When I left my last job I was prepared to receive a counter offer to compete with my new employer’s offer. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive one in the end because my timing was poor – the company was going through layoffs and could ill-afford to boost anyone’s salary, much less an underling such as myself. Of course, the primary reason behind my exit was because of the layoffs so I’m not sure the counter offer would have been successful in continuing my employment. The experience did cause me to stop and reflect on the pros and cons of accepting a counter offer, and as J.D. pointed out in a recent post, one should be prepared for a counteroffer as part of quitting their job gracefully.
If you accept the offer you will be labeled disloyal. Now first of all, I have to admit I don’t buy this idea of undying company loyalty one hundred percent. I do agree that employment is a mutual agreement, and as long as both parties are treating each other with respect the relationship should continue. However, I don’t believe in taking an untenable amount of B.S. in the name of corporate loyalty. Your primary loyalty should be to your family, and your earnings potential and emotional well-being certainly affect your family, and are directly influenced by your employer. If you decide to accept the offer and stay with your current employer, be prepared to defend the reasons you were job hunting in the first place.
Using another offer to leverage your current employer can prove your marketability, but it can backfire. Sometimes employers become complacent and depend on external factors to keep an employee employed. Maybe the employee’s spouse works in the area, or their kids enjoy the local school system, or they recently purchased a new home. The more the employer believes the employee is nailed down the less likely they are to offer a significant raise in the name of retention. That can all change if you present a case that your skills are in demand. An offer from another company is proof positive that you could walk away from your current employer within a two-weeks notice. Assuming you are a valued employee and your current company wants to retain you they could offer to match the offer. Conversely, they could see the approach as a sign of a disloyal employee, hoping to squeeze more pay by presenting another offer. If they call your bluff you have to be prepared to submit the resignation and leave.
If you receive a counter offer and choose to accept it, prepare to eat alone in the company cafeteria. This kind of news never stays completely silent. Invariably, someone will leak the fact that you marched into your boss’ office resignation letter in hand and came out smiling. Other employees may also question your loyalty, and will probably be jealous of your new raise. So now you have managed to increase your salary, but it will be lonely at the top.