Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?

by Chris Clark

7th October 2013

Our Commercial Contracts recruiter, Chris Clark, comments on the increasingly common dilemma faced by candidates in the current competitive market – how to handle counter-offers.

You've made it through the tough stages of finding a new job: updating your CV, selling yourself at interview, being offered the role and then handing in your resignation. Done and dusted, or so you thought. But then your employer makes an enticing offer for you to reconsider your resignation, so do you stay or do you go?

As a result of the highly competitive employment market in the oil and gas sector more vacancies than candidates has created an environment, in certain niche roles, where counter-offers are inflating salaries. If you are the candidate, this might sound like great news, but it's surprising how much soul searching and worry over making the right decision counter-offers can cause.

Unfortunately, there's no 'one size fits all' answer because each person's priorities and motivations are unique. Most people's reaction upon receiving a counter-offer is to feel flattered by the fact that their boss wants to keep them, not to mention delighted by the prospect of a higher salary. However don't be naive. Retaining you is probably a lot less hassle and more cost effective than replacing you. Consider too that your longer term compensation may be affected as a significant pay increase now may be offset by smaller increases in the future, particularly if the counter-offer is not based on your merits and effectiveness.

It's important to weigh up the new internal offer as thoroughly as you considered the external option. Which makes the best use of your skills and will develop your career in the direction you'd really like to take it? How do you feel about each business, your existing and potential new manager? Which offers the best financial reward in conjunction with the other benefits on offer? Are your personal aspirations being met? If they aren't, can you reconcile this by being paid more?

When my candidates are struggling with the dilemma of how to handle a counter-offer we often talk through the following points:

1 KNOW YOUR VALUE : Check out the market rate for your role and responsibilities.

2 IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT THE MONEY : Remember if you're bored with your job and frustrated by a lack of career development, extra cash won't change this. OK it might pay for a dream holiday but remember you still have to return to real life! So if you accept a counter-offer make sure it's because you are excited about the job not just the cash. Some of the reasons we enjoy working includes having pride in our job, a good work life balance and generally feeling our work is making a difference. So unless salary was the sole purpose for looking at new opportunities, counter-offers aren't necessarily the answer to being happier at work.

3 THINK WHAT YOU'RE LEAVING BEHIND : Working in an organisation for a good period of time means you've built up equity, whether it's the relationships you've developed or your service record. Dramatic improvements to career progression, immediate and long-term earning potential can be achieved by making an external move, but that doesn't mean that the most positive move for you is necessarily one out with your current employer.

4 DON'T ACT ON IMPULSE : If you have asked for a pay rise which has been declined, don't react impulsively. Interviewing for the first job which comes along and accepting an offer you're not excited about just means you'll be back where you started. Make sure the move is a logical progression for your career.

5 KEEP IT PROFESSIONAL : Always conduct yourself professionally as no matter what your decision it's important that you act with integrity and respect all the parties involved in your job offer and subsequent negotiations.

6 DELAYED RECOGNITION : If you're worth your increased salary and responsibilities, why was this not recognised before you handed in your notice? Part of your frustration from the outset may be that you're undervalued, and if it takes your resignation for this to be noticed you may be better off with an organisation that is more proactive in helping you fulfil your career ambitions.

But what if you're the employer trying to do the retaining? Retention planning is a long game, made harder in the northeast of Scotland by the number of companies competing to be an employer of choice. There's no 'one size fits all' answer here either with a delicate balance to be achieved between retaining your best people, maintaining a work culture where people thrive and are most productive and accepting that making a counter-offer in the short-term is only delaying the inevitable in the longer term.

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