The Counteroffer: A Career Crossroad
By Shravan Goli
How you handle a ticklish “stay or go” moment sparked by a counteroffer represents a career crossroad for any tech pro.
In the most recent Dice survey of hiring managers, one-third of respondents either proposed more counteroffers or saw an increase in counteroffers from tech professionals’ existing employers, compared to six months ago. While that’s a substantial number, the rate of ever-increasing counteroffers appears to be waning: Four in 10 hiring managers reported offering or seeing more counteroffers at year-end 2013.
In my 20 years in technology, I’ve seen colleagues handle counteroffer situations well, and I've seen them botch them so badly that they destroyed valuable relationships and harmed their career in the process. The difference, in my estimation, is based on the amount of analysis performed and the degree of tact displayed by the employee who's working through such a momentous career decision.
Talented engineers and developers typically explore complex software problem from multiple angles, and you should apply the same rigorous analysis to the positives and negatives of rescinding your two-weeks’ notice and sticking with your current employer.
Risks of Accepting a Counteroffer
Professionals considering accepting a counteroffer should carefully weigh the risks involved. For starters, staying at a job in return for higher pay likely leaves you facing the same negatives that caused you to pursue a different career opportunity in the first place. Unless you’re able to negotiate a new assignment or some changes that you desire to go with your raise (a leadership role, work on a cool new project, opportunity to learn new technologies, etc.), the situation hasn’t changed.
There may also be a shift in perception about your loyalty. While such a stigma may feel unfair, your bosses and colleagues may adopt the attitude that anyone capable of quitting once is likely to do so again. And a wavering employee, for example, might end up as the first one on the chopping block in the event of a corporate restructuring or an economic downturn.
Negative impacts can also be felt in the world beyond your present employer. Out in the digital marketplace is an employer you’ve spurned. In the highly connected world that is technology, there’s no way of predicting how this may affect you at some later date.
My recommendation: Break the news that you won’t be coming aboard with a sincere apology and a heap of praise for everyone involved in the hiring process.
Rewards of Accepting a Counteroffer
Of course, not all the consequences created by accepting a counteroffer will be negative. You may be in a work situation where the job is fulfilling in every way except the paycheck. Accepting a counteroffer can change that, giving you the raise you covet without leaving a job you love.
There’s also psychological value to accepting a counteroffer. In some organizations, the level of positive feedback may not be what you need in order to feel valued. But when your company takes special measures to keep you from leaving, you’ve basically attained an outstanding performance review. Few things in the world say “great job” more than a big raise and a boss who earnestly asks you not to leave.
If you do your homework—and don’t burn your bridges—accepting a counteroffer can leave you feeling good about your job, your compensation and yourself. That, as I see it, is pretty tough to counter.
Shravan Goli is the president of Dice, a respected career site that brings together in-demand technology professionals and tech-powered companies. An internet and media veteran, Goli is responsible for executing the growth strategy for Dice.com, ClearanceJobs and the Slashdot Media brands. Before joining Dice, he served as CEO of Dictionary.com, general manager of Yahoo! Video and head of products for Yahoo! Finance.