Deciding to leave an employer is complex. It is an emotional process that involves our natural fear of change. Giving notice to your current employer can be cause for anxiety. The pressures your current employer may put on you, in addition to any ‘second-guessing’ or ‘buyer’s remorse’ on your behalf, will take their toll. Once you tender your resignation, statistics indicated there is a 37.94% probability you will receive a counteroffer and an 83% chance that you might be tempted to stay. Counteroffers are enticements, designed to lure you back after you’ve announced your intention to take a job with another employer. Given today’s labour market and the costs associated with recruiting new employees, counteroffers may become more the rule than the exception.
Please take a few minutes to reflect on several counteroffer predicaments you have/may have personally witnessed.
The Reaction of Those Around You
The Boss’ Reaction:
Your current supervisor will be shocked that you have accepted another position. The first thing that will go through your boss’ mind is how your departure will impact him or her. This will be followed by the unspoken reality that it is much easier and cheaper for your company to try and keep you (especially if they’re losing you to a competitor) than to find your replacement. Consider that some of the following thoughts might go through a boss’ mind when you announce your resignation:
- “What did I do wrong?”
- “Why didn’t I recognize the problem earlier?”
- “This couldn’t happen at a worse time.”
- “This is one of my best people – I’ll never find anyone with similar qualifications to replace them”
- ”If I let him/her quit now, it will lower the morale of the department.”
- “I’ve already got one opening in my department. I don’t need another right now.”
- “What if this resignation starts a mass exodus?”
- “I’m working as hard as I can, and I don’t want to work extra hours doing his/her work too.”
- “If I lose another good employee, the company might decide to ‘lose’ me, too.”
- “My review is coming up and this will make me look bad.”
- He/she isn’t very loyal.
- “Maybe I can keep him/her on until I find a suitable replacement that will take the pressure off.”
When someone quits, it’s a direct reflection on the boss and, if applicable, the department. Assuming that you are a valuable and contributing employee, the boss might look bad by “allowing” you to go. Their gut reaction is to do what has to be done to keep you from leaving. That’s human nature.
The Mentor, Coach or Co-Worker Reaction:
Remember, you’re the one making a career transition, but your decision directly affects you and your immediate family specifically. So, before you even accepted the new job offer, you would have reached out to impartial mentors or career coaches who understand what works best for you and your significant others – looking at the pros and cons in an objective light.
Now that you’ve submitted your resignation, you will get advice from a host of new people – co-workers, friends, extended family and maybe even supervisors. Everyone means well, but not all the tips you receive are valuable. Some advice could even be harmful to your career. How do you know which additional advice you should heed and which you should ignore? You should always appreciate career advice but weigh their advice against the reason(s) you sought another position in the first place. You didn’t make your decision to resign lightly. You are the one with career goals. In fact, co-workers may disclose information that may be spiteful, and others’ emotions might try to convince you to stay in a job you don’t want anymore. When in doubt, it is always easier for your advisors to say no than it is to say yes. If they say ‘no’ they do not accept any responsibility, if they say ‘yes’ then they are responsible.
Courting You to Stay
Counteroffers include promises to try and convince you to stay. If you’ve been there for longer than a year, the boss ‘should’ know your career plans. More money, a promotion (with or without more responsibility), a new job title, new reporting relationships, promises of future benefits, or creating a new project will be addressed – anything to be a ‘carrot’ to get you to stay. Do not be surprised if the promises are coupled with flattery, disparaging remarks about the new company or job, or even remarks to trigger feelings of guilt.
Consider what the boss may say to keep you:
- “I’m shocked. I thought you were as happy with us as we are with you. Let’s discuss it before you make your final decision.”
- “Aw gee, I’ve been meaning to tell you about the great plans we have for you. But they have been confidential until now.”
- “The VP has you in mind for some exciting and expanding responsibilities.”
- “Your raise was scheduled to go into effect next quarter, but we’ll make it effective immediately.”
- “You’re too valuable – we need you.”
- “You can’t desert the team and leave them hanging!”
- “You’re going to work for whom?”
- “What did they offer you?”
