Why you should not accept a counter offer

By: Lisa Spiteri

So you’ve accepted a fantastic new job, you’ve arranged a meeting with your boss to hand in your resignation and… you’re presented with a counter offer.

Did you see that one coming? It’s fairly obvious really – another company wants you and your current employer suddenly realises that you’re a valuable asset.

It can be very tempting to accept a counter offer – remaining in your current job is a far easier option than moving to the new one, especially when your employer is promising the earth. A nice big salary increase, the promotion you’d been hoping for – they are compelling reasons to stay. But here’s the ‘but’. Flattering as it may seem, employers know very well that recruitment is an expensive process, a counter offer will often be viewed as the cheaper solution. So it’s not necessarily that they want to keep you, more that they don’t want the expense of replacing you.

Which is not to say that all employers will take this line, yours may genuinely be sorry to see you go and will want to do everything they can to keep you. But regardless of your employer’s motives, you need to ask yourself a few questions before jumping at the chance of a £5k pay rise.

Will the offer actually address your reasons for wanting to leave?

Think about why you decided to look for a new position. Earning more money is an attractive thought, but it doesn’t tend to provide the key motivation for moving. So consider carefully what it is about your current job that has made you want to leave. A counter offer will most likely address remuneration and status, but it cannot possibly begin to resolve other more serious issues such as a toxic culture, the quality of work you’re doing, lack of opportunity to progress, lack of recognition of your achievements, poor management. Being paid more simply means that you will tolerate for that bit longer the issues that have made you unhappy or dissatisfied.

Will staying be in your best interests?

If you’re looking to take on a role with greater responsibilities, will your current employer be able to facilitate that? Or will you find yourself bored and frustrated within a few months?

How genuine is the pay rise?

Consider when your next performance review is due and whether you would have been likely to receive a salary increase. It’s possible that your employer is merely offering you the increase that you would be due six months in advance. And is it realistic to expect another increase or promotion six months down the line? The opportunity to progress may not be as good as it seems.

Were you being underpaid?

If your employer can afford to give you a pay rise now, does that mean that they were deliberately under-valuing you before? If you have to go to such extreme lengths as resignation in order to be appreciated, you must surely wonder if your employer is genuine.

What will people think of you?

If you accept the counter offer and stay, don’t expect everything to be hunky-dory. You will have essentially forced your employer’s hand and, by having admitted to looking for another position, they will now question your loyalty. In the event of promotion opportunities or redundancy, you may be considered less favourably than your colleagues who didn’t resign. The vast majority of people who accept counter offers leave their employment within 12 months due to redundancy or termination of their contracts.

And it’s not just your employers who will look upon you differently. Your colleagues may resent the fact that you’ve just brokered a better salary or have been promoted. Your working environment could become uncomfortable.

Does your employer really want you to stay?

Yes, there are employers who don’t want to lose their best sales person and will do what they can do prevent losing valuable skills and knowledge. But counter offers can also be made to buy time, to put contingency plans in place in knowledge that – if you do accept the offer – you are still likely to leave in the not so distant future. Of course, if you’re really good at what you do, your employer won’t want to lose you, but not because it’s you – it will be because of what your move to another company represents i.e. competitor advantage.

What’s good about the new job?

Taking a new job isn’t just about being unhappy with your current position. Think about the opportunities the new role offers. What excites you about the prospects you’ve been offered? Make a list of all the positives about the role and the company – compare them to how you feel about your current job and company.

What will happen if you turn down the new job?

Imagine it’s the company you’ve always put on a pedestal, the one company you’ve always wanted to work for. If you don’t accept the job is there a possibility that you’ll be burning your bridges to ever move to that company?

Counter offers are merely a veneer on a situation – and your interests will rarely be the focal point. The promises may sound good, but statistics show that up to 80% of employees voluntarily leave their employer within six months of accepting a counter offer. If, after all your thinking and consideration, you are still unsure of what to do, talk it through with your recruitment consultant – they will be a good sounding board, plus they will have good knowledge of your new company.

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