In this week’s round of Champions League football matches we were witness to an event that provides a perfect example of why employers should not waste their time counter offering itchy-footed employees who want to leave for new opportunities.
With 20 minutes left to play in their fixture with Bayern Munich, and already losing 2-0 in a crucial encounter, the manager of Manchester City, Roberto Mancini, called substitute Carlos Tevez up from the bench to warm up, so he could be introduced to the game. A talismanic striker with the rare talent to create scoring opportunities from nowhere, and the seniority and experience to provide a calming influence on an increasingly panicked team performance, his introduction to the game could have been a turning point in the fixture.
But he never made it onto the pitch. Paid £200,000 per week from the oil-bloated coffers of this football club…to play football…Carlos Tevez defied his manager’s wishes and refused to join his teammates on the pitch. Paid obscene amounts of money just to play football…he refused to play football.
But many in recruitment would not be surprised by this turn of events. I certainly wasn’t. And that’s because I understand well the counter-argument to counter-offers.
Let’s put to one side, for a moment, the ridiculous position English football has got itself into, with massively overpaid “superstars” so detached from reality by their fantastical lifestyles that they deem fit to refuse to play football in front of loyal fans who, battling a crippling recession back home, have broken their backs to travel across Europe to watch their team play. Let’s imagine for a moment that Tevez is like any other employee of any other company. An undoubted talent, last season’s club captain, and prolific goal scorer, he was nevertheless an unsettled character not happy living in Manchester and over the summer agitated for a move away from English football. Corinthians, a club in his homeland of Argentina, wanted him, and he wanted to go there, but a deal couldn’t be reached to Manchester City’s satisfaction and so they refused to let him go and forced him to stay in Manchester.
What followed is a classic example of the fallout following counter-offers. The employee, persuaded to stay against his true wishes, perhaps swayed by more money or other vague promises, gradually lets his performance slip from the heights achieved pre-resignation. The boss, quietly humiliated by the employee’s wishes to leave, but not wanting to lose that employee’s contributions, struggles to keep his relationship going the way it was before. An awkwardness rises up, something invisible has come between them. In Tevez’s case his captain’s armband was handed to another player. Performances and contributions continued to reduce, until the employee began starting games from the substitute’s bench. Eventually, the employee’s disgruntlement builds to such an extent, that they start creating a toxicity within the team that spreads and starts to affect otherwise motivated and bought-in employees. Eventually things come to a head, in the case of Tevez with refusal to play, but in other more real-world examples I have heard of employees failing to turn up for meetings, leaving work early, spreading rumour and dissatisfaction amongst other employees and, in one extreme case, funneling billings into a personal account rather than the company they were working for.
City should have just let Tevez go in the summer. Sure, they might not have got as much as they wanted for him, but something like this was bound to happen. And now this event has affected the whole team, the whole club, rather than just letting him quietly slip away and developing someone else into his position during the season.
So, recruiters who feel devastated at missing out on a placement because their candidate they secured an offer for was counter-offered by their employer, remember this lesson from Carlos Tevez. Bear it in mind when counselling your candidate on potential counter-offers. Even if the candidate does accept the counter-offer, swallow your disappointment and stay very close to them, because no doubt they will come back, cap in hand, a few months down the line.
As soon as that resignation letter is handed in, the damage is done, and it is always irreparable. Candidates, stick true to what is important to you and don’t be swayed by more money or a desk with a view. And employers, as much as it hurts, just let them go. Swallow your pride and show them the door. Or you’ll end up in a mess like Manchester City.