DerrJones Recruiting Solutions

Counter Offer: How Can You Lose?

Does a counter offer seem like the best of both worlds? Two employers fighting over can you lose? Whichever way you go, you're going to make more money. Ah...the good life. Or is it?

Let's take a closer look at the competing forces inherent in a counter offer.

To start, consider your reasons for looking for a new opportunity in the first place. Do any of these fit?

  • Promotional opportunity. There is limited upward mobility in your current organization. The company tends to hire from the outside, rather than promoting from within.
  • Compensation. You're limited by internal equity issues and salary caps. Company results are falling short, so your full bonus opportunity has not been paid out in recent memory.
  • Your boss. Difficult to work with. He's not going anywhere soon, so your promotional opportunities are limited. Maybe he's a micro manager.
  • Corporate culture. The company misses windows of opportunity due to political infighting and cumbersome bureaucracy. There's a consistent failure to recognize top performers. It's a "what have you done for me lately?" kind of environment.
  • Your functional responsibilities. The job is no longer challenging. There's no growth opportunity.

You were enticed into looking for another position for a reason. You were not necessarily running from your current situation. Instead, you were drawn to something better. Something triggered a desire to look elsewhere. This motivation is usually driven by upward career mobility, and the money that comes with it.

Receiving a Counter Offer

By definition, a counter offer means that you've accepted another position, or at a minimum, have an offer in hand.

You tell your boss you're leaving, and suddenly, you are the most valued employee in the organization. The boss asks you for a few days to work something out. He's now interested in figuring out how to give you more responsibility, more money, a bigger office...whatever.

Counter Offer

You're flattered by all of the attention. Chances are you're not only talking to your boss, but to his boss as well. Everyone is telling you how critical you are to the organization, and how they are going to work to make things right for you.

Here it comes.

Your boss is prepared to match the money, the title, and give you more responsibility. It's so much easier to stay. You're a known commodity here. No hard work to prove yourself in a new environment. No need to stretch.

What do you do? Should you take it? Or should you decline?

I know what I would do. It's what I advise all of my candidates to do when confronted with this situation. Be gracious, but turn it down. In fact, you should stop this conversation before it even gets started.

There are a couple of key questions to ask yourself:

  • Why am I so valuable to the organization today, when I was not worth the promotion, the title, the money...yesterday?
  • Why do I need to leave the organization in order to be recognized?

Better yet, ask your boss.

A counter offer will undoubtedly be tempting. Think about what happens if you accept:

  • Resentment. This can be an issue for your boss and your peers.
  • Future increases. Sometimes, you'll get the money, and find out later that the company made an exception to their salary guidelines to keep you. Your next raise may be significantly impacted by these constraints.
  • What's really changed? If your organization doesn't promote from within, or fails to value employees, these cultural issues are not going to change. You may be delaying the inevitable.
  • Questions of loyalty. The next time the company finds a need to cut back, your "disloyalty" will be remembered. It might make it easier to cut your position -- especially if a job was created for you.

There's some research around that suggests that most people who accept a counter offer end up leaving anyway within 6 months.

Don't become a statistic. Accept the offer from your new employer. You'll be doing your career a favor.

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