Think twice before acccepting a counteroffer to stay in your job

by Chris Tang in Articles

DatePosted on March 06, 2024 at 02:01 PM
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Here’s a scenario we encounter more often than you’d think as a professional recruiter, and it goes like this. You’ve been unhappy with your current job for a while. You’ve been looking for new opportunities and finally landed an offer that meets your expectations. You’re ready to hand in your resignation and start a new chapter in your career.

But wait. 

Your boss doesn’t want to let you go. He or she makes you a counteroffer, promising to match or exceed the salary and benefits of your new employer. They might even throw in a promotion or some perks to sweeten the deal. They tell you how much they value your work and how much they need you on the team. Should you accept the counteroffer and stay with your current employer? Or should you stick to your original plan and move on to the new job?

The answer is not always straightforward, but if you’re at the receiving end of a counteroffer, consider the following. 

A counteroffer is a sign of desperation, not appreciation

When your employer makes you a counteroffer, they are not doing it from the goodness of their own heart, or because they suddenly realised your worth and want to reward you for your contributions. They are doing it because they need to find a way to keep you from leaving, at least until they find a replacement.

From one perspective, if your employer truly valued you, why did they wait until you resigned to offer you a better deal? Why didn’t they recognize your achievements and compensate you fairly before? Why did it take a threat of losing you to make them act?

A counteroffer is not a sign of appreciation, but a sign of panic. Your employer is trying to buy you back with money or promises that may or may not be fulfilled. They are not interested in your career growth or job satisfaction, but in their own convenience, in staving off KPI pressures or in a desperate attempt to control the bottom line.

A counteroffer can damage your reputation or trust 

When you accept a counteroffer, you are sending a message to your employer that you are willing to stay for more money, even if you were fundamentally unhappy with other aspects of your job. It shows you can be bought back; that you're soft. malleable, and lacking in principles. Moreover, they will know there's a good chance you will take off at the first sign of an even higher offer coming along. So, immediately, your commtment, motivation and thus, your reputation, will come into question. 

But is that at the forefront of your manager's mind? Not necessarily, if they see you as a bandage that patches the wound for another six months. They could well be drowning in their own workload and need someone in the short term to fix one of many problems they face in their job. But will this mean your career goals, your own job satisfaction and career contentment will be met? Absolutely, no. 

Rather, it's easy to see that manager may think worst of you; that you are disloyal, opportunistic, or unreliable. They may also resent having to pay you more than they planned or budgeted for, and seeing you're ready to leave when the going gets tough. To them, that's not a sign of a true team player, but rather, a deserter, a quitter.

Elsewhere, if your colleagues find out that you resigned and was persuaded to stay on higher pay, they may think you are greedy, selfish, or dishonest. Worst still, if you announced your departure and then stay, there may well be feelings of betrayal. Some may have seen your departure as a positive career advancement opportunity for them, only for whatever opportunity they thought would come about disappear before their very eyes, because you decided to stay put. They may also feel envious or angry that you got a better deal than them, especially if they are also dissatisfied with their own jobs.

Accepting a counteroffer can create tension and mistrust in your workplace, which can affect your performance, morale, and relationships.

A counteroffer won't fix the underlying problems that made you want to leave in the first place

When you decided to resign from your current job, you probably had more reasons than just money. Maybe you were bored, frustrated, or stressed by your work. Maybe you had conflicts with your boss or colleagues. Maybe you wanted more challenge, autonomy,  flexibility, or, duh, career advancement opportunities. Or maybe you simply wanted a change of environment, industry, or role.

Whatever the reasons were, they are unlikely to disappear just because you received a counteroffer. A counter proposal to say may address the surface issue of compensation, but it won’t fix the underlying problems that made you want to leave in the first place. In fact, accepting a counteroffer may make things worse. You may feel trapped in a job that doesn’t fulfil you or align with your goals. You may lose respect for yourself or your employer for settling for less than what you deserve. You may miss out on the opportunity to grow and learn in a new job that suits you better.

Simply put, a counteroffer won’t make you happy or satisfied with your current job. It will only delay the inevitable: sooner or later, you will want to leave again. Or you may be forced out in one way or another because your boss found a replacement, whilst you have to start the job search process and lost out on the one prized opportunity you had in your hands but decided to let go. 

A counteroffer can burn bridges with your potential employer and damage your reputation 

When you accept a counteroffer, it's not just the relationship with your current employer that has been adversely affected, but with your potential employer. You are reneging on an agreement that you made with them after going through their hiring process. You will have wasted their time, money, and resources that they invested in recruiting and selecting you. You are disappointing them and breaking their trust.

Moreover, by accepting a counteroffer, you effectively burn bridges with your potential employer, who may have been a great fit for you and offered you a better career path. You are also damaging your reputation in the industry and limiting your future options. You never know when you may cross paths with them again or need their help or referral.
Accepting a counteroffer can have negative consequences for your professional network and career prospects.


Often, accepting a counteroffer comes from a feeling of guilt, of not wanting to let down your current employer, and one of betrayal should you go ahead and leave. On other occasions, staying seems the easier option. But, as professional recruiters who often see this scenario, it’s really best avoided.

I for one am an employer. If a member of staff resigns, I know better than to get down on my knees to beg them to stay. Naturally, the first instinct, particularly those who have been a great team member, is one of pain or sadness. But I respect their decision and as much as it pains me, I accept, thank them for choosing us as their employer, and wish them well in their future endeavours. I tend to look at the situation constructively and philosophically and ask them what I could have done earlier to make them feel we could have given them everything they needed in a career. I  will be the first to acknowledge that there is room for improvement, so any constructive feedback will be gratefully accepted. Not all employers take that approach, however.   

More often than not, changing your mind to stay at your current employer after accepting an offer elsewhere can harm your professional reputation, trust, happiness, and career growth. If you really felt you could have stayed to make a positive change, you should have, and may well have done so, right up to the point of taking a new job offer. That's fine, in fact eminently sensible, if you feel you are able to effect change from within. Just don't change your mind after the event. 

Where you were about to leave a toxic or stale work environment, it can also cost you the chance to work for a better employer who values and respects you. Ironically, tragically even, for both you and your boss, it could deprive your employer from making fundamental structural, operational or strategic changes necessary to improve their team or even organisation. Your boss may not realise it, but your leaving may well actually be for the greater good of you both! It's important to realise this; don't make assumptions when your employer talks about why they want you to stay.   

The key to resisting a counteroffer is being honest with yourself at the start of your job search journey and staying true to those reasons. Think carefully about why you wanted to leave your current job and why you would move on elsewhere, the so-called ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors. These are key things you need to put across to your recruiter. 

Consider the pros and cons of staying or leaving, and the impact on your personal and professional goals, as well as your own wellbeing and reputation. Be honest with yourself and your employers and make the best decision for your future.

Remember, a counteroffer is not a compliment, but a compromise. Don’t let it derail your career.



About the Author

Chris Tang

Chris is a co-Managing Director of Star Anise and a former practising corporate lawyer. He is a regular post contributor on LinkedIn and you can connect with him here:

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