After deciding it’s time to move on from your current role, you’ve searched the job market, attended interviews, and landed a great new opportunity! Though on resigning, your employer enquires after your new terms and comes back with an offer to try and tempt you to stay. Typically, this involves either an increase in salary, a promotion and new responsibilities, improved benefits, or sometimes a mixture of these.

These new terms could make staying at your current role very appealing, especially if it they meet the selling points of your new role. Also, if you stay put you won’t have the hassle of moving to an unfamiliar territory and starting from scratch. Though it’s not always a great idea to accept a counter-offer for several reasons, and it’s good to remember your motivations for leaving your current employer in the first place.

How do counter-offers work?

A counter-offer happens when an employee resigns and the employer, wanting them to stay, offers new terms and incentives in order to make that more appealing. Usually, they’ll ask the terms of the new job and seek to match or improve it. While this is often an increase in salary it may also (or otherwise) include:

  • A promotion

  • An increase in responsibilities

  • Flexible hours, improved hybrid working or change to working pattern

  • More training and development opportunities

As we explore below, resigning and discussing new terms under a counter-offer can be useful, as certain elements may come to light that have not been communicated well in the past. This presents a good opportunity for better terms to be reached by effectively communicating your desires and enabling your employer to demonstrate how much they value you in the business.

Reasons to accept a counter-offer

It might be that you are largely happy in your role but feel you can gain a higher salary elsewhere, or find a similar role but with better long-term prospects. If these are issues that can readily be addressed by your employer and if you are otherwise happy, it may mean staying put is perfectly fine, as you would benefit from:

  • Familiarity

Switching roles simply for money or a promotion, that you can actually get where you are, means you miss out on the familiarity and comfort of your current environment, which you might otherwise enjoy.

  • Increased pay

If your primary motivator for moving is a higher salary and you receive it at your current role in the counter-offer, that might be reason enough to stay put. You will also bypass the hassle of getting to know a new organisation, manager, team etc.

  • Feeling valued

Receiving a counter-offer can give you a renewed sense of worth, especially if this might have felt absent before (although, you might ask yourself why it took you resigning to receive this).

Why accepting a counter-offer isn’t always wise

On the other hand, it’s generally advisable to treat counter-offers with some caution (unless that was the driver behind resigning, which is a risky nevertheless though not an unheard strategy!) for reasons we highlight below.

  • They damage employer relationships

Though your employer has decided they wish to retain your talent and expertise, there’s no doubt it will leave them questioning your loyalty. If it comes to a restructure, re-training, or redundancies, you may be the first to leave.

That aside, you handing in your notice may hamper relationships with senior management and your team.

  • Change might not happen

Promises given in a counter-offer may not always materialise. While it’s likely a new contract will be drawn up regarding a salary increase (do ensure you have this in writing before you accept), less concrete or immediate promises, such as flexible working or training and development opportunities may soon fall to the wayside, and you may find yourself in the same or very similar situation as before.

  • You could miss a valuable opportunity elsewhere

If you have applied for a new job, met them and accepted to the point of handing in your resignation there must have been compelling reasons to do so. Consider the opportunities and plus points that are available in this new role, do you really want to turn those down?

  • Do you really want to stay?

At the same time, consider the reasons you were looking in the first place. This might seem superficial and therefore easily dealt with via a counter-offer, but often when we dig a little deeper these aren’t the only reasons why we look to move. Money and status, for example, are common drivers for changing jobs, however they are usually compounded by additional factors we spend less time dwelling on, perhaps because slightly less tangible, such as:

  • Company culture

  • Management style and relationships

  • Colleague relationships

  • Boredom

  • Lack of opportunities

  • Lack of appreciation

  • Travel

How to reject a counter-offer after resignation

When declining a counter-offer it is wise to do so with gratitude and careful consideration whilst remaining professional, so you don’t burn bridges for future contact and recommendation. In other words, apply the same level of professional courtesy and conduct you would when handing in your resignation.

  • Decide how you’d like to decline

Generally speaking, face to face communication is best for conversations that can be slightly tricky or uncomfortable, especially as tone and non-verbal cues are often lost in written form. That said, take in to account the preferred style of management, including how they communicated the counter-offer in the first place.

It might be your counter-offer meeting is in person, but if you have asked for time to think about it, written communication of your decision may suffice – as long as that chain of action is agreed upon by all parties in the initial meeting.

  • Express your gratitude

Soften your rejection at the outset by (re)affirming your appreciation for your offer, such as:

‘Thank you so much for offering me this additional salary increase/opportunity (as appropriate), and I really appreciate the opportunities that have been afforded to me in this organisation so far, however I feel now… etc’

  • Be clear in your reasoning

When considering your response to a counter-offer you should include the pros and cons of either response, and this clarity will help inform your response to them.

  • Provide a referral

It will be even better if you offer to contact your professional networks regarding the vacancy you will be leaving behind. Recruiting is a timely and costly exercise and will have provided much of the motivation behind your employer offering the counter-offer in the first instance.

  • Stay in touch

Although the right decision for you is to move on, keep your professional networks open. It might be the organisation or people within it will prove beneficial to you and your career further down the line.

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