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Ask HN: How common is a counteroffer for developers who give notice?
89 points by bjornlouser on Oct 7, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 113 comments
Seems like it was common practice a couple of decades ago. Does anyone try to retain developer talent these days?

>Does anyone try to retain developer talent these days?

There's a line of thought which assumes that an employee that's given notice has already mentally "checked out". Therefore, it's unwise to present counteroffers. Even if the manager persuades the employee to accept the counteroffer, it's inadvertently detrimental to the team because you have retained a disengaged mind that was eager to leave. To avoid all that, you wish them well with a smile and just let them leave.

Many companies follow that principle. It's important for a developer to know ahead of time if the company doesn't do counteroffers because if you're just fishing around for job offers with no intention of changing jobs, the company may call your bluff and let you leave.

"There's a line of thought which assumes that an employee that's given notice has already mentally "checked out". Therefore, it's unwise to present counteroffers"

That's just bullshit rationalization why they don't want to raise pay. Profits come first for most modern companies, and the rationale for action trickles down from that basic driving force.

Best engineers are coin operated and problem focused. If they get an offer, say, 20% better than their current package with the roughly same job otherwise, they would be blind fools not to leave. Talking in the general Big Co. environment, that is. In smaller companies with stronger ties other dynamics might kick in.

And, there is the situation of the gimme-more-money-or-I'm-gone bluff, of course.

I don't think there is any rational reason not to give a counteroffer to a solid contributor - if the offer is real and he's worth it. Political reasons might of course kick in, like a corporate policy, that have nothing to do with the individual contributors motivation or output.

If the employee just wanted more money and feels they are worth it, then all they have to do is ask.

If the employee already starts looking for another job without even trying to get more money in his current position, there is no reason to try and convince him to stay.

Many places if you ask for more money you'll get "sorry you're at the top of your range". "we can only give raises during performance review". Then when you turn in your 2 weeks suddenly it's "if it's money you're looking it's no problem to give you a very large out of band raise. Why didn't you say something?"

"If the employee just wanted more money and feels they are worth it, then all they have to do is ask."

No. The calculus is different. If it's a raise, it merely increases the cost of an employee. A counteroffer on the other hand counters several costs and risks. Hiring, training, loss of knowledge etc.

"If the employee already starts looking for another job without even trying to get more money in his current position"

Why do you presume that is the general case? I.e. does not ask for money or that they sought for another job.

Best talent tries to get compensation their worth. They probably ask for raises - but they are probably also sought by recruitment consultants. If a raise is not coming, and a consultant asks for what they would be willing to work for - well, it's simply not a case of trying to leave.

True dat. What's worse is that I've seen some companies have a strict HR policy of not allowing out-of-band raises unless a physical letter of resignation was received. So some folks would try to negotiate with their front-line managers only to get rebuffed unless they actually resigned. Then they would pour out the counteroffers. None would ever take it in that scenario.

In almost every job I've had I will approach for a raise with a list of my achievements, cost savings and recommendations. I will also indicate where I see my future impact and value specific to the business.

Most of the time I will get a standard small raise, if I take the same list out to the market and get an offer suddenly I qualify for higher raises. Overall businesses are not pro-active at all about retaining talent until push comes to shove.

A variety of workplaces have bureaucracy in place to require additional justification beyond manager and even manager + skip level approval.

Whatever your thoughts on the suitability of a workplace like this, know that the most time/effort efficient way to get a raise can legitimately be to show up with an offer which demonstrates a higher market value than current salary to justify an emergency retention pay adjustment

I've been told it's always good to have counter-offers to proof to your boss your worth X dollars to the industry.

OBVIOUSLY we're all talking about different corporate cultures and you have to play whatever strategy is best for your environment.

I don't know many cases where you would be given 30-50% raise, unless you were junior or intern. Though such raise is common when switching jobs in early-mid career.

> Best engineers are coin operated and problem focused I would say that the best engineers know their worth, but saying that money is all they care about is surely an exaggeration.

That goes without saying - if smart people want just to acquire wealth they will surely look for some other employment than engineering.

Engineering in the large is a profit generating endeavour. Therefore, when an engineer reviews his revenue stream, what he is doing is evaluating the worth of his contribution to society based on one heuristic variable.

Sure, it's never clear cut, but putting it as bluntly as I did underlines the fact that pecuniary compensation can be viewed as a form of just reward and not just profit seeking (which some consider immoral).

Every situation is different.

Example: An employee has become bored in their current role, and a snoozing manager hasn't noticed in a while. If the employee hasn't been engaged by their manager then, sure, they'll look elsewhere. HR's (and the manager's manager) first question should be: have we offered this employee a different role outside of this project/team.

Not every employee who has given notice is completely "checked out". They may be frustrated in their current role where they might not have been given the right opportunities for more responsibility or higher profile projects. Asking the employee what their real issues are is the first step.

