Employers get used to hearing workers say those two little words, “I quit!” Some of the time, you’re glad they are leaving so you don’t have to go through the ugly process of termination. Most of the time, you are sad to see them go but not devastated. Once in a while, you are shocked and dismayed when an employee offers their resignation because they got a better offer. You know that recruiters and headhunters are always on the prowl for top talent. You just hoped they wouldn’t lure away one of your best performers. Now, you are faced with a tough choice. Do you sweeten the deal to try to get them to stay?
When to Say, “Please Stay”
Making a counter offer may be the best approach when:
- Compensation (pay, bonus, or stock) will convince them to stay and there are no festering problems that will simply boil up again later.
- A near term resignation would lead to greater revenue loss than matching or beating the new employer’s compensation offer.
- Your company is willing to negotiate an employment contract so you can ensure the employee will commit to at least a minimum time frame before they leave.
- You are able to address the real underlying issues effectively, such as by fast-tracking a promotion or transfer that the employee felt was delayed for too long.
- The team cohesion would be badly damaged, leading to a domino effect and the loss of more good employees.
- You truly can’t replace the person (this shouldn’t happen when you have a good succession planning strategy).
When to Say, “Good Luck”
In most cases, you’ll find that an employee who already has one foot out the door will be gone shortly regardless of whether they accept a counter-offer. In the meantime, their performance may suffer, their coworkers may feel betrayed by their attempted flight, and you’ll know they aren’t fully engaged. If they have provided enough notice to give you a good start on finding a replacement, it’s usually best to let them go. Other reasons to take the opportunity can include:
- The employee’s passion is clearly gone for the role and/or the company and this is the opportunity you finally have to part ways.
- You feel extorted and the person is clearly trying to see how far you will go to keep him or her (nobody should tolerate this type of negotiation).
- You are ready to finally address the organizational talent holes you have and doing that, though difficult, can only begin if the person leaves.
- You are aware of an impending company restructure and letting the employee go will be a more peaceful exit strategy.
- You plan on re-defining and upgrading the role anyway given new business direction and needs.
- You are now able to avoid what would otherwise become a performance management issue.
Granted some of these choices are not ideal or in the minds of some border ethical transparency in employee-management relations, but they are, nonetheless, realities of the decision making process in determining when to try and retain versus letting go. Regardless, if the outcome is that the employee leaves and you don’t know the reason why, try to dig deep in the exit interview for reasons or clues that will help you avoid losing more of your best people.