Counter Offers -- Just Say "NO!"

It's a fairly common scenario - an employee decides to leave the company and after tendering their resignation, a counter offer or similar compelling justification is presented to them. The employee decides that the grass in not really THAT much greener and they cancel their departure plans. Fast forward a few months, and in many cases you might discover that the person is no longer employed with the company.

Having committed this rookie mistake early in my career, here are some of the reasons that counter offers are not a good idea, from both organizational and individual perspectives.

1. Deja Vu

While the company obviously wants to keep the specifics about the "almost departure" confidential, the walls have ears. If other staff discover that one of their peers got a bump up in salary or some other benefit by threatening to quit, you might soon find others trying the same tactic.

2. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice...

Without bringing up the nebulous (and mostly illusionary) concept of employee-employer loyalty, if someone tried to leave the company once, who's to say they won't do this again and potentially at a more inauspicious time?
3. Staying together (and NOT breaking up) is hard to do...

From the individual's point-of-view, even if their rationale for wanting to leave is totally justified, the concessions made to keep them on board will likely leave a bad taste in the mouth of, at the very least, their direct reporting manager and most likely other managers. This might also carry over to the relationship the employee enjoyed with their peer. If these "loyal" staff become aware of the situation, they might consider the employee a turncoat or not a team player.

4. Plus èa change plus èa reste la mëme chose

Unless the root cause of the employee's desire to depart was a tactical factor such as compensation, it's rare that systemic organization concerns will get addressed sufficiently to keep the worker engaged for the long term. While the seven year itch might be scratched, on the eight year anniversary, they might stray again.

5. You want to ask me for WHAT?

Asking for a good reference from a company after it has been forced to make concessions to keep you around might be challenging.

Although the short term business impacts that might result from the loss of an employee might seem to be a valid reason for trying to prevent their departure, the long term individual and organizational risks rarely justify this tactic.