Counteroffers and why you should walk away

Counteroffers and why you should walk away

You’ve invested time into exploring a new career opportunity, weighed up all the options, and after some deliberation, received a fantastic new offer from a firm you are keen to join. What could possibly go wrong? 

Well, that is until you try to resign. You are just a mere statement away from re-confirming the tendering of your notice when you are met with a counteroffer pressure cooker from your manager or Partner.

In the space of 5 minutes, you have gone from “thank you for this opportunity, I am now moving on to pastures new” to being greeted with, “we can’t imagine the team without you, you are a valued team member and what do we need to increase your salary to – how can you do this to us after the support we have given you?” etc.

The age-old question pops up “What’s it going to take to keep you?”

Flattered, you are now met with a whole host of new considerations; promised promotions, salary increases and further temptation to try to retain you.

Before you become overwhelmed (which is a natural feeling), take some time to ask yourself, why do we get counteroffers & what could possibly go wrong?

Why do we get counteroffers?

It’s easy for employers to assume that all employees are happy. It is even easier for them to become complacent and not have the conversation with you about pay increases/career development/benefits/anything else that might be paramount to your aspirations unless you bring it up.

However, business is business, and talent retention should be something that law firms actively focus on. The facts relating to talent retention, or rather a lack of, are quite alarming:  

  • Increased Business Costs: It is significantly more expensive to recruit externally than it does to retain existing staff on a higher salary. It is estimated that to replace a salaried employee can cost on average between 6-9 months’ salary (recruitment costs, training expenses relating to the new employee & salary).
  • Loss of Client Work Productivity: Law firms will lose between 3-5 months of productivity due to downtime between employees, and whilst the new employee gets up to speed. The time lost in doing a handover and getting someone new settled into the business can lead to a loss of productivity for a firm, especially when the departing employee has a significant impact on the business. 
  • Talent Attraction Challenges: In what is historically a predominantly candidate-driven market, it can prove challenging (in some instances extremely) for law firms to engage/attract the right level of professional with the relevant experience and skill set.

What could possibly go wrong?

Are you really that impactful to the team? Will the business collapse once you’re gone? What’s the real reason they are upping your salary?

While it’s always nice to hear you’re appreciated, don’t be too quick to accept, instead best to take a step back and look at the situation in its entirety. Why now? Why didn’t your manager/partner promote you before now? Why didn’t your manager/partner increase your compensation to this level at your last annual/performance review?

When faced with this situation, a steadfast attitude and commitment to your initial resignation is easier said than done, with over 20 years of experience in the legal recruitment sphere, FPSG generally advise against accepting a counteroffer for several reasons:

  • Is salary the only factor? Unless money was your sole reason for leaving your current role, there’s a good chance that what made you unhappy won’t simply change because you have now been offered a salary increase to stay. If your reason for leaving is, for example, the inability to secure a better title or more responsibility, and you couldn’t negotiate a promotion with your manager until you announced your resignation, there is likely a bigger disconnect with your current firm. Employees should be able to have transparent and constructive dialogues about their career growth and having to prove themselves by seeking competitive offers elsewhere does nothing but create distrust from both sides. Are you confident that any changes you’ve requested will be made at your current firm, or is a higher salary or title preventing you from acknowledging intangible pitfalls—such as excessive stress or a toxic work environment—that will remain unchanged if you stay?
  • Is the relationship repairable? Your relationship with your manager – arguably the most important one in any job – can be significantly damaged by staying on after an attempted resignation. While managers expect employees to come and go, it’s often preferable to make a clean break rather than stick around for a higher salary or better title, as the fact that you were planning to resign indicates dissatisfaction with at least some part of the work environment. If you do stay, your manager may constantly be concerned that you’re continuing to look for another job or hold this against you, which can impact your career growth for the remainder of your time with the company. Further, counteroffers are sometimes used to buy time to find your replacement, which could put you in the unfortunate position of losing your job shortly after you were planning to leave -and once you’ve already turned down a new role with a different company.
  • Are you concerned about your reputation? In addition to the relationship and credibility with your manager, you may also experience reputational damage both with your colleagues and likely to have burned a bridge with a potential new employer after accepting a counteroffer. A firm who you have met, say two perhaps maybe three times, have recognised your potential, demonstrated a strong desire to support you in achieving your goals & offered you a fantastic package to join them which you accept to only then renege to accept a counteroffer. Although no grudges would be held, it can be harmful for future, more so if not handled correctly (which is sadly often the case).

Our advice?

  • Use your best judgement, lean on the opinions of your own trusted counsel.
  • Do not rush to accept any counteroffer, always consider the facts surrounding this and the negative impact any acceptance could create.
  • Remind yourself of what attracted you to the new opportunity, your reasons for resigning; these are unlikely to change with any counteroffer and all too often, will arise within 3-6 months of accepting any counteroffer.
  • When you resign, do so and don’t look back, regardless of how sweet that counteroffer looks on paper!

If you are considering your career options or are actively looking to find a new opportunity within the legal sector, contact Hugh Hardie or Allana Logan in our specialist legal recruitment team today to find out about our latest opportunities:

Tel:        0141 270 5003