It is a truth universally acknowledged that an employee in possession of a resignation letter must be in want of a counter offer. A play on a well-thumbed Jane Austen quote concerning fortune and the decisions it thus elicits opens the metaphorical floor for debate around the subject of whether a counter offer should ever be accepted.
The overwhelming response is “no”. In most cases, before ever reaching the counter offer stage, an employee would have made his or her mind up that due to certain factors of their current employment they want to find a new job. This in itself nullifies the weight of a counter offer because potential pay rise, bonus or benefits aside, the likelihood is this will all be enjoyed (or not) from the same unsatisfactory desk or office at which the resignation letter originated. Therefore, the first point to note before you hand in that letter is to remember WHY you’re resigning in the first place.
Working your way through issues of feeling undervalued, underpaid and deficient of challenges would hopefully be something you would attempt to reconcile with your manager prior to considering resignation. Negotiating more flexible hours or working from home if work-life balance was the issue, or simply asking for more interesting projects to test your experience could resolve any concerns over remaining with a company. However, in most cases it is the issues which cannot be easily fixed that result in an employee leaving their job, so any counter offer is unlikely to be anything other than a short term cure for a longer term problem.
It is easy to allow ego to overrule rationale should a counter offer be presented, but more often than not the raise that follows resignation is not a reflection of your worth but of the stress your exit will cause. Companies face enormous costs, more than the salary of the role itself, trying to fill the shoes of a departing employee due to recruitment costs, lost productivity, signing bonuses and the cost of training a new employee. On occasion, a manager will present a counter offer simply to buy the company time to replace you.
There are exceptions to the rule of course. Certain skill sets are in far higher demand than others and with a limited pool of talent available companies will bend over backwards to convince those employees to stay. Accountants have found more counter offers coming their way due to the technical knowledge required for areas such as internal audit, policy and SEC reporting. Finance professionals and those in risk, IT and compliance all fall into the list of jobs that come with a specific skill set that make it that much harder for someone new to fill the role.
When an employee is critical to a company however, the danger is that the company will do anything to keep them, even if it doesn’t serve the employee’s best interests. This is something to consider as those same reasons for wanting to leave in the first place still apply regardless of your technical prowess. Typically, employees who accept a counter offer and stay in their job, end up renewing their job search and leaving within the first 12 months after the counter offer has been made. After all, the novelty of those counter offer compliments soon fade and the reality of your resignation re-emerges.
The aftermath of a counter offer acceptance can also be murky as both employers and co-workers are aware that you’re no longer with them for career progression and office banter but likely due to material incentive. Distrust surrounding your commitment to the job and the company could come back to bite you. Your “disloyalty” could become a reciprocal sentiment turning you into a scapegoat for problems that arise or an easy choice to make when the time comes for redundancies and restructuring.
So, the overriding conclusion is this, first explore all your options with your current company before deciding to leave, stay resolute to your reasons for resigning in the face of temptation and think through the consequences if you decide to accept.