Why You Should Never Offer or Accept a Counter Proposal

Joe went looking for a job.  He got it.  He comes to your office and resigns.  You beg him to stay.  He accepts.  You made a mistake.  Why?

What are you going to say when an employee comes to you and asks for a raise and, when you turn him down he says, “I’ve been loyal.  Joe quit and you gave him a raise.  What’s different?  Doesn’t loyalty count?”

Award loyalty.  Don’t cause ill-will.  Keep morale high.

The boss begs you to stay.  You accept.  You made a mistake.  Why?

First, your reputation with the new employer is now in the toilet.  She thinks you were playing games.  She’s angry.  She told people, some of whom probably know you, that you were joining her company.  Now what is she going to tell them about you?

Second, forget about a raise or promotion.  Whatever you were paid to stay is all you are going to get.

Third, if layoffs are necessary, you will be the first out the door.

Fourth, your colleagues will resent you.

Fifth, you will be seen by everyone as disloyal.

There is no good reason to offer or accept a counter offer.  Any short-term gain will be eliminated by long-term loss.  Don’t do it!

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador.  Visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about the latest questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies.

Who owns your LinkedIn and Outlook contact lists?

I just read an article on Forbes that has gotten me thinking.  Basically, the article reports that a UK court ruled that a company owns the LinkedIn contacts of a former employee who used the contacts to steal clients from the company.   If you read the article, you’ll see that the facts of the case are unclear.   The article discusses the principle, not the facts.  Let’s paint some pictures:

Scenario Number One:

Joe is hired for Business Development at ABC Company.  They tell him to open a LinkedIn account, start networking, find customers.  He does so.  Using the computer the company provided him with, he gets his friends to join his LinkedIn network, as well as vendors, colleagues, and potential customers.  Anyone he meets, talks to or knows is invited to join his network.

Joe quits.  He did not sign a non-compete.  From home he accesses the LinkedIn account and starts marketing to his LinkedIn network, including going after ABC customers.  ABC sues.

Here’s the issue:  Any work you do on a company computer is the company’s property.  In this case, they paid Joe to create his LinkedIn network.  So I can see them saying that it is there property.  Problem is, there was no non-compete.  So the entire issue is meaningless.  OK, so Joe doesn’t send a message through LinkedIn to ABC’s customers.  He sends an e-mail because he would sync his Outlook folder to his cell and has all their contact information literally at his fingertips.  True, the Outlook program belonged to ABC, but the e-mail addresses and, for that matter, phone numbers, are all in the public domain.  So what’s the issue?  How can there be “ownership” of something that is available to everyone?

Scenario Number Two:

Same as above, only there is a non-compete.  Again, ownership over LinkedIn or Outlook contacts is irrelevant.  Joe can’t contact ABC’s customers until the non-compete is no longer in effect.  It doesn’t matter who owns the lists.  If he contacts them, he’s violated the contract and should be sued.  End of story.

Recently, I taught a class on LinkedIn as part of a course I give on Professional Development at a local New York school.  I told my students three things:

First, the best way to find a job is through networking and the best networking tool is LinkedIn.

Second, the beauty of LinkedIn is that you are technically posting a “profile,” not a “resume.”  Your purpose is to build your network, not to get a job.  So, unlike positing a resume on-line on a site like Monster or Hot Jobs, if your boss finds it he or she will not assume you are looking for a new job.  Of course, if you note under your name on LinkedIn that you are “Seeking opportunities in …” that’s a different matter.  But if it’s just your profile, it’s just your profile.

And third, the network you build on LinkedIn is yours.  It’s not like your office Outlook folder which belongs to the company.  That you should not take with you when you leave.  It resides on the company’s computer or server.  LinkedIn resides on the Internet.  The company does not own the Internet.  You control the LinkedIn account.  You have the password.  You created the account.  You agreed to the Terms of Service.  Technically, you “signed” a contract with LinkedIn.  You took all the legal steps.  The company did nothing.  It belongs to you.  It is not a company account.  They did not create it and give you access to it.  You created it and allowed them to benefit from it.

So my conclusion is, LinkedIn is your; Outlook is theirs!  And don’t violate a non-compete…

How to Quit

If you are three and no doubt imitating what you see at home, you might get away with it.  But you’re not three and the way that you quit will be how you will be remembered.  So as much as you would like to act like a three year old, you can’t.

First, you must keep your job search confidential otherwise your employer will start looking for your replacement and if the employer finds the replacement before you secure a new job, you will be unemployed.  Granted, there are rare occasions when an employee can confide in an employer, but they are very rare.

