The Counteroffer Conundrum: Why Staying Put May Curtail Your Career
- November 16, 2023
If you just got that confirmation email or call from the hiring firm offering you the job you’ve long been hoping to land, then chances are you’ll have already punched the air in triumph and let out a huge sigh of relief at the conclusive news, thankful that the hard part of the job searching process is now behind you.
And while it’s certainly in order to celebrate such wonderful news with friends and family and give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back for making it this far, caution is advised at this junction – as there is still a transition period you are to navigate successfully, especially when there is still your resignation and notice period to manage.
Perhaps the most pertinent when discussing the activities involved in a thorough due diligence post-job search is the topic of counteroffers, an aspect of the transition process that presents a challenge to legal candidates often regardless of what they might have on offer from their soon-to-be employer.
According to the latest CIPD Labour Market Outlook report, 40% of UK employers have made a counteroffer to departing employees in the last 12 months and among that number, 38% matched the salary of the new job offer while 40% exceeded it. With employers increasingly reliant on counter offers to retain their key staff and a skills shortage across the industry to contend with, these findings point to two indisputable facts that any legal candidate on the brink of leaving their current role faces at present:
- The chances that you will be made a counteroffer are higher than ever before.
- It will likely be a tantalizing prospect to consider, regardless of whatever offer you’ve got on the table.
All of this to say, it isn’t an issue you can afford to take lightly, simple as its solution may seem.
So, what happens when you break the news to your current employer with your resignation letter at the ready and your current manager provides a counteroffer, asking you to stay?
While the promise of extra benefits, money, or extra responsibilities from your existing employer might be tempting, they usually point to a few red flags that make accepting a counteroffer ultimately a bad move for your career in the long run.
Here are 5 reasons you may want to think twice before accepting the new offer on the table:
1. Counteroffers Don’t Solve Underlying Issues
Moving from one job to another isn’t a decision most legal professionals will arrive at on a whim. There will be a lot of time and thought gone into weighing the pros and cons of leaving your current role, and from every possible angle, before deciding to take the leap.
When you’re given a counteroffer, it may address one or two gripes you have with your existing role (such as a low salary), but it’s unlikely to tackle every major issue that convinced you to leave. When faced with one, it’s a good idea to take a moment to ask yourself why you wanted to take this new job in the first place.
Is your current role lacking the challenge you’re looking for at this stage of your career, or are you planning on moving in an entirely new direction? Perhaps the culture or lack of flexibility are a constant source of headaches at your firm. If the sticking points with your role aren’t resolved by the counteroffer (which tend to be the case if these sit at the root of your concerns as culture and career development are not as simple a problem to fix as salary concerns) you should absolutely be turning it down and moving on with your new job offer.
2. An Unwelcome Change in Dynamics
Whilst it is well within your right to explore alternative options if your needs aren’t being met professionally and personally, an inevitable by-product of accepting a counteroffer after making your departure known to your employer is the impact it will have on your relationship going forward.
There’s a good chance your employer will have lingering questions about your loyalty after accepting the counteroffer, and this can manifest in ways that will eventually come to undermine the reasons that sit behind your decision to stay.
You may see yourself getting passed over for promotions, or find your employer actively looking to hire for your position to fill the gap you’ll leave when you do eventually jump ship, all because they consider you a flight risk.
As they will (somewhat understandably) no longer have the same level of trust they once did, there’s likely to be an uncomfortable and awkward dynamic at play, even if they do end up going in the other direction and working harder to keep you happy.
3. A Growth Plateau
Career development often involves moving between different roles, taking on new responsibilities over time and stepping out of one’s comfort zone constantly to keep the trajectory of one’s growth on the up. While there is the benefit of quickly climbing up the ladder in one law firm and building up experience working within a particular team or role, staying put for too long can be as damaging to your career prospects in the long run, as it keeps you out of the loop on what opportunities are ripe for you to expand your skills and experience and consequently stunt your growth.
When deciding if a counteroffer is worth accepting, ask yourself if it keeps you on course to achieving your short and long-term career goals. Compared to the job you presently have lined up, does your existing role get you closer to meeting those key milestones any faster?
Remember that a higher salary won’t bridge the gap that an unrewarding role leaves. Yes, the money will certainly be a welcome incentive but that will quickly become irrelevant if your existing role isn’t pushing you in the right direction. It’s important that you keep your end goal in mind when considering a counteroffer and avoid any ill judgement based on the promise of monetary value.
4. With Great Investment Comes Great Scrutiny
Given the gravity of the skills shortage prevalent in the hiring market today, keeping a hold of top talent has become a lot more of an urgent imperative for businesses across the industry. As firms increasingly opt for desperate measures to retain their key personnel, it has become commonplace to see employers rush to offer a more handsome remuneration package to save themselves the stress of scouring the market for an adequate replacement.
While this is good news for candidates currently without a role, it is a double edged sword for anyone considering the prospect of a counteroffer. This flexibility towards a salary/benefits increase can and often does mean employers become increasingly wary of how much you warrant the extra investment down the line and can lead to them actively looking for tangible evidence you’re worth it right away.
Having this extra scrutiny placed on your performance, conduct and attitude – down to the smallest of things – can be a stressful experience, even if you are conscious you are well-deserving of the extra benefits you received.
In some cases, employees who accept counteroffers find themselves under pressure to perform like a new hire all over again, trying to prove they deserve their new salary and responsibilities. In other cases, you may find that some of these responsibilities aren’t ones you asked for or are fit to handle, and that’s because your employer simply wants to ensure they’re getting their “return on investment” from you.
5. Risk of Regret
Job changes can be stressful and worrisome, but they can also present incredible opportunities to tap into your potential as a legal professional and build a stellar career for yourself. If you’ve been offered a job at another firm, and you’ve said “yes”, then chances are there’s clearly something about the new role that appealed to you.
Maybe you loved the level of flexibility it offered and don’t have an opportunity to get that kind of work life balance at your current firm. Perhaps you were interested in branching out into a slightly different aspect of your practice area and won’t get the chance to explore that in your current role. Bear in mind that any unfulfilled desire will always be there in the form of regret if you do nothing to change your circumstances when opportunity knocks at the door.
Although you’ll have the comfort of not having to get accustomed to a new working environment or team, you’ll also be left constantly wondering what would have happened if you had followed through and moved into that new role.
Counteroffer Strategies 101
It’s always worth preparing for a counteroffer in advance before approaching your manager with your resignation letter. Think about how best to pass across your rejection to their offer politely and firmly, and whether there are still any important factors at play that warrant you seriously considering passing up the chance to make a new move.
By far the best way to add that extra layer security to your preparation is to work alongside a specialist legal recruiter throughout a process. They possess a great deal of knowledge about the job application process, from both a hiring and employee perspective and are best placed to help alleviate any doubts you might have about your current options – counteroffer or not.
If you find yourself at a critical junction in your legal career with no clear pointers on how best to advance, then you’re in luck. At Clayton Legal we make it our goal to simplify the job-hunting process as much as possible for legal candidates, whatever the complications involved may be, and would love to give you the helping hand you need in navigating any uncertainties about the next move for your career. Give our team a call today on 01772 259 121 or contact us here.
About Clayton Legal
Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal IT personnel to Practice Managers.