Point of no return! Or is it?

What to consider before taking a counteroffer

After several years of working at a Chicago-area manufacturing company, Dee Thomas’ purchasing career seemed stalled. Thomas says that although she discussed her career goals and advancement aspirations with management, little seemed to change and she began to feel stuck. A couple of months later, Thomas accepted a job offer — for more money and greater opportunities — from another manufacturing company. Her current employer made her a counteroffer in hopes of persuading her to stay.

A 2004 counteroffer study conducted by Loyola University and the Hay Group management consulting firm, found that 90% of the 284 participating companies made counteroffers to retain employees. Thomas McMullen, a senior consultant with the Hay Group, says, “There is a growing trend for employers to give resigning, high-performing employees in key positions a counteroffer to stay.”

Thomas recalls, “They offered me everything I wanted.” But she declined it. “The counteroffer was more for the company’s benefit than mine. Remaining with the company was not going to be in my best interest.”

Vernon Davis, a partner with Indianapolis-based executive search firm Protis Executive Innovation, believes that accepting a counteroffer is never to an employee’s benefit. Davis, whose firm refuses to work with job seekers who will consider counteroffers, says most offers include only a small increase in compensation, a title change, or a promotion. He says it will not resolve the other issues — lack of challenging work opportunities, objectionable work environment, or conflicts — that may exist.

Davis quotes numerous studies that show that 50% to 80% of employees who accept an employer’s counteroffer leave voluntarily within six to eight months. He contends that counteroffers simply postpone the inevitable and ruin an employee’s reputation and future chances of working with the recruiter or prospective employer.

Although UniCare Human Resources Director Michael Guyton also agrees, he offers: “Counteroffers that address all the reasons an employee initially began a job search definitely warrant attention.” He suggests seriously weighing the pros and cons of accepting a counteroffer instead of automatically dismissing it. “Realize that accepting a counteroffer can be a risk to one’s future career, but then so is accepting any job offer — counter or otherwise.”

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