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A photo of the Story Bridge in Brisbane city at dusk

Beware the Counter-Offer

You’ve finally done it! After lots of consideration and contemplation, you’ve decided that your current firm isn’t right for you.

A great CV, multiple interviews and a bunch of secret phone calls later, you say “yes” to a new opportunity. Then comes the big conversation…

You take a deep breath and let your boss know that you’re resigning. To your surprise, they come back to you with a very attractive counter-offer as an enticement to stay.

Is this a good thing? Has your firm finally realised your value and decided to catch up to the market? Or is it a trap from which you should run at full pace?

It’s neither. But you should think carefully before taking a counter-offer, even if the numbers stack up nicely in your favour. Here are a few things to think about if pondering a counter-offer from a firm you were prepared to leave:

What were your reasons for deciding to find a new job in the first place?

For most people a salary increase is not the reason (and should very rarely be the primary reason) for a job move.

So what exactly will change if you stay now? Will a few extra dollars be enough that you can put to one side the issues that were concerning you enough to leave?

Will your employer now provide those things that were missing from your job satisfaction in the first place? If the counter-offer goes beyond just dollars, then perhaps it’s worth considering.

But if your concerns are systemic – culture, work type, dysfunctional teams – then the chances of these things changing suddenly are low, so be sceptical about any promises that they’ll fix themselves overnight.

Why did you have to resign for things to change?

You should not have had to resign for things to change.

The counter-offer may reflect a “knee-jerk” reaction from your boss to keep you, but isn’t that just indicative of poor management? It should never have come to this for things to change.

If so, won’t it probably happen again in the future?

If what’s on offer is not on merit but out of desperation to keep you, then how many others in the organisation have received the same? Issues like this could be symptoms of a dysfunctional culture or management style that is not the best place long term for you.

Think selfishly

It sounds a bit harsh to say out aloud, but it’s best not to get caught up with a sense of personal obligation – either to the firm, or to an individual.

In the right circumstances, many firms would make the tough decision to fire you, even if they would prefer not to.

Similarly, leaving a firm needs to be about the long-term wellbeing of your career.

How will your colleagues perceive you?

This is a particularly important one if the counter-offer involves a promotion or greater responsibility for management.

Will you still have the respect of your colleagues (or staff) who know you were only promoted because you resigned and had a proverbial gun to your boss’s head?

The last thing you need is to be trying to step into a new management role to find that those in your team won’t give you the support you need to make it work.

Your trust will now be in question

While, technically, you haven’t done anything ethically dubious, the mere fact that you were prepared to leave is going to damage the amount of trust the firm has in you.

After all – are you really invested in the team you wanted to leave? Will you work hard and “give it your all”?

Or was your leaving an indication that you’re not a team player and can’t be relied upon?

If the work environment was a big driver for staying this is an important consideration, because the nature of things is likely to change.

Is the counter offer just more carrot dangling?

If you’re leaving because the constantly dangled carrot of promotion never got any closer, then don’t fall for another carrot that looks slightly different being similarly dangled in front of you.

If promotion is what you’re after, then you need to have clear criteria – ideally in writing – of exactly what’s required for the next step. Otherwise you’ll likely be back in the same position later as the goal posts get moved again.

So What to Do?

Accepting a counter offer could be a great career choice occasionally, but those situations are rare.

Do not be rushed into any decision: weigh up your options and assess each offer against the list of things you were looking for in your new job (promotion opportunity, a supervisor with a better management style, mentoring/training, a better company culture, the type of work, moving toward your ultimate career goal).

Chances are you looked for, and accepted, the new job for good reason. The chances are also pretty good that the reasons you wanted to move on in the first place are still going to be there!

Need help making the jump? Get in touch and we’ll be happy to talk it through with you.