How to respond to a counter offer

You may have finished the application process on the new job you plan to pursue. By this time, you are handing your letter of resignation to your current employer. But upon giving it, he requests you to stay and gives you a counter offer instead.

With many employers struggling to retain good quality staff, professionals are increasingly likely to be presented with a counter offer when you announce your resignation.

The decision whether or not to accept a counter offer is an important one that may have a lasting impact on your career.

You should consider whether the counter offer will truly address your original reasons for wanting to leave and if your future with the company could be impacted even if you decide to stay.

Change can seem daunting and increased pay and progression is appealing, but before you accept the counter offer you should consider a number of factors:

Your existing company wants to buy you back

It is in an organisation’s best interest to retain their best staff if they can, so when a valued team member hands in their notice, managers will often try to find out what the reason is behind the notice to see whether they can remedy the problem, whether this is financially driven or is for other reasons.

Will you accept it or not?

This, perhaps, is the biggest question that one has to answer whenever he/she faces such a case. When you’re torn between these unwanted instances in your work, what will you do? How are you going to handle the situation? Find out what you can do to make good and sound decisions.

  • Think of what made you leave.

    It will be good to point out first the cause of your decision to leave your current job. Has it something to do with your salary or with the work area? Is it the job itself? Aren’t you happy or fulfilled with your tasks? Weigh things up and see if your reasons are just and valid.

  • Choose where you can best employ your skills.

    Your experiences have prepared you for your professional career. It is a good thing to be in a position where you can best make use of your skills. This can be a great motivation for your chosen job. It’s a matter of where you are going to commit and spend your time smartly for your personal growth.

  • Choose the counter offer with better financial rewards.

    Everyone wishes to acquire better and higher salaries. So when you are not sure about what offer to accept, go for the one that proposes better benefits and reflects your abilities. Counter offers are often a part of any salary negotiation. So be wise.

  • Do not be easily deceived.

    Counters may be in the form of promotion, promises, more money, and the like. It is a misleading idea to accept an offer with just these reasons. You might get into trouble. Take a strong sense of pride with your decision and give value to yourself.

  • Be polite and honest during talks.

    Make it a point to keep yourself calm during talks. Just be polite when you try to refuse an offer. Present to the employer factual reasons to justify your choice. It will never make you less of a person anyway. In the end, you really have to decide on whether to accept the counter offer or not. Either way you go, you must be prepared enough to face any consequence that may happen because of your decision.

  • Don’t bluff. 

    Avoid lying about fictitious job offers with fairy-tale salaries. It might backfire and your interviewer may lose trust or patience in you.

  • Be careful not to threaten. 

    Be mindful of how you package information. Negative approach: “Well I have another job offer that’s higher, and if you can’t meet that salary, I can’t work here.” Positive approach: “I do have another job opportunity, but this is really my first choice. I’d like to find a salary target that is mutually satisfactory.”

  • Don’t take it personally. 

It’s easy to take it to heart when you ultimately don’t get the salary you think you deserve, but you have to separate fact from emotion. This is business, and there’s supply and demand for your “product”, some of which is out of your control. Knowing you’ve done your best in the interview is sometimes the best you can hope for.

Also think about the following:

1. Are the reasons behind the counter offer in your best interest?

It is usually cheaper to keep an employee through offering a pay rise or promotion than it is to hire and train a new member of staff, so this may be the main reason your employer wants you to stay.

2. The trust has been broken

It may be worth considering whether your employer's opinion of you will be coloured by the fact that you seriously considered leaving.

3. Would you have received a pay rise or promotion if you hadn’t resigned?

It is worth considering whether you would have received this recognition of your hard work if you hadn’t handed in your notice, and if not – do you want to stay at a company that doesn’t reward its employees until they hand in their resignation?

4. Why did you want to leave in the first place?

Accepting a counter offer purely for the financial benefits doesn’t mean that you won’t still feel dissatisfied in your role a few months’ down the line.

Coming to a decision

If you do decide to decline a counter offer it is important that you stand by your decision. Be respectful and thank your employer for making the opportunity available to you but also emphasize your decision to resign.

You may want to tell your employer the reasons behind your intentions but do not feel like you have to justify your choice to them.  At the very least you can say that you have considered both options carefully and have come to a conclusion based on what you feel is best for you in your career. Make it clear that you are not looking for another counter offer and that you hope to depart amicably on a good note.

On the other hand, if you do decide to accept the counter offer and remain with your current employer after thinking carefully about both options, it is important to remember that your employer will always remember your attempted resignation and may consider you a fidelity risk in the future. Never forget that.

If you do take a counter offer get it in writing.  Be sure to receive an offer letter summarizing all points before you make the choice to stay.