In a previous post, I wrote about how counteroffers are usually a bad idea for both the candidate and their current employer. They only delay the inevitable, according to our clients; they report that 60% of employees who accept counteroffers leave within six months. That converts to a big, whopping, disruptive, expensive impact to the organization.
We’re on a streak of sorts; it’s been eight months since we’ve had a candidate accept a counteroffer. We attribute that to our careful coaching when we’re close to making an offer on behalf of a client. But our coaching isn’t pressure for our candidates to offhandedly dismiss a response from their current employer. Instead, we help our candidates avoid being distracted by emotion or losing sight of their true goals. And our process is based in part on a visualization technique I learned when I was a placekicker in college.
During my redshirt junior year at the University of Wisconsin, Coach Barry Alvarez set me up with a sports psychologist who introduced me to visualization, and it’s a skill I’ve found invaluable ever since. I’d spend a couple of hours a week in sessions with her, going into a deep relaxed state where I could run through the whole upcoming game in my mind. I’d take my practice kicks mentally, visualizing perfect form and accuracy.
Then I’d visualize myself making the perfect points after touchdowns. I’d visualize killer kickoffs that went straight through the end zone every time. I’d visualize perfect field goals from the 20, 30 and 42-yard lines. Short, middle, or long shots – right through the uprights, every time.
It sounds silly, but it’s supported by science. There’s evidence that when athletes visualize playing a game or running a course, they trigger areas in the brain that activate the muscles and improve strength. We’ve suggested this same technique to our candidates when we talk about counteroffers.
Most candidates have never considered the possibility of a counteroffer from their current employer. “That won’t happen,” they tell us. “They’ll probably just fire me on the spot and escort me out.” In their mind, the relationship is broken on both sides, and their resignation won’t come as a surprise.
But breakups are hard, and companies are desperate to retain talent. We tell our candidates that this breakup, like any other breakup, can get emotional. If you go in unprepared, you may be overwhelmed in the moment and not able to stay focused. That’s where visualization can help.
We invite them to do some internal role playing, imagining the questions or statements their manager may offer and practice their answers. The first question a manager will often ask is “What are they offering you?” A specific answer about the salary offer will signal that the reason you’re leaving can be fixed with money. We say it’s better to answer generally: “It’s a step up, but my real reason for leaving is the opportunity for growth at the new company.”
We coach our candidates to remain centered on the reasons they want to leave their current job. Whether they’re seeking more challenge, more opportunity, or more work/life balance, what they felt was missing won’t magically appear if they return to their role. Even if the company makes some changes, the relationship will never be as strong as it was before the resignation. You can’t step in the same river twice.
Sometimes, counteroffers are just stalling tactics. Last year, we had a candidate who turned down a client offer that met all her needs (and requests) to accept her current employer’s counteroffer. It was a disappointment for our client, and as it turns out, for the candidate as well. Within four months, her company let her go. The relationship was broken by her resignation, and the company leadership was just biding its time until they could find a suitable replacement candidate of their own. In that instance, as with most counter offers, everyone lost. Especially the candidate.
About the Author:
Rich Thompson, CEO of XPG Recruit, is an expert on staffing, human resources, training and leadership development. For consulting to increase engagement and/or retention, check out the services of our sister company, Xtra Point Group.