Once you have secured the new job, it all comes down to leaving without burning bridges:

The most asked question concerns how much notice to give.  Acceptable notice is the number of days equal to your annual vacation.  All new employers realize that new employees have to give notice.  They have no problem with that.  No one wants to hire someone who would leave with only a day or two notice.

Write a positive letter of resignation to your immediate supervisor.  Thank her for all she has done for you.  Recollect any successes.  Everything needs to be positive.  Make certain to emphasize that you will be available by phone to provide any assistance and state what you final day will be.

The importance of the letter of resignation is that it will go in your personnel file.  No matter what anyone ever writes about you, the letter will constitute your side of the story, so to speak.  If someone wants to attack you in your absence, your letter will provide the balance.  Basically, let them know what they are losing!

In all likelihood there will be an exit interview.  In an exit interview the key is to be professional and not to criticize.  The HR interviewer is going to be taking notes that the soon-to-be former employee will never see.  Even the slightest criticism can be magnified and taken out of context.  The interviewee is under no obligation to help his or her soon-to-be former employer improve policies and procedures.  Focus on the positive.  Smile.  Be humorous.  Say nothing negative.  Be complimentary and appreciative.  Keep to the high road.  Reminisce about the good times.

That is the best way not to burn bridges on the spot.  However, once you leave, you can (within reason) say whatever you want.  What you do not want to do is to bad-mouth a former employer around the new/present employer because he or she will know you will do it to them.  So, if you must, vent to friends and relatives not to colleagues and associates.  And make certain that your friends and relatives will not repeat what you said.  So, in the end, it may be better to say nothing to anyone.  It comes down to this:  It’s over.  Move on!

Then there is the issue of work finished and yet to be finished.  Work areas must be clean and well-organized.  Most importantly, files have to be filed logically.  Someone has to know where everything is.  Leave a phone number with colleagues (they won’t see the letter of resignation) so that if any problem arises, if there are any questions (and there will be), they can contact you.  You never want to be accused of sabotage.  Explain in detail to whomever is chosen to finish on-going or uncompleted projects what you have done and what needs to be done.  Leave a written report explaining everything.  It makes life easy for those following you, shows you are a team player, and makes it very difficult for the old employer to bad-mouth you – since you will have a copy of the report and the (old) boss will know it!  Burning bridges is a two-way street; the employer can burn them with the employee as well!  Don’t give him, or her, ammunition.

The worst example I can give of someone leaving a job was a past associate who left his desk in a shambles.  He took files with him.  We could not find anything and he rarely returned our calls – and never during regular office hours.   Another individual left, seemingly, the right way.  He offered to finish a project.  The boss agreed and granted him remote access to our computer system.  One afternoon, despite the fact that he had to have known that we were all in the office, he logged on to the system and went into files not related to his work.  He destroyed his reputation in a few mouse clicks.   Learn from their mistakes!

When to Quit

Whenever I receive a resume the first thing I look at is tenure.  How long did the candidate stay at each of his or her jobs?  Jumpers, persons who leave after a relatively short period, are usually rejected.  I say “usually” because sometimes in the cover letter or on the resume itself the candidate explains constant departures.

It’s funny.  Some people think “I was recruited out” is a good thing.  It isn’t.  It means you don’t want to keep a job and will leave anytime you get a better offer.  “My spouse relocated” is a much better explanation – but only if you can honestly say that your spouse is contractually obligated to keep  his or her present job for an extended period.

We all make mistakes.  Most people who have worked for an extended period have a few short term employments on their resumes.  I have two.  But I also have a few six year stays.

Based on experience I will predict that anyone who has had one employer for 20 years or more will not last a year with his or her next employer.  They only know how to do things one way and the change is difficult.  They will, however, do quite well with employer number three!

If you have been at a job for an extended period, at least three years, there is nothing wrong with considering a move.  But what happens if you accept a new job and then realize, after a few weeks, that you have made a mistake?

My advice is to seek employment elsewhere.  I do not believe that it will be held against you if you say on an interview, “This was a mistake.  I learned from it.  Even though I did my homework, I just could not have anticipated the culture.  I’m more ‘old-school.’  I know this will not work out for me and I don’t believe in dragging things out.  It’s not fair to the employer, it’s not fair to my family, it’s not fair to me.”

If it happens once, that’s my advice.  If it happens twice, especially one after the other, then you will have a serious problem and it might be better to grin and bear it.