Have you ever been made a counteroffer by your current company to keep you from moving to a new job? What did you do? Take the money and be glad to get it? Wonder why you had to "leave" to generate some financial appreciation?
Counteroffers are mixed blessings. While the executive who really enjoys bargaining might be wary of anyone who automatically gives him what he wants, the "call-them-as-I-see-them" professional is likely to be offended by even a hint of gamesmanship.
How you decide to deal with a counteroffer will have a lot to do with your perception of the individual suggesting it, your personality, the history of your relationship and the overall package that comes along with the offer.
Let's take a look a typical counteroffer scenario and consider the questions and thought process it poses. While Bill isn't a real person, his situation may sound familiar to you.
The We-Want-to-Keep-You Counteroffer
Bill Johnson has been a manager with a successful hospital chain for about six years. He's a savvy, hard worker who can always count on a good review. While he knows he's made an important contribution to his company, he thinks his boss has taken him for granted and is laissez faire about promoting his career. Consequently, Bill has been looking for other employment where he can tackle new challenges and have the active support of his management team.
Several months into his job search, he is offered a new position, which includes a 10% raise over his current earnings and promised advancement in no more than two years. When Bill gives his two-week notice, he is surprised at the impact it makes on his manager. Two days later his boss offers him an immediate 15% raise and a spot on a company-wide task force that will dramatically increase his visibility and showcase his ideas.
Questions Bill Should Be Asking Himself
- If I'm so valuable, why has no one acknowledged my contribution before?
- Is this counteroffer a harbinger of things to come or just a stop-gap measure to keep me around for a while?
- Which offer is the best overall match with what I want in my career?
- Should I take the new opportunity or stay where I have established relationships and a good track record?
- Is there anything I should do differently to solidify and promote my position either in my current job or the new one?
Bill's Thought Process
It seems that Bill has jolted his management into recognizing how tough things would be if he left the company. Apparently he has a lot more leverage than he thought. Why didn't he already know how important he is from his boss' perspective? He and his manager are not communicating. Probably his manager is so busy putting out fires, he takes Bill's contribution as a comfortable, reliable constant. Maybe it never occurred to him that Bill is unhappy, because he never asked for the opportunity to expand his horizons. If this is the case, both parties are guilty of perpetuating the status quo without considering the consequences.
Before Bill decides to stay, he must be sure his manager has seen the light and will assume the mentoring role he's abdicated for so long. Bill will also have to take more responsibility for his own career and be prepared to ask for what he wants. Should he doubt either his ability to become more proactive at his current company or his boss' commitment to promoting his career, Bill should change venues and start fresh with a new persona and new management.
The task force is an enticing bird-in-hand that could give him the visibility he's been wanting while maintaining his current support system. If he decides the immediate exposure to task force participation is more promising than a promotion two years down the road, he should take the counteroffer and get rolling.
In evaluating whether to go through with the move to a new employer, Bill must decide both if his new boss will keep his promise of advancement within the next two years and how important that promotion will be to his long-term future. If he is fully confident of the integrity of his new employer, he can devote himself wholeheartedly to making a major contribution and preparing for the increased authority waiting on the horizon. But if his gut is telling him something isn't right, he may want to get more information on the specific process for moving up and the relative importance of his new position within the company before making his final choice.
--Senior Columnist Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979 that works with individual and corporate clients in career transition, job search, executive coaching, talent management and small business issues. She is an award-winning columnist for CareerJournal.com and a best-selling author of the Wall Street Journal's books on resumes and cover letters. Her articles on a variety of career issues have appeared on numerous career/job websites and trade and business journals. Ms. Besson has been quoted numerous times in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money, and a number of other websites and publications.