Is It a Good Idea to Accept a Counteroffer?

Changing jobs is difficult, and whether or not to accept a counteroffer can be one of the most difficult parts of the process. Career changes are common in CRE, and they mean making difficult decisions.

But it’s worth thinking through the various facets of this question to determine what is right for you, your family, and your career. This can be an emotional and nerve-wracking ordeal, so let’s step back and break the matter down, piece by piece.

Why You Receive a Counteroffer

When you submit your resignation letter, your supervisor has real motivation to keep you on. That’s why approximately half of employers will respond with a counteroffer. Think about it from their perspective. You may have felt underappreciated or stunted or bored or underpaid – but the moment you resign, this is what your boss is feeling:

  • “This is horrible timing.”
  • “Perhaps I can keep him on until I can find a replacement.”
  • “What will this mean for morale?”
  • “Finding a replacement is going to be expensive.”
  • “How can he do this after all the training we have invested in him?”
  • “This had better not mess up my upcoming vacation plans.”

The people you work under have a vested interest to keep their company, department, and projects running smoothly. They are under a lot of pressure to maintain control of the situation and keep their superiors or stockholders happy. Your career is relatively low on their priority list.

And your resignation can be a wakeup call for them to do whatever it takes to solve this problem they now have. Chances are the concerns that caused you to initially explore the job market in the first place will not magically go away if you accept a counteroffer. You may even be viewed with suspicion if you accept the counteroffer and stay on.

According to Jim Stroud of the Bernard Hodes Group, your employer is thinking that “paying a little extra now is worth it in terms of keeping the train moving, versus the potential delays and issues that would arise from an empty cubicle seat.”

But this could be dangerous for your career.

Will Your Problems Be Solved If You Accept a Counteroffer?

When considering whether to accept a counteroffer, remind yourself why you chose to accept a new role to begin with.

  • Perhaps you were underappreciated and couldn’t get adequate compensation for your value.
  • Perhaps you wanted to work closer to home.
  • Perhaps you were bored or wanted a real challenge.
  • Perhaps you didn’t get along with your co-workers or boss.
  • Perhaps the company lacked culture or direction that aligned with your values.

Would a little more money really solve any of these and give you the fulfillment you seek? Are you just kicking the can down the road by staying? Or even worse, will you be laid off as soon as they find a suitable replacement?

Studies show employees who accept a counteroffer typically stay with their employer less than a year, according to Christopher Elmes of the Capital H Group, a human-capital consulting firm. They’re either laid off, or they continue to feel the same frustrations that drove them to leave in the first place. Elmes goes on to state:

“No matter what the offer or counteroffer is, if the underlying job dissatisfaction issues aren’t addressed, then it doesn’t make a difference…The sense of affiliation between the employer and the employee will be severed, and the employee may never be trusted again…Once you take the counteroffer, your relationship is now almost entirely predicated on cash, and that is not a healthy criteria.”

Stay the Course

If you were convinced about the new job, remember your reason for accepting, and stay the course. Politely inform your current employer that your decision was made carefully and based on many different factors. It is best for where you want to take your career. Consider avoiding disclosing details of your new offer in the first place (i.e. the new company name, how you found the role, or your new compensation details), when you give notice to eliminate the awkward position of a counteroffer. Be polite and professional, but firmly state that your decision is final.

Thank your employer your experience there first and foremost and also for their counter if it comes. Don’t burn any bridges. You never know what the future holds. But realize that reneging on your verbal agreement with your new employer can give you a negative reputation of not valuing integrity. In the end, the hazards of changing course after accepting a new job offer usually outweigh the perceived benefits.

The best response to a counter offer is usually a polite “No, thank-you.”


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