It’s no secret: if you express your intentions to leave to your employer and they come back with a counteroffer – perhaps a hefty raise, title promotion, or both – that means you’re a valuable employee.
And while it is normal to be tempted by these offers, I only ask that you ask yourself one question before making your decision: is this an opportunity or obligation?
This is an obligation
I’ll tell you about a candidate I worked with just last week. Adam (not his real name) is a Software Developer.
He worked at the same company for fifteen years, starting as a Junior Developer right out of college and working his way up to a Lead Developer. After a few years in the lead role, Adam felt his skills as a developer had been finely honed. He was ready and deserving of a promotion to Software Development Manager.
So, Adam went to his manager and asked for the promotion.
Boss replied: the position you want is already filled, and so is the Director of Software Development position. You can only be promoted if one of those two leave.
Unsurprisingly, Adam then came to me. And we get him an offer to join one of our great clients as a Software Development Manager.
A week later, Adam called me to let me know that he was now unsure if he could accept the offer my client had extended. He explained that his current company offered him a raise and a Software Development Manager title when he put in his two weeks’ notice.
Adam was important to his current company, especially with the big project he was currently part of, and it was clear they didn’t want to lose him. So they gave him the title he wanted.
That’s all it was, though. A title.
Together, we reviewed the job description that his company had given him for his “new” position to discover that Adam’s new responsibilities wouldn’t differ much, if at all, from his old ones. Adam would still be reporting to the other Software Development Manager and there were no plans to provide him with a team to lead.
In other words, Adam’s employer had packaged up an obligation and called it a promotion.
By giving him a promotion and a raise, Adam’s company made him feel obligated to stay. And it was a powerful move: Adam did feel he owed his entire career to this company up to this point. Plus, the counteroffer showed him that they needed and wanted him to stay.
This is an opportunity
But opportunity looks a lot different than obligation.
As recruiters, we sell opportunities. That’s exactly what I was offering Adam. The Software Development Manager position with my client would give Adam the chance to lead a team of people as he headed multiple projects. There was even a possibility that, eventually, he could be promoted to Chief Technology Officer.
This was an opportunity. Adam could learn new skills, head new projects, and further his career. It was a leap up the ladder.
Adam saw this, too, and decided not to accept the counteroffer. He chose to do what was best for him: jumping on an opportunity rather than staying somewhere out of a feeling of obligation.
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