The Dangerous Allure of Counter-Offers

By Paul Feeney Managing Director, Sanford Rose Associates - Wayne | October 28, 2008

Change and its associated risks are never easy. To quit or not to quit is often a gut-wrenching decision - requiring careful consideration and soul-searching. It involves one of those passages in life that requires abandoning the comfort of the old and assuming the risk of the new. Should you leave behind your friends, your status and the company that helped you progress professionally. As a professional, your career decisions must be made objectively, not emotionally which is easier said than done.

When one door closes, another opens: but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one, which has opened for us. - Alexander Graham Bell

Once the often-agonizing decision to leave has been made, you must plan your resignation and how you will handle your employer's response. It is important to end your relationship as professionally as possible and not to burn your bridges; you never know when you may need a future reference. Compose a letter stating your last day of employment as well as expressing that your decision is irrevocable. Keep it short, simple and positive. Avoid the temptation to recite a list of grievances. Before you present your resignation letter, you must be committed to leaving. Otherwise, "temporary promises and solutions" in the form of a counter-offer may entice you to stay.

Surprisingly, the very best companies rarely make counter-offers. They believe they treat their employees fairly and wish them well if a better opportunity exists elsewhere. If you work for one of them, don't be disappointed if you fail to receive a counter-offer.

On the other hand, most employers do not like to be fired. Your departure may jeopardize an important project or vacation schedule; create additional workload and even negatively impact employee morale.

In order to prevent you from leaving and causing turmoil within the organization, your employer may make you a counter-offer. Appealing to greed or ego, companies will offer resigning employees promotions, additional training, more money or simply promises of future consideration. They may also prey upon the employee's conflicting emotions by creating guilt about the present ("How can you leave us at a time like this?") or uncertainty about the future ("We hear the Justice Department is investigating them").

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