At The James Allen Companies, we are continuously working in earnest to help our candidates avoid the pitfalls and predicaments that threaten to undermine their attempts to further their professional success. Throughout the process, from the first resume to the first day at their new company, we leverage years of experience to help the individuals with whom we work navigate the unpredictable job market and improve their lives. Unfortunately there is one danger that stands above the others, luring too many candidates into the rocks with its siren song and forever leaving them professionally stranded: the counteroffer.
We’ve written at length about the trap that is the counteroffer, but its recent resurgence has inspired us to remind our candidates of just how deceptive a counteroffer is, especially in today’s candidate-driven job market.
If your goal is to advance within your career, there are few things you can do that are worse than accepting a counteroffer. Advancement requires courage. Accepting a counteroffer is hardly intrepid. A counteroffer is the quickest way to neutralize your career, ensuring nothing except that your path forward will only be more difficult. Your current employer will only see a person halfway out the door, which means opportunities for growth and promotion will be all but null. The company you turned down will no longer view you as a trustworthy option. With a tattered reputation and no viable options, the best you can hope to gain by accepting a counteroffer is maybe a little more money and only for as long as your current employer keeps you on board.
The great fallacy of the counteroffer is that it is the successful result of leveraging an offer against your present employer. There is only one real winner when a counteroffer is accepted: your employer. A counteroffer buys them time. Time to use your energy and insight to resolve projects and time to find your replacement. If a counteroffer wasn’t advantageous for them, they wouldn’t extend it. And if they realized and respected your value, it shouldn’t have taken the threat of departure to earn their attention.
If you think of a counteroffer as an “option,” think again. The time to vie for improving your current employment is not in the eleventh hour. No one likes to be on the receiving end of an ultimatum, especially an employer who, on top of feeling pressured, likely feels betrayed. Accepting a counteroffer is essentially pouring lighter fluid on the bridge between you and your current employer and then handing them the lighter. When the time comes (and it will) that your employer decides to ignite that bridge, you will be dismayed to discover that your relationship among recruiters and other companies has left you with little options and less opportunity.
If you are seeking other opportunities only with the intention of leveraging a counteroffer, stop. Aside from the enormous waste of resources you are creating for all those involved, you are taking active steps toward destroying your career potential. If you are legitimately seeking a better opportunity, it won’t be found with your current employer. Don’t lose sight of the reasons you decided to pursue a new organization, and don’t cost yourself a better position and a greater opportunity by falling for the counteroffer trap.