How to Decide if You Should Accept or Decline a Counteroffer

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You agonize. You think about the impacts on your family, coworkers, and yourself. You sway one way, then the other. Finally, you make up your mind to resign from your present job and accept the job offer from a new company with more pay and growth potential.

On Friday morning, you get up the nerve. You give your two weeks’ notice by handing your letter of resignation to your boss. You feel relieved because you think the hard part is over.

The excitement of starting a new job begins to replace the anxiety of quitting your present job.

But that same afternoon, your boss throws a wrench in the works by making what appears to be an attractive counteroffer. Even your VP, whom you hardly ever see otherwise, asks you to reconsider. You're flattered but confused. It's tempting to stay with what you know. Should you stay or should you go?

Reasons for Accepting Counteroffers

Most people find counteroffers hard to reject out of hand because they begin to question whether it’s worth giving up the familiarity and security of a job they’ve had for years. After all, what if you take the new job and realize you hate your coworkers? Or maybe it’s further away and will add time to your morning commute. And at your current job, you’ve settled in; you’re comfortable in your role and know the lay of the land.

Plus, if your bosses are making a counteroffer, that means they value you as an employee, right?

They recognize your worth and want to keep you on. At a new company, you’d have to prove yourself all over again.

The Drawbacks of Counteroffers

But don’t make up your mind just yet: there’s another side to consider. Even though they've sweetened the deal, keep in mind that the company is likely making a counteroffer much more for their benefit than yours.

Why else would they wait until you resigned to offer you what you're really worth to them?

In addition, once you've made it clear that you want to jump ship, your loyalty will be in question. They might be making a counteroffer only to take advantage of you until they find a cheaper or "more dedicated" replacement.

Lastly, you’ve already been through the decision process. If you’ve weighed your options and concluded that the new company is a better fit, don’t second-guess yourself now. Chances are that down the road, you’ll wonder how your life would have been different had you accepted, and you’ll regret choosing the comfortable route instead of taking the risk.

For these reasons, most career advisors agree that it's not a good idea to accept a counteroffer.

How to Discourage or Decline Counteroffers

To avoid encouraging a counteroffer, be careful what you say about why you're resigning. For example, avoid saying something like "I'm resigning because I need more money." If pushed, offer a simple, general reason instead, such as "It's a career opportunity I can't pass up."

Of course, if an offer is made, it’s important to use tact and finesse when declining, to avoid leaving bad feelings that might damage your references.

However, avoid expressing resignation regret, as that might give your employer ammunition to pressure you to stay.

See How to Resign with Class for more tips about quitting your job without burning any bridges.

Conclusion

You know your work situation better than anyone, so ultimately, it’s up to you. But before jumping to accept a counteroffer, think long and hard about what you really want. Would you really have bothered job searching and going through the interview process if you were happy where you are? Probably not.

Our advice: take the job where there’s room to grow and where they’ll pay you what you’re worth from the get-go.

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