Responding to Counter Offers

11 Feb

Searching for a job while you’re currently employed can be tricky, especially since most of the time we don’t want our current employers knowing we’re a flight risk. But at some point, employed job seekers will have to burst the bubble—when they get offered a job and plan to accept it. Most of the time that means an uncomfortable conversation with the boss, which hopefully ends on a positive note. Either way, we expect to walk out of there having passed on the information that we’re moving on, a weight lifted from our shoulders.


But that’s not always the case. Other than potentially unhappy bosses (no one likes to lose an employee), sometimes an unexpected complication can arise that brings with it a batch of mixed feelings: a counter offer. What now? Counter offers can be good or bad, and knowing how to respond can be tricky. Consider the following:


GOOD: Getting a counter offer can be flattering. They make us feel like we’re worth more and like our bosses realize that. Indeed, the announcement that an employee is leaving can be an eye opener for some employers, and making a counter offer can be a way to express that things can change for the better.


BAD: Unfortunately, counter offers can also be a simple way for employers to get out from between a rock and a hard place. When an employee quits, it catches them off guard and means they aren’t in control of when and how a new employee is brought in and trained. It can also build resentment from other employees if word gets around that you were given a counter offer.


Obviously, each situation is unique, but it’s important to keep in mind why you’re quitting in the first place. Is it a simple matter of pay? If so, a counter offer will give you some immediate relief—but likely at a cost to you. Perhaps your next raise won’t happen because you’ve already taken that step up, or maybe your workload will increase to account for the extra income.


If you’re leaving your job because you don’t like the working environment, the boss, the line of work, or the company as a whole, then a little bit of extra pay probably won’t change that. If you are really ready to move on, then it might be best to do so. Even for a little extra pay, working a job you hate will still make you miserable.


In the end, it’s up to each individual, though most headhunters and business experts say taking one is a bad plan. Sometimes counter offers can truly end well, with employee and employer gaining a new respect for each other. But too often it’s a simple seduction tactic that won’t keep its charm long. Only deciding what you truly want can determine the correct course of action.


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