Counter Offers - Why You Should Almost Always Not Accept

So you've landed a new job and you've tendered your resignation, only for your current employer to make you an offer. Should you take it or not?

The answer is almost always 'no'.

You may feel flattered: you've likely been offered more money, you're probably being praised and told how valued you are. You might even be experiencing emotional or psychological pressure. But it's important to understand why counter-offers are made:

  • first, employee resignations can hurt a manager's record;
  • second, when an employee leaves it usually causes a lot of disruption;
  • third, recruiting and training a replacement costs a lot more than even a huge pay-rise.

In short, it is very much in your current employer's interests to keep you on - at least until they can find someone to do your job. It is almost always not in your interests to stay, and we'll run through the main reasons for this.

Offered a raise? You had to quit to get it.

If your employer can afford the raise now, then it's pretty likely that they were able to afford it before. And where is that money coming from - is that just your next raise in advance?

How secure is your job, now that you've quit?

It's a safe bet that your employers are now looking for someone who could replace you, in case you change your mind again. And what if times get tough and they need to make people redundant? Again, it's a safe bet that your name will be at the top of the list of people to let go.

What about your career prospects?

Your commitment to your employers is now in question. If you think that won't impact your chances of promotion you're fooling yourself.

Your workplace relationships could well suffer

Imagine that you are your manager. What would you think about you? Would you still trust this person to take on important work? Now imagine that you're one of your colleagues. You find out that someone in the office very nearly left but decided to stay. You don't know for sure, but you suspect they're now receiving more money than they were before - and you're not.

It hardly needs to be said that mistrust, suspicion and resentment are very counter-productive in the workplace.

What about your wider network?

You might hear this a lot, but it's not a cliche - relationships really are everything in recruitment. When you accept a counter-offer you go back on your word with your prospective employer. Bridge burnt. You may well lose your recruiter their fee, which is not going to endear you to them. And you might even damage your credibility within your wider network.

There's no way of getting round it: you said you'd do one thing, then you did another. And, if you did it for more money, then you've sent a very clear message about what motivates you the most. It might come back to bite you further down the line, and the worst thing is you'll probably never know.

You're probably going to leave anyway...

It's often said that most who accept counter-offers find themselves either leaving or being let go within six to twelve months. Definitive information is hard to find (there are no recent studies), but here's some UK-specific information from 2013-2016 from an experienced recruiter revealing that in their experience:

  • half those who accept their counter-offer are looking for another job after two months; and
  • 70% of those who accept their counter-offer are no longer with the same employer after 6 months.

... because more money is rarely the answer

This is the most important thing to remember. If the counter-offer is an offer of a bigger salary then - unless your reason for leaving was that you wanted a raise - then it doesn't solve a thing.

We talk to people looking for jobs every day and 'more money' is far from the most common reason that they are frustrated in their current job.

Whilst it provides an initial boost to the morale, a higher salary is NOT the answer to these problems:

  • if you felt bored, or were not being challenged before, that won't change;
  • if you were being over-worked that won't change - in fact you might even be given more to do if you accept more money;
  • if the hours or the commute were too long neither will be shorter;
  • if you didn't get on with someone it won't be different - especially if that person was your manager;
  • if you felt you were overlooked for promotion before then you have not improved your prospects.

Whatever made you look for a new job, don't forget it just because you've been offered a raise. You were unhappy and it's very unlikely that money will change that for more than a month or two. The rot will set in again, and you'll be in a job you can't stand, having turned down another that could just have been that fresh start you needed so badly.

When you might want to consider the counter-offer

If the counter-offer actually addresses all the reasons you had for wanting to leave then it could be worth considering. But in most cases our advice would still be to reject it. Ask yourself:

Did you raise your concerns before?

It almost goes without saying that you should have.

So, why were they not acted on before?

Why should you have to leave to be appreciated? Do you think your employer will honour this agreement? And haven't you just been offered a new job that is everything that was lacking in your current one?

Our advice would be to thank your employer for the offer but say that your mind is made up.