For what it's worth, I can vouch for this situation happening to me. On a few occasions. In different organizations.

Other than the vague "Are years four through six here going to make me more valuable than years one through three somewhere else?", I would have been fine sticking around with a promotion, new technical opportunities, more strategic leeway, or even a big enough raise.

My view has been prevent it in the first place. If my employee was seeking work elsewhere, then we have failed them. If you are unhappy then you should be in a work environment where you're able to address that successfully and in a mature manner. If your concerns aren't aired, they can't be addressed. Air them and we will do what we can to keep you from needing to move elsewhere.

Anything else means having failed the employee - with some exceptions. Some folks do have unreasonable requirements that will not be satisfied.

I believe my managers in the roles I left had a similar perspective to what you're saying. For different reasons, the execution just wasn't there, however.

Usually it's because the organization didn't allow them the room to manage the way they wanted. Sometimes they just weren't allowed to provide the raise or promotion necessary. Sometimes there weren't roles for tackling the problems I wanted to tackle. More often, the managers were just too distracted and spread thin in time and/or political capital. They were pressured (or at least felt pressured) to say yes to things they shouldn't (over my concerns and objections) and didn't have time to do much more than keep chopping wood.

I'm not a shy person. I'll be clear and hopefully even handed about my concerns. But I won't throw tantrums, talk about people behind their backs, or make ultimatums. If, after a reasonable amount of time, my input isn't taken seriously, I'll have to find opportunities where I can contribute. Maybe on another team, maybe in another company. Otherwise I'm shortchanging my potential.

> Some folks do have unreasonable requirements that will not be satisfied.

I don't have unreasonable requirements, but good managers will be clear if they feel this way. It will save me time in the long run, at least.

The company was mine and had slightly less than 250 employees. It is probably a bit different than what people experience today. It was also started in the early 90s.

Do you automatically / randomly give raises that pushes there salary to match the job market?

There wasn't much of anything to compare with. Traffic modeling 'on a computer' didn't have (m)any domain experts, nor programmers with domain knowledge. So, training was key and something I felt strongly about.

I started employees at higher rates than senior traffic engineers make today. Pay also included bonuses and profit sharing, sort of. The profit sharing wasn't ever written into policy.

The benefits were prett good. I always tried to find a way to ensure any additional training/education goals were met. We'd still pay their partial salary while they attended, cover child care expenses, and things like that - if and where needed. It wasn't always domain related. I've paid for people to take culinary arts classes, albeit at night, just because they wanted to learn to cook better.

Err... It is slightly more involved than that and a post of its own, if you want me to write about that aspect. I'm willing to do so, but I strive to remain on topic.

As mentioned elsewhere, I had slightly less than 250 employees. I also never took any classes in management. So, I got away with things that would be laughed at today. Our head office had a small bar and pool table in the back, for example.

Anyhow, a programmer would have probably started at about $120k in the year 2000. That is unadjusted. Not having taken any management classes, I realized that individual salaries were paltry compared to other fees, I paid $12k per month just for a print room.

I also realized it wasn't my money paying for it. I kept the business' funds separate from my own and drew down a salary like everyone else. My clients paid our salaries. If I had higher salaries, my rates would adjust to suit.

If you're curious, I actually paid myself a smaller salary than some employees got paid. I'd hired them to do complicated things that I could not do. I paid them accordingly.

It was rather unorthodox. The company was sold and the sake was finalized in 2007. The now-parent company is public so it has SEC filings. I suspect I've given out enough information to figure out the name, but I'll let you sleuth or not. I kind of enjoy not being known as 'that guy' and having to meet expectations.

Related: I am still mulling over the idea of writing a book, but I am not really a good writer. So, it's a bit of a toss-up.

I'd suggest writing a book, or a set of anonymized blog posts if you want to remain unknown. It's easier than piecing together from your comment history :P

I'm definitely of that school of thought. I think if you're waiting to the point of a counteroffer to retain talent, you've already lost.

I think part of my job as a manager is to make sure that everybody is paid fairly all the time. For me that means benchmarking the salary structure to peer companies, a good career ladder, regular performance reviews, etc.

If one of my employees came to me and said, "A friend at company X said I could make $Y if I moved there", I'd definitely use that data to make sure our total package was fair. Hopefully we'd find we were already doing things well, but if not, I could easily see that research resulting in raises.

On the other hand, if somebody comes to me and says, "I already have an offer in hand from place X for $Y because I've been secretly job hunting for the last month," then I'd be very unlikely to counteroffer with more money. I'd certainly want to talk about why they were unhappy enough to start job hunting. Maybe there's a problem we weren't aware of or taking seriously enough. (And also I'd want to investigate how we hadn't discovered the problem until it was big enough they wanted to quit.) If we can solve that problem for them (and hopefully for other people, we should.

