The Risks of Accepting a Counteroffer

By Paul Love February 14, 2018 at 11:04am

It may feel good to be in demand — so much so that your current employer presents you with a counteroffer after you’ve accepted another job. But should you stay or politely decline?

The laws of supply and demand often create a natural order in the job market. If your creative or marketing role is hot, you’ll likely have your pick of companies searching for people with your skill set. Couple that with a limited pool of qualified applicants, and you’ve got the perfect environment for rising salaries. While that may put you in a prime spot in terms of employment prospects, it may also put you in a tricky one when it comes to handling counteroffers.

According to new research from The Creative Group, employees who are torn between two jobs — the one they currently have and a new opportunity — may find their managers are indeed willing to up the ante to keep them. In a TCG survey, 14% of advertising and marketing executives said the number of counteroffers extended by their company has increased in the last six months. The top reason for the offer? To avoid losing an employee with hard-to-find skills.

In a separate TCG survey, two-thirds of workers presented with a counteroffer said they agreed to it. But accept at your own risk! Like 13% of the professionals surveyed, you may end up regretting the decision. (See our infographic of the research below.)

As the person being pulled in two directions, you must think carefully about the pros and cons of staying at your current company. Here are some considerations to weigh before making a decision.

Are you really serious about leaving?

If frequent wooing is making you curious about what else is out there, or if you’re beginning a new job search on your own, consider the following two strategies before you get caught up in job interviews and salary negotiations.

1. Be honest with your current employer. Let your boss know if you’re being contacted by other companies. This gives your current employer the chance to be proactive. It also opens up the conversation about your job satisfaction and what you need — more challenging assignments or greater autonomy, for example — to continue working happy. Be sure to approach the conversation tactfully (i.e., don’t present the information as an ultimatum) and reinforce that it may be time to re-evaluate compensation and perks given the current hiring market.

2. Make a must-have list. If you’re generally satisfied with your current job, but would consider jumping ship for the perfect position, detail what it would take. Maybe it’s a much shorter commute or the opportunity to work in an industry you’re passionate about. Knowing what’s most important will keep you grounded when opportunities come knocking.

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Why you should table the counteroffer

Even if you’ve been transparent with your current employer and have your must-have list in place, that ideal role may be worth taking. If your company responds to your resignation with a counteroffer, consider these three questions before accepting:

1. Will it address the real issues? What prompted you to look at jobs or respond to other inquiries in the first place? (Is the reason on your must-have list?) It’s never wise to seek other opportunities simply to try to create a bidding war in your favor.

2. Is it too little, too late? Did you ask for a raise months ago and not get it? Assuming you built a strong case, getting a salary boost all of a sudden may actually feel odd or disappointing. If your employer truly values you, they should compensate you fairly and reward excellence without being forced by circumstance.

3. Will it make you feel entitled? Be honest with yourself. If knowing that you earn more than your peers will put you in a position to treat them differently, it may not be a good idea to stay. Even if you agree to a higher salary, your title may remain intact, which means you’ll likely maintain a similar dynamic with coworkers. If an elevated title is ultimately what you’re after, it may be better to move on, especially if you feel you’ve outgrown your role.

Infographic featuring results from a TCG survey on counteroffers.

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