Should You Accept a Counteroffer to Stay at Your Job?

When you give notice that you’re leaving your position for a new job, your organisation may respond with a matching counteroffer. Should you take it?

After rounds of interviews, waiting for the offer, and lots of soul-searching, it’s time. You hand in your notice to your boss that you’re taking a new job. Congrats, you’re part of the Great Resignation trend!

Now the fun begins: the notice period varies depending on where you live. In the United States, it’s typically two to four weeks for entry to mid-level positions. It can be longer elsewhere.

Your supervisor may be surprised when you let them know you plan to leave the company. “We value your contribution and want you to stay,” they say. “Let me talk to human resources and my manager to see if we can entice you to stay.”

An hour or a day later, the boss returns with a counteroffer of a higher salary and perhaps an increase in responsibility or the promise of professional development.

Should you take the offer?

Weighing it up

On the one hand, you may mostly like your job, co-workers and even your boss. It would be easier to stay—you already know the company and the people. More money is always good, right?

On the other hand, is salary the primary reason you decided to leave?

Those working in administrative and support departments such as procurement or finance may feel like their job is not part of the company’s core function. It’s easy to be overlooked for advancement or development. Honestly, you just get bored. There has to be more to work life than this. So, you decide to look for a new job and find one.

It’s actually a simple decision: stay or go. It’s just a coin flip, really. But there’s so much more to it. Here’s where reality bites. Look at these:

Counter Offer Consequences

  • 50% of people who resign receive a counteroffer
  • 57% of those who receive a counteroffer accept it
  • 80% of those who take a counteroffer end up leaving within six months
  • 90% who accept a counteroffer have left their current employer within 12 months

Source: SHRM

Those last two stats may be why employers often don’t make counteroffers. Once an employee has decided to leave, it’s wise to let them go.

Often, taking a new job is not solely about the salary. You may be at the point where you can’t continue in the position, regardless of how much you get paid. Boredom, frustration, lack of advancement, and company and departmental culture all play a role.

Sometimes people get pigeonholed into a job and can’t advance. Perhaps you’ve learned new skills that your current company doesn’t value. Or there’s little room for career advancement until someone in a higher position leaves and they’re not looking to move on or retire.

Your boss may be genuinely shocked at your resignation. They didn’t know you were unhappy or frustrated to the point of leaving. Of course, that may be an indication of the problem. Or it could mean you’re good at hiding your frustrations. The boss knows how time-consuming it can be to hire a replacement, so they may rather keep you on. Hence, the counteroffer gambit.

That counteroffer can be insulting. If you’re so valuable to the department, why didn’t they offer you a raise before you decided to leave? Declining the counteroffer can feel good. You’ve stood up for yourself and what you want from your career. The boss can’t manipulate you into abandoning your plan.

Still, a counteroffer may be better than the alternative. Otherwise, the boss may send security to watch you pack up your desk and escort you from the building. If you work from home, you may get a text or email with a note your access has been cut off and your employment job has been terminated. In that case, the decision is made for you!

Even if you accept a counteroffer, your boss may suspect your dedication to the job. They won’t know if you’re continuing your career search. You could become the department scapegoat, getting blamed when something goes wrong. You may damage relationships with your boss and your co-workers.

As you consider your resignation, prepare for the possibility of a counter offer. Think about the reasons you want to leave and what you hope to accomplish in a new job. Often, money isn’t the only objective. Human resources research sheds some light here. 

Top reasons people look for a new job:

  1. Career advancement. People want an environment to learn and grow
  2. Motivation. Too much time in a job can lead to boredom
  3. Culture. Workplace culture and policies don’t meet their needs
  4. Family/Health. Workers may leave to care for family members or themselves
  5. Compensation. While pay is significant, it’s not the top factor for most people
  6. Relocation. A spouse or partner takes a job in a different location
  7. Management. Workers join a company and often leave because of a bad manager.
  8. Environment. Workplace comfort is critical, as well as the growth of remote work. It can be a dealbreaker these days.
  9. Retirement. Employees may reach retirement age or take early exits due to instability.
  10. Inspiration. Starting a new position can rekindle the passion for the work.

If more money won’t change the reasons you decided to look for a new job, leave the counteroffer on the table. Once you’ve made up your mind to go, it’s best for you and the employer to move on to the next job.

However, if your employer addresses your concerns, you might consider staying. But the relationship may be irreparably changed.

It does seem counterintuitive for a person to have to take a new job to get a raise. And the old employer will have to pay the new hire a rate similar to what the incumbent is leaving to get at their new job. If the employer had given the incumbent a timely raise, the whole situation could have been avoided.

Your job change could be the start of a cascade of changes. Remember, your old boring position is a new dream job for someone else.

The consensus seems to be it’s wise to turn down a counteroffer in most cases. You’ve made a big decision, and it’s best to see it through.