But if it's only a question of money when I think our pay is fair, then I wouldn't counter. One, I don't think money keeps anybody anywhere for long, so I'd expect the counter to be a bandaid. Two, either I have to change the whole salary structure to match or I've just made things less fair. That penalizes people who aren't as money-focused. Three, there are often reasons other places pay more on a cash basis. If somebody values cash more than other things I like to provide (e.g., working with good people, good work-life balance, more time available for learning, not having to clean up giant messes), then maybe they will be happier elsewhere.

And really, I'm fine with that. If somebody working for me would really be happier elsewhere, I'd rather help them find that next job. And if they won't be happier elsewhere but need to find that out for themselves, I'd rather have them feel welcome to come back.

> ...part of my job as a manager is to make sure that everybody is paid fairly all the time

I like managers that set up their team for big wins and them make sure they are treated accordingly, both humane work/life balance and with excellent pay. "Fair" pay is fine, but I'm striving to provide an exceptional value. So I think fair pay if I achieve that goal doesn't look like "competitive" or "market rate".

It seems like we agree. If your provide exceptional value and the pay matches, that sounds fair to me. If you are the kind of person who is in high demand such that employers will pay more, then it sounds to me like you have a higher market rate.

your wording is a bit odd to me.

If you strive to 'provide exceptional value', but want to be compensated highly, then the you are not providing exceptional value. Perhaps it should be 'commensurate value'

Something can have a higher sticker price but be more than worth it. That's a "value proposition".


What, like a fake family /friendship so you can undercut salary? I don't do work for hugs, bro. That doesn't put food on the table or pay bills.

If "good work/life balance" means working 40 hour weeks instead of 80 hour weeks, then it's far more valuable than a beer fridge and a yearly snow trip.

I can see why you wouldn't post this under your own name. Did you get all your feels out? Ready to have a real discussion? If so, let's go. (If not, go back and yell at whoever actually hurt you, because it wasn't me.)

My dad and stepmother are now-retired developers. I still identify as one, although mostly I manage now, as it has become more important to me to create a context where good work can be done than to do the work directly. I still try to write at least a little code every day, as I love it. So yeah, I appreciate what engineers do. However.

Let's do a thought experiment. Imagine there are only two companies: a good one and a shitty one. At the good one, everybody goes home on time. The code is pretty clean. The people are friendly and supportive. They build good things as part of making happy customers. At the shitty one, though, it's the opposite. It was founded by exploitative dicks. They want everybody to work all the time. They're always rushing, so there's high tech debt and everything's buggy. That means lots of screwed-up schedules and early-morning phone calls to fix production issues. And plenty of shouting and blaming, of course.

Now ask yourself: which company will pay more? Answer: the shitty one. Because if the salary is the same, rational actors will take the pleasant job with the nice people. The shitty company has to pay more.

Years ago I worked for financial traders. I made very good money. I also worked long enough hours that I sometimes slept on the office couch. Too often, I got screamed at by traders, because they liked yelling at people. The work was meaningless; we were just trying to carve off a slight of economic value that other people created. Eventually the work burned me out. It took me a long time to recover.

In the ensuing years I've worked at a variety of places, big and small, for-profit and non-, competent and incompetent. I have learned that there are many more important things to me than money. It's important to me that the salary be fair, both in a mark-to-market and in a results-of-productivity-fairly-allocated way. But beyond that, I care about other things. And so I try to create contexts where I and others can get those things.

If you would rather maximize your income, that is totally fine by me. People want different things. But just because you don't care about work-life balance doesn't mean that the people who do are idiots.

You're right, but only because you set up a false dichotomy. I think healthy teamwork, sustainable lifestyles, and good pay are all possible. If you only make good money by being a jerk, then there's something messed up about the market or business plan, which seems like a recipe for worse compensation, not better.

I too believe those things are achievable, and I said repeatedly that fair pay is important to me.

However, terrible places that stay in business are often compelled to pay more. Sometimes they can do that because they exploit their customers. Sometimes it's because they can dump negative externalities on others. Sometimes it's because they cut corners. Sometimes the work is just soulless and extractive.

And sometimes it's just because they are very stingy with non-cash benefits. E.g., I was just talking to someone who had taken 5 months of paternity leave. I have friends who will take 4-6 weeks of vacation per year. I know other people who get a lot of support for education, for speaking at conferences, for learning.

If a company does more of the bad stuff and little or none of the good stuff, they can afford to offer higher salaries. And that's fine. If somebody wants to work at a place like that, godspeed.

As a perhaps more obvious example, consider some equally smart but differently trained people: lawyers. I have friends who joined soulless corporate firms, worked 100-hour weeks for years, and now are doing very well financially. Some started their own small practices doing the kind of law that interested them; they make decent money. Others do public service law for nonprofits, helping people who can't afford to pay lawyers; they make yet less. All of these are reasonable paths, but they pay very differently. If one of the non-profit lawyers gets an offer from a giant law firm, their current employer will not try to match that. Everybody understands that.

