Why you should never accept a counter offer


You’ve spent a lot of time searching for a new position, applying for jobs and going to interviews to secure a better position than the one you’re in now. You finally have that new job offer you’ve been hoping for, written your resignation letter and told your boss the news. Then comes something you weren’t expecting: a counter offer. What should you do?

Employers won’t always try to counter your new offer and convince you to stay, but the ones that do have many reasons for doing so. Generally, a company may try hard to keep you because they genuinely feel that you are a major asset to their organization and believe it would be very difficult to find someone else like you. Unfortunately, more often than not, employers will counter in a knee-jerk reaction when they realize how much time and effort it may take them to search for a replacement.

Employers are usually willing to match your new salary, or even go above it. Typically, they counter above the new salary because the employer feels the increase in pay is still less than the resources required to find your replacement. In addition to a salary increase, your employer may ask about other areas that could use improvement. In turn, they will promise to find ways to improve in those areas.

Even though a bump in salary or the promise to “change” may seem like legitimate reasons to stay, they aren’t necessarily great reasons. There are some major points worth considering before accepting the counter offer.

Why did you start looking in the first place?
If you’ve already gotten an offer for a new job, then obviously you felt compelled to look for a position outside of your current organization. The question you have to ask yourself is, “What aspects of your current organization made you unhappy enough to look for a new position?” If salary was your single reason for looking elsewhere, then a simple salary increase from your current employer may seem like a good reason for you to stay. Even if you obtain a salary increase, you should be asking yourself, “If it took me threatening to leave in order to get a pay increase, what will it take to get my next promotion?”
Unfortunately, most job seekers have reasons other than salary to leave their current position. If this is the case, it’s not very likely that your company will be able to do enough to overcome these shortfalls and provide enough of a guarantee to warrant staying on and accepting their counter offer.

Will you lose your employer’s trust?
If you decide to take the counter offer and stay with your current employer, can you really count on them putting their full trust in you in the future? The company already knows you’ve been close to leaving before and may be expecting you to do the same in the near future. Employers will often be hesitant to delegate large-scale projects to you in fear that you may leave the company – and the project – incomplete. Also, though it may be unethical, occasionally organizations will convince employees to stay but will actively be searching for others to replace them.

Are you prepared to burn bridges?
Progressing through the entire interview process to the offer stage tells the employer that you are very interested in the position. By taking time away from your current job to interview, you’re leading the employer to believe you’re willing to leave your current position to advance your career. Getting all the way to the offer stage of the hiring process only to back out and remain at your current position will very likely take you out of any further consideration for that organization in the future. Even though the company feels you are a strong enough candidate to offer you a position, backing out at the last minute will almost always burn any bridges and ruin your chances of employment with the that company later.

If you stay, are things really going to change?
Employers may promise you the world: a higher salary, more responsibilities or better perks to get you to stay. Be sure to keep in mind that these promises are usually made as a last resort to avoid searching for a replacement. Often, employees accept counter offers expecting all the changes to be made, but quickly realize things are the same as they were before. While the counter offer and promises of change may seem good on the surface, figures from the National Employment Association reveal that 80 percent of those who accept counter offers end up leaving within the next six months. This can stem from many things including broken promises, or the employer simply has lost trust in you and decides to hire someone new.

If you’re able to answer the above questions, you should be able to effectively determine if taking a counter offer will be the correct course of action for you. Taking a new position and changing employers can be scary. If you do end up taking the counter offer, do all you can to make sure you’re part of the 20 percent that stay. Looking for assistance with your job search? Reach out to us to request a consultation.

About the author
Brian Huie is the Vice President of Synergis and a veteran of the IT staffing industry. He began his career as a technical recruiter for a multinational staffing firm. His early, hands-on recruiting work gave him invaluable operational knowledge and candidate insight to advance his career from account management and branch management to his current senior leadership position. Brian’s combination of business acumen and his ability to build mutually beneficial relationships has resulted in many pleased Synergis clients. In his spare time, Brian enjoys spending time with his family, traveling and cooking.