Why Counteroffer Acceptance is a Bad Idea

The Counteroffer Conundrum

You have finally landed that job you have been interviewing for, but before you go in to resign you start having second thoughts. Your boss is shocked that you are resigning and asks you to give her some time to go to senior management. She comes back with a counteroffer. You are now faced with a dilemma. A counteroffer may seem like a compliment to you, and you may be tempted to accept it. After all, the company is providing you with the validation and recognition that you have been seeking. Or you may be getting cold feet and second guessing yourself about the new position. The fear of failure and the unknown is a powerful motivator to maintain the status quo.

Be careful about having second thoughts after receiving a Counteroffer

Don’t sell yourself short. Change is uncomfortable… acknowledge that fact. Consider the long-term consequences of accepting a counteroffer. Think of all the reasons that you have identified previously as to why you were looking to leave.

The fear of failure and the unknown is a powerful motivator to maintain the status quo.

In a counteroffer situation, when you go in to resign be prepared for the following: Upon learning of your resignation your boss says, “We have been thinking about a new position and responsibilities for you along with a raise. We would appreciate an opportunity to present this to you, will you give it a week?” Be skeptical… very skeptical. You must be sure that your current company is being sincere and making a genuine statement. Is this really something they have been “working on”? One way to tell is how long does it take for the company to pull the proposal together and how much detail is developed. If it’s thin, slapdash and presented quickly it’s most likely not genuine. It’s a panic response.

Prepare to receive a Counteroffer

Before you receive a counteroffer, think through the following questions thoroughly:

  • What is your counteroffer strategy?
  • What will your boss say?
  • What will you say?
  • What difficult questions will be asked?
  • What will you say when the CEO and/or other members of the leadership team put the full court press on you?
  • How will you respond to that pressure?

Remember why you decided to look in the first place. Candidates have reported that they didn’t fully realize how unhappy they were at their previous company until after they left and that the second guessing about leaving was really just being anxious about making the move.

Reasons not to accept a Counteroffer

  • You will be burning a bridge with your new employer and perhaps in your industry; word gets around. Fairly or unfairly, people will talk; your acceptance of a counteroffer could raise questions about your “character” and impact your reputation.
  • The position, offer and company you decline may not be available to you in the future and you cannot be assured that a comparable offer and position will be available when you decide once and for all to move on.
  • Your boss and your colleagues may view you an opportunist; you are no longer “committed”, “loyal” or getting special treatment and may believe that you will hold them “hostage” again. Your long-term prospects at the company will be affected for a long-time to come. Promotions may be limited. Peers may resent you. You have broken the bond with the company. However, a colleague who is truly supportive of you and your career growth and aspirations will support and respect your decision… not act otherwise.
  • Google it. Experts agree, 80% of employees who take counteroffers are out of a job (leave or let go) in 6 months and 90% who take counteroffers will not be there in 18 months. 80% of those accepting counteroffers report that relationships with co-workers deteriorate and productivity falls. Remember, you have already gone through the process of disengaging from your company.
  • You are leaving for many reasons, not just money. Money does not solve the underlying issues. The same people, frustrations and organization will still be there. Will anything really change? Accepting a counteroffer is a short-term cure for a long-term problem. Don’t second guess yourself. What does your gut say? Counteroffers rarely work out in the long run.
  • Why did the company wait until you resigned to give you that raise and/or promotion you deserved? You may be getting your annual increase early. The money could come with strings…i.e. less leniency in missing benchmarks, resentment that you backed your boss and company into a corner. Money isn’t going to change how you feel about going to work every day.
  • The company is panicking; the counteroffer is a band aide, a quick fix. It’s not about you, it’s about them and the company’s needs, not about you or your needs. They don’t want their expertise walking out the door. They have to hire and train your replacement… by offering you a counteroffer they are buying time to find your replacement then perhaps will let you go. In any case, you may find that your relationship with your company has fundamentally changed. You are now the one looking to leave, no longer in the inner circle. You may have violated their “trust”. Any layoffs may start with you.
  • Well-managed companies don’t make counteroffers. They have contingency and succession plans and they do not want to set the example that people need to resign to get a raise or promotion.
  • You are now a flight risk. You just let your boss know that you are unhappy. Your manager is now thinking it’s only a matter of time before you will be looking again. Your behavior will be under scrutiny, when you take a day off or leave early, your manager may be thinking that you are interviewing again.

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