Why you shouldn't accept a counteroffer

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You’ve made up your mind to move on, accepted a position elsewhere, and tendered your resignation to your boss. Then, out of nowhere, a snag in your plan: a counteroffer tempting you to stay at your current company.

The counteroffer might lure you with more money, a promotion, or better benefits, and you might consider saying “Okay!” But it’s rarely a good idea.


Let’s face it, counteroffers are usually a case of “too little, too late.” Chances are pretty good that your decision to move on from your current job wasn’t just about money. If it was, you would have asked for a raise (and gotten it, if they valued you). Once your decision to leave is solidified enough to actually resign, changing your mind can be bad for your own morale - and for your relationship with company leadership.

“50 to 80 percent of people  leave their employer within six months of accepting a counteroffer. It’s easy to make promises to retain employees. But following through on those is another story.” - Marco Maranzano, Vice President, Robert Walters.

How it feels to you

Why did you imagine moving on in the first place? Be honest with yourself and revisit your original list of reasons for wanting to leave - things that go beyond money, like your relationship with your boss or coworkers, the company culture, and the workload. If you look closely, you’ll probably realize that the counteroffer doesn’t resolve them all. You probably already tried to make your current situation work, and found that job hunting was a last resort. Giving it one more try might just delay the inevitable and waste your valuable professional time.

How it looks to your employer

You’ve already broken the trust of your boss, in a sense, by announcing your departure. Now that everyone knows you were shopping around for another job on the sly, your loyalty may not perceived to be as strong as before.

Most managers know that once an employee has decided to quit, it’s too late to make him happy. Their motivation for wanting to keep you is most likely selfish. It’s far more expensive to hire and train new employees than to keep you on board for the time being. With a counteroffer, they save money, and you feel wanted. But are you wanted for being you, or are you simply a number to them?

You might be drawn in by the dangling carrot of a promotion or raise, but your place in the company will never be the same. Plus, if they know they can persuade you so easily, you’ll lose a little bit of respect in their eyes. And this won’t bode well for your future status at the company.

How it looks to the other company

Worst of all, you’ll be burning a bridge with the company who had already agreed to hire you. And when things don’t work out with your current job, good luck getting them to consider you again!

And what does that future look like?

Here’s the bad news: should you decide to accept the counteroffer and stay, your tenure probably won’t last. You might have caught your company leadership off guard with your departure announcement, and they weren’t ready for you to leave just yet. But now that they know you’re not happy, the shuffle-out-the-door is inevitable. Your company’s leaders know they won’t get their best from an under-satisfied employee. Eventually, they’ll find a way to get rid of you on their terms. Accept their counteroffer, and they’ll welcome you back with open arms - while secretly looking for your replacement behind your back.

There are always exceptions

Of course, there are always exceptions to the “never accept a counteroffer” rule, and your situation might be unique. But before you decide to stay, be very honest with yourself - and them.

Regardless of your feelings about leaving, always be gracious in the face of a counteroffer. A polite, smiling “Thank you. But, I think it is time to move on.” is sure to keep you in your present organization’s good graces on your way out the door… and you never know when you might need that reference again!

50 to 80 percent of people leave their employer within six months of accepting a counteroffer.

Moving on from your current position? Here's how to resign professionally.

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