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Should you accept a counter-offer?

June 29, 2021

Close up businessman opening envelope with letter

So, you’re moving on. The ink on the contract is dry, you have a confirmed start date and have handed in your resignation. It is an exciting time. Then all of a sudden, your current employer presents you with a counter-offer: so what do you do now?

A counter-offer can be tempting and is almost always flattering. Does the company value you so much; they can't bear to see you leave? Are your managers recognising your significant contribution and will pay you more than you thought was possible? A counter-offer usually requires some careful consideration, before a final decision is made.

What does a counter-offer look like?

A counter-offer happens when you have accepted another employment offer and your current employer comes back with new terms in order to entice you to stay with your current company. It is not an uncommon scenario, and you should be prepared to address this possibility before it happens. Essentially, there are two types of counter-offers that you might encounter: financial and emotional.

Financial: When you advise you have accepted a new job and are handing in your notice, your employer presents you an offer to increase your current salary. Sometimes, if they know your new remuneration terms, their offer might match or beat this level; otherwise, it could be a ballpark guess at what salary might retain you.

Emotional: This is a tough one as it often relies upon your sense of loyalty and can really tug at your heartstrings. This occurs, not in the form of a formal offer, but in a reiteration of your value and sometimes suggestions or promises of better things to come. Your employer might ask you to stay, with a reminder that things are going to improve at work, a renewed promise to find new resources, an agreement to promote you as soon as possible or even an appeal to your sense of loyalty by asking you to stay with the team until a project is delivered.

The Dilemma

Is it possible to achieve your career goals and salary expectations while staying put? There is no doubt that either a financial or emotional offer is likely to get you thinking. But don't venture down that path without first considering the following relating to counter-offers.

Financial Factors: When your boss came to you with that new salary offer, it wasn't just because you are an asset; it's also because it's financially better for the company to keep you onboard. The cost and effort in recruiting and training a new employee is substantial and could well outweigh the cost of offering you a pay rise to stay. Consider, if your company has now recognised that you should be paid more for your work, where was this appreciation in your last promotion or performance review? Bear in mind, your new employers have recognised your value from the outset and agreed to an offer that reflects this. If your current company really wanted you to stay, why didn't they take preventative action before you were motivated to look elsewhere? And is this just your next raise coming early?

Loyalty Factors: It's always great to be wanted and needed but believe it or not you are replaceable. If your current employers truly can't replace you, why did you have to wait until you resigned to discover this? The problem is, if you decide to stay, you may have permanently blotted your trust record and demonstrated a perceived lack of loyalty to the company by resigning in the first place. This can jeopardise your situation, not only with management, but also with your immediate colleagues. How will they feel when they realise you already have one foot out the door?

Ultimately, when a counter-offer is presented to you this decision is all about you – not the project, not your team, not your manager. It’s about what YOU want to achieve in your career and what is best for you.

Top Tips

  • Do keep your end goal in sight. Remind yourself why you wanted to leave in the first place. Write down your reasons and read over them when you feel pressured or uncertain.
  • Don't buy into the emotion. This is a business decision, a career decision and a new journey for you.
  • Don't let guilt, blame or persuasion divert your decision. Stay professional and in control of the situation.
  • Do resign professionally and clearly in writing. Handling your resignation with confidence and leaving no room for doubt will help you avoid conflict.