3 Dangers of Accepting a Counteroffer

By Jamie Tolson, Lead Technical Recruiter View Comments

counterofferThe scenario typically plays out something like this: you’ve accepted a new job at a different company, and when you head into your manager’s office to resign, he or she offers you a higher salary if you agree to stay put.

We recruiters call this the dreaded “counteroffer,” and it’s fairly common across all industries and employment levels. Although it may be tempting to accept a higher salary instead of changing positions as planned, I strongly discourage candidates from accepting counteroffers for several reasons:

1. You already have one foot out the door.

Your employer now knows you're interested in exploring new opportunities and are no longer loyal to the organization. How does this impact the morale of those you work with directly? It’s a tough stigma to overcome.

"If you send a signal that you're unhappy, and if your boss personalizes your desire to leave, then staying doesn't make sense no matter what they offer you," says Arlene Hirsch, a Chicago career consultant. "Your motives will be suspect from that point on," she says, since your boss will wonder whether your resume is still on the street. If they think you aren’t committed, your company might even actively initiate a search for your replacement. 

According to a survey by a Pittsburgh staffing firm about counteroffers, a staggering 80% of employees say that relationships with co-workers deteriorate and productivity falls among employees who agree to stay; 70% add that counteroffers are perceived by employees as a short-term cure for a long-term problem.

2. It (probably) doesn’t fix the original problem.

Consider this: Why didn't you receive that promotion or pay increase prior to threatening to leave? Even when a counteroffer is proposed and accepted, issues often follow. More than 50% of all employees who accept counteroffers change companies within the following 24 months, reports the survey mentioned above.

And if you were interested in changing jobs because you wanted to take your career in a different direction, needed more flexibility, or didn’t like your team—accepting a counteroffer doesn’t address those problems either. Before you decide to look for a new job, ask yourself what your reasons are for wanting to move—and only accept a counteroffer if it actually fixes those problems.

3. You’ve burned a bridge.

You’ve now disappointed and wasted another company's time and internal resources moving you through their interview process, only for you to back out. If and when you do decide to explore new career options, don’t expect that particular connection or network to jump on the opportunity to hire you again. It’s a hard but important reality to face.

Job transitions can sometimes be a confusing or frustrating process, and it’s important to be self-reflective and honest from the outset. Start a job search with clear motivators and intentions...and then make sure to follow through!

Posted in: IT Consulting