Wednesday, October 6, 2010

When It's Time 'To Walk Away', Don't Turn Back!

OK, you’ve done the analysis of your present job situation (see Know When To Fold ‘em) and determined it’s time “to walk away” (or “to fold ‘em” or “to run”). You’ve given full care and consideration in making your decision and carefully weighed the pros and cons, recognizing how truly critical a decision it is that you’re making, and the implications if your decision is wrong. You’ve updated your resume, contacted recruiters, potential companies, and other contacts. You’ve identified the best opportunities, contacted them, interviewed, have been offered a new job both verbally and in writing by what appears to be a great company, and have verbally accepted the new position. You notify your current company to give them your two weeks notice and, shortly after hearing of your decision to leave, they decide to make you a counteroffer, with a significant increase in salary, potential bonuses, potential promotion, and/or other enticements to stay. What do you do?

Walk away! Leave! What are you thinking? Don’t turn back, look forward!

First, look at things objectively from the perspective of your current employer:

  • They have a need on the short-term project you’re currently involved in where only you can provide the needed assistance, so they’re willing to promise you anything to get done what they need. But beyond that, in all probability they won’t really need you despite the flattering words they may use to entice you to stay. When their near-term problems are solved, they can go back to business as normal, and they can make plans going forward without you as a critical resource.
  • Why should they trust you when you’ve demonstrated “betrayal” by keeping your dissatisfaction or unhappiness hidden (even if you really haven’t)? You’ve already demonstrated that you’re a “traitor”, willing to leave them for a better opportunity. Why would they want to keep a “traitor” around for any longer than absolutely necessary? They certainly wouldn’t want to develop plans around you!
  • You've shown disloyalty. You went behind their backs. You were ready to abandon them in their time of need. You can’t be trusted.
  • You just demonstrated to others in the company who may be frustrated with their jobs that there’s a way out and that good paying jobs are out there (although it may take work to find them). You’re responsible for that. The company clearly doesn’t want to see a stampede out the door. While they want to hold on to you for the time being, they’re clearly unhappy with what you’ve done.
  • In accepting their counteroffer, you’re taking money to stay that will have to come from the potential rewards to others who have remained loyal. The likelihood of you receiving much in the way of future salary increases, bonuses or other incentives is low, or certainly near the bottom of their interests. They’ve reeled you back to do their bidding for a sufficient time to meet their needs; they can always take your money and give it to others downstream when they no longer need you.

Next, look at things from the perspective of your new employer should you decide to renege on your acceptance:

  • You will forever alienate the company whose position you just accepted. You did a lot of due diligence, investigation, evaluation, analysis and personal soul searching in determining that this was the best opportunity for you to forge a new and better future. Your chances for another shot in this company in the near- to mid-future (or ever) will be nonexistent.
  • You will forever burn bridges with the people at that company who put their names on the line to make you an offer. Establishing good contacts with good people is a critical element of any future networking activities.  Your odds of remaining at your current company forever are negligible (particularly in light of your current employer’s perspective). You never know when or how soon you’ll want or need to call on people you know and trust.
  • Word will likely spread that you weren’t really serious about finding a new position, taking on new opportunities, and getting away from problem situations and severe job limitations and frustrations. You took advantage of the good will of another company and stabbed them in the back (see also Stolen Credit – It’s Not Just About Credit Cards!). This will likely damage future opportunities outside your current company. You’ll find that it is really a small world and your decisions will not stay private.

Now, look at things from your personal perspective:

  • Is the money (or bonuses or promotions) all you were looking for or were there other reasons you decided to look elsewhere? Face it, there were many factors that led to your decision, and money was only one of them, likely not even the most important.
  • Why are you suddenly worth more money (or bonuses or promotions) from your current company when you clearly weren’t before you gave notice? Where did the sudden increase in value come from? Would it have come if you didn’t say you were leaving? What value do they really place on you?
  • If the only way to get recognition and action is to say you’re leaving, what does that mean to your future prospects for recognition? You’ll likely go to the bottom of the list if they just blew a wad on keeping you here for now, so further pay increases or advancement is highly questionable. Think this through. You were of little recognizable value until you said you’re leaving? Huh? What’s wrong with this logic?
  • Where are the opportunities for advancement for a “traitor”? You clearly aren’t going to be viewed as a “hero” for what you did (except possibly by your peers, but only then to demonstrate they may have more power if they threaten to leave). You will in all likelihood be given only enough to keep you happy until your “critical” assignment is completed.
  • The underlying problems that led you to search for new and better opportunities have not disappeared (except for increased pay), nor are they likely to. After all, you’ll complete the work they wanted done and they don’t have to change a thing. In fact they’ll be even worse, since you’ll now be viewed as a “traitor”.
  • Your future at your new company is unwritten and entirely in your hands, a blank slate that you can make in to whatever you want. Your future at your current company, should you turn back and accept their counteroffer, will never be the same.

When you objectively look at the situation from all sides, why would you even think about turning back? When it’s time to leave, … leave!


  1. This article is so true! I still regret turning back and staying at my current company, although I did get a promotion. (The recession/economy played a major part in my decision, as the new job would have required moving across country, and houses were NOT selling in 2008.)

  2. To Anonoymous:

    Thank you for your kind words. It is always a difficult decision to "walk away", and many external conditions (e.g. economy, move, family considerations, etc.) must temper your decision. However, after considering those external decisions, if you decide you still want to "walk away", it is still imperative to not turn back, regardless of how enticing it may seem at the time. All the considerations described in this blog post will still apply. I wish you all the best, and if there is anything I can do to help, don't hesitate to contact me.

    Best Regards - Tom


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