Beware of the Saved
I wrote a couple of blogs (Trust and Referrals, It Happened Again) in 2010 & 2011 dealing with employees who accept jobs and then change their mind. I recently had a similar but slightly different situation occur that shows the importance of how you handle yourself and what you say as a candidate during the interview process.
In the current case, a candidate was interviewing for a management position. He was selected by the company and negotiating his employment contract. In his final interview, he had been asked why he was leaving his current company and what he would do if they made a counteroffer. His reply was that his current employer is struggling in the marketplace. Although once a dominant player, their market position had eroded, colleagues have been leaving and new entrants into the marketplace were disintermediating his company. He stated that there was nothing they could offer him to keep him there. Further, he indicated that he was excited about the prospect of joining the new company.
After a full day series of final meetings, he was given a verbal offer and accepted. Out of courtesy, he let his current boss know that he was negotiating a formal offer from another company. Three days later after a flurry of internal meetings, he was offered a new position at his current company which he accepted. Even though only three days prior he had stated that he believed his current employer had lost their way, was going downhill and that there was nothing they could offer him to keep him.
Did he lie? Probably not, but obviously the power of persuasion exerted on him must have been intense and the new vision painted for him was compelling.
As might be expected, there are hard feelings at the prospective employer. Their search is set back and they have wasted a bunch of time and expense. But the damage may go further. As part of the process, the company checked references, some provided by the candidate, but others from former colleagues that that company found through their networks. These references raved about the candidate. How will they react when they find out the circumstances of the situation? Has he damaged their reputation and willingness to be a reference in the future? If I had been one of the reference, it would certainly affect what I would say about him in the future or if I would even be a reference.
And what about his company that retained him. To do so, they have moved him into a new position. It is not clear if this was an existing position or a new one that they created just to retain him. Just because he was outstanding in his old role, that doesn’t necessarily translate to success in his new role, especially if it is one created in the heat of the moment, without clear objectives or expected outcomes.
If you survey most HR and business leaders, they will tell you that saving an employee rarely works. Those saved employees usually leave within 12 months regardless, often because the deep seated concerns of the employee are never really addressed. In his case, if the candidate was being truthful, it will be difficult for the company to change their eroding market position, stem the attrition of talent or re-invent themselves to stop from being dis-intermediated. It is only a matter of time before the veneer of a new position (and presumably more money) wears thin and the employee becomes restless again. But next time, will he have anyone who wants to hire him or be his reference?