By Mark Fenwick, Senior VP, Corporate + Professional Services

Congratulations on the offer!  You’ve put a lot of thought and research into your next career move, and after attending numerous interviews you have received the offer you wanted.  You’re pleased, it’s a fantastic opportunity with a new company that gave you nearly everything you asked for.

Now comes the difficult part – the time to resign.  In many cases this is made more difficult by the counter offer you are about to receive.  Counter offers are typically financial – matching or bettering the offer you have received, emotional – you’re too valuable to us and the team needs you, or both.  Career change is not easy and shouldn’t be taken lightly.  When you receive a counter offer, it is worth revisiting why you were looking in the first place before deciding whether to stay or go.

Why was I looking in the first place?

Whether you actively started to search for a new opportunity or were tempted into considering a new position, something sparked the initial interest.  Certainly enough interest to merit spending time interviewing and deliberating on the offer you have received.  You may have been:

  • Seeking more responsibility
  • Looking for an opportunity with a better company or better growth prospects
  • Unhappy with current work situation
  • Seeking an improved work life/balance
  • Looking for increased compensation

Why is your current employer making the counter offer?

Looking at things from your employer’s perspective, why would they consider extending a counter offer to someone who is looking to leave? (Note: Some employers, as a matter of policy, will never make a counter offer).

  • Valued employee: you’re an excellent employee, they truly value the work you do and would like to redress any issues that may have led to you seeking employment elsewhere
  • The Easy Fix: It’s easier to retain than recruit and train a new employee
  • Panic: They don’t have a back-up plan. It’s a critical time at work, or they hadn’t considered the possibility someone may leave.
  • Cost: As generous as the increased offer may be, recruiting is an expensive process that involves the time of dedicated managers, and various fees and expenses. The raise presented in the counter offer is typically less costly to the company than recruiting someone new.

What if I accept the counter offer?

It’s possible that what you receive in the counter offer plays out in reality.  You might come back to work with a higher compensation plan, more responsibility and better work-life balance.  However, this rarely happens and it is more likely that one of the following scenarios will occur:

  • There is an initial “honeymoon” period, after which conditions at work, or feelings of dissatisfaction return to those that existed prior to receiving the counter offer
  • Nothing changes – whatever promises were made during the counter offer aren’t met. This is particularly relevant to non-monetary changes.
  • Difficulty reintegrating into the team – you are no longer perceived as a team player, other employees may resent any promotion or perceived increase in benefits that you have received.
  • Passed over for promotion – unfortunately, having threatened to quit you are no longer the trusted employee you once were.
  • Let go during restructure – you have played your hand and your employer now considers you a flight risk. As a result, they would rather have you leave on their schedule.
  • Replaced as soon as the employer has had time to find, or train your replacement. This is redressing the panic the employer experienced on finding out that you were planning to leave.

Should I take the counter offer?

At the end of the day, you are the only one who can make this decision.  Be objective, remember why you wanted to leave in the first place, and think about your future if you choose to stay.

Most candidates who accept a counter offer find themselves looking for another opportunity within 6 months.  Unless the only problem with your current work situation is money, chances are good that all of the issues you had will still be relevant in the future.

Accepting a counter offer may result in a situation where you have burned two bridges rather than just one – your existing employer no longer trusts you and you are unlikely to receive a second chance with the employer you turned down.

The best way to handle a counter offer is to be firm in your decision.  Address any issues you have with your current employer before you decide to resign so you can be confident you are making the right choice.  Take a step back and understand why you were looking to leave initially, and don’t let this become an emotional decision.