Totally agree with this.

Something I've wondered is whether this is basically a bluffing tactic: If an employee is persuaded that there will be no counteroffer, then it's more of an emotional hurdle to start the job search.

On the flip side, I was hired during a hiring freeze.

It would only be a bluff if your initial threat to take another offer was a bluff, which would change the situation entirely

I would never ever counteroffer. To do so would crack Pandora's box wide open.

First of all, it is simply not a game that I am willing to play.

Secondly, the other team members will know about it (eventually) and will (eventually) try to do the same thing.

Overall, it would be detrimental to team cohesion and would undermine the culture that I want to build:- One that is focused entirely on solving the problem in front of us.

If a member of my team needed a pay rise (i.e. if they were expecting a child) then I would work energetically to represent them within the organisation to make sure that they get what they need -- but for their part I would expect them to interact with me honestly and not play silly games.

If a member of my team needed a pay rise (i.e. if they were expecting a child)

Wow, isn't that massively discriminatory? Raises and contributions should be merit- or contribution-based, no more and no less.

Yeah, I'm trying to read it as "if a member of my team came to me with a new ambition to do what it takes to up their comp (for whatever reason) I'd work with them to expand their role in the org" but... it should not be a manager's job to view me taking care of my parents differently from Coworker X buying anime figurines if Coworker X and I are in the same role having the same success.

It's not silly games. It's a business transaction, they're negotiating. I think it's fair to not counter offer for reasons stated elsewhere in this thread but you can't accuse people of playing games when this is such an important part of our lives. So much is dependent on money, to not negotiate with other offers is foolish when the moment a company decides that an employee is less valuable than their cost they're out the door.

Would you give them a 30%-40% raise? That's what people are often getting when they switch jobs.

Another point is some might feel if they have to ask for a raise, the company has failed them already, they work should have been noticed by then.

Agreed. Quitting your job is like a relationship break up.

Talking someone into staying might just get them to say yes, to be nice, then just change their mind and not show up some day.

In a small company, maybe. In a large one, not at all. Get that counter, negotiate a promo, change teams 6 months later. Everyone is happy.

It depends on why you were considering leaving.

If the reason is something that money could solve, then I always encourage the company to offer more.

An example of this might be "I wasn't looking, still don't feel like I am. But company X asked me to look at a role, and I felt I shouldn't just ignore and it turns out they're offering $ and whilst I don't really want that role I would be a fool to decline it out of hand as that difference helps achieve <insert life goal>.".

In that case... if the company can do it, do it.

But if it's more "I went looking for something else and I hate this job, and this other stuff winds me up, but if you gave me all this extra money I'd suffer it a while longer"... then the company should wish you well and if they understand fully how toxic you now are to the team would let you leave that same day.

It depends. It always depends.

I really agree with this. Your exact example -- every detail -- happened to me a few years ago. I was offered a ~50% raise without really seeking it out. I went to my boss (with whom I had an excellent relationship) and explained the situation. I got the raise that day, and over two years later I've continued to get great raises/promotions, and it has become the best job I've ever had.

It is important to note that I was doing really important work at the company. I was probably not considered a "normal" employee.

I've found you are counter offered only if you are perceived to be "good" ie a key team member. I've also found it's normal in two situations. For small/medium sized companies there can be counter offers if no one has left in a while (ie year or two), and you are the first 1 or 2 "good" developers try to quit. After that they kind of give up.

The second situation is they're hemorrhaging staff, and will counter everyone, or proactively give raises to stem the tide.

I once took a counter offer that was nearly 50% of my salary. That was too much money to turn down.

> The second situation is they're hemorrhaging staff, and will counter everyone

That's probably how it happened to me. I gave my notice, and people looked worried and had hushed conversations. A couple of hours later, managers from other teams were offering me better roles, but I turned them down, because the reason I was leaving was that I didn't like the way the company had treated me up to that point.

The problem with companies that act like that is that if they believed I deserved a better position, the time to act was when I had made it known I was unhappy, not when I'd already made the decision to leave. I'd already applied for internal promotion a couple of months before, and they could have acted then instead of just never getting back to me.

How clear had you been in 1:1s that you were unhappy and would consider looking elsewhere?

Being clear about that kind of thing would be a serious career limiting move in all of the companies I worked at. No one likes a whiner, even if whining is justified. Simply put, in a 1:1 you're not in a position of power and therefore your leverage in this negotiation is very weak. If you are vital to the team/project, when seriously threatening to leave, you _are_ in a position of power.

