So you might have noticed but the legal market is quite busy right now. That is fantastic news for you as a job seeker (and quite good news for me…) but it does mean that employers are pulling out all the stops when it comes to trying to keep employees. I understand it’s always flattering to receive a counter offer and there will often be existing loyalties at play. But why would an employer make a counter offer? Sorry to disappoint there are commercial reasons at play!
Some of the implications of losing an employee are:
• Time and money – Replacing you can be an expensive process. There are sometimes inevitable recruitment fees and of course a significant time investment in finding the right person
• Skills – You know how all about the nuances of your law firm. Basic things like how your case system works to the particular requirements of the partner that you work for. Re-training can be time-consuming and ultimately costly. In this market (and certainly if you are currently working in a transactional discipline) your employer will recognise that there is a skills shortage and it will be very hard to find a replacement.
• Instability – You leaving can create instability within the remaining team. Is the grass greener on the other side? Well you thought so and as such others may question whether they could achieve more elsewhere.
Generally the above is not alluded to during a counter offer. Partners or HR officers will often appeal to your sense of loyalty and try and engage in more than a little flattery. You will immediately become “just too valuable to lose” or the promotion that seemed just so allusive in your last appraisal will be offered up without the blink of an eye. Remember that pay increase that you asked for (and didn’t receive)? Well you now found yourself with the promise of new riches (and sometimes even an immediate increase). This may well appear very tempting, exciting even but there is always a negative impact from a counter offer. Some implications may be;
• A change in relationship between you and your manager. I have spoken to people in the past who have cited a perceived lack of loyalty or a lack of trust from a manager post resignation.
• The underlying issues remain. Once the glean of a pay rise wears off you find the next promotion once again allusive and further pay rises out of reach. You soon find that impact of the pay rise lessens and you are left questioning you future prospects. If your desire to leave was linked to the culture of the firm, will that really change? (a bigger question – can that really change?)
From our experience a large proportion of those who have stayed with an employer post resignation leave that employment within the medium term. 80% of those who have accepted a counter offer leave or are terminated within 6 – 12 months and of that 80% over half reinitiate their job search within 3 months.
So what advice can we give you?
• In accepting a new role ensure you are committed to it. Current market conditions dictate that the recruitment process will move very quickly and now is not the time to test the water.
• Understand that the issues that made you consider a move will still be there regardless of any pay increase.
• The short-term cash gain as a result of the counter offer may not work out as attractive as it may seem in the medium to long term.
• Remember the impact that your resignation will have on your manager, so don’t use resignation as a negotiation tool. Only resign if you want to leave!
• Consider the bigger picture and the new opportunity, as well as the commitment made by the new employer to get you on board.
• Don’t burn bridges. Be clear and consistent with communication to all parties.
• Whether you decide to accept or decline a counter offer ensure that you have all the facts and the decision to stay or go is an informed one.