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You’ve Received a Counter Offer, Now What?


The counter offer is a big grey area of job searches. First step: don’t panic.

Covertly, you’ve managed to find a great job to move to. You’ve taken sick days to go to interviews which you’ve nailed, of course (and if interviews freak you out, read our blog post about acing your interview right here); you’ve made arrangements, you’ve informed your family, you’ve done everything you needed to do to move jobs the right way. The only thing left to do is to give your boss your notice.

But wait just a second! Later that afternoon, you get pulled into a meeting. Your boss is willing to offer you a 15% raise if you decide to stay. What do you do?

It might seem unlikely to you now, but counter offers happen all the time, and believe it or not, they’re not always for your benefit. Sometimes these stories have happy endings, but very rarely do they pan out well for the employee. While there may appear to be pros to receiving a counter offer from your boss, a raise isn’t likely to be considered an asset, if it lights a fire under your employer to find a replacement for you. Retention can sometimes be the name of the game in cases like this, however  that doesn’t usually subsist for very long.

When a counter offer is extended to an employee, it’s usually done in a state of panic from your current employer. It can depend upon how crucial your role is. Management and technical positions in the middle of a large project may receive counter offers as a response to “bad timing”, as they feel the crunch from their clients and aren’t immediately afforded the time to replace you.

Keep this in mind: accepting a counter offer will, in the long run, create animosity between you and your company. Immediately the way your company views you will change. You will no longer be considered a part of the team, but rather a “free agent” – someone in search of greener pastures. By looking for another job, you’ve rejected the culture of your current employer, and that will make you stick out like a sore thumb.

Even if your decision to leave was purely financial, people will often adopt their own stance on your retention, which could end up ruining any enjoyment you were getting out of your job. What can you do to counteract this? Be proactive!

Before you start looking for a new job, it’s important that you exhaust all of your options with your current employer. Is there a possibility of receiving a raise? Can you change some of your duties? Is there room for growth in your role? Only once you’ve received a concrete “No” to all these answers should you start looking for a new role. That way, if you do receive a counter offer, you’ll be able to see it for what it truly is; a bid by your company to find the time to replace you at a later date.

Choosing to remain anonymous, a vice president of staffing from a Fortune 500 company provided the following insight: “Our theory is that anyone who can get another job can also get more money. And if we’re pushed into making promises about future promotions to keep someone on board, it gets to be real messy, and I have to wonder about that employee’s commitment.”

Commitment is a big part of any job, and even employees who have accepted counter offers feel it start to slip away. On average, 70% of employees who accept a counter offer say that they are not as dedicated to their role, and notice a drop in their productivity.

Why? Because a job is more than the pay-cheque alone.

Before you accept a counter offer, it’s important that you remember why you wanted to leave in the first place; unmotivated employees, poor responses from upper management, difficulty with corporate culture, poor management from your superiors, and many other aspects of your job could have motivated you to leave. It’s worth reminding yourself of all the reasons you wanted to move on, because none of these things will change if you decide to accept a counter offer. In addition, you have the added strain of your superiors who will feel as if you’ve been paid to stay.

What’s worse? You found a job at an amazing company, but you accepted a counter offer from your current place of employment. There is a very slim chance that the company you interviewed with will consider you again in the future. The crown jewel of employment is commitment, and deciding to stay at your current employer for the sake of a larger paycheque does not make you look committed.

Surveys show that 70% – 80% of those employees who have accepted counter offers in the past admitted that they were looking for work again in less than a year. While there may have been a financial benefit over the short term, most would agree that counter offers do not support a long term employment strategy.

So, you’ve been offered a 15% raise as a counter offer. What do you do? Smile, be gracious, and politely refuse. Change is good, and sometimes, more than a simple raise, a fresh start is exactly what you need!

Good luck!

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