Why do you assume there was 1:1? If there was, why do you assume he had enough trust to that person or that person could do something? He did not liked how the company was treated him, there is no reason to assume 1:1 were not part of the problem, went well or were full of trust.

Nevertheless, it is all the same. If I need to threaten company with leaving (whether with job on hand or in 1:1) in order to be treated better, then I am better off elsewhere.

Many companies treat complains as just whining - they see the goal as letting you talk and have some reassuring speech, not to take action.

You mean besides applying for an internal promotion, I guess. How much clearer could he be at a company where he thought poor treatment was a pervasive problem?

I have seen counteroffers for people who were either underpaid or should have been promoted a long time ago. Once your salary is in line with your standing in the company I haven't seen counteroffers.

Counteroffers aren't always just pay. I had one unusual employee who wanted a very specific, and unorthodox, space turned into his office.

He got it, if you're curious.

Do you mind sharing more about his space request?

He was a DBA and rather antisocial. He wanted his office to be in what was also the wiring closet, which was a space very much away from everyone else, very small, and became his home away from home.

As strange as it may sound, he was worth all his quirks and more. As for quirks, he had plenty. I've never met a better DBA, however. We were working with full TB data sets by 2000. He enabled that, for the most part.

Walmart was in an article touting themselves as the first to deal with a database a TB in size, he found that greatly amusing. I have trouble wrapping my head around databases, I think he just knew them by intuition.

His choice of office space was one of his more mild quirks. I believe he is still retired but I can safely say he enabled us to do things we'd not have been able to do without him.

Edit: I could probably write whole books about the people who worked with me. Getting started in the early 90s seems to have made quite a difference in the people aspect. I never had an HR department and I'm not sure I could have forced one into the mix.

I'd been the original programmer, except I can't code very well. I eventually hired professionals. They, of course, told me how much my code sucked. They were rather blunt about it and I took the hint and got out of their way.

Eventually, the code to enter the server room was changed at the main office. I could have forced them to give me the code but that seemed unwise. I hired people to do things I could not. If I could do it, I wouldn't have hired them. So, I learned to put my ego aside and get out of their way.

This is long enough, but that's the gist of it.

Several months ago I gave notice to my startup employer that I had accepted an offer at another company. I was asked if there was anything they could do to keep me. I said unless they doubled my (low) salary I wouldn't have much of an interest in staying.

I liked the people I worked with, I liked the work culture, and even liked what the company was building, but at the end of the day it was worth it for me to switch to working on "non-sexy" legacy tech at a large corporation and all the BS that comes with that for financial gain, stability, and benefits.

Do legacy tech at large corporation jobs actually provide stability? It seems you face a higher risk of outsourcing there than the risk of collapse at a Silicon Valley company with traction.

It depends. If your role is "generic, replaceable developer" then you could risk outsourcing. If you're in a specific kind of project, or in a specialist position, it's less likely.

Then again I lost a position in a corp when the whole project was cancelled. The redundancy pay was sweet though.

> Then again I lost a position in a corp when the whole project was cancelled.

Sorry to hear that. As long as it wasn't canceled because they had trouble paying the bills or the teams were dysfunctional, that's usually pretty short-sighted of the corp.

Here's a bunch of people that we've already taken the cost of recruiting/training/onboarding who are familiar with our technology and processes. The right answer is to reassign them to other work in the organization.

It's an interesting situation from the other side as well. I got some resources to try to relocate to another team, but wasn't keen on it. One day you hear your team is important another that the whole project is finished - made me reluctant to try again. OTOH, in a big corpo the recruiting/onboarding costs are probably just ongoing / don't matter that much.

For sure. Large legacy corporations fire people far less than silicon valley companies fire+go out of business. And usually with larger lay off packages.

I knew people who had been working for large legacy corps who made 6 figures for over a decade while having the technical chops of a high schooler after their first AP programming class, and barely speaking English.(didn't know common words like bread, or meat)

In my experience, factors include whether there are planned hiring freezes or organization structure changes, the critical experience of the developer for critical projects, and the level of understanding of the manager.

In many cases, if the business is advancing toward a downsizing, they might choose not to make a counteroffer and instead use the departure to fill a planned staffing reduction. This can pose serious issues for the manager when a business chooses such a course when their manpower was not originally slated for downsizing.

I've seen lower appetite for counteroffers in the "middle range" of maturity. When a team has begun to reject cowboy culture and tribal knowledge, embracing high levels of testing, documentation and automation there may be reduced interest in keeping someone for skill and knowledge. I've seen this behavior diminish when organizations reach a higher maturity level and are making a more sizable investment in long-term growth of their employees through things like training.

When serving as a manager, there are many cases where one might step in to ask the business not to make a counteroffer, such as: if the employee is relocating due to their spouse, if the employee determines remote work is not a good fit for themselves, or if the employee is seen to be making positive career steps forward which could not be matched in their current work environment. Many managers are big enough people not to try to hold their employees back.

