Should You Ever Accept a Counter Offer?

You put in your notice, and your current employer counter offers. Now what?

Accepting job offer

A lot of time and effort goes into looking for your next work home. You spend tons of time thinking about making a change, countless hours searching online, more hours doing research on different companies, networking and getting referrals from friends and peers. Then comes all the time you spend with multiple IT recruiters who are in turn spending time, effort and dollars finding you the best possible job and employer fit.

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You work your way through the applications, multiple interviews, testing and personality assessments and then – finally! – you get an offer letter in hand. You excitedly tell your family and friends and put in your notice with your current employer. Hours later, you get called into your boss’ office and are offered the raise or promotion you wanted all along – which was potentially the reason you started looking for alternate employment in the first place. So, what do you do?

This is a company that you are probably comfortable working for, and you’ve likely built up some seniority along the way. You know everyone, the business is second nature and now you finally feel like you’ve been recognized with that offered raise or promotion. It should feel good – but instead, you feel conflicted.

Before you think about accepting that tempting counter offer, consider this: recruiters estimate that 70 to 80 percent of people who accept counter offers to stay with their current employer either leave or are let go within a year.

Here are 5 essential steps to take before making any final decisions when you’re faced with a counter offer:

#1 Consider Why the Raise or Promotion was Finally Offered

Why did the employer wait to receive your resignation notice before suddenly giving you that raise or promotion? How can the raise and promotion evaluation process that usually takes months suddenly happen in a matter of hours? Will you have to solicit an offer and threaten to quit every time you deserve a raise or a promotion?

These questions are natural and important. If looked at objectively, this situation should raise all kinds of concerns. Counter offers made by current employers are often a maneuver to stall a situation on the job that benefits the employer. Obviously, the employer wasn’t ready for you to resign and quite likely there is no one available to fill your position after you leave. If you are working on various projects, there may not be a person who can readily step in. By delaying or eliminating the resignation, the employer may simply be mitigating the impact of a vacant position at this point in time…with no intention of keeping you long-term.

#2 Look at the Big Picture

Think about what changes will come with the proposed promotion besides a new title and a higher salary. A sudden promotion may bring with it increased micromanagement because the company clearly wasn’t planning for the promotion to take place. On the other hand, the promotion can bring a waterfall of responsibilities that you may not be ready for or want.

Are the other members of your organization ready for your promotion and willing to accept it? You will continue to work with the same people if you choose to stay with the company. Some may be happy for you, but some may feel resentment or hostility due to you forcing the company’s hand with your resignation. The company management and your colleagues may see your desire to leave as a betrayal and a future risk – so you could be first on the chopping block if the company is looking to make any cuts. That outcome is not only a possibility but, quite frankly, a likelihood.

#3 Evaluate Why You Wanted to Leave in the First Place

Most importantly, you should evaluate if your initial reasons for wanting to leave still exist.

Why did you want to look for a new job? Was it work/life balance, culture, purpose or future opportunities? Was it the exciting prospect of working on something new and different? Was it the location of the workplace?

Whatever was driving your decision to make the switch, is likely still there, but is now slightly cloaked by the short-term excitement over the promise of a raise and a new title. If staying with your current employer will only delay the same feelings from returning and can’t be solved by more money or a better title (like if you can’t stand the culture), then it may be worth leaving anyway.

#4 Don’t Forget Your Reputation

Be sure to think about your personal brand and reputation in the professional arena. It can be looked at as unprofessional or even unethical for you to accept a counter offer after you’ve accepted employment elsewhere.

Both the IT recruiter and the new employer will be affected by your decision. They invested a lot of time into the recruiting and hiring process. Your recruiter has probably already asked you about the possibility of a counter offer from your current employer, and you may have even assured him or her that a counter would NOT be enough to make you stay. Accepting a counter offer when you said you wouldn’t could damage your reputation and the trust you formed with the recruiter, along with the potential new employer.

#5 Get Objective Perspective

One way to avoid these uncomfortable and difficult situations is to secure a “buy in” of the new position from your family members, mentors or other people you trust. Quite often, having an objective person to have a conversation about the new job and a counter offer is what’s needed to make the right decision.

Additionally, we recommend that after the decision is made to accept a new job offer, the resignation letter or email to the current employer should include a statement such as “I have carefully considered all options, and made a final decision to accept a new position.” At the very least, writing a statement like that solidifies the decision to you, and hopefully to your soon-to-be former company.

Deciding to accept or decline a counter offer from your current employer is a personal decision that will have an impact on your current position, your family and your prospects. But it is one that can be made professionally if you keep a clear view of the big picture and plan for the eventualities.

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