The Perils of the Counter Offer
This year has been a year of hiring. In April, we completed a reorganization fully integrating Wallaby Financial into Bankrate, Inc's Credit Card Division. When you sell your startup you know that day will eventually come, but you don't always know when. The result of this has been good and has given me an opportunity to do high-scale hiring more common in a startup.
Between hiring done as Wallaby and hiring done in my new role as Chief Product Officer for the division, I have been involved in somewhere near 20 or 30 roles. In our Pasadena office, my co-founder Todd and I have added 20 people between February 29th and this week. We started with 10.
When you are hiring and trying to find the best candidates, it is inevitable that you won't have all of your offers accepted. In the past week two of our offers were declined when the candidates accepted counter-offers their current jobs.
Credit to someone on my team for pointing out the Forbes article on this topic. My thoughts align with this a lot, but here's what it comes down to:
Looking for a job is tough. It takes time, it takes sneaking around at your current job and it takes explaining yourself to strangers. You only do it if you're truly unhappy.
The fundamental issues that drive you to be unhappy aren't going to change. Sure, you might make be offered more money, but you know what you know about your job and that probably isn't going to change.
When you get all the way to the point of telling your manager you are leaving, you have already decided this and you know this. Then they tell you what you want to hear–it's a sales job. Want more money? Here it is. Want more responsibility? Sure, we'll do that.
You have to step back and say, why now? They didn't give it to you before because either a) they don't think you deserve it, or b) they don't care that much about you.
If you manager really cares about you he or she will already be talking to you about what you need well before you ask. Whether that is compensation or career prospects, that discussion should always be ongoing. It may take them time to fulfill those discussions (and you should limit that time), but it should be PROACTIVE to you, not reactionary.
Because, if your manager cares, then he or she cares enough to think you're always about to leave. He will always be worried about you leaving and always be working to understand how to help you grow and be fulfilled. This doesn't mean you should ask for a raise every six months. It means that across the wide dimensions of things a manager can provide (experience, comp, training, etc., etc) he will be working on all those things to balance them and drive things forward.
If you find yourself in this position you have to steel yourself against the late sell. You know why you wanted to leave. Don't be swayed by the sudden adoration.
If you made the choice to take the counter offer, I have the feeling we'll be talking again about you wanting to leave in six to nine months. I hope that isn't true; and every situation is unique, of course. History and experience tells me the fundamental problems haven't changed and those who stay after deciding to leave will decide to leave again soon. According to CyberCoders, 93% of employees who accept counters to stay leave within 18 months.
Call me when you're ready to join me. I'll be waiting.
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