Counteroffers are making a comeback. So says recruitment firm Robert Half. It’s just released research suggesting that two thirds of ‘finance leaders’ in the UK think counteroffers have risen in the past year, with 20% of them saying they’ve increased ‘significantly’. Be warned, however. One veteran finance professional suggests you accept a counteroffer from your current employer at your peril.
“I resigned in the morning and when I came back from lunch, there was my boss, the CEO, the head of the London office and the head of investment banking, waiting to talk to me,” he tells us, speaking on an anonymous basis. “They said, ‘Ok, here’s the number, will you stay?’ It was pretty big, but I turned it down.”
Why should you decline a buyback from your current employer? The veteran banker says he had several reasons for leaving it on the table. Firstly, he hadn’t been paid properly for the past few years – the counteroffer was more a method of compensating him for low earnings in the past than a promise to pay more in the future. Secondly, his reasons for quitting extended beyond his recent low pay – he had doubts about his previous employer’s commitment to the business and a one-off sum wasn’t going to assuage that. And thirdly, history dictates that the person who accepts a huge counteroffer will be quietly hated in future.
“They were offering me too much money in the counteroffer,” says the banker. “It was nice, but they’d just end up resenting me if I accepted it. – I’ve seen it happen too much in the past.”
Instead, he says he rejected his previous employer’s attempt to prevail upon him to stay and is now happily ensconced in a new role. “I left very graciously and remain on good terms with my former employer and boss – which is how you want it to be in banking, where you never know whether you’ll go back to the same place again.”
Phil Sheridan, UK managing director of Robert Half, says counteroffers can be necessary from a business point of view – particularly in a market where talent is tight. However, Robert Half’s research also indicated that counteroffers from existing employers to wayward employees can undermine trust. “Employers must address the underlying issues in order to retain top performers. If not, it is likely that the employee will leave, albeit in a more prolonged way and with a higher salary,” says Sheridan.