I’ve accepted an offer, turned in my resignation, but now my current employer has given me a counteroffer. What should I do?

It’s counterintuitive, but counteroffers are almost always counterproductive for your career. According to national surveys of employees that accept counteroffers, 50%-80% voluntarily leave their employer within six months of accepting the counteroffer because of promises not kept. The majority of the balance of employees that accept counteroffers leave their employers within twelve months of accepting their counteroffer (terminated, downsized, fired, laid off).

The reason most companies make counteroffers is so that they – rather than you – are in control of the timetable for transition. When someone resigns, the general rule is a two week notice period (a month or longer for those in senior management roles). That means the company’s got to scramble to find a substitute for the mission critical role you’ve been filling. Odds are, it’s going to take longer than that to find a candidate who’s going to be a good fit.

What is the employer offering?

Before you grab a counteroffer, it’s important to think about what’s being offered and what actually brought you to the point of leaving in the first place. A counteroffer is almost always about money. The reasons people leave are almost never about money alone. Or more commonly, something else and maybe money too. Where’s the something else in this counteroffer?

If you pass on the job offer in your hand right now, what’s the cost of finding the next one? The statistical numbers show you’ll be job hunting again within 6 to 12 months.

Further, you need to be protective of your professional and industry reputation. Specifically, burning a bridge with an employer, who in good faith extended you a job offer on their team and took you at your word, can have consequences. How often have you thought “small world”? This was never truer than in today’s business community. And depending on your industry and career discipline this may be magnified.

Time to consider the salary offer

But first you have to handle your exit properly. It’s a delicate process to extract yourself with your reputation and relationships intact when a counteroffer is on the table. And regardless of whether you intend to return, you do want to preserve the company’s respect for you. That means you take the time to consider their proposal, even though you have no intention of taking it. Tell the manager who offers the deal that you’ll need a day or two to think it over. Use this time to plan and prepare your response, be gracious, definite and concise. Something like this:

“Bill/Betty, I really appreciate this offer. It’s gratifying to know that ‘XYZCorp’ values me so highly. I feel the same about my experience here, but this other position is an opportunity that I just can’t pass up. I’m sad to be leaving all my colleagues here, but this is the right time for the right next step for my career. How can we use the two weeks before I leave in the most productive way? I’ve jotted down some ideas and thought that we should get together to plan, maybe later today or tomorrow. I want to be as helpful as I can during this transition.”

Don’t get caught up in a discussion of where you’re going, what makes it better and certainly not money. Politely refuse to discuss your new opportunity, focusing only on the seamless transition of your old assignment/responsibilities. Keep refusing, if you have to, until you make your point.

Remember, the high road is where you want to be and stay.

  1. Accepting a counter offer is an insult to your intelligence and a blow to your personal pride, because you know that you were “bought.”
  2. Where is the money for the counteroffer coming from? Are you getting your next raise early?
  3. Your company will start looking for a new person at a lower salary immediately. The wheels are in motion to replace you as soon as possible.
  4. You have now made your employer aware that you are unhappy. From this day on, your loyalty will always be in question.
  5. When promotion time comes around, your employer will remember who was loyal and who wasn’t.
  6. When times get tough, your employer will begin the cut back with you.
  7. The same circumstances that now cause you to consider a change will repeat themselves in the future, even if you accept a counteroffer.
  8. Statistics show that if you accept a counteroffer, the probability of voluntarily leaving in six months or being let go within one year is extremely high. National statistics indicate that 89% of people who accept counteroffers are gone in six months.
  9. What type of company do you work for if you have to threaten to resign before they give you fair market value for your skills?
  10. Once the word gets out, the relationship that you now enjoy with your co-workers will never be the same. You will lose peer group acceptance and forever be that defector who was brought back.