Dealing with Counter Offers (should I stay or should I go?)

Lynne Griffiths

Counter offers have always been a potential part of the resignation process. However, in what is still a strong candidate market, aggressive counter offering is more common than ever.

As a business travel industry recruiter, we often discuss the likelihood of a counter offer with candidates during the recruitment process. This can highlight to both of us, as the recruitment agency, and to the candidate what their key drivers are for wanting to move on and are they in fact genuinely motivated to move to a new company? Have they identified their drivers for leaving and exhausted all avenues in solving the issues with their current travel industry employer? The key thing here is to avoid the counter offer angst by being honest and open before going down the long recruitment path of a new opportunity. Are you in it for the right reasons? Are you really ready and motivated for change?

A higher salary, improved package, change in responsibilities or even a promotion are just some of the ways organisations will look to hold on to their staff, in turn presenting a reflective situation for the candidate…..should I stay or should I go?

So, what are the arguments for and against accepting a counter offer?

1. Analyse your initial reasons for leaving

Prior to deciding whether to accept a counter offer, it’s important to reconsider your initial reasons for leaving your current job. If the counter offer addresses and resolves your concerns, then accepting it could be a positive move for your career.

2. Consider your personal happiness

It’s likely that the decision to resign and to accept another position was not entirely because of your salary. Study all the elements that made you look for another job in the first instance. This could be your professional responsibilities, future prospects, interoffice relationships or a combination of these factors.

Whatever the reasons were for wanting to change jobs, you would/should have analysed them and made every attempt to fix the issues that were possible to fix. So what does that leave you? Issues that weren’t fixable – the deal-breakers. They were the reasons you went out and found a new job that better fits your career requirements or goals. So why would you suddenly want to stay in your job just because your boss offered you more money?

If you weren’t valuable enough to be given a raise before, why would your boss be willing to give you more money now? Is it because you’ve suddenly become a more valuable employee? Or is it because your manager doesn’t want to deal with the work disruption your departure could create?

3. Consider how your decision to accept may affect your work life

By accepting a counter offer and continuing working with your current employer, your colleagues and managers may view you as less dependable because you were willing to leave. After sharing that you’re no longer interested in working for your employer, there’s a chance that your boss may question your loyalty – even if you do decide to stay. Aside from putting a potential strain on your working relationship, they may also avoid favouring you above other, seemingly more committed, colleagues. For example, promotion opportunities or big projects may be entrusted with someone else instead of you, and your job might be a little less secure. 

4. Do they really want you to stay?

If you’ve been feeling underappreciated for a while, aside from wondering why it’s taken a resignation letter (and not your consistent hard work) for them to acknowledge your efforts, you may also be questioning their intentions. For example, recruiting can be a long and expensive process – meaning a counter offer might not necessarily be a long term solution (for either of you). Instead, some employers might use your extended stay as an opportunity to look for a replacement.

5. Will you be motivated enough to deliver?

Accepting a counter offer often means you’ll be accepting more responsibility. So before you jump at the opportunity, ask yourself whether you can live up to the potentially higher expectations that come with an increased salary. Not only will you have to work harder, but you’ll also have to do it in the same work environment you previously wanted to leave, without a promotion. That kind of motivation could be hard to muster, especially if you feel like your boss may be doubting your abilities after you handed in your notice.

6. Beware of the “danger period”

It’s not over even when the contract for the new job is signed! We have had a number of situations in the last few months when the job offer has been accepted and the counter offering continues.

And without engagement during this “danger period” (between acceptance and start date), heads can be turned! Candidates will pull out and stay where they are – and this has happened up to a couple of days before the scheduled start date.

In our experience, accepting a counter offer rarely works out well in the long term and can actually lead to a deterioration in your current work environment due to diminished trust and damage to your own professional reputation.

If you go into a recruitment process with genuine intentions to move to a new opportunity, use that motivation and path to guide your decision making process. Think objectively and think long term.