Michael Sterling

Risks of Resigning: The Retaliation Strike


Here’s the scenario: You have resigned from your job to move to a great new opportunity and are firm on your decision. All good, right? Maybe not. There are proven risks of resigning. Keep your guard up for a possible retaliation strike.


Why? Because unless you know how to diffuse your current employer’s retaliation, you may end up psychologically wounded, dealing with defending your professional reputation, or right back at the job you wanted to leave.

Risks of Resigning: 3 Stages of Employer Reaction


The best way to shield yourself from the inevitable mixture of emotions surrounding the act of submitting your resignation is to remember that employers follow a predictable, three-stage pattern when faced with a resignation:


  1. Shock. Granted, there are times a resignation is anticipated. This can be the case if it’s known your spouse has accepted a job in another city or you’re nine months pregnant and have indicated you don’t plan to return to work.  However, most likely, your resignation will be met with shock which will prompt your boss to attack your decision. You may encounter comments such as, “You’ve picked a fine time to leave” or, “Who will complete the critical project you started?”

    Stay calm. You might explain that you understand that there’s never a great time to leave, but that this new opportunity allows you to achieve a specific career goal. Emphasize, it is not your intent to hurt your boss or the firm and you’ll help transition the project.                                                                                                                                                                                                         

  2. Probing. “What firm? What sort of position did you accept? What are they paying you?” Be careful not to disclose too much information, or appear too enthusiastic. Otherwise, you run the risk of feeding your current employer ammunition, which can be used against you, such as, “I’ve heard some pretty terrible things about your new company” or, “They’ll make everything look great until you actually get there.” or, “Well, you are at the top of their pay scale so don’t plan on any raises.”

  3. Counter Offer. Your boss may make you an offer to try and keep you from leaving.“You know that raise we were talking about a few months back?”  Well, it’s being processed.” To this you can respond, “I appreciate everything you and the organization have done for me, but my decision is firm.”


It may take several days for the three stages to run their course, but believe me, sooner or later, you’ll find yourself engaged in conversations similar to these. More than once, candidates have called me after they’ve resigned, to tell me that their old firm followed the three-stage pattern exactly as I described it. Not only were they better prepared to diffuse a counteroffer attempt, they found the whole sequence to be almost comical in its predictability.


The Hard Truth – That Counter Offer Isn’t What it Seems


Over 80% of employees who submit resignations, then accept counter offers, leave within six months because the underlying currents remain unchanged. If something is broken, most likely a counter offer isn’t going to fix it.If you accept a counter offer, the odds are good that’ll you’ll be back on the job hunt.


As a career coach and recruiter, working exclusively within public accounting, I help professionals deal with these issues daily.


Have you felt the sting of resignation retaliation? Let me know. And connect with me on LinkedIn.


Interested in more career nutrition? Check out the Career Wellness section of the SterlingFreeman website. 


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