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Never Accept a Counteroffer

October 25, 2011
by Tim Tolan
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Decided that it's Time to Move on? Make your Decision Final
Tim Tolan
Tim Tolan

It's hard to come up with the best way to describe the feelings you have when it's time to call it quits and declare your intentions to those that count on you every day. Some can't sleep the night before or become physically ill during the days that lead up to a resignation. The mere thought of resigning and actually scripting the message to your boss is very painful to most, while others view it as another box to check on their daily calendar. Regardless of which camp you fall into, my best advice is to make sure you are ready to resign without hesitation. This is no time to waffle or be tentative in the message you convey.

And…forget about counteroffers that might come your way. This needs to be it-Final Answer.

Counteroffers are served up to persuade you to change your mind or demonstrate the value the organization places on you and your leadership-all after you have resigned. Many organizations assume when a key executive resigns is always about the money and they are quick to create financial incentives to get you to stay.

Unfortunately, too many dynamics are already in play during a resignation and changing your mind and accepting a counteroffer is very dangerous and statistically not in your favor. You have already committed an organizational crime by not showing your loyalty and the mere act of a resignation will be a scar on your internal reputation in perpetuity. It's really hard to overcome.

Let's look at the downside:

Your counteroffer creates an unnatural change of compensation that was forced by you when you resign. These concessions were likely made only as a result of your leaving and made under duress and will always be remembered by those involved.

Your “resignation scar” will be with you forever and your upside in the same organization later on will likely be limited.

You cashed in your “loyalty chip” when you resign and there will always be questions about your trustworthiness going forward.

A whopping 80 percent of employees that accept a counteroffer and remain with the organization are gone within a year (or less) after they initially resign. Not great odds!

I've seen and heard it all and the reasons why people resign and then change their minds to stay. It all sounds the same to me each time I hear it. It could be a big implementation project you are leading or a major deliverable that the CEO tasked you with that has your DNA all over it. I get that. The reality is that there is usually never a good time to leave, as there will always be new projects and corporate initiatives that you are responsible for. That's true today and it will be true five years from now. Hopefully you have grown your people and have deep bench strength to give your IT organization continuity long after you've left.

Let's face it: you are the only person that knows when it's time to call it quits. Some of us just need and like change-that's a good thing. Others want a change in climate or geography and want to leave the hustle and bustle of a big city. Still others desire to be closer to family and friends over time. Perhaps you are seeking more challenges in your life or you want to scale to a different level or re-invent yourself. And then there are situations where you are vastly underpaid or just can't work for the current leadership in your organization. Most of these scenarios can't and won't be enhanced by declaring you are leaving.

My strongest advice to you is to think long and hard about all of the scenarios and reasons you plan to resign and once you declare-never change your mind. Leave with dignity and for the reasons that you decide are important to you. Nothing else matters.

It's your Super Bowl and you get to decide when to run the last play.

Tim Tolan is a senior partner at Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice. He can be reached at or at (843) 579-3077 ext. 301. His blog can be found at Healthcare Informatics 2011 November;28(11):48

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