The Counteroffer: Six Reasons to Not Accept

Mar 02, 2016


Pennsylvania CPA Journal

You begin a job search for a reason. Whether it’s about a more challenging opportunity, earning more money, or being mentored by a dynamic leader, you are ready for a change. Let’s say you have made every attempt to improve your current situation. If you felt you were underpaid, you asked for a raise. If you were not being challenged in your job, you have sought opportunities to increase your responsibility to broaden and deepen your work experience. If these efforts did not work, you are now at a place to consider exploring new opportunities and finding a position that better fits your career goals.

After doing extensive career research and embarking on a job search, an ideal opportunity has been presented to you. You accept and resign from your current role. Now your boss presents you with a counteroffer.

But why? Are you suddenly a more valuable employee, worthy of a larger salary, increased responsibility, or more flexibility? More likely your boss is panicking. It is easier and less costly to make concessions to keep you than to take the time and pay the costs necessary to replace you.

Once you have made your decision to depart, don’t be swayed by a counteroffer. In addition to making promises about salary and new responsibilities, management may use your colleagues to play on your emotional attachments. This may include mentioning how disappointed they are in your decision, or how you are a natural fit to grow into a more senior position. Don’t let any of this cloud your judgment. If you were thoughtful and careful about your decision to leave and accept a new position you felt was right, then feel secure about the process you went through. Trust your judgment and remember that this move is about your career.

Here are six reasons why you should not accept a counteroffer:

  • Your company is only making the offer under threat. It should have never have gotten this far. You made a sincere attempt to improve your current situation, so if you were that valuable to the company they would have fixed the obstacles prior to you resigning.
  • Your underlying reasons for leaving haven’t changed. While money can be part of the reason that you are leaving, more often there are other factors that caused you to look: corporate culture, current leadership, boredom. Whatever the root causes were, they have not changed.
  • Your boss is only going to keep you until you can be replaced. It is possible your employer may just want time to search for your replacement, figuring that it’s only a matter of time until you start another job search. You may be pushed out soon after you accept a counteroffer.
  • Your relationship with your coworkers will be affected. How will your coworkers react when they hear of the counteroffer? Salary may be confidential, but coworkers will notice extra benefits such as working from home or additional vacation time. This can cause resentment toward you.
  • Your reputation within the company will be affected. Whether you get a promotion, more money, or better benefits as part of a counteroffer, what happens next time there is a round of promotions or raises? Will you be passed over? Or if there are cutbacks, will you be on the list?
  • Your reputation within the business community will be affected. You should remember your reputation is tied to your actions. Consider what may happen if you accept a counteroffer and years later find yourself interviewing for a position at the company or with the individual whose job offer you ultimately turned down. That’s a dangerous position to put yourself in.

Recently, more executives seem to be getting and accepting counteroffers because of an inconsistent job market. Companies are operating with leaner staffs, and any defections from the ranks create problems for those who remain. A counteroffer isn’t about what’s best for you; it’s about what’s best for the company. There may be times when accepting a counteroffer has worked out (there are always exceptions), but it is a bad idea so frequently that you should be extremely cautious before doing so.

The best way to deal with a counter-offer is to not allow it to occur. Beginning the discussion induces the company to invest time and resources into enticing you to stay. Keep your resignation simple and direct. Make it clear that you have thought through your decision and that you will not entertain a counteroffer. If your boss asks if there is anything he or she can do to keep you, do not rehash old grievances or try to explain your reasons for leaving. A clear message that your decision is final should stop your company from even making a counteroffer.

Take an active part in your own career management. If your company is interested in your progression, you’ll know it before you decide to resign. If you change your mind and stay, your motives and methods will always be suspect. Keep a steady course and don’t look back.


Mary M. Porreca is an executive recruiter for Attolon Partners LLC in Philadelphia. She can be reached at mporreca@attolon.com.
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