A counter offer feels great - it's nice to be wanted. But don't think for one minute you are actually in control.
Its crunch time – accept the new job or the counter offer your boss has just offered in response to you saying you are leaving.
Although you were thrilled to land a new job, you are now having doubts, serious doubts.
After all, a new job involves risk.
New company, new duties, new challenges, new work mates, and of course the big one – a new boss.
When faced with the unknown, it’s tempting to just stay where you are, I know.
So very tempting.
Especially now they have told you how important you are to them and given you more money and perks.
But, and I truly hate to burst your happy bubble of ‘feeling the love,’ there are other things going on here that I want you to be aware of before you say “OK, you’ve twisted my arm, I’m going to stay”.
AKA – “OK you win, I’ll stay.”
And that’s my main point – you stay, they win – but more on that later.
Let’s dive in deeper.
What is a counter offer?
If you have one you will already know, but if this hasn’t happened to you yet, let me explain.
A counter offer from a current employer is a response to an employee's resignation, in which the employer presents an alternative compensation package or set of benefits in an attempt to persuade the employee to reconsider leaving the organisation.
Counter offers aim to address the reasons behind the employee's decision to resign and to prevent their departure, as retaining skilled and valuable employees is a priority for most organisations.
Counter offer examples
Depending on your industry, skill level, and location, counter offers come in all shapes, sizes, and flavours such as:
Salary Increase: Offering a higher base salary or a raise to match or exceed the competitor's offer.
Performance Bonuses: Providing performance-based bonuses or incentives tied to specific goals and achievements.
Stock Options: Granting stock options or equity in the company, which can potentially increase in value over time.
Additional Vacation Time: Offering extra paid time off or vacation days.
Flexible Work Arrangements: Allowing for flexible hours, remote work, or compressed workweeks to improve work-life balance.
Career Development Opportunities: Investing in the employee's professional growth, such as funding additional training, courses, or certifications.
Promotion: Promising a clear path to advancement or a promotion in the near future.
Improved Benefits Package: Enhancing health insurance, retirement plans, or other fringe benefits.
Signing Bonus: Providing a one-time bonus or signing incentive to remain with the company.
Relocation Assistance: Offering assistance if the employee is required to move for the job.
Better Work Conditions: Making improvements to the work environment, equipment, or facilities.
Project Ownership: Assigning more significant responsibilities or ownership of critical projects.
Performance Reviews: Committing to more regular performance evaluations and potential salary adjustments based on merit.
Non-Compete Agreement Revisions: Adjusting non-compete or non-solicitation clauses to be more favourable to the employee.
Work-Life Balance Support: Introducing initiatives like on-site childcare, wellness programs, or stress management resources.
Mentorship or Coaching: Offering access to mentorship or coaching programs to support career development.
Additional Perks: Providing additional perks like gym memberships, transportation subsidies, or meal allowances.
Recognition and Appreciation: Publicly acknowledging the employee's contributions and value to the company.
Customised Packages: Tailoring the counter offer to address the specific concerns or desires of the employee.
So now you may be thinking, what’s not to like about accepting a counter offer?
You don’t have the hassle of leaping into the unknown of another organisation plus you get what you really wanted all along.
Yes, it all sounds perfect, but you need to understand what is going on in the private closed door meetings your managers have before your counter offer is presented to you.
The things they say to make you stay
Unless an employee is underperforming, a resignation means just one thing to management – a problem.
Of course they don’t want you to leave if you are doing well.
Let’s be honest here, they also don’t want you to leave if you are doing OK.
In short, they don’t want a problem.
So the message and offer you receive when you try to leave needs to be put into context to truly understand what they are really offering you.
Invariably, this comes down to three scenarios.
Don’t go - We were just about to promote you/give you a raise.
This proves that they could have before - but chose not to.
So why did it take your resignation for them to take action?
“It’s actually great that this has come up because we know that you deserve more, and we were just about to give it to you.”
This speaks to their organisational culture or the particular management style of your immediate boss.
Think back to your performance reviews.
Were you heard and were your achievements and commitment acknowledged?
If you stay, what is the chance of this happening again?
