Editor’s Note: This blog is a modified excerpt from professional “headhunter” and bestselling job-hunting book author Skip Freeman’s next book in the “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets series of job-hunting books, Career Stalled? Publication is scheduled for late fall.
Virtually all of us—or certainly most of us!—have experienced “break-ups” of one kind or another in our personal relationships, e.g., close friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, significant others, and yes, even marriages. Usually these break-ups occur because one party or the other has displayed dishonesty, disloyalty or violated some other form of trust.
Sometimes it is possible to mend these broken personal relationships and “make up.” Sometimes it is not. If we truly value the personal relationship, and do decide to “make up,” we don’t necessarily forget the slights and psychic damage we may have suffered, we simply choose to forgive them and try to move on.
Do NOT expect this same kind of understanding, forgiveness and gentle treatment from a company (and/or a boss!) once you submit an official resignation! Oh, they might say they “forgive” you, and they might say that they simply can’t get along without you, and then quickly put together a “sweet” counter-offer to try and get you to stay with the company, but don’t you believe any of it! Not for even one second!
When you are offered a counter-offer, it is NOT done out of consideration for you—it’s done out of the sole consideration for the company and/or your boss! From the time you submitted your resignation, you were “marked,” branded, as a “traitor,” an “ingrate,” someone who has displayed disloyalty and violated a trust, and you will continue to be perceived that way for as long as you are able to stay with the company (which, statistically, won’t be long!).*Believe that with all your heart and soul.
So why does the company even make a counter-offer? Because they want to “deal” with you at their leisure and when they are ready to do so, that’s why! And believe me, they will “deal” with you, sooner rather than later! Let me relate an all too-familiar situation that recently occurred with a candidate I had presented (successfully!) to one of my client companies.
Here is How it Usually Works
A “headhunted” candidate my executive recruiting firm, Hire to Win, presented to one of our company’s Fortune 500 clients was a 32-year-old male who is a Mechanical Engineer. He felt his career had stalled and so he definitely was open to considering new career opportunities. His annual salary at that time, with his current employer, was $65,000. During the interview process he clearly branded himself in the Top 20% of his profession, which prompted our client company to offer him an annual salary of $72,000 for the position they were trying to fill. (The “pay band” for the position had been set at $65,000 to $70,000, but the company was willing to “break the band” in order to hire this exceptional young engineer.)
After completing the drug screen and background check, our candidate was officially offered the position, which he gladly accepted. The very next day he submitted his resignation to his current employer.
You guessed it! Shortly thereafter, the quite predictable “full court press” got underway. He and his wife were taken out and “wined and dined.” During the dinner, his boss continued to stress how very valuable the young man was to the continued success of the company, as well as how he would literally be “throwing away” a GREAT career if he left the company, etc., etc. All heady stuff for a young man on the rise in his career!
Now Comes the ‘Counter-Offer’
The company soon presented him a counter-offer, a very, very attractive counter-offer—an annual salary of $100,000! Both the candidate and his wife didn’t need much further convincing. He readily accepted the counter-offer, glowing with the knowledge that he was now being paid what he was really “worth” and was finally being appreciated for the genuine contributions he had been making to the company all along. (Makes you wonder why he didn’t wonder how the company could have been “under-paying” and “under-appreciating” him all that time, doesn’t it?)
A mere four months later, the HAMMER fell, and it fell HARD! The company division the young man was part of was sold and he was immediately laid off. What happened?! You see, the management knew they were trying to sell that particular division. Our candidate was in charge of a maintenance group and they couldn’t afford for that critical function to be rudderless (i.e., without a team leader) during the process of courting potential buyers.
Suddenly, this young man, whose career just a few months previously had seemed so “glowing” and so full of significant growth potential, was now faced with a staggering number of unexpected, and certainly unappreciated, problems and concerns. What would he and his family do now (the couple has two small children)? Whereas before, he was competing for new career opportunities from a position of strength, i.e., he was currently employed, now he is among the millions of men and women who are unemployed, and whether it is right or wrong, that make his getting a new job exponentially far more difficult!
“I feel cheated and deceived,” he told me over the telephone. “You can’t tell me that the company didn’t know they intended to sell my unit and let me go when they made me the counter-offer,” he said bitterly. “How could they do that to me and my family and live with themselves?”
And you know what? Sure they knew his unit was going to be put up for sale. They also knew, or at least should have strongly anticipated, that this young man’s career would be put in considerable jeopardy as the result of the sale. But it didn’t matter and it rarely does. The company did what they thought was best for the company at the time and were quite willing to “let the chips fall where they may.” Unfortunately, that is the way it works with most employers, too, nine times out of ten.
When it’s the Company Vs. You . . . You Lose!
If, at this point, you are inferring that “trust” and “loyalty” seem to be very much a “one-way street,” i.e., companies expect (and demand) that their employees be “trustworthy” and “loyal,” but the companies themselves can’t necessarily be expected to reciprocate in kind, you are absolutely correct in your inference!
Time and time again in my blogs I have advised that only you can—and should!—take full and complete control of your own career destiny, because if you don’t, then someone else will very likely step in and do it for you.
I know it is sometimes a “bitter” pill to swallow when we have to accept—and admit, at least to ourselves—that the company we work for really isn’t our “family,” and that our co-workers really aren’t usually our “best friends.” To be sure, the really great companies treat their employees with respect and show appreciation toward them. But the sad fact still is this: Even among these great companies, when it comes down to the company making the decision as to what is best for the company, versus what may be best for any given employee, the employee loses. Time and time again.
You would be well advised to keep this fact in mind when—and if—you are ever in a position to consider a counter-offer, accept it, and thereby eschew a genuine new career opportunity. Don’t think this kind of thing could possibly happen to you, or that your current employer would ever take this course of action against you (or any other employee at your company, for that matter)? Unfortunately, until just recently, neither did one exceptionally qualified, fine young mechanical engineer, whose career went from simply being “stalled” to being in a total shambles.
*Statistically, about 80% of the people who accept a counter-offer from their current employer are gone from the company within six months, for one reason or another.
Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.