the dance floor.”
Ward suggests you contemplate how you’ve been treated at your existing employer (Badly? Well?), whether they’re contributing to your leadership development, whether they’re allowing you to develop according to your planned career path. If the answer is yes to any of those, you are maybe moving for a price tag. Is that a good enough reason to leave?
How to have a grown-up conversation with your boss
Ward points out that it is also perfectly possible to elicit and accept a
counteroffer without ‘threatening’ to leave.
“It is your prerogative to have a good relationship with your boss,” he says. “If you have that good relationship, you needn’t issue a threat. All talented people get job offers from time to time and your boss knows this. You should therefore be able to sit down and say, ‘This is one of those occasions on which I’ve had an offer from an outside company. Can we discuss
my potential career track within this company if I decide to decline?”
Notably, counteroffers are supposed to have been outlawed by the FSA in London. However, the regulator’s new rule doesn’t apply to some people earning less than 500k. And headhunters say counteroffers still seem to be common: “Most banks seem to have reserved a proportion of the bonus pool to protect their top staff,” says one.