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Counter offers: Five reasons why they could be bad for your career

Counter Offer

Picture the scene. You’re in your boss’s office, you’ve just told him you’ve received a job offer which you’re going to take. It’s an exciting position in a new practice, somewhere you feel you can spread your wings, learn new things, develop. But then he drops a bombshell. He offers you a counter offer, says they will match the new job’s salary and conditions, beat it even.

This day can’t get any better you think, I’ve now got two job offers on the table! You pause… which one should you take?

If you are thinking this is an unlikely scenario you may wish to think again. Counter offers are common in architecture especially in today’s market when candidates are in demand. Unemployment among the profession is currently at a record low and a report published last year by Lloyds Bank found a shortage of skilled architects in the UK.

Which is why if you get that new job and step into your boss’s office to resign, he’s very likely to try to persuade you to stay.

So what would you do? Take the position at the new firm or play it safe and stay at your old one?

Many people would be tempted to say thank you very much, I accept and stay at their current firm but statistics show this is likely to be a mistake. It’s thought that anywhere between 60% and 80% of people who accept counter offers are back in the job market within six months.

So why is it so unlikely to work out? Here are five likely suspects:

1. What caused you to look for a new job in the first place? Maybe you wanted to take the next step up on your career ladder or perhaps money or new responsibilities motivated you. It might be that you’d just had enough of the old job and felt a change was needed. Whatever the reason, in the heat of the moment when promises are being made it’s easy to forget what drove you initially. But no-one enters a serious job search lightly and whatever your reasons for wanting change, the chances are they still exist.

2. Relationship damage with your boss. While accepting the offer is tempting in the short term, in the long term it could damage the relationship you have with your boss. They may feel their hand was forced, that you are not a loyal employee and question whether you will be looking for a new job again in the next few months. This is not only harmful while you are still working for the practice but could lead to you leaving on a bad note in future – better to leave before the resentment or mistrust has kicked in.

3. Resentment on your side. Resentment can go both ways – once the dust has settled you may find uncomfortable thoughts creeping in like “how can they pay me more now when they couldn’t before?”, “Why did I have to threaten to resign before I got this extra responsibility?” Feelings like this are bad for you, can put relationships at risk and may ultimately lead to you beginning your job search all over again.

4. Reputation damage in the sector. If you have been interviewed and accepted a job offer from a new practice they probably won’t look favourably on you if you say you’ve changed your mind. You may look flakey or worse that you’ve used their job offer as a bargaining tool with your current workplace. Annoying potential employers is a risky strategy, especially if you go on to be one of those 80% back in the job market after six months.

5. Your boss may be buying time. Although a counter offer feels great for the ego at the time, there’s every chance it doesn’t actually have much to do with you. The recruitment costs to your current employer is likely to be high in his mind, as is the stress of you leaving without much notice. Counter offers buy employers time while potentially doing all the damage to your career set out above.

So to avoid these pitfalls here are three tips to ensure your resignation is accepted without a hitch:

1. Go in prepared. Think through all your reasons for wanting to leave and make sure they are clear in your mind before you hand in your notice. That way you will be able to clearly evaluate any counter offer made and stick to your guns.

2. Don’t agree to anything on the spot. If your boss does begin to make a counter offer you can aways ask for time to think things through. That way you remove yourself from a pressurised situation and can calmly remind yourself of your initial reasons for wanting to move on.

3. Write a letter. Most firms will require a letter of resignation before it is officially accepted anyway. A letter is great if you don’t want to be drawn into counter offer discussions. Here are some tips on what to include when writing one.

If you’re considering your next move and wish to discuss the opportunities available as well as how to best prepare for the likely counter offer, please contact one of the Hunter Dunning team today – 01243 779789.

About me:
I am the Managing Director of Hunter Dunning Ltd, specialising in the recruitment of architectural and interior design professionals throughout the UK.  Feel free to get in touch if you are considering a move in the future, we would love to hear from you.