When faced with the prospect of a top performer headed off to the competition, organizations go into survival mode. In hindsight, it would have been prudent to read up on employee retention, but that ship has sailed. It’s time for the nuclear option: the counteroffer. These are often uncomfortable and challenging discussions. So, how do you prepare for a counteroffer?
As a headhunter, my job is to poach tier-one cyber security professionals from my client’s competition. These individuals are successful for a reason, they’re usually strategic, pragmatic decision makers and come prepared for every and all conversations; that’s why they’re top performers. The problem with preparing for resignations and counteroffers is that most professionals don’t resign that often; it’s not an area of practice for them.
Fortunately, the team at Pinpoint Search Group has prepared hundreds of candidates for those exact scenarios. Here’s how we prepare professionals for a counteroffer discussion.
3 Things to consider before signing an offer letter
The implications of a counteroffer and how you will react should be considered before signing an offer letter. Accepting a verbal agreement is one thing, putting your signature on a document translates to a commitment. In a relatively tight knit industry like cyber security, that’s hugely consequential. You’ve just given your word, as a professional, to a group of people that you’ll probably run into again and again over time.
- Do I have all the information I need about the company and opportunity?
- Money aside, does this opportunity put me on-course to accomplish my career goals?
- Am I comfortable enough with the financials of the offer, and the opportunity, to turn down any counteroffer my employer might make?
If the answer to all three is a “yes”, sign away! If any one of these is a “no”, my advice would be to circle back with the hiring manager, or recruiter and find a way to get to three yesses. Burning bridges in a small community of professionals is never a good idea. If you sign an offer and accept a counter, you’ll almost certainly burn some bridges.
Communicating your resignation
So, you’ve gotten to three yesses and signed your offer (yay!). This is often a time of mixed emotions. You’re excited for the next chapter in your career, but now you have to break the news to your boss. If you absolutely love them as a person, the conversation can be challenging. And if there’s no love lost, the discussion can still be uncomfortable or intimidating.
Here are three things you can do to mitigate the difficulty of communicating your resignation.
- Make sure to project certainty when communicating your decision to resign. Anything that smells like hesitation or uncertainty on your end can and will be leveraged by a motivated employer.
- “I’ve been interviewing with a company and received an offer, it’s a great opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.”
- “I’ve signed an offer letter and am giving my two weeks’ notice. This is an opportunity for career advancement and I’m confident this is the direction that I want to take my career.”
- Less is more. You’re not obligated to disclose the company you’re going to, or the nature of the opportunity. Providing details will only give your boss leverage in their attempt to keep you.
- “I’d be glad to share details with you once I complete my notice period and start with my new employer. For now, I want to keep it confidential.”
- Regardless of the reaction, show grace and professionalism. Come prepared with a transition plan and anything else that will help your employer deal with the ramifications of your departure.
Preparing for your resignation’s aftermath
The implications of a top performer leaving a company are significant.
- In the short to mid-term, it’s disruptive operationally.
- Impacts employee morale and could lead to a wave of departures.
- They’re expensive to replace.
So, it’s not far-fetched that an organization will go into survival mode when hearing that a tier one performer is leaving the company. Here are some last-minute retention strategies you can prepare to confront.
- “What was the offer? You’re really important to us, I’m sure we can beat it.”
- Remember less is more. You’ve made a commitment, don’t fall down that rabbit hole.
- “The timing is crazy because we were just talking about promoting you.”
- It’s likely senior level leadership you rarely, if ever, communicate with will be calling to see what happened. They’ve heard such great things and can’t understand why you’d be leaving. “What can we change to keep you on-board?”
Why shouldn’t you consider the counteroffer?
The attempts to keep you on-board may be enticing and even flattering. So why shouldn’t you hear them out and consider the options being presented to you?
- You’ve thoroughly thought through the offer and decided to sign it. Trusting your decisions is important.
- While on a personal level, your boss’ efforts may be sincere, your employer is an entity that is reacting to a short-term threat. Ask yourself, if you were really held in such high regard, why did the organization wait until this point to express that?
- You’ve now backed your boss and organization into a corner, and they made a reactionary decision to solve a short-term problem. Is the company really prepared to address the long-term issues you’ve been dealing with? Or how it will promote your career progression? Not likely.
- Diminished trust: According to Harvard Business Review, ~80% of senior executives and ~60% of HR leaders cited diminished trust and compromised reputation for those that accepted counteroffers.
Ultimately, when you resign from a company, you’re making a business decision. Just as companies make decisions that impact employees (reductions in force, eliminating bonuses, changing product strategies etc.), the business decisions employees make on advancing their careers need to be respected.