A red-haired woman sitting at a desk in front of a laptop. She has a worried expression, thinking about her counter-offer.
Image: © vladdeep/Stock.adobe.com

Should you have taken that counter-offer?

10 Oct 2018

Sometimes, a new job offer can come with a surprise counter-offer from your employer. Hays’ Nick Deligiannis is here to help you decide whether you were right to take it.

If you’re reading this, then I’m guessing the past couple of months have been quite the journey for you. After some careful contemplation, you realised that, for whatever reason, you weren’t happy in your role and you made the decision to leave.

Following a period of dedicated job-searching, which involved meeting your recruiter and developing this relationship, building your online brand, and sending off tailored applications, you were asked to interview for a promising new opportunity.

After a series of meetings with the hiring manager, much to your delight, you were offered the job. Then, after all of that, your current employer threw you a curveball and made you a counter-offer – one that you found hard to turn down.

While you were flattered at the time, the initial excitement soon wore off, only to be replaced with a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach – one that said that you have made a huge mistake.

Don’t panic. Whether you made the wrong decision or not, you will bounce back from this and get your career back on track. In fact, some of our research recently found that when employees received a counter-offer, 48pc decided to leave anyway and 22pc left within a year.

So, you are not alone. But, before you make any sudden moves, check for the below signs that this counter-offer was definitely a mistake.

1. Nothing has really changed

What were your reasons for leaving in the first place? For example, maybe you felt like you didn’t have a great work-life balance and, to add insult to injury, the commitment you were putting into your job was going unnoticed. Do you feel these issues have been rectified, or is everything exactly the same as it was before?

More often than not, counter-offers include some great material perks – a higher salary, stock options and so forth. But they don’t always acknowledge the deeper reasons behind the employee’s motivation for looking for another role elsewhere, such as a lack of true workplace fulfilment, a passion for what they do, the opportunity for personal growth and a sense of purpose. These are the things that material benefits simply can’t make up for.

2. Things are actually worse than before

If you are being truthful with yourself, is work actually worse than it was before? Maybe you are left wondering why on earth your employer didn’t try harder to keep you until you handed in your notice. Surely they could see you were unhappy and if they couldn’t, well, then that says it all.

Perhaps your employer is demanding more from you as a result of your new salary package, despite the fact that, in your eyes, the counter-offer is simply a fair reflection of the job you have been doing for months or even years.

Or maybe your colleagues have distanced themselves from you, losing trust because you were initially going to abandon ship. Whatever the case may be, you dread going into work more than before.

3. Your inner voice is screaming out to you

Contrary to the above, perhaps you have all of the rewards and responsibilities that you were hoping for as a result of accepting the counter-offer. Perhaps your colleagues are thrilled that you are staying and are making you feel more welcome than ever before. But still, something just doesn’t feel right.

Although you can’t consciously pinpoint what is wrong, certain parts of your job may be bringing you down, whether it’s the subtle office politics at play or the lack of innovative and inspirational leaders. Whatever it is, your inner voice is telling you to leave. If this is the case, I would advise you listen to it.

What to do next

If you were blindsided by a lavish counter-offer then rest assured, you’re not the first and you certainly won’t be the last. But now it’s time to be completely honest with yourself about what you do want from your career.

Write down what you are looking for beyond the material perks. Perhaps it’s a better workplace culture, a more motivating boss or better progression opportunities. Think about what your current employer is lacking and how your next employer will need to be different.

Now you know what you need in order to feel fulfilled in your career, assess whether the first offer that you turned down could really tick these boxes. If it did, then swallow your pride and arrange a meeting with your recruiter to explain the situation. You never know, the previous offer may still be on the table. If not, see if your recruiter can put you forward for any similar roles that they have available.

Whatever you do, make sure you definitely let your recruiter know you are job-searching again but that this time you have a better understanding of what you do and don’t want from your next role, and a greater confidence in your worth. They are there to help you and will have seen this situation before. Relay your newfound criteria to them and use this yourself as you search for roles.

Don’t be too hard on yourself about your decision to take that counter-offer. After all, you gave your current employer a second chance to meet your career needs and, for whatever reason, these needs haven’t been met.

At least now you have solidified in your mind what it is you truly want from your next move. When you look at it from this perspective, accepting that counter-offer was less of a mistake and more of a learning curve, one that will help guarantee your next step is a successful one.

By Nick Deligiannis

Nick Deligiannis is the managing director of Hays in Australia and New Zealand. Prior to joining Hays in 1993, Deligiannis had a background in human resource management and marketing, and formal qualifications in psychology.

A version of this article originally appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.

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