Counter Offers: Stay the Course or Take a Different Path?

Helen Abrahams, Associate Director, UK Private Practice (Midlands)

The interview stage is completed and after some arm wrestling, you’ve accepted a generous offer to take up a shiny new position. You thought the stressful period of finding a new role was over until your current employer came back with a counteroffer upon your resignation!

Now you’re faced with another decision. Do the underlying issues that prompted you to jump back into the job market disappear or will you take the plunge and chase a brighter future? Presumably, you would have already attempted to resolve the underlying issues with your current position, so it’s unlikely that an increased salary will counteract these concerns and lead to employment satisfaction. In fact, many job seekers who accept a counteroffer return to the job market within a matter of months with 4 out of 5 returning within 1 year!

There are many reasons to take a new path and not accept a counteroffer; here are the most important:

Nothing tends to change except your salary. The underlying issues that prompted you to consider other job opportunities will remain – things, people, and especially companies don’t change overnight.

Your future employer sees a potential in you that your current employer doesn’t. Taking on a new hire is a risk, for both the employer and employee. If your future employer is willing to take the risk to groom and grow your potential, why not seize the opportunity? It’s obvious that your current employer doesn’t feel or isn’t willing to act the same.

Your current employer is likely thinking strategically. In many cases, employers aren’t offering a higher salary due to the value they see in you. It’s more likely that they’re considering the cost of recruitment, equipment, and training fees against offering you more pay. Especially in the legal field with its own specific challenges replacing lawyers with the right training and experience level.

Your employer has been underpaying you. If your employer is willing to adjust your salary when you resign, then they have been knowingly underpaying you for your talent and efforts, an indication of non-appreciation of their employees.

Trust has likely been broken between you and your current employer. Often, resignation is seen as a lack of loyalty, and your current employer may now question if they can count on you, limiting your future growth and can making for an uncomfortable working situation.

Your “lack of loyalty” may put you at the top of the redundancy pile when times are tough. Often, when organisations are forced to tighten their belt, those who haven’t shown dedication and unwavering commitment to their positions are first on the chopping block.

Counteroffers are usually just a stalling tactic. Many employers will take your attempted resignment to heart and use a counteroffer acceptance as an opportunity to stall for time while actively looking for your replacement.

Resentment often accompanies a counteroffer. Many employers are quick to give a counteroffer while resenting that it was necessary, suddenly expecting greater output than pre-counteroffer to coincide with the salary increase.

Never forget why you chose to leave in the first instance! Remember why you chose to leave even if your current employer pulls on your heartstrings to stay. It is not always better the devil you know…

Regardless of what you decide, remaining professional in all instances is important, ensuring to avoid closing any doors behind conversations you might wish to revisit later. Recruitment consultants have long since noted the short tenures that seem to accompany counteroffer acceptance and while each case is its own, it is recommended to stick with your original plan, taking the plunge with a new employer who is willing to step up and recognise you for what you are: Valuable.