Accepting The Counter Offer Is Never A Good Idea - Here's Why

By Kate Smedley

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The predicted trend towards a candidate centric market will inevitably see a rise in the number of counter offers as the competition for talent hots up.  Finding yourself on the receiving end of a counter offer is often accompanied by a raft of responses such as:-

‘So they do care after all!’

‘They must really want me to stay.’

‘At last, the pay rise I deserve’.

As you bask in the afterglow of an unexpected ego-boost you may begin to think you got it all wrong about your current employer and consider staying put.

My advice is, don’t!  Accepting the counter offer is rarely a good idea – and here’s why:-

Your boss has panicked : A counter offer is often a knee-jerk reaction on the employer’s part. A company embroiled in a major project or on the verge of placing a crucial bid to a new client won’t want to deal with the inconvenience of your unexpected departure. In these situations, your boss is simply buying time. If you accept the verbal offer, don’t be surprised if it is later retracted due to ‘HR policy’ or a similar excuse – but by then it will be too late to save the day with your potential new employer.

You’re up for sale to the highest bidder : If all you see is pound signs you can be bought and everyone knows it, from your existing employer and the company you just rejected to your colleagues and – depending on your circumstances - the recruiter who found you the job.  When the initial euphoria wears off and you start to realise your mistake, it will be too late.

It shouldn’t take a counter offer for you to achieve recognition : Must you really resort to manipulation in order to be recognised for your skills and contributions to the company? If you are forced to wave a resignation letter to cajole your boss into offering you a pay rise, that tells you everything you need to know about your value to the company.  Why stay with an employer who only recognises your achievements when is no immediate alternative?

Don’t expect another pay rise in the foreseeable future : If your boss raises your salary to entice you to stay don’t expect another increase at your next performance review. It’s highly likely that your counter offer will be the last pay rise you’ll see for a while.

You’ll be frozen out : Frankly, you’ve blown it. A counter offer is generally a strategy to keep you in position until your replacement has been identified. Expect to be subtly (or not so subtly) sidelined from new projects or team meetings.  Candidates who accept a counter offer frequently find themselves isolated and their responsibilities diluted - and if a round of job losses is necessary in the future guess who’ll be at the top of the pile?

You’ve burned all of your bridges : .. and that’s no mean feat! Not only have you destroyed any trust with your current company, when reality starts to sink in and you realise the error of your ways, it’s unlikely that your prospective employer will welcome you back with open arms.  Expect a similar reaction if you’ve worked with a recruiter to secure your job offer.

The odds are against you : Statistics vary but, roughly speaking, around 90% of employees who accept a counter offer recommence their job search within six months and leave their employer within a year.  Having spent 18 years as a recruiter I can certainly vouch for those figures.  While extra cash and benefits may blur the reasons you originally looked for another job, it won’t erase them completely. Whether your decision was encouraged by poor leadership, a negative culture, lack of career development or a combination of reasons, they’ll be back to haunt you before too long.

Your new employer values you : You no doubt accepted the initial job offer after extensive soul searching and contemplation.  You’ve probably battled through a lengthy hiring process, and emerged victorious against some stiff competition from other candidates.  It’s in the new employer’s interests to ensure your experience with their company is a mutually beneficial one. They are investing in your long term career and they are interested in YOU.  Where's your dilemma?

The only alternative to avoiding the predicament arising from a counter offer is to address the issues that prompt you to look for another job before things get desperate.  If your boss isn’t listening or continues to renege on promises, there's no decision to make. Embrace your new job and its myriad opportunities without a backward glance.

Kate Smedley is a freelance writer and career coach.

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