How to Destroy Your Career Without Trying

I am not creative enough to make this stuff up.

Here's the scenario:

Sarah is currently making $68,000 and not in a management position. She started interviewing because she wants management, opportunity, and a different company culture.   Her company is large and structured in a way that limits her opportunities at the local level. She doesn't see herself going corporate, but currently reports to corporate, and is not happy with the reporting structure. 

Our Client offered her $92,000, a management position with increased responsibilities and opportunities; without the behemoth corporation to deal with. This was obviously her next career move. 

Sarah was ecstatic and accepted the offer. She was to begin in four weeks. 

The Resignation

 Bring out the hankies. The usual shock and dismay was expressed upon her resignation. Jaws dropped, seas parted, and panic set in. Sarah was sincerely asked to reconsider her resignation.  .

A bit misty, Sarah thanked everyone and assured her continued friendship. All were assured that she would not change her mind. She was firm in her decision to resign.  

She Crumbled 

Two weeks later her employer presented a counter offer. Sarah changed her mind and decided to stay with her employer. Loyalty and commitment to the job were a big part of her decision to accept the counter offer.


Is That All There Is? 

She stayed put because her employer offered her a management title, and changed the reporting structure. She no longer has to report to corporate. 

Not a dime more in salary, no change in duties. However; bonus potential. Maybe. 

It took her employer two weeks to come up with nothing but a pat on the head. The strategy worked. And, it cost little or nothing.  

The whole thing makes me sad. She is loyal and sincere, but she doesn't realize that with the new title she was actually demoted. Her employer catered to her wishes and changed the reporting structure. And, for that she turns down a $24,000 raise. 

Would she pay her employer 24K a year for the privilege of working there? Sarah is doing that right now

You like me, you really like me! 

The counter offer reaffirmed that value for Sarah. Mountains were moved to make her happy. The reporting structure was changed and, a title created for her. It felt good to be recognized for the hard work, she felt wanted, and needed. 

The Politics

Two weeks ago Sarah was considered a highly competent team player by her employer. Her demands have made her 'special'. She has rocked the boat. Her special situation is like a thorn in the company’s side. Now, she has little chance of advancement. let alone job longevity. Sarah will now either wallow in the cage she built for herself, or be replaced.


Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say 

Do not resign from your employer if you can be bought. Be honest with yourself, if your employer negotiates a killer offer for you to stay, would you have the strength to turn it down?  If you think you would be tempted to stay, do not resign. Always negotiate with your employer in good faith. If you want something, ask for it. Never use an offer as leverage. Even if it wasn't your intention, if you accept a counter offer, it looks as if you leveraged your offer to get what you wanted. 

Of course, like Sarah, when faced with a counter offer you may feel flattered, perhaps honoured. Do not be duped. Your employer has titled the job you perform, and is paying you what the job is worth. Your employer is paying you the salary that corresponds with the scope of the position. Since you are paid the salary to do the job, you mistakenly think it’s about you. It’s not.

You are not special. If the company is changing anything JUST FOR YOU, you have mucked up the system. Systems don't just happen. Corporations don't have feelings. As sincere as everyone is at the time of the counter offer, the corporation doesn't care. A corporation is like a Big Foot. It is focused on survival and dominance. It  defecates in the stream and eats it's young. Even if the f

The Moral of the Story

Never take a counter offer. When you resign do it with grace and a happy heart. Have gratitude for the experience you gained. Look forward. And remember: No matter how sincere all parties appear at the time of the counter offer, the corporation has reasons to either squash your career by keeping you in the cage, or replace you. Immediately. (this is the eating it's young part)

Do yourself a favor, when you receive a counter offer, do one thing, move on. Remain friends. Don't burn bridges. You might be back. A graceful exit on your terms now is better than a security escort on their terms later. 


Created the High Touch Recruiting™ Method, and authored the book, "Offer Reconstruction, High Touch Recruiting™ Methods That Work When Nothing Else Will"

Views: 1511

Comment by Katrina Kibben on February 25, 2015 at 2:07pm

You hit the nail on the head - if you're unhappy enough to look and accept a role, never take the counter offer! Just because your company wants you doesn't mean it's good for you.

Comment by Kelly Blokdijk on February 25, 2015 at 6:14pm

Curious if Sarah ever previously tried to request changes to the aspects of the job that prompted her to consider a new opportunity in the first place. Either way, of the times I've witnessed counter offers being made, it was merely for the convenience of the company to avoid or postpone the need to find a replacement.  

