Psychology of a Counter Offer – The Trust Issue

We have looked at two different angles of how accepting a counter offer can change or limit your relationship with your current employer. I am now going to try and explain the employer perspective.

So after you bring your new offer to your current employers and they frantically piece together a counter offer, here is how the next few weeks play out in their head.

Stage 1 – Relief
They are happy and relieved that they have averted losing one of their top people. Whoa, that was close, we’re so happy they’re staying.

Stage 2 – Re-Assess
Now that you have negotiated more money for less work (possibly) you are happy, you feel valued as well as having a fair deal.

What your employer realizes is that they have just given a raise to someone without that individual talking on any additional responsibilities, what? That can’t happen can it. You are now the highest paid person in the department and have no additional responsibilities and are possibly working less than everyone else too. You must be slacking. You just got a big raise and are doing less work – you should be doing more work than everyone else.

The highest paid people have to work the most so we can get our “money’s worth!”

Stage 3 – Paranoia
So now you are the employee that makes too much and does too little and paranoia starts to creep in. You don’t work as hard as you used too, you make too much money and what are you doing with all that free time. You have just recently applied to other companies and who’s to say you’re not doing it again. Who are you talking to on your cell phone, who are you emailing – you can’t be trusted.

Behind closed doors management are second guessing what information they can trust you with – are you still thinking about moving to the competition. We should just pull the trigger and move on!

Of course this is all very dramatic and overblown BUT it does have a seed of truth. You current employer may feel betrayed after time and if that happens the trust will be gone. Once the trust is gone – so are you!

Now there is another option here. You employer could honour every aspect of your new negotiated terms and things could be just fine. Then after a few weeks or months you will realize that you are getting paid more to do the exact job you wanted to leave. Sooo, here we go again.

Views: 1364

Comment by Kim Bechtel on February 12, 2010 at 3:20pm
I love it when HR people have one set of 'rules' for the behaviour of common employees, and a very different one for 'C' suite people. The average tenure of a CEO is 18 months and most of the time they are shopping their skills to someone else while they are working at their current company. They get counter offers all the time, some they accept, some they don't. But their transitory stay in a company is in large part why employees feel little or no loyalty to a company. The next time I see an HR VP telling a CEO they are disloyal and self centred will be the time I hear a snowball melting... Great blog Corey!!!
Comment by bill josephson on February 13, 2010 at 2:28pm
I've been 3rd party recruiting for 30 years. Only people I place are passive/invisible candidates I've recruited. They weren't looking for a job needing to put together a resume and opted to consider another opportunity to compare to their present situation ensuring they're in the best place for them. Sure, they'll give me valid reason or two to consider my client's position--but I understand they could either be serious or playing a game where it's hard to avoid being the "straight man."

Some say they received a counter, but I'm not sure they actually gave notice and don't expect them to tell you the truth as it isn't in their interest, so you go on assumptions as qualifying and getting a commitment is a subjective self-serving exercise to each side not a guarantee. I believe many tell their boss they have a chance to go somewhere else letting them know they were recruited to compare an opportunity. Without threatening to leave the employer seems to be more comfortable "working things out" mutually agreeably and I've found many candidates still there years down the road.

My point being those using us to better their present situation as they really don't want to leave I don't believe actually ever give notice. And we're played as fools as the candidate not only gets something by staying from a grateful employer not having to replace them, but have their ego messaged knowing someone else wants them at a higher price.

Believe it or not, candidates not only don't always tell us the truth, but they actually lie to serve their best interests......and we don't know til the end of the process.

Comment by Kim Bechtel on February 13, 2010 at 2:41pm
A theme in the comments to this blog is that nobody seems to trust either the candidates or the employers. Best solution is to hire at the entry level and see how they perform, everything else seems to be a minefield of assumptions, lies and manipulation. Yikes, and there are still HR people out there who insist they can see through all this with great behavioural descriptive interviews and insightful reference checking!


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