Archive for May, 2012

The 1% Have the Odds Stacked Against Them

May 29, 2012

Actually, it’s about 5%.  For a number of reasons, employees eventually come to the determination that it’s time to move their career forward and leave their current employer.  Ideally, they’re running towards something instead away from something.  Despite the motivating factors, these newly proclaimed candidates throw their hat into the ring, perform well in the interview process, and move on to the offer stage.  Upon accepting an offer, this is where the career progression rubber meets the job changing road.

So who are the 5%?  It’s those few who, when submitting their resignation, melt under the ego stroke (and pressure) of a counteroffer – ultimately deciding to remain with their current employer – and actually have it work out for the better.  Why does this happen?

1.  Fear of change.  The devil you know made a seemingly better deal to continue putting up with the devil.  The better deal likely came in the form of increased cash and promises of advancement and exposure to new projects and responsibilities.  It’s hard not to listen to these overtures.

2.  Acknowledgement of value to the organization.  Many employees do not really know how valued they are to the company.  Quite often, it takes the threat of leaving to force senior management into action.  This speaks to several dysfunctional issues.  First, employee communications and employee appreciation has to transcend the obligatory summer and holiday parties.  The message needs to be directed at one employee at a time and come from more than their immediate manager.  Imagine being in a marriage and having your spouse give you positive feedback only once or twice a year.  How loved and appreciated would you feel?

Secondly, this points to the utter lack of an effective employee retention program.  It’s uncanny how companies only think about employee retention when the job market becomes stronger and more competitive.  What happened during those tough times, when employees had to gut it out with greater workloads and ominous work environments due to both layoffs and the need to push harder to make the business work in a down economy?  The absence of meaningful ongoing retention and acknowledgement efforts imply a prevailing attitude adopted by employers that their employees should be grateful just to have jobs.

3.  Cold feet.  When it comes to major life issues, one’s career is right up there.  Thus, career decisions can be highly emotional and prone to fear, uncertainty and doubt.  It’s far too easy to experience buyer’s remorse.  After all, despite all the due diligence conducted during the interview process, there will always be at least some level of uncertainty around the new company, its people, its financials, career advancement opportunities, etc.  Suddenly, the current job magically transforms into a comfortable and trusty old pair of shoes instead of the scuffed up, hole-in-the-sole, one-size-too-small shoes that should have been thrown out long ago.

What happens to a candidate who decides to accept a counteroffer and remain with their current employer?  First of all, unbeknownst to them, they carry a scarlet letter from that day forward.  They are marked for their remainder of their tenure as the disloyal and disgruntled employee who dared to fly the coop.  Moreover, once the new honeymoon period ends (and it doesn’t last very long), these employees will quickly discover that most all the issues that originally prompted their decision to leave the company, still exist.  That’s right.  They’re back to square-one.

Sometimes, employees want to get out and interview with other companies because it’s empowering and gives a sense of freedom – that they’re not stuck and they have options.  Up to that point, it’s easy to feel trapped, unappreciated and undercompensated.  An opportunity with a new company is exciting at first.  But unless these employees are truly committed to moving their career forward, they are more likely to be swayed by the shiny penny of the moment.  Deciding to leave your employer isn’t something you dabble in.  Ultimately, it’s an all or nothing decision that ideally should come even before you’re entertaining specific opportunities elsewhere.  Ninety-five percent of those who accept counteroffers with their current employer end up leaving the company shortly thereafter, and in many cases, not by their own volition.  But of course, everyone thinks they’re the 5% — surely it will work out well long term.  Those are odds I wouldn’t want to bet on.


Action items:

1.  When deciding to leave your current employer, make a list of all the reasons why you wish to leave as well as the attributes you prefer to find in your next career move.  Not only will this help to keep you resolute in your intentions to leave, but also prevent you from jumping from the frying pan into the fire by landing at a company with similar issues.

2.   Don’t interview with another company unless you are truly committed to making a career change.

3.  Go ahead and anticipate your current employer making you a counteroffer.  Be prepared to hear a rosy portrayal of the new and improved work environment.  Keep you B.S. meter on at all times.