When should you accept a Counteroffer?

So you decide to leave your current position, and boom, as soon as you tell your boss, they eagerly hand you a counteroffer. One thought keeps circling your mind, should I stay, or should I go?

Before you ponder your options, consider this first;

  • Why are they only offering you this now?
  • Did your boss not realise you were unhappy? Or is this a desperate attempt to keep you on while they look for someone new?
  • Do they value you as an employee?

Keep these questions in mind as you read further

The truth about why they’re giving you a counteroffer


Research from Martin Varnier Research (Wall Street Journal) indicates that six to nine months later, 90% of candidates who accepted counteroffers are no longer employed with the same company

Given that harsh dose of reality, counteroffers generally boil down to the following common issues

  • Nine times out of ten, it’s to save themselves, not because they value you as an employee. Your plan to leave will reflect poorly on them and questions may be asked as to what they have done wrong to lose you
  • When an employee, particularly a high-level one, quits, it’s expensive, (and possibly HR budget blowing!), to immediately find someone else. It’s a lot cheaper for the employer to offer you a better deal and then look for someone to replace you. When they find someone more affordable, you may, unfortunately, be pointed towards the door
  • Once your boss realises that you’re thinking of resigning, trust is immediately lost, and it might even be lost amongst your coworkers as well. So if you accept a counteroffer, things can’t just go back to how they were
  • If you need to go elsewhere to find the working conditions or benefits that you need, then your current employer is potentially questionable and probably not where you should be staying long term. A good well-managed company shouldn’t need to make counteroffers – they should know if there are issues already because of their excellent communication and have taken steps to rectify them already
  • If you have to threaten to leave to receive the conditions that you need it begs the question as to whether you’ll need to do that every time – which isn’t realistically tenable for anyone – and certainly shouldn’t be necessary

Before deciding, consider some of these questions

It’s often easier to pick the ‘devil you know’ rather than move to a more significant unknown, and if your manager knows how you operate then they’re likely also to know how to get you to stay

  • Does this counteroffer address the real issues of why I want to leave? Or is it just putting a sticking plaster on it?
  • How badly is my employers’ trust broken?
  • What do I want the next steps in my career to be?
  • How well do I handle change?

Reasons to accept a counteroffer

  1. The counter-offer addresses the actual problems with your job Very rarely does someone want to leave their current position solely for financial reasons, but if your main reason for leaving is your salary, then this is an excellent reason to accept a counteroffer. Just keep in mind that if you’re unhappy with the culture at the company you’re working at or feeling stagnant at your position, a counteroffer isn’t going to change that. A counteroffer will only change surface-level aspects, and it won’t suddenly offer you the perfect scenario
  1. You value security Accepting a counteroffer is very likely to be the more stable choice. There will undoubtedly be less change, so if you like sticking to the status quo, then this can be a reason to accept the counteroffer. However, if you’re not satisfied with your role, then change is probably necessary, especially if you want to develop and grow your career.
  1.  Relocation Let’s say that your current job is in California, and you received a job offer in Boston. If you have a family or enjoy where you live, taking another job and having to move might not be worth the sacrifice. In this case, accepting a counteroffer can be a smart choice to make. Especially when a family is involved, it’s a big sacrifice to pick up and relocate.

So should you accept that counteroffer?

Accepting a counteroffer can be a dangerous game. The second you express the desire to leave your employer might start looking for someone new (and cheaper), and nothing is keeping them from letting you go when they find that candidate. Also, if you’ve already accepted an offer elsewhere and then decide to take the counteroffer, you’re burning a bridge with a possibly great new opportunity.

In the end, whether you choose to stay or go should be based upon where you’ll be happiest and most successful. Evaluate why you were looking to leave your company in the first place, before the counter offer. Ensure that you give yourself the opportunity to grow, whether that means moving onto a new company or staying at your current one. Think through your options carefully, but also follow your gut (and ensure your new contract is watertight!)

Added 30-Jul-2019