Considering a Counteroffer

What do you do if your employer beats a new job offer?

By Scott Love, Columnist
March 28, 2004 7:31 p.m.

You have just accepted a position with another company and are in the process of turning in your notice. It was a difficult decision, and you thought long and hard about what path you would take. But you have decided to leave. In your resignation meeting, you tell your employer you have decided to leave the company to go to another opportunity. Your employer interrupts you by saying, “I can’t believe that today is the day you are telling us you are leaving. What a coincidence. Tomorrow we were going to promote you, and the next week we were going to give you a top-secret bonus. Why don’t we just give you those things today and forget about you leaving? What sort of offer did they make you? We’ll match it.”

That was easy, you think to yourself. Now you have received the raise that you didn’t get before and a promotion to go along with it.

Companies try to keep their staff as long as they can, and when a desirable employee turns in his or her notice, many times a well-intentioned manager will try to talk the employee out of it with a financial incentive to stay. But before you accept that counteroffer, consider the following reasons why that last-minute decision could be one of the last decisions that you make with this company:

  1. Your employer will no longer consider you part of that “inner circle” of his trusted confidants. If you have been flirting with other companies, then the trust is always going to be weakened. Your employer might say he’ll forget about the whole thing, but every visit to the dentist will be viewed with suspicion.
  2. Your manager’s effectiveness is judged by how well he keeps his staff happy and by how long he keeps his staff. He could be afraid that his competence as a leader will now be in question, which could damage his own chances for advancement.
  3. It’s easier to keep you with a counteroffer than replace you. The cost of recruiting and placing a qualified candidate can be significant.
  4. If you have to turn in your notice to a company just to get a raise and a promotion, then is that the type of company you really want to work for?
    The promotion and raise your employer is giving you is not based upon your merit. If that was the case, then you would have already received it. Instead, because of the timing of this advancement, the reason is to keep you. Once the crisis has quelled and the status quo is back in place, then the odds are very high that this raise and increased remuneration could be revoked.
    Why should a company keep someone who didn’t deserve a promotion and instead received it in reaction to a fear of departure? When the crisis is over, so will be the incentive to keep you.
  5. They won’t respect you. They know that they are the ones who really call the shots in your career, not you.

Well-managed companies rarely offer counteroffers to their staff. Instead, they treat them with the dignity and respect of an individual who has thought long and hard enough to take his career into his own hands.

The healthy companies will tell you, “Thank you for your service, and we hope that you have become a better person by working here. Consider us if you ever want to come back. We’d love to have you here again.” Leaving a company is something that happens to everyone in the world of work.

Minimize the potential career damage and your anxiety in this transition by having the confidence to stick with your decisions.

Scott Love improves the leadership performance of corporations by working as an author, management consultant, and professional speaker. He can be reached at or (202) 769-9077.

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