Why Accepting a Counter Offer is a Bad Idea

Getting offered a job is exciting. But… what happens when your current employer makes you an even better offer to stay? We sat down with KNF&T’s Executive Vice President of Diversity Search and Direct Hire, Michelle DesChenes, to talk through why accepting a counter offer is a bad idea.

For those who might not know, can you describe what a counter offer is?

A counter offer is an offer given by a candidate’s current employer to incentivize them to stay at their current job after the candidate’s received an offer from their potential employer. It involves anything from an increase in pay, salary, commissions, or compensation as well as a change in a role or department.

What’s your advice to anyone who is presented with a counter offer?

Don’t ever take it. You decided to start the job hunt for a reason – maybe you feel like you’re in the wrong role, the culture isn’t for you, or you’re being undercompensated. If, after speaking honestly with your manager about your concerns, you find that there is nothing your company can do to make you want to stay, you should make the decision to leave and stick with it. Accepting a counter offer will not only keep you at the place you’re truly unhappy at, but it will also let your employer know that you are unhappy and will likely give them an incentive to replace you.

For example, about six years ago a candidate of mine was presented with a counter offer that included a $35K increase as well as an opportunity to change his title to Vice President. I advised him not to take the counter offer, but he did anyway. Two months later, I wasn’t surprised when his company reached out to me looking to replace him for $20K less and downgraded the title back to a Director level role. The employee was eventually replaced and left without a job.

A counter offer might seem great, but in the long run, it could cost you your happiness and, likely, your job. One key way to avoid the temptation of counter offers is to always negotiate your salary and benefits with the new company, so that you have everything you want lined up and a counter offer won’t be as appealing.

How should you turn down a counter offer?

If you think you’re about to get a counter offer, rehearse your resignation conversation. Be prepared. It’s never an easy conversation. A great thing to say is, “I would like to thank you for this opportunity and I’ve learned a lot while I was here. I appreciate the growth that I’ve experienced, but I feel that it is my time to move on and I have made the final decision to do so.”

Has a counter offer ever worked effectively?

Yes, I’ve seen them work effectively for the moment. However, most of the time they are short lived and blow up more often than not.