In this context, we are describing a counteroffer as an offer you receive from your current employer when you have indicated that you wish to leave the company, rather than a negotiation with a prospective employer.
The prospect of an employee leaving the company unexpectedly is a headache for any boss, so don’t be surprised if your decision is met with some sort of incentive to stay. As such, it is as well to be prepared for such an eventuality.
From your boss’s perspective, a quick counteroffer makes perfect sense. In a low unemployment marketplace, he or she knows that it will be difficult to find an adequate replacement without investing significant time and money into the recruiting and training process, as well as reallocating other staff to cover your job responsibilities.
If you do decide to accept a counteroffer, once you have indicated a willingness to leave the company, management will view you as a potential liability. Any trust in your loyalty that existed previously is now in question. Your boss will make contingency plans for your replacement, so that he or she can ensure a smooth transition in the event of your future departure. In fact, research has shown that the majority of those who choose to stay last less than 12 months before moving on.
To buy time, your boss may infer that you were being considered for promotion, and that you are considered too valuable to lose. All of this, together with an offer of an impromptu raise, may leave you with the feeling that it would be easier to stay put than incur the disruption of a job change, where you will have to prove yourself all over again in an unfamiliar environment.
All of this means that you need a strategy for handling the possibility of a counteroffer. In so doing, first remind yourself of the ‘deal breakers’ that led you to seek alternative employment in the first place. For example, was there no apparent prospect of long-term career development? Were you unhappy with your boss’s attitude? Did your salary remain stagnant after last year’s performance review? Was your request for more or less responsibility on the job ignored?
The bottom line is not to fall for the lure of more money in making your decision whether to stay or leave. Burning your bridges with prospective employers by accepting a quick counteroffer is rarely a good idea. Talk to a few of your peers and family before you embark on the process. Be specific in your transition plans, make good use of the time off you may have between jobs, and stay the course with the career decision you have made.