There are of course many places I've not worked, and many possible cases I've not seen, but the above is my experience.

In addition to 'jasode's line of thought about employers not countering because giving notice means you've checked out, you should also understand the corollary, which is that even if you're retained through a counter, you might still be "damaged goods" and excluded from promotion, incentive compensation, and the most important projects.

There was, a dozen or so years ago, a notion that you should never accept a counteroffer for exactly this reason. Your employer would be buying optionality on retaining you. What they want isn't you, but the right to decide when to replace you and a longer grace period to do that in.

This definitely does happen; it happened explicitly to me in a previous job (I was told a few years after I left, a year or so after accepting a counter and then being marginalized).

In my experience there was always a counter offer, unless you are terrible :).

But I would strongly discourage you from taking it. Basically, the reason you are not at that salary/position yet, is because you are not recognized at that level by management. getting a bump via a counter offer will mean that you will be last in line for raises/bonus/promotions since you will be viewed as getting paid above your grade. This was what I observed as a manager at a big company during calibrations.

If you want a bump, ask your manager - where do you need the most help, what can i do to have a larger impact this cycle etc... - and do those things. If that is not enough, run :)

> In my experience there was always a counter offer, unless you are terrible :).

I wouldn't give a counter-offer to an employee if I know that I can't really offer a better salary or work environment, and it would be even undesirable for me to have him accept it as he would probably always have the thought of leaving haunting him afterwards.

Sometimes not receiving a counter offer is the opposite of being terrible. Yours is a terrible advice.

Very common.

Two times, I accepted the counteroffer and stayed (for a while.) It didn’t have any adverse impact. I’m still at the company of the second counteroffer.

My experience is that big companies are typically quite rational about the whole thing. No hard feelings or anything, just business.

Haha, managers are like girlfriends/boyfriends. They take the first breakups personally. Then after a few more, they mature and wish you good luck on your next one.

If you give notice, you're saying "I'm at the end of my rope, I'm leaving".

If you go to management and say "I've been struggling with X, Y and Z can you help me?" then you're signaling that you trust the company to help you, wether that's workload, salary, etc.

Management that counter offer after giving notice is 9/10 trying to keep you around long enough to find a better replacement knowing that you'll leave again in the near future, or they'll boot you when the replacement is up to speed.

Most of the time they're trying to keep you around long enough not to have to deal with hiring someone else anyway.

> If you give notice, you're saying "I'm at the end of my rope, I'm leaving".

No not usually. I don’t get why a group (techies) that fancies themselves so rational can’t understand simple economics. Giving notice means I have leverage with a better offer no more less. The reason for that may be hard for the current employer to fix or not. Often it is not hard for them to fix, especially in larger organizations. And often coming with a better offer in hand is the only way to signal that. We can wank about ideal managers and all that but that is not how the world works.

Varies widely depending on the individual situation of the developer, the company, the manager, and the relationship of the developer to everyone else, relative skill and experience, and countless other factors.

I haven't personally gotten any yet after 3 resignations in my professional career, but that may be because in all of them, I was leaving because I was already very sure, based on factors other than the salary, that I no longer wanted to work there.

Well, the first one, I might have been able to get a counter-offer or other change in working conditions if I had been fishing for it, but I had long been coming to the conclusion that I just didn't see myself there long-term.

There is a lot of discussion out there about getting and giving counter offers and whether or not you should accept one. One thing I would say to the companies/managers that I haven't seen much - if you have the budget and desire to keep the employee to make a counter-offer, why didn't you just give them that raise in the first place? Seems easier than letting them run around interviewing at other places and negotiating offers with other companies, just to save 10% or whatever of their salary for a year or two.

Very common.

However, if you want to stay and it’s just about money or title I would suggest talking to your director of recruiting or engineering manager. In my experience, chatting with them and being honest saying like “I love the company, but I’ve gotten some verbal offers/interest from company X, Y, X and the package they’re offering + the challenges they want me to solve are very intriguing. I’m loyal, so I haven’t taken any interviews as I really want to solve challenges here but this looks like a great opportunity. What can we do to make my current role as competitive that these ones?”

You have to be willing to leave though, as they might just say nope and that’s the end of it.

I used that same tactic, along with a proposal of what I wanted to do/be paid, and got a hefty increase.

It costs a lot to find developers, then to hire good ones. It can be $5-20k + the domain knowledge you have so it’s not cheap to replace a good developer.

> It costs a lot to find developers, then to hire good ones. It can be $5-20k + the domain knowledge you have so it’s not cheap to replace a good developer.

My experience is different. Avalanche the expensive and experienced devs with more and more work until they signalize that the team requires upsizing, make them resign. Fish for students, contractors. Hire contractors exclusively through a chain of intermediaries, so their salary and employee rights will be minuscule and they will have no leverage to say "no" to the most ridiculous bullshit.

