Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Once You Accept A New Job, Never Accept A Counter Offer

If you are offered a job and go to resign and your company suddenly tells you how much they love you and want you to stay, don’t believe it. And don’t do it. It is a trap.

All employees should be aware that once you commit to leaving a job, that commitment should be kept, because when it is over, it is over. In most cases, counter offers only forestall the inevitable. If an employee accepts a counter offer, chances are good they will end up out of work at the next round of layoffs or account loss. My observation, based on years of recruiting, is that 75% of the people who accept counter offers will be gone within twelve to eighteen months. Most of the remainder will be gone within two years.

Most Counter Offers Are Not Counter Offers
Ironically, rarely is a counter offer a true counter. In order to be a counter offer, your existing employer has to come back with more than what your new company proposed. If your current employer offers to meet the offer, it is merely at parity. In other words, if someone is making, $50,000 and is offered $65,000 and their existing employer agrees to meet the $65,000 that is not a counter offer. A counter offer would be $70,000 or more – and it should come immediately and not be promised in the future.

A real counter offer happened to a candidate of mine last summer – he was a group account director making $175,000 at a small agency. When he resigned, his existing company apologized for not recognizing him sooner, and offered him $225,000 and made him the head of the office. That is a real counter offer. Truth is, he came to see me six months later and said he should have accepted the other job.

Counter Offers Cannot Change Your Environment
The reason most people leave jobs for reasons of culture and environment, not money. Counter offers don’t change those reasons. A bad boss cannot be cured by a raise. A poor work environment is not corrected by a few thousand dollars. And being overworked and under-appreciated cannot be fixed by a new title with the same job. The company remains the same as it was no matter how much they pay you.

Never Go Shopping In Order To Get A Raise
If you are shopping around to determine what you are worth on the open market, you are merely feeding your ego. That is bad form and a waste of everyone’s time. All you need to do is contact a trusted recruiter and he or she will tell you what you are worth somewhere else.

Counter Offers Are For The Convenience Of Your Current Employer
A counter offer is an inexpensive way for a company to buy time in order to find your replacement. Resignations never come at an easy or convenient time. It is always flattering to hear from a company that they like you enough to offer you money or a title to stay. But it is often false flattery. Once you show your current employer that you are disloyal, you instantly become vulnerable.

Most of us are overworked. Most agencies are understaffed. When someone resigns, inevitably there will be a void and work will backlog and pile up. Two week’s notice is rarely enough time find a replacement. Resignations cause a huge hassle for the existing company. Often, when candidates resign, they tell me that their supervisor will beg them to stay an extra week or two because they are concerned about having to fill the gap which will be caused by the departure.

My best advice is to leave immediately and don’t fool yourself into thinking that the company suddenly loves you.

Taking a new job is always frightening. But remember why you wanted to leave. And if your new job is not what you thought it would be, the change in environment will probably be good for you anyway. If your old company really liked you enough, going back at some point later in your career is safer and more beneficial than accepting an initial counter offer.


  1. Excellent, Paul.
    I accepted a counter offer once--a true one, and stayed around for two years waiting for the agency
    to make good on their promises. Which of course, they never did.

    The other scenario is this: your direct boss feels threatened by you and would prefer you leave, but the big boss urges a counter offer because he wants you to stay. He says he will handle your direct boss.

    So, you wind up with a bit more dough but absolutely ever more threatened by your direct boss who is now bent of surreptitiously making your life miserable.

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