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Counteroffer. How to behave when an employer wants us to stay?

Marta Garus

Here comes a moment when na employee says: it is high time for a change. They start looking for a new job. There may be many reasons for this – lack of challenges or no development opportunities, a salary does not meet expectations, a discrepancy between the employee’s and the organisation’s or manager’s values, or a lack of agreement within the team. The employee meets with recruiters, goes to interviews, analyses the market and opportunities. This is the moment when employee mentally leaves current company. After some time, they receive a solid offer informing his candidature has been accepted. It means, they are free to terminate the old contract and sign the new one. After a final weighing up of the pros and cons, they decide to leave. They write notice of termination, knock on the boss’s door and put the piece of paper on the table. What happens next?

How to read the employer's reaction?

A situation in which an employee decides to leave a company is usually a problem for the company. Since the person has received a better offer on the market, it can be assumed that he or she is a valuable employee – and no one likes to lose such employees. Someone new will have to be hired and trained, or alternatively, responsibilities will have to be distributed to other people in the company.

Issue of image if also important - voluntary departures always bounce back within the organisation and may inspire others to take similar steps. Therefore, the company will try to retain such a person explains, Associate Manager at Goldman Recruitment, a HR consultancy.

The tool at its disposal is a counteroffer. It usually appears after 2-3 days. Before it is presented, the employer tries to find out more about the motives that prompted the person to leave. The nature of this is critical to the effectiveness of the counteroffer. It is relatively easy to raise salaries (as long as the company has the budget capacity to do so), it is much more difficult to change relationships within the team or address the lack of promotion opportunities.

The employer makes its offer hoping to change the decision. This is a difficult moment for the employee because, in addition to the hard arguments, the relationship with the boss starts to play its role. The employee does not want to expose the employer to problems, especially if they were in good terms. Discomfort arises, the employee loses focus and doubts grow. On the other hand, he is aware that he has already confirmed his commitment to his new employer. He wants to play fair. How to come out sensibly from such a situation?

Don't forget to prioritise…

The basis is to realise what our inner motivation is. It is best to go back to the roots of the decision to change jobs and ask ourselves again why it was made. Being specific is most important at this stage.

Thanks to knowing the terms of the counteroffer, we can assess to what extent it solves the problems that prompted us to look for a new job suggests Marta Garus. If we felt undervalued, is the mere declaration of the employer's willingness to change the approach credible?

If the relationships in the team were intolerable to us and made our work difficult, is changing them likely in future? If we haven’t had the opportunity for promotion for years, is this suddenly likely to change, especially if the position we want is filled? In such a situation, it’s worth having an honest discussion with the employer and assessing the reality of the offer made. You also need to ask yourself about your manager’s true intentions – why something that was previously impossible suddenly becomes feasible?

… and seize the opportunities

Each case is subject to individual assessment, but as a general rule, accepting a counteroffer and resigning from a new job is a risky step. – Candidates who decide to take up an offer from an existing employer usually return to the recruiter after a few months and ask whether the offer made earlier is still valid. Reasons? There are many – the boss doesn’t deliver on his or her declared promises, finds the employee disloyal and omits him or her from promotions, leaves him or her only to train a successor, then fires him or her. When a crisis comes, such a person is often first on the list for dismissal.

There are also reasons related to the person concerned - it can be hard to return to the same desk and feel fully satisfied once the decision has been made to change jobs. It is sometimes a dead-end“ explains Marta Garus from Goldman Recruitment.

The conclusion? You shouldn’t make a mistake again. Since the market appreciated us and the employer was unable or unwilling to do so, it is worth opening up to new possibilities. The most important thing is to avoid making decisions on the spur of the moment, on impulse or emotion. The more solid and rational the basis of it, the higher chance that we will be satisfied in the long run. It is important to prepare well for a counteroffer interview by keeping your priorities in mind. It is also a good idea to seek advice from recruiters – they have a wealth of experience and have encountered many similar cases. In all likelihood, they will be able to predict the scenario ahead. The intention of consultants is to build a lasting relationship with candidates based on trust, so you can count on expert suggestion to help you make a good decision and avoid mistakes.