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Career Tips

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO: THE RISKS OF ACCEPTING A COUNTEROFFER

by Diane Domeyer

On the surface, it sounds like a dream situation: you receive an exciting new job offer from a cool company and an enticing counteroffer from your current employer. Accepting a counteroffer can be very tempting: more money and other shiny new perks, all without having to uproot yourself from a comfortable routine. But after finding another opportunity, think twice before renewing your workplace vows with your current employer. Accepting a counteroffer can be a bad career move. If you find yourself being wooed by your current employer after turning in your notice, here are some things you need to know before making a final decision.

The Downsides of Staying
According to a recent survey by The Creative Group, 20 percent of advertising and marketing executives said the number of counteroffers extended by their company has increased in the last six months. It makes sense: Employers don’t want to lose a top worker with specialized skills, especially one that they helped train. And those opposing bids seem to work: Two-thirds of executives said it was somewhat or very common for employees to accept them.

However, 28 percent of respondents admitted they would question the loyalty of workers who opted to stay. So, accepting a counteroffer can create several problems. One, you’ve already played your card and signaled to your boss that you’re a flight risk. That can take you out of the running when it comes to earning future promotions, and it may cause your company to think twice before investing in you by sending you to conferences or paying for training. Two, it doesn’t look good to commit to a new employer but then go back on your word. You may burn a bridge and tarnish your reputation.

More Than Money
Perhaps the most important reason to think twice about a counteroffer is it often doesn’t address the reasons you want to leave. A bump in salary might give you an immediate sense of being appreciated, but chances are that it won’t keep you happy in that job in the long run.

As you weigh the new offer against the counteroffer, recall what originally compelled you to search for another position. Perhaps you feel your creativity and skills are not being fully utilized in your current job, or the company is moving in a different direction. Maybe the new position affords a more flexible schedule and better opportunities for advancement, or is just a welcome change after working for the same company for so many years. Unless the reason is purely financial, know that a raise won’t address your concerns.

How to Deal With a Counteroffer
Imagine the scenario: You break the news to your boss that you’ve accepted another job. He or she is eager to keep you and asks about the compensation and benefits packages so she can meet or beat those terms. What do you do?

Unless you want to play the counteroffer game, don’t disclose details about your new offer. Your only obligation to your present employer is to give two-weeks’ notice. The professional thing to do, however, would be to briefly explain the reasons you’re leaving ‒ opportunities for advancement, desire for new challenges, etc. ‒ and to help with the transition. This could include wrapping up any projects you’re working on and training a replacement, such as an internal candidate or a project employee. Your current employer will appreciate the effort, and your actions will let you leave on a positive note.

Some Final Thoughts
A counteroffer can be a powerful self-esteem booster, and the prospect of staying with the familiar can be very appealing. But more often than not, accepting a counteroffer leads to burned bridges, continued professional dissatisfaction and, perhaps, even another job search in the near future. Unless your reasons for leaving are solely financial, it’s generally best to thank your manager for the counteroffer, move on and start the exciting next chapter of your professional career.

Finally, if you like your current company, don’t forget to proactively look for ways to improve your work situation ‒ it may help you avoid this conundrum altogether. Would a bump in pay or job responsibilities make you happier? If so, approach your boss to make your interests known and be specific in asking what you can do to merit the raise or greater workload. This approach can save you time and potential hard feelings versus trying to negotiate once you have another offer in hand.

Diane Domeyer is Executive Director of The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service placing interactive, design, marketing, advertising and public relations professionals with a variety of firms. For more information, visit creativegroup.com. See also: blog.creativegroup.com/managing-creative-people-and-projects

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