Why Counter Offers are like Sad Films

Now, as recruiters, we’re going to be up front with you here – we hate counter offers. That shouldn’t come as a surprise – from our perspective, having those beautifully match-made pairings of candidate and client that you’ve lovingly brought together over weeks or months fall apart at the last due to a counter offer is just plain horrible.

It’s like the middle part of a bad romantic comedy.

It's like a really bad romantic comedy.
Except without the laughter.

However, counter offers don’t just end badly for us.

A recent poll has shown that counter offers are rarely successful in the long term retention of staff. The highest percentage of respondents, at 39%, left less than 3 months after they were counter offered. 63% of respondents remained with the company for less than 12 months, showing that while a counter offer can provide a short term solution, very few people successfully maintain a good working relationship with their company after the counter offer has been made.

So why is it so hard to make a counter offer work?

This situation arises primarily because of a lack of understanding of what has driven the employee to look for a new role in the first place. Money and location are the two main drivers, but it’s essential to cultivate a level of understanding in the workplace. If you don’t know for certain why your staff are looking elsewhere, you’ll never be able to match their expectations; but by the same token, if you’re looking for a new role because you’re annoyed at something your managers don’t even realise they’re doing, it’s not really surprising when they make an inappropriate counter offer when you tell them you’re intending to leave.

Despite the teachings of Jerry Maguire, money is NOT the only driver...

Even if a counter offer does happen, the consequences can be problematic – if you’re the employer, you’ll question your employee’s loyalty even if they stay, and the offer may set a precedent for other staff further down the line. Plus, once their CV is “on the market,” they’ll regularly receive interest from agencies (sorry about that!) tempting them to leave.

And if you’re the disgruntled employee, it’s important to understand and prepare for the likelihood of a possible counter offer when accepting a new job. After all, it’s difficult to forget that you had to resign from your role to get what you wanted – and you’re always going to wonder “what if?” about the role you decided to turn down. You need to be firm in the reasons why you’ve started looking elsewhere in the first place – in short, you need to know what you want, and what makes you happy. If your company can provide this, great – but accepting a counter offer when you’re not 100% sure it’s right won’t fulfil you in the long term.

Likewise, if you’re having to counter offer your critical staff to make them stay with your company, you need to assess why it is they’re looking elsewhere. Obviously a certain amount of attrition is almost guaranteed – but the only way to really avoid counter offers is to prevent them happening in the first place, by keeping abreast of trends in your market, and by understanding your staff. If you can provide a culture of fulfilment, match the market rate, and maintain an open forum for discussion, you’ll escape such prickly situations!

So that’s why counter offers are bad for everyone involved. We just want a happy ending for everyone! 

Keep your offers like this...
Not this.

5 thoughts on “Why Counter Offers are like Sad Films

  1. I was in the lift heading out to a meeting today and 2 guys got in on the 4th Floor – one said to the other “I’m going to do a Jonesy to get myself an increase in salary”. The other “I heard he was offered loads more than he’s currently on, and they matched it”.
    So – employers beware – if you end up with a culture of counter offering then how do you know which ones are genuine?

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