You’ve finally made the nerve-wracking decision to leave your job. After months of job searching, applying, and making up lame excuses for random absences, your hard work pays off: You finally receive an offer for a job you set your heart on! Triumphantly, you march into your bosses office and hand in your resignation. Surprisingly, he presents you with the offer of a salary increase or a promotion which throws you into a whirl of self-doubt. So should you accept the counter-offer or stick to your guns and make the alternative career move you worked so hard to secure?

Girl feeling as though she's caught in a whirlwind after being made a counter-offer
Girl feeling as though she's caught in a whirlwind after being made a counter-offer
A generous counter-offer can make you seriously doubt why you ever wanted to leave your present employer

Why Do Employers Make Counter-Offers?

Counter-offers are quite understandably, incredibly flattering and can make you feel a whole cocktail of emotions that make you wonder why you ever wanted to leave your employer. But it’s important to remember that a counter-offer from your employer or senior executive within the business is not about you.

Salary aside, the cost to advertise your job, fill the vacancy you leave and train a new hire can run into tens of thousands of pounds. Furthermore, many IT and Digital jobs are difficult to fill right now due to current skills shortages. Such challenging vacancies can remain open for months or even years, inadvertently costing companies money by delaying them from reaching their goals.

Therefore the reason employers make counter-offers is not because they like you and will miss having you around. Although their counter offer may make you feel special, the reason businesses make counter-offers is purely a money-saving exercise.

Lady with hand on her chest laughing while shaking her boss's hand. She obviously feels extremely flattered
Lady with hand on her chest laughing while shaking her boss's hand. She obviously feels extremely flattered
A pay rise or promotion can feel extremely flattering but it’s important not to take it personally, stay level headed and take time to consider your options carefully.

The Psychology Behind Counter-Offers

Your employer understands that after making such a life-changing decision, you will experience what’s knows as cognitive dissonance. This is where you immediately doubt yourself and consider whether your alternative option may have been a better choice.

Cognitive dissonance often also accompanies new job anxiety, this can be all too much for some people to bear. Add to this the many unknown quantities in accepting a new job, you may want to convince yourself that staying with your existing employer is a better deal. Consequently, you may find yourself tempted to accept by consoling yourself with the following thoughts:

  • You may have begun to dislike some of your closest colleagues. But is it easier to learn to tolerate them than go through a period of feeling like the new kid at school?
  • What if your new job doesn’t live up to your expectations? Would you be better off staying where you are long-term?
  • If you don’t live up to your new manager’s expectations might you get fired? Hmmm… better stay put.

Pros and Cons of Accepting a Counter Offer

As we have already seen, replacing employees is a costly irritation and employers often feel forced into making counter-offers. But accepting without giving it serious thought could make you appear flakey and negatively impact your future. That’s why if you find yourself torn between taking the new offer or staying put, it’s a good idea to weigh up the pros and cons of both options seriously. Below are just a few points you may want to consider before making your decision.

Employee being presented with a counter offer by their employer as they try to resign
Employee being presented with a counter offer by their employer as they try to resign
Ahh, here it comes… the counter-offer. Should you stay or should you go?

Consider Your Reasons For Wanting to Leave

Consider your reason for embarking on a job search in the first place and ask yourself whether the counter-offer fixes any of those things? For example, let’s say one of your reasons for leaving was a nightmare commute. No amount of money is going to make your journey to work any more manageable; you’ll still be sitting in the same traffic jam every day. What’s more, you’ll likely spend the whole journey daydreaming about how your new life might have been.

Let’s say the commute was genuinely the only reason you were leaving. If the proposed salary increase is enough to cover the costs of relocating nearer to the office, then that solves your problem. In this case, you have a valid reason for accepting the offer.

Might Accepting a Counter-Offer Destroy Your Employer’s Trust In you?

Even though they made you the counter-offer, making a U-turn on your decision to leave could cause your employer to question your loyalty. This could leave the company feeling reluctant to invest in paying for future training opportunities for you. If they doubt you will stick around long term, this could negatively impact your future career within the business.

Might You End up Burning Bridges With Colleagues by Staying?

Doesn’t good news travel fast around the office, especially amongst disgruntled workers? If word goes around that you decided to stay because you got a pay rise, what will they think of you? Might they wonder if you’ll do it again to get what you want in future? Of course, it’s none of their business, and we don’t go to work to make friends do we? Although the atmosphere could get quite uncomfortable if your co-workers no longer trust you.

Co-workers gossiping behind their colleague's back
Co-workers gossiping behind their colleague's back
Will your colleagues still trust you when you know you only stayed because the boss made you an offer you couldn’t refuse?

Question Where The Money Is Coming From

If the money was always available to give you a pay rise, why has the company never done it before? Could it be that your colleagues will get a pay rise in the new year but you won’t because you’ve already had yours?

Does Your New Position Really Exist?

If you decide to stay because your boss creates a new job title for you, you should question whether it’s genuine. Consider whether this is just your employer’s way of buying time to find your replacement. Once they do, might they make your position redundant because you made yourself expendable.

Could Accepting a Counter-Offer Damage Your Professional Reputation?

Backing out from a deal never goes down well with the jilted party. Recruiters and hiring managers have good memories for things like that. What’s more, those hiring managers and recruiters also make strategic career moves of their own. Put those two things together and there’s no telling what damage you could do to your future career by turning down an offer from Company X. Not only will you blow your chances of ever working there but who’s to say those hiring managers won’t go on to work at Company Y or Z in future? You may also destroy your chances of working at those other companies too.

Do Counter-Offers Work?

It’s sad that so many people accept counter-offers when it very rarely works out. If you’re still unsure whether you should stay or go, here are some statistics that might help you make up your mind:

  • 57% of those people will accept the proposal
  • 50% of their CVs appear on the job boards again within two months
  • Less than 80% of people who accept-counter offers don’t remain longer than six months in the job
  • Less than 90% will make it past a year
  • 40% of senior executives and HR leaders believe that accepting a counter-offer can damage your career
  • 80% of senior executives and 60% of HR leaders said they would trust candidates less if they decided to stay with the company
  • Counter-offers don’t work out 95% of the time
Man with wide eyes and gaping mouth in shock at the statistics he just learnt!
Man with wide eyes and gaping mouth in shock at the statistics he just learnt!
But they made me the offer! How can they trust me less for accepting it? That’s just business, my friend!

A Few Final Thoughts On Counter Offers

Consider counteroffers seriously. Is a higher salary or a new location or a promised promotion what you really want? Does a salary increase or fancy new job title improve your circumstances in your present employment? Keep in mind the reasons why you decided to resign in the first place and only accept a counteroffer if it resolves these issues.

Your resignation tells your employer that you’re unhappy, and once you make that known, there will always be a question mark hanging over you. You may not find yourself in line for future promotions, or receive a salary increase the next time a review happens. Moreover, if your employer has to cut back on staff, you may be the first to get the cut.

Accepting a counteroffer may leave you feeling dissatisfied; that you’ve been bought by your employer. And anyway, what kind of company do you work for if you have to threaten to resign before they give you what you’re worth? Accepting a counteroffer seldom changes those factors that made you want to look for a new job in the first place.

For all these reasons and more, if you receive a job offer for a position you’ve worked hard to get, your best option is almost always looking to the future.

We hope you found this post useful. If you did, please feel free to share it on social media where others can find it and benefit from it too.

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