At a rough guess I would say probably 100%.
Don’t go - You are irreplaceable, you are so important to us
Of course, you are replaceable – everyone is.
The harsh reality is that it’s cheaper to keep you than hire someone else.
The time – it would take roughly 3 months to recruit your replacement by the time they have advertised, interviewed, taken up references, and honoured a notice period.
The money – it all adds up quickly with advertising, recruitment agency fees, and the temporary disruption for a department or team.
Don’t go – it will be different now
Whatever you told them you didn’t like or were not happy about, they are now going to magically put that right.
“We hear you and things will change.”
This is the most honest thing they will say to you – because sure it will be different.
You now have a huge target on your back.
When they offer you more, they will expect more.
Your colleagues will know – and resent you for being paid more than them.
And as if that wasn't enough, you are now classed as a ‘flight risk.’
Despite what they say, the trust is gone and therefore their long-term commitment to you is gone too.
The moment you sign that counter offer, you have lost the power in your relationship with your employer.
But in addition to this, there is further potential damage for your career going forwards if you accept a counter offer and decline a job offer.
The knock-on effect of accepting a counter offer
If you accept a counter offer, you are potentially burning bridges with both companies and recruiters.
Let me explain with an example of a candidate I have been working with.
Sarah applied for a Payroll Officer job for a company that I am acting as an internal recruiter for.
We went through the whole process – screening calls, interviews, references, and honouring a notice period.
However, her current company didn’t want her to leave and made her a counter offer with a higher salary and lots of promises.
She felt conflicted and three weeks after receiving our offer and getting constant pressure from her employer, she decided to stay where she was.
How did my client feel?
In a word, livid.
So much wasted time plus we turned down other great applicants in the process.
We went back to them but, as so much time had passed, they were understandably no longer available.
This meant that we had to start all over again.
But that’s not the end to this story.
Sarah came back to me this week, three months after rejecting our offer, asking if we had any current opportunities.
Things hadn't quite worked out again because the promises her employer made on resigning where not delivered.
She told me that she really regretted not accepting the job offer and now realises that she made a big mistake.
I forwarded her resume again, but can you guess what the hiring manager’s response was?
“No way. Forget it. I don’t trust her at all.”
So if you are thinking of accepting a counter offer, think about the danger of burning bridges with a company you may want to work for in the future.
But the potential damage doesn't just stop there.
You need to think about recruiters too.
Recruiters all use some form of CRM or Applicant Tracking System to help them organise job applications and candidate details.
Not only do these filter and categorise applicants, they also allow them make comments and track past activity for individuals.
Trust me, if you have let a recruiter down, it meant that they didn’t get paid that week for the work they put into your application.
This means that in the future when you apply for a position, a red flag may come up in their system on your record.
If you are the only candidate they have for a particular role, you will still be OK.
But if they have other equally impressive applicants, they may well choose them instead of you because you let them down first time round.
Do counter offers actually work?
Yes, they happen everyday especially when it involves competitive talent.
Statistics show that 57% of people accept counter offers from their current employers.
This is because people often feel that their company and their personal situation is somehow unique.
They justify it by saying something like “I understand it's not a great idea for most people but because [insert whatever reason they have] it’s different in my case”.
Whatever the reason, no, it isn’t.
Undoubtedly it is so much easier to choose the comfort of a job and company you already know rather than take a risk with a new job but sadly 80% of candidates who accept a counter offer from their current employer end up leaving within 6 months.
So, how should you respond to a counter offer?
Thank them – don’t burn bridges for the future.
If they offer a real and substantial change ie removing a specific toxic boss or a total organisational change, consider it if that was the only reason you were leaving.
If it is truly worth staying, stay, but be absolutely sure you are not choosing the easy option because you will regret it later.
If their counter offer is just based on money, perks, and promises, reject their offer and take the new job.
If you are tempted, remember all the reasons why you applied elsewhere in the first place.
Accept your new job and embrace all the changes and challenges it will throw at you.
This way you can enjoy your new personal and professional growth with the comfort of knowing you trusted your judgement, backed yourself, and made the right choice.