Comment by Barbara Goldman on February 25, 2015 at 7:55pm
Sarah is unsophisticated when it comes to negotiations. As recruiters, we negotiate for a living. She did not ask for anything from her employer, because before her resignation she didn't believe that her employer would actually grant her wishes. When they did, of course she felt special. When the employer is known for not countering resignations then suddenly negotiates, I smell a problem. The bottom line, if you think you'll take a counter offer, DO NOT RESIGN. Just stay there. Be happy.
Comment by Nicholas Meyler on December 3, 2015 at 9:05pm

My strategy with counter-offers has been to discuss them with candidates even before an offer is extended, so they are prepared emotionally and psychologically to deal with them.  It doesn't work to deal with a counter-offer being extended AFTER it happens, because the candidate hasn't been properly 'immunized' against it.  I always make my candidates who are leaving a real job for a new one read the classic Hawkinson counter-offer essay. Paul Hawkinson was the editor of the Fordyce Letter back in the 1980's while it was still a reputable publication. You will be far more in control if you coach the candidate about counter-offers in detail, and discuss the logic with him/her before the event happens.  If it doesn't, then that's a good thing, of course.

Counteroffer Acceptance – Road to Career Ruin

A raise won’t permanently cushion thorns in the nest!

By Paul Hawkinson
Courtesy of: National Business Employment Weekly

Mathew Henry, the 17th century writer said, “Many a dangerous temptation comes to us in fine gray colors that are but skin deep.” The same can be said for counteroffers, those magnetic enticements designed to lure you back into the nest after you’ve decided it’s time to fly away.

The litany of horror stories I have come across in my years as an executive recruiter, consultant and publisher provides a litmus test that clearly indicates counteroffers should never be accepted. … EVER!

I define a counteroffer simply as an inducement from your current employer to get you to stay after you’ve announced your intention to take another job. We’re not talking about those instances when you receive an offer but don’t tell your boss. Nor are we discussing offers that you never intended to take, yet tell your employer about anyway are “they-want-me-but I’m staying-with-you” ploy. These are merely astute positioning tactics you may choose to use to reinforce your worth by letting your boss know you have other options. Mention of a true counteroffer, however, carries an actual threat to quit.

Interviews with employers who make counteroffers, and employees who accept them, have shown that as tempting as they may be, acceptance may (and usually does) cause career suicide. During the past 20 years, I have seen only isolated incidents in which an accepted counteroffer has benefited the employee. Consider the problem in its proper perspective.

What really goes through a boss’s mind when someone quits?

* This couldn’t be happening at a worse time.
* This is one of my best people, if I let him quit now, it’ll wreak havoc on the morale of the department.
* I’ve already got one opening in my department. I don’t need another right now.
* This will probably screw up the entire vacation schedule.
* I’m working as hard as I can, and I don’t need to do his work, too.
* If I lose another good employee, the company might decide to ‘lose’ me too.
* My review is coming up and this will make me look bad.
* Maybe I can keep him/her on until I find a suitable replacement.

What will the boss say to keep you in the nest?
* I’m really shocked I thought you were as happy with us as we are with you. Let’s discuss it before you make your final decision.”
* I’ve been meaning to tell you about the great plans we have for you, but it’s been confidential until now.”
* The VP has you in mind for some exciting and expanding responsibilities.
* Your raise was scheduled to go into effect next quarter, but we’ll make it effective immediately.”
* You’re going to work for whom? You can’t be serious.

Let’s face it. When someone quits it’s a direct reflection on the boss. Unless you’re really incompetent or a destructive thorn in his side, the boss might look bad by “allowing” you to go. His gut reaction is to do what has to be done to keep you from leaving until he’s ready. That’s human nature. Unfortunately, it’s also human nature to want to stay unless your work life is abject misery. Career change, like all ventures into the unknown, is tough. That’s why bosses know they can usually keep you around by pressing the right buttons.

Before you succumb to a tempting counteroffer, consider these universal truths:
* Any situation in which an employee is forced to get an outside offer before the present employer will suggest a raise, promotion or better working conditions, is suspect.
* No matter what the company says when making its counteroffer, you will always be considered a fidelity risk. Having once demonstrated your lack of loyalty (for whatever reason), you will lose your status as a “team player’ and your place in the inner circle.
* Counteroffers are usually nothing more than stall devices to give your employer time to replace you.
* Your reasons for wanting to leave still exist. Conditions are just made a bit more tolerable in the short term because of the raise; promotion nor promises made to keep you.
* Counteroffers are only made in response to a threat to quit. Will you have to solicit an offer and threaten to quit every time you deserve better working conditions? Decent and well-managed companies don’t make counteroffers…EVER! Their policies are fair and equitable. They will not be subjected to “counteroffer coercion” or what they perceive as blackmail. If the urge to accept a counteroffer his you, keep cleaning out your desk as you count your blessings.

Comment by Nicholas Meyler on December 3, 2015 at 9:10pm

I actually usually send candidates two different essays on the subject, so they get some slightly different perspectives, and can be aware that it is a widely-known F-A-C-T that counter-offers rarely work out.  Odds are about 1 in 10 of the candidate lasting out another year at his old (same) job.  I've even had situations arise where a person's salary literally got doubled, and they still quit after six months.  

Save yourself the pain!


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