Handling Counter Offers

Posted on 23/9/2016 by Katherine Memery

Nowadays, when you hand in your notice after securing an offer from another company, it’s not unusual for your boss to make an offer to rival the package proposed by the future employer in a bid to keep you. This is known as a counter-offer.

Counter-offers can take many different forms, from a straight pay rise to a sought-after promotion or additional company benefits. Before you jump to accept the counter-offer, it’s important to reconsider the reasons why you’re looking to leave your current role and why your employer may be trying to make you stay.

Counter-offers in the legal sector

During the economic downturn, not only were fewer trainee solicitors taken on, but there was a reluctance amongst both trainees and their firms to allow them to qualify into areas that were particularly badly affected, such as commercial property. As a result, there are now relative skills shortages in certain disciplines within particular PQE brackets. So when a 2012 qualified commercial property solicitor hands in their notice, their employer is faced with a decision; either they let them leave and endure the headache of trying to replace them, or they do their utmost to try to retain their asset. Because of this, it’s easy to see why counter-offers are increasingly rife within the legal profession.

What are your employer’s motives for counter-offering?

If you are made a counter-offer, before accepting or rejecting it, it’s important to consider why your employer is making this proposition. While to begin with, a counter-offer might appear to signal that you are valued by your current company, this may not necessarily be the case.  Unfortunately, when an employer makes a counter-offer, it isn’t necessarily because they have their employee’s best interests at heart.

There are several reasons why a counter-offer may be made. For starters, replacing you is likely to involve paying a recruiter, and encompass hours of commercial downtime for your boss whilst they review CVs and conduct interviews. Add to that the likely gap in time between you leaving and your replacement starting, during which there will be a lull in billings, and you can see, there’s probably going to be a fair financial cost to replacing you.

Alternatively, they may be making a counter-offer because your leaving would negatively affect their staff retention rates and would reflect badly on them. A counter-offer might even be used by your boss as a stalling tactic while they look for your replacement.

Why you might want to reject a counter offer

If you accept a counter-offer, your position within the firm is likely to be affected, and perhaps not in the ways you would expect. Above all, once you’ve handed in your notice, your loyalty to the firm will be questioned. You’ll have to work very hard to win back your boss’ trust and prove your commitment and value as a long-term employee. What’s more, your relationships with other colleagues could be affected.

But it’s not only your rapport with your current boss that’s at stake. It’s also important to think about how you accepting a counter-offer might be viewed by the prospective employer you worked so hard to impress. Turning your back on them, the role and the package you have negotiated may lead to you gaining a reputation you would rather not have. While it can be tempting to focus on the short-term benefits of accepting a counter-offer, it’s essential that you think about the long-term implications it could have on your career and standing within the profession.

Of course, there are occasions where an employer might make a genuine counter-offer that could fix the problems you have with your current role, particularly if those problems are related to salary or job title. If these are the main reasons for you wanting to leave, then perhaps accepting would be the best option. 

However, if there were other factors that led to you exploring new opportunities and you consider accepting the counter-offer, it’s important to think about what else, if anything, might change in your role if you stayed. It’s possible that the underlying problems will remain unresolved and cannot be fixed by the package offered. Perhaps, more than anything else, you should ask yourself whether it ought to take you handing in your notice for your employer to recognise your true worth.

Approach counter-offers with caution

Ultimately, if you are made a counter-offer, it’s important that you approach it with caution and realise that it may not be as enticing as it sounds.  

Statistically, around two-thirds of people who accept counter-offers end up leaving their job within the 12 months that follow. In the short term, a pay rise or improved working hours might offer a solution, but in the long term, the reasons for you wanting to leave in the first place are likely to resurface.

The reality is that most people choose to leave a job for a better opportunity, not for financial reasons. Don’t lose sight of what motivated you to go to the job market in the first place and stick to your gut instinct. It’s probable that your new job will be better-suited to your career goals and aspirations and staying at your old firm post-resignation is unlikely to be easy.

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