Why You Should Never Accept the Counteroffer

There have been two instances in my career where I accepted a new job with a different company and when I walked into my managers office to provide my resignation, I was asked what salary I’d be looking for in order to stay. In both situations I was a very taken back, and with one it was downright offensive because I had already tried to negotiate a salary increase months before.

While it can be tempting (and flattering) to hear your manager and company try to bid you back with a higher salary, promise of more responsibility or something else of value to you, the best response is a very polite “no, thank you”, and here’s why.

There was a reason you decided to start a job search and that could have included salary, but probably wasn’t limited to it.

A 2018 study done by Korn Ferry of almost 5000 professionals found that 33% of employees started looking for a job because they were bored and no longer felt challenged in their role. 24% started looking because the company culture didn’t fit with their values, while a smaller percentage noted salary as the top reason to start looking for a new job. And my guess is that prior to starting your search, you had already tried to resolve your concerns, or, your concern was something fixed (like a rough commute).

When your manager comes to you with a counter offer you might wonder: between yesterday and today, what changed? Why are you now being offered the raise you asked for months ago? Why is there now an opportunity for you to lead that project? It isn’t that your value is suddenly apparent to your manager. It’s because your leaving not only causes a disruption in work and productivity, but it also means hiring and training someone new which is expensive and a large time commitment.

Bottom line: if you ever find yourself on the other end of a counteroffer, take stock of the reasons you started your job search in the first place and be honest with yourself. Would those issues go away or be resolved if you accepted? It’s unlikely.

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