- “Is there anything I can do or say to make you stay?”
- “You’re the glue around here; things will fall apart without you!”
- “Didn’t we make it clear in our performance reviews how valuable you are?”
Unless your work life has been a hopeless misery, it will be human nature to have moments of self-doubt and consider staying with your current employer. After all, career changes, like all ventures into the unknown, are tough and it is always easier to stay with the familiar. That’s why bosses know they can usually keep you around by pressing the right buttons. Expect your boss’ superior to get involved as well. Don’t be surprised if they both offer to take you out to lunch or dinner. From their perspective, it’s much cheaper to keep you, even at a slightly higher salary.
Reasons You Are Resigning
Whether you were approached by a recruiter, or had applied directly, the reasons for leaving are job are generally consistent. Here are some of the ‘usual’ factors behind the desire to quit and move on:
- You have no room to grow
- You are not using your skills to the fullest
- You work in a toxic environment
- You want to make a career change
- You are looking for a better work-life balance
- You want to move up in your field
- You are being offered higher pay elsewhere Change for your mental health
- Need for a change in the status quo
Key Points to Remember:
The counteroffer may be appealing, but the driving force behind your desire to leave still exists. Apart from this short-term ‘fix’, your reasons for resigning will remain the same – nothing will change within the company. After the dust settles, you’ll be in the same old rut.. Before you are tempted to accept a counteroffer, consider these key points:
- No matter what the company says when making its counteroffer, you’ll always be considered a fidelity risk. You have demonstrated you are dissatisfied with your job – now your loyalty is suspect.
- Your reasons for wanting to leave still exist…nothing will change. Conditions are just made a bit more tolerable in the short term because of the raise, promotion, or promises made to keep you.
- Accepting a counteroffer, no matter how attractive it may appear, greatly decreases the chance of maximizing your long-term career potential inside the company. Within the same survey, the average number of months the individual stays after accepting a counteroffer is 41.
- …80 to 90% of employees leave for reasons related NOT to money, but due to the job, the manager, the culture, or the work environment. Most people quit their boss; they do not quit their job.
- Counteroffers are only made in response to a threat to quit. Will you have to solicit an offer and threaten to quit every time you deserve better working conditions?
- What is the real reason for the counteroffer? Is it because you are indispensable to the company or is it more to do with the inconvenience your leaving will be to the employer?
- If you are worth a 20% increase in pay today, why weren’t you worth that much to them yesterday?
- From what budget is the money for the counteroffer coming from? Is it my next raise? My co-worker’s next raise?
- Accepting a counteroffer is often an emotional rather than an intellectual decision.
- Once word gets out, the relationship you enjoy with your co-workers will not be the same. You could lose the personal satisfaction of peer-group acceptance. You’ll lose your status as a “team player” and your place in the inner circle.
- Decent and well-managed companies don’t make counteroffers . . .NEVER! Their policies are fair and equitable. They won’t be subjected to “counteroffer coercion” or what they perceive as blackmail.
And one mustn’t forget about the prospective employer, who spent long hours and considerable expense to provide you with an acceptable offer. Presumably, you negotiated in good faith and arrived at a mutual agreement. They have made plans and accommodations around you. Just as they selected you, you also selected them to help you in the next step of your career path journey. If you renege on your commitment, you taint your reputation. It’s a smaller world than we may think. Word of your lack of integrity can follow your career for decades. As well, professional search consultants may consider you a risk for the openings they handle.
Sticking With Your Decision
How Do You Implement Your Decision to Leave?
Once you accept a new job, you need to consider the timing of your resignation – the norm is two weeks’ notice. The best advice is to make the change you have agreed to and stick with it. Keep relationships with important people in your old organization intact, but politely deliver the firm message that you have decided to move on. If it is made clear that you are not open to renegotiation, you may be able to prevent the counteroffer attempt, and save embarrassment for all concerned.
There is a right way and a wrong way to resign. There are many wrong ways. Handing a letter of resignation to your boss’ assistant or leaving it on his desk would not be very professional. Don’t use the phone unless it is physically impossible to meet, and don’t even think about voicemail or e-mail. There is no science to the timing, but morning seems best or maybe lunchtime. This is not a surprise you want to spring at the end of a long day.
