Preempting the Counteroffer: Steering Candidates Clear of Temptation

COUNTEROFFERS ARE SIMPLY enticements to keep employees aboard once they have given notice. Employers have historically been known to appeal to a departing worker s sense of loyalty, guilt, or fear to convince individuals to change their minds about resigning. It is not even uncommon to hear of offers of promotions, huge salary increases, and spousal perks to entice resigning employees to reject a new employer s offer.

It probably seems more logical to handle counteroffer issues with candidates after they've accepted your job offer. After all, most employers reason that they have to offer someone a job before the candidate will receive a counteroffer. However, it's critical to address counteroffer issues before extending an employment offer. Once you make an employment offer, you give total control over to the candidate. The individual then could very well use the counteroffer threat as leverage to negotiate more money from you. Remember, the counteroffer is just another variable in the employment process that you need to control.

What should you do if a candidate intimates that he ll consider a counteroffer from his present employer? Simply advise him to address his needs with his boss right now: ''Joe, why don't you go back and speak with your department head about your needs before we go any further? If you get the extra money that you re looking for, then you'll have to agree that my suggestion was good for your career. On the other hand, if you don t get the added compensation that you re looking for, then call me back and I ll address our offer a little more seriously.'' Excellent work! You have proactively removed an arrow from the candidate s quiver that could have come back to hurt you later in the negotiation process.

Making employees counteroffers once they've given notice is a poor management practice. The strongest companies avoid subjecting themselves to counteroffer coercion. That's primarily because this strategy typically fails to solve the problems that made the employee want to leave in the first place. Statistically speaking, many companies that make counteroffers to resigning employees have experienced that counteroffers serve only to delay the inevitable. In a large percentage of cases, workers who accept counteroffers are gone within six months anyway. Indeed, keeping disgruntled workers aboard only hurts an employer's chances of shoring up weaknesses in the organization and making the necessary changes to move successfully into the future.

Besides, subjecting oneself to counteroffer coercion sends the wrong message to existing staff; throwing dollars at people to stay aboard once they've obviously shown themselves to be disloyal is a desperate move on the company's part and poor career management on the individual's part. In short, little good has historically come to either party from accepted counteroffers.

In contrast, companies that respect their employees' freedom to accept other employment offers send the right message to their remaining staff. The manager wishes the individual well and then swiftly joins forces with existing workers to reassign the current workload and fill the opening quickly. Employees leave those organizations with a minimum of friction and histrionics. No feelings are hurt, no undue pressure is exerted, and the corporate family has the chance to work together to rebuild from the loss.

This chapter will address counteroffer issues from a ''resignation drill'' perspective. Although you know how dangerous it is for individuals to accept counteroffers, and even though your company may steer away from such practices, that doesn't mean that the candidate you're courting right now won't be subjected to counteroffer pressures once the individual returns to the office to give notice.

Resignation drills occur often in the recruitment industry when head-hunters take their candidates through role-play scenarios of giving notice to the current boss. It makes sense for recruiters to spend some time preparing the candidate to resign so as to avoid surprises at the finish line that could wipe out all the work that has gone into the negotiations up to that point. So it's practical business sense that leads recruiters down this path. Resignation drills will benefit you as well as the hiring manager by dramatically increasing the chances that candidates will accept your employment offer and make a clean break from their current companies.

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