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How do I make the right decision about a counter offer from my company?

Managing a counter offer - JCW

Sue White, Senior Managing Consultant - Risk

“I handed my notice in yesterday and my employer counter offered with a 10% increase in my salary and one day working from home a month. I’m tempted to stay because it’s less risky than changing jobs and uprooting my career.”

You are right. It is the more comfortable choice and the less risky option in theory. However, the recruitment and staffing industry estimates that 80% of candidates who accept a counter offer leave their current employer within six months and up to 50% start looking again after just two. When you look at it this way – accepting a counter offer could be a case of just ripping the plaster off slowly. Below, we look into why these counter offer statistics are so high. 

On average, one in two people who hand in their notice should expect to be counter offered.

Let’s look at this from a business perspective to understand why. If you left, your employer would have to find someone else (often on a higher salary than you), most likely have to pay a recruitment fee, and lose money by either overstretching or lacking in resources. As complimentary as a counter offer may seem to you, a business would rather keep employees by meeting their own needs than lose them.

What’s on the table in a counter offer?

In our experience, most of the time it’s more money but it can also include a more desirable working package including promised promotions, an increase in responsibilities, extra time off or flexible-working.

Should I consider a counter offer from my current employer?

Yes, you should. Though, counter offers should only be considered based on what is actually contracted there and then. Promises of how the role will change in the future – without any written, contractual backup,  should be approached with caution as changes without this action don't usually happen.

Most crucially, you need to carefully consider whether the reason you wanted to leave your job is absolutely solved by the counter offer on the table. Most of the time people leave their jobs for reasons that cannot be resolved by a counter offer package including: 

  • Desire for a life change 
  • Bad or broken relationship with their manager
  • Lack of respect for the management team
  • Different commute
  • Opportunity to work on a new project
  • Opportunity to keep the experience on their CV varied
  • Change in company culture and different employer values
  • Change in the way of working
  • Fresh perspective
  • Opportunity to meet new people and work in a new team

What problems does accepting a counter offer pose?

The paramount issue is that you’ve broken the trust with your hiring manager and your company.  They know you’ve been looking elsewhere and this can limit growth and progression in the long term. Often, a counter offer pay rise can severely limit any pay increases in the years to come. Finally, if you’ve not been getting on with management before, will them knowing that you've interviewed elsewhere strengthen your relationship in the long run now?

Exercises you should practice before considering a counter offer

  • Breakdown your original reasons for leaving – are they directly solved by what’s in your counter offer?
  • Write down a list of pros and cons about working at your company, which outweigh each other and which list is longer? 
  • Consider what you will regret most about not accepting your new job opportunity
  • Do you see yourself working in the same team and on the same projects for the next few years?
  • How long will it take for the novelty of the counter offer to wear off?
  • Are you certain that your employer will uphold the promises in the counter offer?
  • Will this be a long-term solution?
  • Does the money alone solve the reasons why you wanted to leave?
  • Why did you have to threaten to leave for your employer to keep you happy?

Bringing it together

Changing jobs is scary whether it’s the feeling in the pit of your stomach when leaving your current employer or the butterflies in your stomach when starting with a new one. However, it’s important to remember that both these queasy feelings are temporary.  Whichever decision you go with, never accept a counter offer on the spot. Take the time to consider what it really means and understand that it should take longer than a day or a quick meeting with your boss to come to a decision. 

Sue White, Senior Managing Consultant - Risk. 

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