Please tell me there exist companies which appreciate their specialists, which offer a significant payrise to make them stay. I have yet to encounter and work for one.

What industry is this? Haven't seen this in finance.

IT in post-Communist EU countries. There are global banks employing here as well, but that's the absolute bottom of outsourcing food chain. Met the practices I described above as well in Germany.


it happens a lot. every time ive quit a job my employer has tried to counter. same story for most co-workers that were good/highly valued.

It's common but it's a lose-lose situation; the employee will resent that she hasn't been paid what she was worth and will be afraid to be replaced at any moment and the employer will feel like the developer stays just for the money and will leave at any time if somebody else matches it.

I'd take a counter under the following scenarios:

1) Company knows they are going to eliminate a team within XX months. I'd take a huge counter (3x salary) to stay on to help shutdown a project or sell the company. 2-3x salary in these cases are fairly normal when a company gets sold and they just need help transitioning to the new parent company.

2) Company offers a severance package along with it. E.g., we'll give you a salary bump and a 12-month severance if we let you go without cause, within one year.

However, I've been on both sides, and I've offered a counteroffer to anyone who is leaving and I wanted to keep. Any company who doesn't do that probably doesn't have good developers who are constantly getting recruited on LinkedIn.

There's a difference between "this offer shows that I'm underpaid in my current position" and "I decided to move on for a variety of reasons."

An employee who gives me solid market data, and is a good performer who likes the current position, does me a favor if they let me know I missed the memo on current market.

In most companies, it's 2-4% pretty year into infinity, and if the overall market grows faster than that, independent research may be warranted.

Meanwhile, of someone gives notice, rather than starts a conversation, I'd be much more wary. If we don't have a good, open relationship already, a quick raise won't fix that.

Demand Media counter offered me a few times and I took it since the pay bump was substantial. The last one I told them they had to bring the rest of the people on my team up to my level. Once they did I quit for good. Take that DM.

Exactly why management shouldn't counter offer, the employee already left once and likely will again in the near future.

I once wrote for them, what a strange company. I didn't think they were still around, the assignments dried up.

Once panda hit they massively scaled back the content side of things, started going more editorial if you want to call it that.

What is panda?

found it: https://searchengineland.com/google-panda-update-costly-1120...

And looks like they changed their company name

Why would you do something so mean?

Mean? Organizations don't have feelings. People do. It sounds like they did a beautiful thing: looking out for the rest of their team.

I think you have to understand that particular company to understand why he would do that. I've known more than one person who worked for them.

Very very common. One could be asking for a raise, promotion, project change etc for months. Then when a resignation is tendered, counteroffers start to trickle in. Upon enquiring why so, they grin like the Grinch.

I also believe that developer availability is going to soon outspeed demand. Revel while we get the importance.

Its a shame it has to come down to those games. Generally when asked what I was offered I quote something stupid to not get a counteroffer or pull off the biggest hustle of my life.

I don't think you should ever take counter offers if you previously asked for a raise and got no where.

I've offered a counter to everyone I wanted to keep on the team. Am not batting 1000.

I think if you don't get the counter, the reason is clear.

One shouldn't give notice then negotiate. One should say 'I am considering giving notice', then negotiate.

To me a counter offer is basically saying "we got away paying you less than what you're worth to us and you finally called our bluff". That's why I'll never accept a counter offer.

Lol. They didn’t get away with anything. Unless you were sold as a slave you negotiated some terms mutually. Why the fuck would any party in a business transaction voluntarily pay more if they have no reason to believe that is necessary. Do you tell amazon that Walmart is selling the same item for $10 more so they can raise their price so you don’t “get away” paying a lower price than most likely what some people are paying?

There’s no bluff being called. This is simply the normal way for transaction participants to act rationally and in their best interests.

> you negotiated some terms mutually

Most people are not skilled negotiators. That aside, the balance in that negotiation is in favour of the employer at the start. At that point you are worth nothing to them. They can just go to the next candidate. You on the other had have a mortgage, debts to deal with, bills to pay, family to feed, etc. It takes time before that balance tips towards the employee. That's when the company needs to reassess what they're paying you.

> There’s no bluff being called.

They know you're worth more but at your yearly performance review they'll do their damnedest to only give you cost of living if even that. Then they put the burden on you to prove you're worth more than that. "What did you accomplish this past year?" They know what you did for them. They're hoping you were too busy to document it yourself. "We can give you more but you have to take on more responsibilities." They were paying you less than you were worth for your current workload before this! This extra work will mean even more unpaid overtime which will nullify the raise and even turn it into an effective pay cut. Even if you do manage to document your past work and/or agree to more work you'll just hit the arbitrary raise cap they put in place. "This is the best that we can do."

