Should You Accept A Counter Offer?

Should you accept the counter offer your employer will make? Almost certainly not. Without even looking at the relative merits of an offer or the counter offer it is a sobering statistic that 80% of people who have accepted a counter offer will not be at their current employer in six months and 93% will not be there in eighteen months’ time. This is because they will have subsequently realised why they were leaving in the first place and resigned again chosen to move or worse still been moved on by their current employer.

Changing jobs is always stressful and involves moving into a culture where you are unproven and often away from a comfortable environment where you have established friends and a good reputation. Securing a new job has taken time, effort and hard work from you. Don’t lose sight of why you were willing to commit that. Being “bought back” by your existing employer is flattering. A well-structured counter offer should address all of the reasons why you were looking in the first place and superficially offer more than the new employer, but they seldom do. Most counter offers don’t actually address the reasons why you wanted to leave in the first place, but let’s assume that it does, is that enough? A chance to wipe away all of the problems is hard to resist, but resist you must. Instead of considering the counter offer from your own perspective consider what the employer is doing. When you told your employer you were going you presented them with several problems: they have to replace you which will be expensive (recruitment fee/higher salary), you may take business away from them when you leave and your departure may have a knock on effect on the rest of the team. The employer’s first reaction is how do we stop this person leaving now, closely followed by let’s get a replacement as soon as possible irrespective of whether you leave. They cannot afford to have their business jeopardized in the future by a disloyal member of staff.

Consider further your original reasons for leaving and whether they will really be addressed by the counter offer.

Reason for Leaving Counter Offer Consequence
Higher Salary Increased Salary Where is this coming from? Will you have a reduced pay rise next time around? If so what are your options in the future; threaten to leave again? This will be less of a threat the second time around and they may have already employed someone else for this contingency. Why was your pay rise not offered earlier, didn’t the employer value you until you put a gun to their heads or did they lie to you with their justification for not paying you more in the first place? Will the promised increase also be a lie? Offering short term cash is the easiest way to keep someone and takes no effort from the employer. It is an economic decision to save the immediate cost of recruiting a replacement. Salary often isn’t the primary reason for leaving so why is it the primary reason to stay? Have you been bought?
Overlooked for Promotion Promised Promotion Unless this is in writing it is an empty gesture. If the employer thought you should have been promoted they would have done so already. Will any promotion be a tactic to allow them to keep you in the short term until they can get someone at they want to promote without having to be threatened? Much like an increase in salary, if they didn’t think you were worthy of a promotion before you resigned, do they think you’re worth it now? How will it be viewed by your colleagues?
Quality of Work Offered Better Quality of work Where is this coming from? Can your employer really guarantee this? If they reassign work from another staff member of the team will this be permanent or a short term fix to their staffing problem?
Relationships with Superiors or members of the team These issues will be addressed You would almost certainly have complained about these before being driven to look for a new job. Why haven’t they been addressed before? Can they really be addressed in the long term or will this be a sticking plaster? Also, what knock on effect will there be to your internal relationships, not just with the people that you had a “problem” with, but by your wider peer group.
New Challenge Promise of new challenges Why were these not offered before and are they real new challenges or a repackaging of the same?
Reduced hours/more flexibility/better work life balance Promise these will be addressed Will this be a long term change or will it slip when you have turned down the offer. If the firms’ culture is one of “getting their pound of flesh”, how sustainable will it be for you to be given preferential treatment why everyone else works sixty hour weeks?


In addition to looking at the detail of the counter offer it is important to consider how your career will be affected if you choose to stay. Will you be regarded as someone who could resign again in the near future? You have demonstrated that you are no longer loyal to your employer will other loyal employees be promoted, given better work, given bonuses ahead of you or will you just be outside the inner circle? How will your colleagues view you? Will they take the same view as your employer, will they think you are all talk or will they feel sorry for you having been manipulated once more by the boss?

Hopefully you will be reading this before you hand in your notice. You should expect a counter offer and be disappointed if one isn’t forthcoming but you need to be able to view it dispassionately. Please consider any counter offer with the same degree of cynicism with which it was made!