JOB HUNTING

How To Handle The Counter Offer

The counter offer (The boss’ reaction)

Reprinted from the:(National Business Employment Weekly From the publishers of the Wall Street Journal: Dow Jones & Company, Inc. April 19- April 25, 1998)
Matthew Henry, the 17th century writer said, many a dangerous temptation comes to us in fine gay colours that are but skin deep. The same can be said for counter offers, those magnetic enticements designed to lure you back into the nest after you’ve decided it’s time to fly away.
The litany of horror stories I’ve come across in my years as an executive recruiter, consultant and publisher, provides a litmus test that clearly indicates counteroffers should never be accepted . . . EVER!
I define a counter offer simply as an inducement from your current employer to get you to stay after you’ve announced your intention to take another job. We’re not talking about those instances when you receive an offer but don’t tell your boss. Nor are we discussing offers that you never intended to take, yet tell your employer about anyway as a they-want-me-but-I’m-with-you ploy.
These are merely astute positioning tactics you may choose to use to reinforce your worth by letting your boss know you have other options. Mention of a true offer, however, carries an actual threat to quit.
Interviews with employers who make counter offers, and employees who accept them, have shown that as tempting as they may be, acceptance may cause career suicide.

What to do with stress questions:

During the past 20 years, I’ve seen only isolated incidents in which an accepted counter offer has benefited the employee. Consider the problem in its proper perspective.

What really goes through a boss’s mind when someone quits?

  • This couldn’t happen at a worse time.
  • This is one of my best people. If I let him quit now, it’ll wreak havoc on the morale of the department.
  • I’ve already got one opening in my department. I don’t need another right now.
  • I’m working as hard as I can, and I don’t need to do his work, too.
  • If I lose another good employee, the company might decide to lose’ me too.
  • My review is coming up and this will make me look bad.
  • Maybe I can keep him on until I find a suitable replacement.
  • What will the boss say to keep you in the nest? Some of these comments are common:
  • I’m really shocked. I thought you were as happy with us as we are with you. Let’s discuss it before you make your final decision..
  • Aw gee, I’ve been meaning to tell you about the great plans we have for you. But they have been confidential until now
  • The V.P. has you in mind for some exciting and expanding responsibilities.
  • Your raise was scheduled to go into effect next quarter but we’ll make it effective immediately.
  • You’re going to work for whom?

Let’s face it. When someone quits, it’s a direct reflection on the boss. Unless you’re really incompetent or a destructive thorn in his side, the boss might look bad by allowing you to go. His gut reaction is to do what has to be done to keep you from leaving until he’s ready. That’s human nature. Unfortunately, it’s also human nature to want to stay unless your work life is abject misery. Career changes, like all ventures into the unknown, are tough. That’s why bosses know they can usually keep you around by pressing the right buttons.


Before you succumb to a tempting counter offer, consider these universal employment truths:


  • Any situation in which an employee is forced to get an outside offer before the present employer will suggest a raise, promotion or better working conditions.
  • No matter what the company says when making its counter offer, you’ll always be considered a fidelity risk. Having once demonstrated your lack of loyalty (for whatever reason), you’ll lose your status as a team player and your place in the inner circle.
  • Counter offers are usually nothing more than stall devices to give your employer time to replace you.
  • Your reasons for wanting to leave still exist. Conditions are just made a bit more tolerable in the short term because of the raise, promotion or promises made to keep you.
  • Counter offers are only made in response to a threat to quit. Will you have to solicit an offer and threaten to quit every time you deserve better working conditions?
  • Decent and well-managed companies don’t make counter offers . . . EVER! Their policies are fair and equitable. They won’t be subjected to counteroffer coercion or what they perceive as blackmail.

A COUNTER OFFER IS A CLEVER STALL TACTIC...

Let’s face it. When someone quits, it’s a direct reflection on the boss. Unless you’re really incompetent or a destructive thorn in his/her side, the boss might look bad for allowing you to go. It’s an implied insult to his management skills. His/her gut reaction is to do what has to be done to keep you from leaving until he/she’s ready. It should be expected.

Unfortunately, it’s also human nature to want to stay — unless your work life is abject misery. Career change, like all ventures into the unknown, is tough. That’s why bosses know they can usually keep you around by pressing the right buttons.

  • Any situation is suspect if an employee must receive an outside offer before the present employer will suggest a raise, promotion or better working conditions.
  • No matter what the company says when making its counteroffer, you’ll always be a fidelity risk. Having once demonstrated your lack of loyalty (for whatever reason), you will lose your status as a team player and your place in the inner circle.
  • Counteroffers are usually nothing more than stall devices to give your employer time to replace you. Your reasons for wanting to leave still exist, they’ll just be slightly more tolerable in the short term because of the raise, promotion or promises made to keep you.
  • Counteroffers are only made in response to a threat to quit. Will you have to solicit an offer and threaten to quit every time you deserve better working conditions?
  • By accepting a counteroffer, you have committed the unprofessional and unethical sin of breaking your commitment to the prospective employer making the offer.
  • Decent and well-managed companies don’t make counteroffers….EVER! Their policies are fair and equitable. They will never be subjected to counteroffer coercion, which they perceive as blackmail.
  • If the urge to accept a counteroffer hits you, keep on cleaning out your desk as you count your blessings. And, if you decide to stay, hire a lawyer to put your newly won promise in the form of a long-term no-cut contract.

10 Reasons for NOT accepting a counter offer:


  1. What type of company do you work for if you have to threaten to resign before they give you what you are worth?
  2. Where is the money for the counter offer coming from? Is it your next raise early? All companies have strict wage and salary guidelines which must be followed.
  3. Your company will immediately start looking for a new person at a cheaper price.
  4. You now have made your employer aware that you are unhappy. From this day on, your loyalty will always be in question.
  5. When promotion time comes around, your employer will remember who was loyal and who was not.
  6. When times get tough, your employer will begin the cutback with you.
  7. The same circumstances that now cause you to consider a change will repeat themselves in the future; even if you accept a counteroffer.
  8. Statistics show that if you accept a counter offer, the probability of voluntarily leaving in six months or being let go within one year is extremely high.
  9. Accepting a counter offer is an insult to your intelligence and a blow to your personal pride; knowing that you were bought.
  10. Once the word gets out, the relationship that you now enjoy with your co-workers will never be the same. You will lose the personal satisfaction of group acceptance.

Source: Wall Street Journal, 1998 Reprinted From: The National Business Employment Weekly Paul Hawkinson


If you do receive a counter offer. Take a moment for a reality check:


There have to be strong enough reasons for leaving a job before most employees will consider taking a new one. If that is true in your case, have those reasons disappeared? Will staying on the job solve them? Are your motives purely monetary?

If the counter-offer includes salary or job enhancement, what is the source? Are you simply getting your next raise or promotion in advance? Will you have to accept yet another job to get the raise or promotion after that?

Your employer may appeal to your sense of loyalty. Ask yourself how loyal the employer has been to employees. Statistics are not in your favour. The National Business Employment Weekly reports that four out of five people who accept counter-offers are gone within the year. Like Caesar’s wife, you cannot flirt with another and still be considered virtuous. Rest assured that your employer will assume you’ll look again.

Finally, let’s not forget that new job. Just as there are reasons for leaving your current company, you have seen significant opportunities at your new company – or you would not have accepted the offer of employment in the first place. These do not disappear the moment you receive a counter-offer.

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