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The Counteroffer conundrum – to accept it or not?

By Sarah Owens on 27.11.15 in Your Career

Getting another job doesn't usually just happen. Either, you have looked for one, been recruited for one, or offered one out of the blue. Whatever the circumstances, you will have considered the reasons why you want a change long before you need to sit down and tell your current boss that you're off to pastures new. 

No one enjoys facing his or her superior for that rather uncomfortable resignation chat. It becomes even more awks if they ask you to stay. More money, a promotion, a brilliant bonus or even a better work-life balance may all suddenly be on the table. However, most career experts - including us here at Direct Recruitment - seem to be in agreement that accepting such a counteroffer can often lead to career suicide. 

Most counteroffers come because your boss knows how long and expensive the recruitment process is. Not only that, your departure will make them look bad, especially if several people have jumped ship recently. Most companies are over-stretched and your boss may be wondering how they will cope if you leave. A counteroffer is therefore made, in the hope of keeping you in the fold. 

One way to avoid this conundrum is not to disclose your new salary. If you do reveal this vital piece of information, your boss will see that it is the money that is pulling you away - and that is the precise moment a counteroffer is made. I would suggest responding to that sort of inquiry with something along the lines of, 'I can't divulge that information,' followed by a conversation about how you are willing to help your current company recruit and settle someone new into your position. Furthermore, it is always nice to let your employer know that you have enjoyed your time there and that you have learned lots. While you may not want to consider a counteroffer, you want to leave on good terms - you never know when you might need a reference! 

If a counteroffer is forthcoming, weigh up the risks and benefits properly. Consider the reason you were looking for a new job in the first place. Was it only about money? Maybe you are looking for a new challenge, new colleagues, a new corporate culture, or flexibility at work? Could it be that you are switching industries to follow a passion or interest? Accepting a counteroffer typically prevents you from accomplishing these goals. In our experience, we often find that candidates who accept a counteroffer are looking for a new job within six months. Often, after the initial boost of a pay rise or promotion wears off, the real reasons they wanted to leave begin to re-surface. 

If you do decide to go for it - be warned - all may not be, as it seems. Make sure you hire a lawyer to oversee that all the promises made to you are contractually documented. There are many sad stories out there of people who have been wooed into staying by an amazing counteroffer, only to find the bonus or promotion doesn't materialise or, worse still, they are fired a few months later. Indeed, it is often the case that a counteroffer is made, in the hope that you will stick around long enough for them to find a replacement. Even if that doesn't happen, your employer will have it in the back of their mind that you wanted to go, which means it will take a long time for them to re-establish trust and confidence that you are no longer a flight risk. 

And finally, let us revisit an earlier point one last time. If you accept a counteroffer you WILL be burning two bridges at once. The hiring company will be unlikely to ever consider you again and your current employer will always view you as the one who almost ran away.