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Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Counter Offer

I found your blog through Punk Rock HR and love it. I check it everyday and feel not so alone in my HR-ness. I am hoping you can help me with an existential question about relocation. I'm not expecting you to make a decision for me as much as offer an opinion as someone who is not me or my spouse, who are no longer objective about this situation.

About a month ago I decided it was time to start looking for some career opportunities that do not include my current employer. I live in one of the last affordable areas of CA, which meant that my search included employers outside of CA, in places we have family (i.e. some stability and some people we know). My spouse works in a company with plenty of transfer opportunities, so his finding a job is not so much an issue. I was very lucky and have been offered a position in a different state, which is less expensive than CA, at a starting rate 13% above my current rate of pay. I was made this offer based solely on a phone interview and as part of agreeing to take the offer, my potential new employer is flying me out to meet face to face and sign on the dotted line. My current employer, who I have been with for nine years, knows that I have been made an offer and that I will be flying out to see for myself whether I am ready to make the leap.

Today, my boss pulled me aside and asked me if there was a dollar amount that would make me stay. Needless to say, there are many reasons I started looking for a new position but the big two are that I do not believe I am part of the succession plan at my current employer and at a dead end, and as the lowest paid person in my dept. I am currently training a new person who came in as the highest paid, non-exempt employee in my dept. Have I mentioned that this is all happening in an HR department?

I am leaning heavily on the "no dollar amount could make me stay" side of things. If I am worth more when I say I'm leaving, why wasn't I worth more when I said I wanted to retire from the company?

Follow your gut feelings. (I write this, but then I think, oh, I hope she likes the new job! Because she'll blame me if she doesn't!) No, seriously, follow your gut. Your assessment is all correct--if you were that valuable to them before, why isn't your salary higher to begin with? And, it's not all about the money. It's never is. (Money is nice, but it's not everything.)

Most people who take counter offers end up leaving the company within a year anyway. Do you really want to go on a job search again? I didn't think so.

The one thing that has me a bit worried is that you haven't met with these people face to face. You may go out there and think, "no way, no how can I work for/with/around these people! And what's with the green slime on the trash can?" So, go and check it out, but follow your gut.

And let this be a lesson to all you other people out there who have valuable employees. Yes, I know--a long term employee is likely to stay working for you. This does not mean you can continuously underpay and treat her like dirt and expect her to stay with you forever. Think to yourself, "what would I have to pay to replace this person?" and pay them that. Or at least a high percentage of that. This lame counter offer stuff is for the birds. It just screams "we've been taking advantage of you for years! Sorry we got busted!"

Plus a 13% raise in a cheaper area will seem like a heck of a lot more. I live in a very expensive area, but my sister lives in Silicon Valley, and let's just say that what they paid for their 1970s, avacado green, popcorn ceiling house would buy a mansion here. And we're not cheap either! So, in reality, it's much more than a 13% raise.

Good luck in the new job!


HR Maven said...

A couple of thoughts to the already excellent answer.

I don't know if I would hire someone from just a phone interview ... and I would be surprised if someone accepted the position without meeting us. Minor alarm for me. Check them out thoroughly. :)

Also, make sure that you like the city and that there is ample opportunity for you, should it not work out.

I left SoCal for the midwest and am thrilled and overjoyed with the quality of life and affordability.

Whatever you decide with the new company, I wouldn't stay with the old. 9 years of being undervalued leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

HRAngelOfDeath said...

I agree with the advice given; check out the company thoroughly before you accept the position.

As an HR professional, it's frustrating to deal with the mindset of those folks who only want to appropriately compensate their valuable employees when they're being recruited by another company (or horrors, the competition!). Then, when we lose said valuable employees HR is blamed for failure to retain them.

Just another HR lady... said...

#1, I would never make any employment decision...relocation or not, more money or not, without meeting the hiring company and those I would be working with, yikes, that's scary.

#2, Why would an employer hire someone without meeting them first and without having them meet with those they would be working with? Double scary. I would suggest doing some strong research on this employer before signing on any line.

That aside, I think you need to sit down and think about what motivates you at work outside of money. More money is nice, but money does not guarantee job satisfaction.

And just from my own perspective, I agree with EHRL, counters don't work. (and would not be required if people were paid properly in the first place!) The reasons why you wanted to leave will still be there, and eventually you'll move on anyway. (although with more money in your pocket! lol)