Ask The Headhunter: Should I Reject a Counter-Offer from My Employer?
Photo by Getty Images.
In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.
Question: If another company makes me a bona fide job offer and I resign my old job, what should I do if my original employer comes back with a counter-offer? Should I leave anyway?
Nick Corcodilos: People tend to rationalize a counter-offer rather than judge it on its merits. And they get hurt. For an example, see “Inside A Counter-Offer Disaster.”
Sometimes your employer will counter, and it can work out well. They realize you’re worth more, and they sweeten the pot to get you to stay. People are usually very flattered when their employer counters, and they figure it’s better to stay with the devil they know.
But I think more often, your company is between a rock and a hard place when you announce you are leaving. Maybe they can’t afford to lose you right now, even though later it might be okay, when it happens under their control.
Here are some reasons why taking a counter is not a good idea.
If you accept the counter, you become “marked.” You are a risk. The next time there’s a downsizing, you may be one of the first to be let go because you were planning to leave anyway. That may take you by surprise.
Another issue is that the additional salary you are given to stay doesn’t appear by magic. The counter-offer (more money) has to come from somewhere. Likely, it comes from the same budget as your next raise. So when the time comes for a raise, you may find you already received it, and you’re no better off.
Now that the company is paying you more, it might expect you to become responsible for additional tasks and to do more work. Like I said, money doesn’t appear magically. It comes from a budget. The company will try, quite rationally, to recover its additional investment in you. You may be surprised that your work load has changed dramatically, and you may decide to leave after all.
Perhaps the most important reason not to take a counter-offer is the effect it can have on your work relations. If word gets out that you got a counter to stay, it may breed resentment among your co-workers. We’d all like to think people are above that, but it has an impact.
Should you use a job offer to leverage a counter-offer from your current employer? My advice is not to. It’s a kind of ransom demand, and if you get a counter it might be nothing more than a form of bribe to keep you from leaving until the company is able to replace you. Decide in advance whether you are really ready to leave. Then, if you negotiate an offer you like with another employer, accept it and move on.
If you’re worried that the extra money in a counter-offer might be seducing you into keeping a job that’s not right for you, try a test. I call it “Guts.” Read it and ask yourself how important a job really is to you.
DISCLOSURE: As a headhunter, I often have to advise people about how to deal with counter-offers. Obviously, if I secure a job offer for someone, I’d like them to accept it and start the new job with my client, or I don’t get paid my fee. But there’s more to it, because if the candidate makes a mistake either way, I bear some of the responsibility, and my reputation and my business can get hurt. So, I try to explain counter-offers in a way that helps the person come to their own conclusion.
Question: How can I find work as a personal chef?
Nick Corcodilos: I offer a simple rule to anyone who is searching for any kind of job: Go hang around people who do the kind of work you want to do. Here’s how to take advantage of this approach.
Search for personal services ads, not just online, but in your local newspaper. Yes, people still run print ads, and they still work very well. Contact chefs who advertise their services, and advertisers who hire personal chefs. Ask for introductions, then go talk with a few of the chefs.
Don’t ask them for “leads” to help you find a job since you’d be competing with them. Just tell them you admire the personal chef approach to cooking, and that you’d like to learn more about it. Do not talk about yourself. Talk about them.
Have three intelligent questions to ask about their work. Then let them talk. When they’re done, ask them for advice and insight. “What’s a good way for someone like me to start on this path? How can I learn more about becoming a personal chef, and what’s the best way to find my first job?”
In “The Third Fallacy,” an article on my website about job hunting over the winter holidays, I discuss a subtle job hunting method that’s not at all about getting job leads. It’s all about asking for insight and advice from a person who is successful at what you do.
It’s about entering the community of people who do what you want to do. If you are genuinely interested, and if you are not pushy, you’ll get advice and guidance. You’ll make some great new friends. And you might even get a friendly introduction that might lead to your first assignment. Try it.
Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sen$e readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps.”
Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sen$e. Thanks for participating!
Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.
This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown — NewsHour’s blog of news and insight.