The perils of accepting a counteroffer
March 30, 2022
The dreaded moment has come. It’s time to break the news to your boss: you’re moving on and pursuing another opportunity at a different company.
But then, a spanner in the works. You’re struck by an unexpected turn of events when, in a bid to keep you onboard, your boss responds with a counteroffer.
Naturally, you’re flattered. They must really value me, you think to yourself. They’re pulling out all the stops just because they can’t bear the thought of losing me.
Whilst this is definitely plausible, it’s important to remain vigilant when presented with a counteroffer. There is, of course, a chance that your employer will go out of their way to address your key concerns in order to keep you at the company, but this isn’t always the case.
Sometimes a counteroffer isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Your company could be trying to keep you for the wrong reasons, and it’s all too common for the main component of a counteroffer to be a higher salary.
We’d be lying if we said that a pay rise isn’t an alluring prospect. It’s a shiny offering that your employer can dangle in front of you to seduce you to stay with them. As bewitching as it may be in the short-term, in many cases, the magic wears off quite quickly, and reality kicks in.
There are a number of reasons you should be sceptical about accepting a counteroffer, and we’ll be exploring a few of them.
Compromising on your needs
When you’re presented with the attractive offer of a pay rise, it can be hard to say no. It’s a quick-fix, but one that you might regret accepting in the long-term.
Before you made that initial decision to pursue career opportunities elsewhere, I’d bet you had stacked up a list of some pretty compelling reasons for leaving in the first place. You weighed them up in your mind, and determined that they were hefty enough justifications for making the decision to move on to a new role.
Occasionally, employers may address some of these core issues when presenting their employee with a counteroffer. But more often than not, a higher salary is the main sell of a counteroffer, and a higher salary does not make that towering pile of other problems and pain points vanish into thin air.
Deep down, you were driven by a subconscious urge to leave this job, and that urge will continue to linger so long as these other pain points go unaddressed. Whether it be the company culture, the lack of progression or the work itself; a combination of factors played into your decision to explore roles at other companies in the first place, and it’s unlikely that a counteroffer will be able to tackle all of the root causes of your dissatisfaction.
Ask yourself this: do you really see yourself at this company in the long-term? Or have you been won over by a salary increase to stay in a role that doesn’t align with your own personal values and goals?
The stats speak for themselves. Data shows that 50% of people who accept a counteroffer leave within 12 months of having done so. When asked about the impact of accepting a counteroffer, nearly 40% of a group of senior executives and HR leaders believed that doing so would ultimately negatively affect one’s career.
Money is the number one concern for just 12% of people who leave their jobs in pursuit of other opportunities, despite 89% of employers being convinced that a higher salary is the main motivator for their employees leaving. For the vast majority of us, a counteroffer based almost exclusively on an attractive pay rise is an unsustainable and unwise choice in the long run.
They may not think as highly of you as you think
As flattering and alluring as a counteroffer may initially seem, it’s important to remain aware of the reasons you’re being presented with that counteroffer in the first place. The reality may be that your employer realises that the cost of replacing you far outweighs the cost of keeping you by offering you a pay increase. They’re more than aware of the expense that comes with hiring someone new. Advertising a job, enlisting the help of recruiters, onboarding and training a new employee; it’s easy to see why your company would rather avoid the hassle and keep you around instead.
Don’t get us wrong – there’s always the chance that your company truly values you as an employee and doesn’t want to lose you, so they pull out all the stops to keep you and address all of your core concerns. But chances are, they’re trying to win you over for practicality and convenience’s sake.
Given the current candidate-short climate, it’s no surprise that employers are so reluctant to lose their grip on good quality employees. They don’t want to be left searching for high quality candidates in a market where they odds are stacked against them from the get-go.
Simply put, your absence would cause more disruption than your current employer is willing to go through. And though it may sound like tough love to put it so bluntly, they’d rather keep you because it’s far more convenient for them to do so.
Think of it this way. Your employer had the resources to pay you more and address your concerns before you stated your intention to leave, and yet they consciously chose not to. It was only when you presented them with the impetus of resigning that they decided to take your pain points seriously. Do they really value you if they didn’t tackle your core concerns until confronted with the reality that you planned to leave?
Incurring trust issues
Unfortunately, no matter how strong a relationship you managed to cultivate with your employer beforehand, your decision to seriously consider a new opportunity elsewhere is bound to impact the dynamic between you. Whether it be subtle or more overt, your boss will likely begin to question your loyalty. Regardless of how valid your reasons for leaving may have been, once you accept that counteroffer, your trust record at your company will be tainted.
This undoubtedly sets a dangerous precedent for your long-term future at the company. When the time comes for redundancies or pay cuts to be made, will you be first in line to face the axe? Though you ultimately opted to stay on, your loyalty will no doubt be questioned, and this could mean that your security in the role hangs in the balance. Your employer may subconsciously still have your near-resignation in mind when faced with such tough decisions. Indeed, many people say that they feel isolated within their organisation after having accepted their counteroffer and staying on in the role.
When posed with some potential downsides to accepting a counteroffer, 80% of senior executives and 60% of HR leaders came to the conclusion that a major con was the impact it would have on trust and reputation at the company.
Evidently, accepting a counteroffer isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. There are worse positions to be in than having two opposing offers dangled in front of you; you may feel like a kid in a sweet shop, confronted with the impossible choice between strawberry laces and gummy worms. When you’re at this difficult crossroads, it can be hard to make a snap decision that’ll be best for you in the long-term. Use your powers of discernment to choose the right path, keeping in mind the points made here when making your decision. Listen to your gut, and don’t let yourself be short-changed.