You’ve been interviewing for a job, and finally, got the perfect offer. You gladly accept it and submit your resignation letter to your boss and HR. Then a few days later, your boss wants to meet. They tell you that you are an asset to the team and they don’t want to see you go. After some back and forth, they throw out a counteroffer that’s hard to resist.
Now what: should you accept a counteroffer or move on to the new company? This post will help you figure out the best course of action.
Should You Accept a Counteroffer?
The decision to accept a counteroffer from your current employer is yours to make. But you might understand the pros and cons of doing so. On the pro side, you get to keep your old (and hopefully, loved) job and a bigger paycheck. On the con side, if money weren’t the only reason for leaving, you’ll likely get back to interviewing within a year or so.
Counteroffers are an old tick in employers’ books. However, they are happening more frequently now. The job market in 2022 is challenging. More than 80% of companies report that they are struggling with staffing issues. By offering existing employees a counteroffer they may avoid the costs of recruiting, hiring, and onboarding — and the company won’t stay understaffed.
There is some data to back this up. For example, if you accept a counteroffer there is a 52% chance that you will remain with the organization for at least another year. Yet, only 8% of employees stay longer than 3 years after accepting a counteroffer. This data pretty much aligns with another study showing that 50% of workers accepting a counteroffer will leave within a year.
For employers, counteroffers are a bit of a gamble. Yet, they are increasingly popular. For the most part, 50% of workers will receive a counteroffer from their employer. It usually comes within a few days of giving notice.
Big Tech firms, in particular, have a reputation for dishing counteroffers (primarily because they can afford to). But Google, for example, now requires bargaining employees to show proof of the new job offer before countering the proposed pay.
When Should You Accept a Counteroffer?
So you’ve been tempted with a counteroffer. Here are some good reasons why you should seriously consider accepting it:
- Your decision to leave was money-driven and you otherwise enjoy your job. You’ve gone job searching because you’ve wanted a pay raise (or just wondered how other companies evaluate your skills) and negotiated a better salary during that job interview. If your current employer can match the offer and make you happy, consider accepting it.
- You don’t want to relocate. Relocating is expensive and stressful. Plus, your partner might need to look for a new job too. If a counteroffer allows you to stay where you are, consider it.
- The counteroffer includes a promotion. Your employer not just offers more money, but some advancements up the career ladder. That’s a pretty good option.
- Your employer agrees to address workplace issues. If you wanted to leave because of a workplace conflict or some management issues, but a counteroffer comes with a reassignment to another team, it may be worth the gamble.
That said: you should only accept a counteroffer if it came in writing. Be wary of employers that make loud promises, but fail to follow up with a written counteroffer, clearly outlining all the terms and conditions for accepting it.
Why You Shouldn’t Accept a Counteroffer
Accepting a counteroffer may also end up not being the best career decision.
Staying with your current employer means missing out on an opportunity for career growth. Plus this decision can taint your professional reputation. Your current employer will know that you are easy to “buy back” — and this might create a not-so-pleasant workplace dynamic.
Career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine says that:
“While in some industries, like academia, it may be common to accept counteroffers, in most it is not. There is just too much of a risk that you’re getting back into a company that clearly only makes a move if they are ready to lose someone.”
Generally, some 40% of senior executives and HR professionals agree that accepting a counteroffer can negatively impact the candidate’s career path.
So before you say “yes”, think about these points.
Counteroffers Are Often a Stalling Measure
You’ve told your boss that you’re quitting and this news caught them off-guard. They don’t have a replacement lined up and don’t want to deal with the loss of an employee right away. So they make a counteroffer to keep you in place for the time being. Then begin leisurely searching for a replacement behind your back.
In some cases, accepting a counteroffer may result in you being let go just a few months later (because your loyalty has been questioned). But you have already missed your opportunity to move on to a better job and have to start all over.
Counteroffers Don’t Address Underlying Issues
A counteroffer is usually about money. Sometimes benefits or better hours are added to the equation. While it is tempting to stay because of better pay, seriously consider why you wanted to move on in the first place.
At the same time, the salary bump may not end up being as significant as you think. Between the rising inflation rates and lifestyle creep, even significant pay can become fairly meaningless.
So ask yourself again, if this sum really warrants your tolerance of:
- Toxic management
- Poor training
- Long working hours
- Stress and overwork
You might also wonder why money issues are only addressed when you threaten to leave.
In most cases, that’s because an employer is more likely to throw money at you than to address serious workplace issues. Keep in mind that even though the counteroffer is significant to you, it may not be to your employer as they are already skimping on regular salary reviews.
Your Career Growth Could Stall
Even though you are given more money to stay, your loyalty may be in question. Your boss may see you as a risk for leaving the organization. Because of this, they could be hesitant to promote you or offer you any sort of growth opportunity. From their point of view, investing in your professional development could be risky.
If your counteroffer doesn’t include serious conversations about your career goals or professional development, proceed with caution. You could be ahead of the game in the short term but experience long-term career stagnation.
Also, your pay could also be locked into place for quite a long time after you’ve accepted a counteroffer.
Your Loyalty Could Be Questioned
Will accepting a counteroffer change your boss’ view of you? This may not be extremely common, but it does happen.
You just indicated your willingness to leave the team. This could lead to resentment and distrust amongst your boss and coworkers. In a workplace where loyalty and teamwork are key, that could make a big difference.
So Should You Accept a Counteroffer From Your Current Employer or Not?
The short answer is – it depends. First, have you accepted the new job offer, or are you just considering it? If you have accepted it and now want to back out, things get a little dicey. Going back on your word can damage your professional reputation. You will be seen as someone who can’t be trusted to stand by professional agreements. In that case, you should probably reject the counteroffer with a polite explanation. Should you want to entertain a counteroffer, speak with your current employer before you say “yes” to a new job offer.
Ask yourself what will happen if you accept the counteroffer. Will the problems you had with your current job be solved? Will you gain more in the long term if you leave? Do you trust your current employer to address the concerns you’ve voiced? How will each decision help you reach your goals?
Take the time to mull over the above questions and then make the final decision.