Founder of Wilson Grey

The counter-offer dilemma

Congratulations! You’ve taken action to find a new job, improve your circumstances and another employer has recognised your talent and offered you a position with their organisation. The final step now is to inform your current employer, and there’s a good chance they’ll make you a counter offer to stay, but should you accept it or stick with your initial instincts and embrace new opportunities?

The simple answer is, do what’s right for you and your career.

If you’ve not been in this situation before, it can be a confusing one to navigate but consider the following points and it should be a lot clearer what to do.

Questions to ask yourself

1. Why now?

If your current boss offers you a pay rise or promotion and you’re worth this increase in salary and/or responsibilities, why wasn’t this recognised before you handed in your notice? Around 50% of candidates who give in their notice are counter-offered, and one reason is the fact that giving someone a pay rise is far less expensive for an employer than having to recruit a replacement. It just makes good business sense to an employer to give a pay rise rather than shouldering the cost of recruitment fees, time spent interviewing and subsequently training a new person. Plus it buys them time to think about looking for a replacement knowing that your tenure is shakey.

Where is the money coming from for a salary increase, is it just an early pay rise? Part of your frustration from the outset may be that you felt undervalued or your skills under-utilised, and if it takes your resignation for this to be noticed you may be better off with an organisation that recognises your talent and is more proactive from the beginning in helping you fulfil your career ambitions.

2. What next?

Studies show that 80% of candidates who accept counter-offers still leave their employers within 6 months and a further 9 out of 10 leave within 12 months. This is because either the reasons that lead them to explore the market remains unresolved or simply the seed has been planted that there are better options out there and the old job is no longer that appealing.

Depending on why you started looking, ask yourself whether the counter-offer promises will realistically change things in the long term. Unless your leaving is just about money, what will really change? Company culture? Work/life balance? Job satisfaction? So you get a promotion or pay rise, but won’t your colleagues feel you got it simply because you threatened to quit as opposed to earning it?

3. Does loyalty matter?

Once an employer knows that you’ve been interviewing elsewhere, you’ve demonstrated that you don’t feel strong loyalty to their business, because if you did, you would have tried to resolve the issues with them first before interviewing elsewhere right? If you have approached your employer about your dissatisfaction previously and they weren’t willing or able to make changes to improve things for you, do you honestly believe that they will this time?

As  a consequence of going to your current employer with your resignation intentions, you will no longer be viewed as a team player, and this could potentially put you further back in the line for future promotions or moved closer to the front if there is ever a downsizing or restructure and redundancies have to be made. Again, if your colleagues get wind of the fact that your new pay rise/promotion is down to a threat of quitting (and let’s be honest, they usually find out) it could sour relationships.

4. How do I handle the counter-offer?

Once you’ve asked your employer to sit down and have that conversation, it’s important to remind yourself of the reasons you started looking, why you’re excited about the prospects of the new role and why you can’t be swayed. If a counter-offer is made, thank them for the offer but politely inform them the reason for the conversation was not to try and negotiate a pay rise/promotion or whatever it is they offer you. Let them know you’ll assist with a handover, work your notice and anything else they need from you to make the transition as smooth as possible for all parties. You are then free to start preparing for your new start and next step in your career.