Think Before Accepting Your Employer's Counteroffer

Written By: Anita Bruzzese
August 23, 2012
4 min read

Once upon a time there was a manager who searched the job market far and wide for just the right job candidate. When the candidate was found, the manager was very happy and tendered a fair and just offer.

But the candidate said he needed a few days to think things over and the fair and just manager agreed.

Finally, the job candidate called the manager to deliver the news. The manager was so happy because he believed he would get the job candidate of his dreams.

But the job candidate told the manager: “You know, dude, I just think I’m going to stay where I am. When I told my manager about the offer from you, she made a counteroffer. So I’m going to stay at this company. I’m really stoked.”

Well, as you can imagine, the manager was disappointed and a little peeved. He had already put in quite a bit of time – and money — searching far and wide for the candidate, and now the candidate didn’t want his fair and just offer.

But the job candidate was quite happy. He was content that he had managed to get a raise in his current job, and didn’t have to travel the sometimes bumpy road of a new job.

So, now the job candidate who accepted a counteroffer would live happily ever after, right?

Not exactly.

Disloyalty Matters

While this is a fictional tale, the reality is that it happens all the time. Job candidates can’t seem to make up their minds about a job and so they hope to have the decision made for them by telling their current employer about the offer. Then, when the counteroffer is made, all the problems seem to be solved.

But research shows that more than 90% of those who accept a counteroffer end up leaving the job less than a year after they accept it.

One of the reasons is that managers often view an employee as disloyal for entertaining another job offer in the first place. The fact that the employee considered leaving makes the boss believe the worker is not completely committed to the job or the company.

While the boss made the counteroffer to keep disruptions to a minimum and avoid a loss in productivity, the trust has already been shaken.

So, when big projects or promotions come around, the manager may not offer them to the employee who is now seen as disloyal and untrustworthy. The employee may even discover that despite the fact he likes his colleagues and may even consider them friends, those pals may now resent him getting a pay raise when their compensation has been trimmed to deal with a difficult economy.

In addition, the employee may find that what made him begin looking for a new job in the first place is still present. Maybe he didn’t like the company culture or doesn’t really get along with the boss. Despite getting a counteroffer, those problems may still exist.

Handling a Counteroffer

If you tell your manager you’re taking another job, the first response from the boss may be to try and hold onto you. Bosses don’t like interruptions in their organizations, and your leaving is going to be a hassle she may want to avoid. But if you decide that staying isn’t an option, how do you gracefully and professionally turn down a counteroffer?

First, stand firm. If you do your research and believe that the job offer is worth taking, then tell your employer and don’t waffle when a counteroffer is made. Say something like, “I appreciate it, but I’ve made a commitment. I’ll do what I can to tie up loose ends here before I leave.”

While your boss may try to change your mind, be polite but resolved. Remember, you’ve had to threaten to leave in order to get your boss’s attention. That’s a clear sign that it’s probably time to leave.

Second, remember that waffling between offers does not help your professional reputation. If you’re in the final interview stages with a new employer, then you’re really committing to seriously considering a fair offer.

You’re running a real risk of damaging your professional reputation if you make an employer feel like you used the process to get more money from your current company. It’s too easy for your reputation to be hurt through online comments on social media or through industry chats. Recruiters and human resource executives often compare notes on job candidates and you don’t want to be seen as flaky and unreliable in your industry.

Conduct the interview process professionally and not as a way to play a game between two companies. That way the outcome will be something that helps you and the employer live happily ever after.

Anita Bruzzese
Written By: Anita Bruzzese

Anita Bruzzese is a syndicated columnist for Gannett/USA Today on workplace issues and the author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy.” She has been on the Today Show, and quoted in publications such as O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, Self.com and BusinessWeek.com. Her website, 45things.com, is listed on the Forbes top 100 websites for women.

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