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Thinking about leaving your current job? Then you need to be prepared to handle potential counter offers. The conventional wisdom out there answers this with a “never, ever accept a counter offer,” and conversely to management, “never offer one – you will just be prolonging their leaving.” So just let the employee leave, and then try to back-fill them as soon as possible. Sounds a bit… one-size-fits-all. Here’s the thing, counter offers can work. Having been on both sides of this equation several times, there is more to the counter offer equation than a firm “no.”

Before we discuss what you need to consider when a counter offer is delivered, you need to know how to set yourself up to receive one.

  • Be prepared to walk away, don’t bluff about this.
  • Do not tell anyone except your boss, of your plans to leave the company.
  • When presenting your notice, have a conversation with your boss (don’t just leave a note). In that conversation, discuss the things that have helped make that decision for you, and leave it open for discussion. Be positive about your experience with him/her, the company, projects, etc. – the things that have helped you shine, to make it easier for them to find a viable solution.
  • If you have not received a counter within one week of your notice, you will not be getting one. PERIOD. Do not count on it, do not ask for it. Simply make your way to the door on your last day and say peace out.

6 Things to Consider with a Counter Offers

1. Be clear about the reasons you are leaving your current position.

What made you start looking for a new job in the first place, to lead you to this point? If you were fed-up with what I call “gravity issues,” things that you will never be able to change about the company or the position, then it’s safe to say those things will continue to be a pain in your behind going forward. However, if your main gripes were around things that they are able to provide you with – think: benefits, more money, better title, fun projects, etc., then it’s worth reconsidering your decision.

2. What’s your current company’s culture like?

In other words, can you manage staying there and dealing with some of the things that come along with any company? Are the people awesome? Do you have great work-flexibility? And conversely, are these part of the reasons you are leaving? You already know the culture of the position you are in – sometimes, it’s easier to deal with the known than risking an unknown culture at your new company.

3. Will your boss be able to be an adult about the situation?

Sounds like a crazy question to ask, no? But I have seen this be a long-term issue for people who do accept a counter offer. Will he or she be able to not take your quitting, personally? That’s the main thing here – and most of this issue is about how you present your other opportunity. At the end of the day, if your boss has been supportive of you, this shouldn’t be an issue. But I think we all know of some bosses who will become vengeful in these situations – if that person is your boss, DO NOT accept a counter offer, even if it is sparkling good. Capice?

4. How are you going to readjust your balance scale moving forward?

Let’s say your concerns are about money and title… and they are able to change those with the threat of you leaving. How does that change the levers of why you come to work? Do those changes re-balance you enough to be able to stay on with the company? Sometimes when we get the very things we’ve latched onto needing, they don’t seem to make as big of an impact as we had hoped.

5. Can you let go of your bitterness?

It never fails, but suddenly with the threat of a top performer leaving, the company is able to move heaven and Earth. My first response to this sudden “everything is negotiable” mentality has always been, “Wait – I’ve been asking you for these things for months, and they were never a possibility. Now that I’m looking to leave, you’re able to snap your fingers and get it done?” Are you able to ignore that question, as in not voice it at all and forget you are even thinking about it, to simply be gracious enough to accept what they are offering? THIS IS HUGE – this is the reason why so many people who accept a counter offer, tend to leave after six – 12 months. The festering bitterness is very hard to overcome.

6. How will it impact your coworkers?

I’m not one who usually cares to ask this question, sorry – but I think you have to look out for you and your career first, but in this case, it will have an impact to your teammates. And the backlash to you can vary from isolating to harsh. They will find out about it, so forget thinking that it will remain a tight-lipped secret. And they will have feelings of resentment towards you – either for quitting in the first place, or for using that kind of tactic for getting ahead. Just be careful about how you approach this to offend as few people as possible.