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8 Reasons To Reject a Counteroffer

You’ve accepted an offer to work for a new company and you meet with your boss to share the news.  You approach it with professionalism—you give notice, offer to help with the transition, make sure you have plans in place for any current projects, and express your appreciation for the time spent with the organization.  But instead of just shaking your hand and wishing you well, your boss responds with a counteroffer—one that may include more money, more vacation, and new perks.  Now what do you do?  In some instances, accepting a counteroffer might be tempting.  It certainly seems flattering on the surface.  But more often than not, ulterior motives are involved, and it ends badly.  So before you say "yes," consider these reasons why you should decline.   

1. What does it say about your company if you have to threaten to resign before they give you what you are worth?  Employers often make counteroffers in a moment of panic.  If you had to quit to get a raise, it should make you wonder why you weren’t valuable enough to deserve a raise before, when it would have been based on your performance, rather than fear.

2. Companies have strict wage and salary guidelines. Where is the money for the counteroffer coming from?  It is very likely that your company just wants time to start looking for a replacement at a lower salary price, figuring that it’s only a matter of time before you start looking around again anyway.  Your job security will now diminish.  While your boss may have bargained with you to keep you from quitting, remember:  Your boss wanted you to stay for his benefit, not yours.  When he has the opportunity to get rid of you on his terms, and recoup the money he wasn’t willing to invest in you until you aid you were quitting, he’s likely going to take it. 

3. What will change about the circumstances that caused you to consider a change in the first place?  There’s a reason you started this process.  While more money is often a partial motivator, it rarely is the only compelling reason people seek a career change.  Whether it was a poor personality fit, dislike of your boss, boredom with your work, or a variety of other factors, the frustration, the stifling feelings, and the dissatisfaction that led you to seek new job opportunities in your job prior to the new offer will continue to plague you long after the excitement from your raise wears off.

4. Once you accept a counteroffer your loyalty will always be in question, and you could be shunned.  Because your employer is aware that you were unhappy, you are also likely to be at the top of the list if your company needs to make cutbacks in the future.  Think about it:  When you give notice, you are, in effect, dumping your boss.  When this happens, just like in many types of relationships, the jilted party often responds by bargaining:  Give me another chance.  Things will get better.  No one, after all, wants to be dumped.  But once your boss’s anxiety is eased and you’ve agreed to the counteroffer, new emotions will set in:  resentment, suspicion, distrust.  You will likely spend your remaining time at the company viewed as an outsider.

5. When it comes to a promotion, your employer will remember that you almost left once, and will most likely be very resistant to the idea of putting you in a position of more responsibility.  You have greatly minimized your chances of any future advancement with this company. 

6. Once you have accepted a counteroffer, statistically, the probability of leaving or being let go is extremely high.  The rule of thumb among recruiters is that 70 to 80 percent either leave or are let go within one year.

7. You may lose the relationship that you enjoy with your co-workers. They will also question your loyalty, and they may resent the raise and how you got it.

8. And what about the new job you already accepted?  By virtue of hiring you, that employer already has demonstrated a belief that you are valuable—and you haven’t even had your first day yet.  But good luck getting that new employer to ever consider you again.  After leading the prospective employer on by attending interviews, negotiating and accepting an offer, you are virtually shutting the door to them ever considering you in the future.  Your current employer, on the other hand, has begrudgingly offered you more money to get you to stay to suit his purposes, which more than likely are only temporary at best.

Are there times when accepting a counteroffer makes sense and works out?  Yes, but after over 25 years of experience working with individuals making career transitions, I can assure you that it is the exception to the rule.  We have seen it turn out to be a very bad move often enough that you should be very, very cautious before doing so.

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