Think Twice Before Accepting a Counter-Offer

by Pranav Ramesh
February 28, 2017
Be Cautious Before Accepting a Counter-Offer

Conventional career wisdom holds that you should never accept a counteroffer, but do you know why that’s the case? Anecdotally, you may have heard in the past that the majority of people who do accept a counteroffer will end up either leaving the company or getting laid off in short order, neither of which are positive career-building outcomes. Let’s examine why companies sometimes counter job offers, as well as some best practices for what you should do if it ever happens to you.

Understand the Motive to Counter An Offer

While receiving a counteroffer can be very exciting and flattering, be certain that you fully understand your employer’s motives for doing so. It’s tempting to assume the best, that your work is simply so exemplary the company cannot stand to lose you, but as rosy as that particular hypothetical situation may sound, many career professionals would still advise you not to accept. And that holds no matter how enticing the incentive is — more money, a job promotion, better benefits… Enticing though it may seem, it may all be smoke and mirrors, designed only to get you to stay long enough that the company can replace and summarily remove you.

Remind Yourself Why You’re Job Searching

When your current job is courting you and dangling a generous carrot like a counteroffer before you, it can be difficult to remember why you were searching for greener pastures in the first place. Make a list of all the reasons that sparked your interest in getting a new job; even the action of writing your reasons down will help reinforce them in your mind, but for a real boost, hang your list somewhere you’ll see it and see it often. 

The majority of people tend to seek out new employment because they’re looking for a higher salary, more comprehensive employee benefits, a better working environment, or even looking to switch career fields entirely. While your current job’s counteroffer might be able to improve one of these areas for some time, it’s unlikely to address any more significant issues, and if you’re changing disciplines entirely, it won’t aid you one bit. Keep in mind that the counteroffer wasn’t designed to satisfy your needs, just those of your current employer – and that need could well be someone to fill your role until they hire your replacement.

Ideally, you want to get your job search prep right before you begin your search. Check out our article 15 Questions to Ask Yourself When Planning Your Job Search for a few must-do tips when preparing to start searching for a new job.

Discussing a Counter Offer With Your Job

After your employer makes you a counteroffer, you’ll likely set up a time to discuss it with your manager and other interested parties. Even if you’ve decided you’re accepting the new job offer, it’s still worth having a chat beforehand. This discussion is unlikely to move beyond the polite, as you’re in familiar territory; however, resist the urge to let yourself get too comfortable. Letting your guard down now could have worrisome consequences.

Some further cautions when it comes to discussing a counteroffer with your current employer:

  • Don’t volunteer the exact salary that the other company is offering you right off the bat. Should you wish to negotiate with your company, you will eventually need to reveal the sum, but it isn’t obligatory to do so right away — and in a worst-case scenario, management could simply offer you a token amount more.
  • Don’t resort to intimidation tactics or threats of leaving immediately. Not only is this behavior highly unprofessional, likely it will end up with you being escorted out by security, fresh grist for the office rumor mill. Keep your composure and remain civil.


Before You Start the Job Search