To make the transition to your new employer as painless as possible, we advise the following process of giving notice. Be very brief when you give notice. Write a polite, unequivocal resignation letter that leaves no room for discussion. Be brief and to the point, and never bitter in tone. There is no need to apologize for your decision to leave.
‘Effective today, please accept this as my official notice of resignation. My final day will be (two weeks from the current date). I appreciate the work we have been able to accomplish together at [Name of Company], but I have accepted another position outside the company. Please know that I intend to work diligently with you to wrap up as much as possible in the next two weeks to make my resignation as smooth as possible. I hope we can plan to accomplish this goal, as I am eager to leave on the most positive note possible.
It is your responsibility to arrange for a face-to-face meeting to give your notice. Should the boss want to know the nature of the meeting in advance, simply say it is a matter of personal concern that needs to be addressed in confidence? We recommend you have an agenda for the meeting. Having an agenda, and sticking to it, prevents your boss from controlling the discussion and questioning your decision to leave. If they persist in asking questions, re-focus the discussion by indicating that your goal today is to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible.
As you enter the meeting, hand the signed letter of resignation to your boss, saying something like this: “Boss, I have made a commitment to join another organization and will begin work with them in two weeks. Please accept this letter of resignation. I would ask that you take a minute to read my letter before we discuss together how we can make my transition as smooth as possible.”
Mention that you have an agenda to share after he/she has read the letter. Once the letter is read, share with the boss your meeting agenda, which should list 3 – 8 items that need to be wrapped up in the time of your transition, and your plan to get those done.
You do not have to tell your current employer where you are going or what the job is unless you have a non-compete clause in your contract. We strongly suggest that you do not give them any information about your new compensation package. They will ask you a hundred questions; avoid answering them. You don’t want to burn any bridges, so you could simply respond by saying that your new employer has asked you to keep this information confidential. Just have a matter-of-fact style and appreciate that they need to know this information strictly to come up with a counteroffer. Therefore, the less information you give them, the easier this will be.
When talking to your current employer, you can add positive things such as, ‘I have had a wonderful experience at this company, and I am happy to have had the opportunity to work with you, but the time has come for me to move on. But be firm. If you show any kind of weakness or uncertainty in your voice or actions, your current employer will sense it. Most managers have been professionally trained on how to counteroffer employees.
Watch what you are saying about quitting. Never ‘confidentially’ advise co-workers first – word gets around. If you told your boss you were leaving to take a great new job, do not tell your co-workers that you are fleeing because the boss is a creep. Stick to your story and keep it positive. Take the time to say goodbye and thank you! You have shared many experiences with the people in this company, and some of them may have taught you a lot. You may work with some of them again and you may want some of them to be references for you in the future.
After the Letter of Resignation:
Once you are past the difficult point of handing in your resignation and meeting with your boss, we recommend that you call your recruiter and your significant other to let them know you have given your notice and that it went well. We also recommend that you email a copy of your letter of resignation to your boss’ direct supervisor as well as your contact in human resources. This will begin the process of “officially” wrapping up your employment. The following day, we suggest you look around your desk and workspace and take all emotionally important items home with you. Ensure that you have removed all personal items from your laptop or PC. Round up copies of all documents that you may require as part of a future job search portfolio and transfer them to your possession off-site. This may include copies of your employee reviews, customer letters or testimonials and recommendations. Never take anything that is not rightfully yours. Finally, focus on wrapping up or transferring your projects and responsibilities to your co-workers.
We hope you have found this document helpful in preparing your resignation. By preparing and anticipating outcomes and understanding how to handle them positively and professionally, you are now able to move confidently forward to new challenges and opportunities.
Recently we saw the following on LinkedIn and thought it applicable to include:
- Bad managers keep people trapped in dead-end jobs.
- Good managers create opportunities for people to grow and advance.
- Great managers encourage people to pursue growth and advancement even if it means leaving for another organization.
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