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Question: My former mentor has offered me an opportunity to work for her company at a much higher level and a salary to match. I wasn’t expecting this, but was intrigued and felt that I had to tell my current boss. His response was to give me a counteroffer with a huge raise and a bonus plan. I love my job, but am worried that I’ve broken my bond of loyalty and will always be a suspected flight risk. I’m torn. Is taking a counteroffer the kiss of death for my career?
Answer: It’s understandable that you are torn over this issue. In a recent national survey by Harvard Business Review, nearly 40% of senior executives and HR leaders agreed that accepting a counteroffer from a current employer will adversely affect one’s career. At the same time, 78% of senior executives and 80% of HR leaders indicated that it is sometimes acceptable to embrace a counteroffer.
In today’s intense competition for talent, loyal employees can suddenly find themselves tempted by a counteroffer they didn’t expect. Handling the decision can be stressful for all concerned. Here are a few things to take into consideration about accepting the counteroffer.
Money aside. You shouldn’t stay just for money and you shouldn’t leave just for money. Consider whether you have room to grow with your current employer. If so, you can accept the counteroffer and take steps outlined below to navigate the fallout with your former mentor, your boss, and your colleagues. If you don’t have room for growth at your current position, the initial excitement about higher pay may eventually leave you feeling empty – a void that money cannot fill.
One and done. If you accept the counteroffer, make sure it’s a one-time only event with your current employer. If another offer comes along in the future that you want to take, be prepared to let your current employer know that you do not want to build a reputation as a serial salary blackmailer. If you stay, be prepared to show that you are 110% committed to being worthy of the decision to offer you more money. Humility, hard work, and gratitude should be your daily mantra to re-building shaky trust with your boss and your colleagues who will likely get word of your counteroffer.
An honorable decline. Have a transparent discussion with your former mentor if you decide not to take her offer. Let her know that your decision is based on loyalty and your belief that you can still make an impact with your current employer. You don’t want to burn bridges, but keep the lines of communication open. If you know someone who you think would be a good candidate for the position, offer to make an introduction to help her fill the role.