Counter offers: should I accept?

If you’ve ever received a counter-offer, it can be tempting to just accept the additional money or promotion promises for an “easier” life. Still, it is well documented that we would usually expect to hear back from anyone that has accepted one, it is just a matter of time (but it’s usually within 6 months).

There were reasons you were planning on leaving. Those reason cannot and should not be forgotten!

On the flip side, there is a compelling argument that a counter-offer could provide you with exactly what you need to stay.

If this happens, how should you decide what to do?

Don’t make any rash decisions

Experts in the field say that making or accepting counter offers doesn't usually work out in the longer-term. In fact, without looking through my records, I’d say it’s pretty close to 100% of people who accepted a counter-offer left the company soon after. Either by coming back to us, or by other means.

When making your decision it is important to remember. Most people in your position will leave within six months anyway.

If you have received a job offer and refused it to accept a counter offer, you may find the current offer is no longer available. There is also the possibility that the hiring company wouldn’t want us to consider you. Meaning that even if we advocated on your behalf and presented you as the best available candidate, you wouldn’t be invited to progress again.

Money isn't everything

Most people know and understand the influence of money and its power as a motivating factor. However, most people also agree that money isn’t the one and only reason why someone may be looking for a new role and/or contract. There are numerous key others factors most people would look at under these headings; Challenge, Location, Advancement, Prestige, Security

It is important to think back to the reason why you wanted to leave in the first place.

  • If it has been resolved – then this strengthens the power of the counter-offer and makes it worth considering.
  • If it not simply been covered up by money – this considerably weakens the offer and I would highly recommend pursuing the new opportunity in this case.

Two of the most common reasons why people leave is because they want a promotion (or at the very least the additional responsibility) or that they are bored of their current remit. Any counter offer worth considering needs to ensure that is targeted at the exact reason you are really contemplating leaving. The other common reason people leave is their boss but unless they have changed jobs, you will not be considering a counter-offer.

I only say this again because it is so important, if money is simply covering up the deeper lying issues then take the new role.

The practicalities

In some cases, a simple practical issue such as reducing commuting time may be the primary motivation. Such seemingly simple things can make a big impact on employee happiness and so should not be underestimated.  It may be that handing your notice as prompted that conversation you wish you had 6 months ago about something that has manifested to you changing jobs.

If you are fed up of the commute, I promise you that it’ll only get worse for you every single day until you eventually leave. A pay rise may solve this pain in the short run, but even a hefty pay rise is not going to solve any of these issues in the long-term.

It is far too easy to simply consider the immediate impact of a pay rise and begin spending it in your head. Nevertheless, it is important to consider both the short term and long term impacts on your working life, your prospects and your home life.

Why didn’t the counter-offer come sooner?

If your original reason for leaving was compensation and your employer valued you, why didn’t they offer you more before you handed in your notice? This is a prime example of a counter offer being designed to paper over the cracks. Rather than a genuine attempt at resolving your underlying issues.

Were they simply unaware of your market rate, or were they purposefully underpaying you?

As a hiring manager, getting recruitment wrong can be a tricky business. It is worth considering the possibility that your manager has simply made a counter offer to hold off the need to replace you. They may also be more interested in stopping others from your team following suit, than ensuring your long-term happiness.

Sometimes a counter-offer will come with the best of intentions and will be well-meaning. With the timing simply being unlucky, that the company having been unable to present their offer to you before you decided to leave.

However, that question will always remain, why didn’t the better offer come sooner? I’ll be honest with you, you’re probably never going to know the full and complete answer to this, but it is still worth considering.

Consider the implications

Employers who really care about their workforce will ask leavers to complete exit surveys and/or invite them to attend an exit interview. If you get this opportunity, for the good of yourself, your colleagues and the company then please do take it.

Honest, constructive feedback is always useful and great HR and hiring managers will use it to improve businesses for years to come.

If your reasons for leaving include lack of promotion opportunities, highlight this to your existing company. It could simply be that you were unaware of a restructure. Or that you’d been earmarked for a promotion that wasn’t publicly known. The question you need to ask yourself is whether or not you would take this job, vs. the new opportunity, if you took money out of the question.

Be ready for the answer to be yes or no!

If your employer offers you a promotion to stay, how are you going to feel, knowing that you wanted to leave? More importantly, how are other people going to view you - the person who only got promoted so they didn’t leave? And how will you be viewed by senior management? You may have to work very hard to prove your loyalty. What will be the impact of this process on those around you?

Should I accept the counter-offer?

Ultimately, you are the only one that can truly answer that question. However, I would recommend asking yourself a series of questions and using that to guide your decisions. At the very least you should ask:

  • Would I accept the counter offer, even if it offered no additional money?
  • Does the counter-offer resolve my original reason for leaving?
  • Does the counter-offer compensate you for the benefits attached to the new position (salary, role, responsibility, benefits, commute)?
  • Why didn’t the counter offer come before you handed in your notice?
  • What will be the impact of the counter offer on your colleagues and the company as a whole?

Your answers will give you a strong indication as to whether or not you should consider the offer. If you get stuck, maybe work through the questions with a trusted mentor. Someone you know, trust and respect and preferably within your industry.

Whatever you decide, make sure you think it through thoroughly. Before making a decision that makes you and your family happier in the long term.

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