Go read Dean Dad on counteroffers, and why he supports his community college’s policy of not offering them to faculty or staff who get other job offers. He’s careful to specify that his support for the anti-counteroffer policy is dependent on his context at a CC: “nobody really comes here to study under so-and-so. Our faculty don’t bring in the mega-grants, and for the most part, we wouldn’t have the infrastructure to support them if they did.” But, the objections he raises to counteroffers seems like it would apply to most of us non-superduperstar faculty toiling away at state and regional universities: “Other employees quickly get the message, and system-gaming becomes a full-time job. Loyalty is punished, performance ignored, and internal equity simply forgotten in the stampede.”
I’m sympathetic to this argument–I have applied for jobs and even got a second job while still at my first job, and although I’ve never had a counteroffer, I dream of the day. . . but Dean Dad’s objection to counteroffers, although noble, seems idealistic in the extreme. First of all, in order to be competitive for other jobs, a faculty member’s “performance” has to be pretty good–so it’s not like faculty either perform their current jobs well or they apply and interview for other jobs. The second activity is contingent on the first.
Secondly, the reality at most universities is that the only way to get a raise is to get a sufficiently attractive counter-offer and make the Dean think you might actually take it. It’s not the faculty’s “disloyalty” that is driving this system–administrators could choose to reward loyalty, performance, and to honor internal equity, but they don’t (at least, not every year, all of the time.) They reward entrepreneurship, so the faculty respond by looking out for number one. Administrators are the people who can change the game if they want to, since they hold most of the cards and all of the money. But, they don’t want to change the game, because it’s easier (and cheaper!) to reward exceptional performance only when a faculty member has a live offer on the table, rather than rewarding the good performances of faculty who either can’t or don’t have the option of leaving.
I for one am glad that my Dean has made serious counteroffers to some colleagues who had very attractive job offers–in one case, an endowed chair at another university. These men are some of my best friends and most valued colleagues, so I’m pleased that the Dean recognized their value to the department and rewarded it. As “Lil Johnny” points out in the comments to Dean Dad’s thoughts on counteroffers, it’s expensive and time-consuming to replace departed colleagues, so it just makes sense to throw down a few more dollars to keep someone who has other options. Isn’t it better to work someplace people choose to be, instead of being stuck there? Believe me, when my colleague turned down an endowed chair in his home state, our junior colleagues were watching and listening.