They are bluffing. They're gambling that you can't find a better offer. Or that it's too much hassle to switch. But once you call their bluff that's when you get to finally see what they really could have been paying you.

> act rationally and in their best interests

Companies very rarely do this for long term goals. Short term gains is top priority. Saving money on payroll now is better to them than mitigating the big financial loss that loosing a key employee would cause in the future.

That is the reason why we see this counter offer behaviour each and every time. You've change the "he's going to quit sometime in the future" to "he's quitting NOW". You've now made it a short term issue and that's what finally got them to react.

Why the fuck would any party in a business transaction voluntarily pay more if they have no reason to believe that is necessary.

Umm, because it WAS necessary. Just one party didn't update their pricing until after the market moved against them. "No reason to believe" is pure nonsense; it's management's full-time job to be on top of that, and they failed.

If the outside offer is for a similar role, just more money, then a counter offer is common. That's because if employees leave for the same job somewhere else, then you are not paying enough. If the outside offer has a different role, or a different level of responsibility, then, it is difficult to make a counter offer. I've had more than a few developers leave for less money, sometimes allot less, because they wanted to do something different.

If you like your employer...

One option you have is to prepare to ask for a raise, and then pitch them on why you're worth more before you accept the other offer. They might agree with you, and simply give you the raise you're asking for. Using this approach, you're making it about the company before you make it about yourself. If you don't get the raise, accept the other offer. If a counter offer comes your way, you can decide whether you wanna deal with it.

I've hired a lot of engineers and I've seen this a number of times. In my experience once someone gets to the point of interviewing and considering another job, well, they're on the way out. I've done the counter offer and tried to get them to stay a number of times and it just never tends to work out -- they take the offer and then within six months they are out anyway.

What I always do though is try and keep a good relationship with all departing staff so if there's a critical need for knowledge that only they have, they can be brought back on a consulting basis for specific problems. That way people can leave and organizationally you're not stuck in a bind.

On the flip side I've had a manager tell me to never accept a counter-offer. It's basically a dead-end path for you, especially at smaller companies. If you take it then management resents you, and you're likely to be passed over for promotion/raises in the future. And that's just if they're not vindictive. If they are they'll just get a brain dump, wait for your offers to expire then lay you off.

He wasn't very happy when I gave notice and rejected his counter-offer.

I had one in 2009/2010. They made it too good to refuse. I accepted.

If you don’t think that your company would counter because they think you will have “already checked out” or “can’t be saved” there is one option you can try. Go out and get some job offers for higher salaries and then decline them all. Come back to your manager after some time has passed and mention that you had recently validated your value in the market and know what you are worth and that though this time you weren’t interested you can’t know what the future will hold. They may see that you can still be retained and make an effort to keep you.

I can't do full on job seeking if I know I'll not take the job. The amount of people's time you waste is significant.

If there's even a slimmer of chance I could accept it, yeah, I could go for it.

There is also the risk that your manager might not believe that you did not intend to leave. The whole plan sounds fishy. I don't know if I would believe someone who told me they were only interviewing to find out their market-rate salary. So, the whole thing could end up being tantamount to giving notice anyway.

The better approach is to get other job offers but don't decline them. If your company wants to keep you, they will find a way. Otherwise, take another offer.

I think you need to be careful doing that. If the companies you interview at ever figure out you wasted their time and money, you may get blacklisted. Worse, the HR workers or hiring managers may let others know about it as well.

Anecdotally, i've always been counter offered - and i've left 4 jobs as a developer. Usually around 10% more, assuming you say your primary reason for leaving is monetary and 'advancement' of course. If you say you're unhappy because of behaviour x and y they'll probably think they can retain you just by changing those. You have to be up front.

Edit: 2 of these were 'big companies', 2 were small (small business and a startup)

Purely anecdotal, but I've actually been given two counter offers before even looking for other employment.

I call them counter offers and not simple raises because of the tone and demeanor of those involved. These were not just "you're doing well" conversations, they were "here's some extra compensation, please please tell us if you even think of looking elsewhere so we can plan ahead" conversations.

I have left 3 jobs and for all have asked/told not to bother with a counter offer because my decisions were not based on $. Looking back on my career thus far im sure i could have made more money but not sure i would have been better off.

When I said I want to leave my manager offered me his place...

But the directors said only people who come to work before 11 are allowed to be managers

It is common, and you will probably get 2 or 3 counteroffers, but (unless you bluffed) none will make you stay.

i've only left 2 jobs in the last 12 years but both gave me counters.

With few exceptions, don't take a counter-offer.

the exception being only if the money is stupid good?

If you have been working at a place for a number of years you take the increase knowing that will fired as soon as a replacement can be found.

This increases the amount they have to pay via notice pay.

Only would work in a large corporate situation where you know your team is being laid off in a year anyways.

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