Hiring HR Remix Leadership

It’s About The Heart – Why You Should Never Counter Offer

We spend a lot of time talking about retaining our best people. Too many times though, we wait until our star gives us their resignation notice and then we try the worst tactic possible – the counter offer. 

Some managers scurry about trying to figure out how to get the employee to stay, they believe this a CODE RED situation characterized by stalking HR for that bonus authorization.  Unless the individual in question is involved in your most top-secret, most rarefied skill set (and those are few), the counter offer is a terrible idea. 

There are two problems with the counter offer:

1.The Time to Focus on Retention is BEFORE your Star Employee Hands You Their Resignation Notice – Very rarely is an employee’s departure a true shock. Sometimes it’s a shock to the manager but the entire team is pretty much aware that Susie was looking.

2.Is the departing employee truly the best of the best? Or do we still think of them that way because of the great contract they landed two years ago?

By the Time You Get the Resignation Notice its Over

At first I thought this was just my thought process, because when I make a decision I tend to make it and be done. On the opposite spectrum, I know people who make a decision but can still be swayed because they haven’t truly made up their mind.

When it comes to resigning from a job, I’ve learned that when you get that resignation letter it’s over.


Remember the last time you gave notice that you were leaving a job? By the time you got to your bosses office, walked in the door and sat down, you had already:

  1. Calculated what you could do with your salary increase
  2. Relished the thought that you wouldn’t have to work for your old boss anymore
  3. Started relishing the thought of not working with the people you dislike
  4. Thought about which people you would miss
  5. Planned to take advantage of all the new perks and opportunities at the new job

Wish Them Well and Move Along 

If you offer your soon-to-be-departed employee a stay-on bonus or some other perk you will have an employee who is only staying because of the money or perks. That money will lose its luster in a few months.

Before parting with your company’s hard earned cash, take a minute to really think about the employee and their performance. Is their heart still in it? I believe it’s really all about the heart:

  • Do they care about their work?
  • Care about their team? The company?
  • Or are they chasing dollars? 

The most likely scenario is that by the time, the resignation hits your desk, their heart is not in it. There is nothing you can do but wish them well in the future. Do you want someone working for you because they got a one-time bonus?

I didn’t think so.

This post originally appeared on PIC on May 22, 2012 and has been edited for clarity and length.  

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