The Counter Offer Conundrum: Is This an Offer You Cannot Refuse?

Let’s say you have been gainfully employed with the Acme Widget Company for several years and you think that it’s time for a job change. Maybe you feel like your growth potential has peaked at Acme, the culture has taken a turn for the worse, or you feel that the compensation is not in line with your value to the company. So you go on the job hunt and find a great opportunity with a company, New Horizons, that meets your criteria. The new company gives you a nice offer and you accept. 

Great position to be in right? But now is the time for the uncomfortable discussion with your current employer expressing your intention to leave. After a good talk with your boss, he/she confers with higher management and they decide to counter the offer from New Horizons and your new salary with Acme will be 10% higher than what you were going to get with New Horizons. All of a sudden it seems like you may be better off staying put. Not only will you get paid more but you won’t have to go through the hassle of learning a new role and company from scratch. Either way, staying or leaving, seems to put you in a better position. You can’t lose. Not so fast. There are several questions you should consider first

  1. Was salary the only issue? If so, then the pay bump might be a good enough reason to stay. However, if you had already asked for pay raises before and were turned down, you may legitimately question your company’s motives for suddenly offering more.  Do they really appreciate your performance and contributions or are they trying to keep you on hand for the short term while they seek a lower-cost alternative? Will you have to go through the same thing all over again in a few years?
  2. If not pay, what was the root cause of you wanting to leave? Hopefully, you didn’t resign on a whim. There may have been other important reasons – compensation, growth opportunities, work-life balance, or perhaps a toxic work environment – that caused you to start looking. A counteroffer might address the biggest and most immediate concern (like salary), but what about the deeper issues? Remember, money isn’t everything, and unless the core problems get tackled, you may find yourself back in the same position.
  3. How has the trust been affected with Acme? Let’s face it, the trust between you and your employer might be strained after your resignation. They know you were ready to walk, and that knowledge can linger. This can create an awkward dynamic, with doubts remaining about your commitment and their true appreciation for your value.
  4. What about the fact that you already accepted the offer with New Horizons? If you have already accepted the New Horizons offer and then rescind it, your reputation takes a hit. While it’s always your prerogative to make the best choices for you and your family, you need to realize the longer-term implications of your choices. Reneging on an agreed-upon offer potentially burns bridges with the new employer and that can have consequences. It’s a small world and do you want your reputation tarnished by rash decisions that you made?

Every situation has its unique additional circumstances to consider. That’s why these are the types of decisions that require careful consideration. Just the idea of looking for a new job has its own considerations. Do you want to leave for the right reasons? Are you considering the long-term consequences of your decision? How will your resume be impacted by leaving? Are you sure you know exactly what you getting into? All good questions to consider before thrusting yourself into the potential dilemma of dealing with the counteroffer.