Is it true that If I take the counteroffer, the world is going to end?

Ever been offered a job, only to have your current employer come up with a counteroffer out of the blue?  You’re not alone.

As nice as it is to be in demand, being at the centre of a counter-offer situation is a pretty stressful thing.  You have different loyalties to different parties, and everyone involved in the process will have different aims and objectives during that process.  None of those objectives are really focussed on what is best for you (other than your own, of course).

Whatever you end up doing with a counteroffer, whether you accept it or reject it, someone somewhere is going to be disappointed, angry, confused and/or annoyed with you.  Your current boss has quite a lot at stake, as does the company trying to hire you.  And your recruiter…well, they’ll be particularly keen to “steer” you, and will most likely help out by sending you an article (or links to multiple articles) all suggesting some seemingly very valid reasons why you SHOULDN’T take the counter-offer.  They are, of course, indelibly biased towards that outcome.

You may find yourself being pulled in several directions, in this swirling vortex of competing egos and agendas.  And it’s in the eye of this storm that you’ll find yourself most exposed to Recruitment’s favourite made-up statistic:

80% of candidates who accept a counter-offer leave their current company voluntarily within a year.

Part of a fairly widely-acknowledged group of counter-offer truisms, this fact is going to be presented to you by someone (possibly be multiple parties) at some point during your mind-spinning counter-offer experience.  When combined with the other facts you’ll be presented with – including things like “if you accept that counteroffer, next time your boss is considering who to promote/fire/blame he or she will remember just how loyal you were” and “it’s much cheaper for your boss to give you that £10K extra than it is for him or her to hire someone else, but you can bet they’ll start looking for your replacement now” – it’s a very compelling argument for taking the new job.

Except we made it up.

Yeah, that’s right.  We made it up.

Who’s “we”?  The recruiting industry, that’s who.  That’s all the third-party/agency recruiters, all the in-house “talent acquisition” people and all the the hiring managers out there…collectively, we made it up.  We made it up because it sounds like it could be right and it’s our necks on the line if we don’t fill this job and if you don’t take it, we’re back to square one.

You’ll find a few different versions of our little fib.  Here’s some examples I found on a recent Google hunt…

Statistics show that if you accept a counter offer, the probability of you leaving or being asked to leave within 6-12 months is extremely high, with 80% of people leaving within six months and 50% reinitiating their job search within 90 days.

There are no “statistics”.  Well, actually that’s not strictly true, there are loads of them.  But we made them all up!

Recent surveys reflect that 83% of professionals who accept a counter offer either leave voluntarily or are let go of their respective companies within six months of the counter offer.

There are no “recent surveys” either.  Except the ones that we made up.

A number of different studies have been conducted, to categorize workplace happiness and the long term impact of counter offers. Their results highlight that over 80% of people accepting a counter offer will leave the job within the following 6-12 months.

Nope, calling them “studies” doesn’t help either.  Because there are none, except the ones we made up.

Much research has been done to measure what happens to employees who accept counter offers. The research shows that only 6 out of 100 employees are still with their company after 12 months.

No, there hasn’t.  Except the stuff we made up, naturally.

Here’s the truth: No-one knows whether you should take the counter-offer or not, although YOU are easily the best-qualified person to make that decision.  You will, eventually, make the decision and it will either turn out to be a good one, or it will turn out to be a bad one.

In a desperate attempt to quantify this post, a colleague of mind recently ran a LinkedIn Poll.  Not wanting to make it too obvious what we were doing, we asked people this:

If you’ve ever received a counter offer when looking to leave an employer, which of the following applies:

a) you accepted the counter-offer and don’t regret doing so
b) you rejected the counter-offer and don’t regret doing so
c) you rejected the counter-offer and subsequently regretted doing so
d) you accepted the counter-offer and subsequently regretted doing so

(actually we didn’t word it that well or indeed spell the options correctly – but you can’t have everything).

Now we know that the recruiting industry made up the 80% statistic, but because it’s a relatively believable made-up statistic, we figured that we might be able to find some truth in it.  What we actually found was that 63% of people who ACCEPT a counter-offer don’t regret doing so, although in a potentially interesting twist only 8% of people who reject a counter-offer regret doing so.  This indicates that, as you would expect, some people took the counter-offer and were happy, some took it and were unhappy.  Quelle surprise.

There is no particular reason for me to bring this up, other than the old saying my nan used to tell me…”and the truth my boy will set you free”.  There are lots of good reasons why you should take the new job.  There are also lots of good reasons for you to consider the counter-offer – so weigh those reasons up for yourself and make a choice.  And please, don’t trust the statistics.

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