The Real Reason You Shouldn’t Accept a Counter Offer
Retaining key talent can be one of, if not the most arduous People Ops challenges for startups and more established companies alike. So if you’re planning to resign from your current role, there’s a chance your manager might make you a counteroffer in order to keep you on board—and it’ll probably be appealing. But career best practices generally advise against accepting a counteroffer for a number of reasons, so read on before going into a resignation discussion.
Money won’t fix the intangibles
Unless money was your sole reason for leaving the job, there’s a good chance that what made you unhappy won’t simply change because you were able to secure an offer from another company. If your reason for leaving was, for example, the inability to secure a better title or more responsibility, and you weren’t able to negotiate a promotion with your manager until you have announced your resignation, there is likely a bigger disconnect within the organization. Employees should be able to have transparent and constructive dialogues about their career growth, and having to prove themselves by seeking competitive offers does nothing but create distrust from both sides.
If you’re considering a counteroffer, be sure to compare your reasons for leaving in the first place with the additional benefits you’ll receive by accepting the offer. Are you confident that any changes you’ve requested will be made, or is a higher salary or title preventing you from acknowledging intangible pitfalls—such as excessive stress or a toxic work environment—that will remain unchanged if you stay?
Relationship damage can be irreparable
Your relationship with your manager—arguably the most important one in any job—can be significantly damaged by staying on after an attempted resignation. While managers expect employees to come and go, it’s often preferable to make a clean break rather than stick around for a higher salary or better title, as the fact that you were planning to resign indicates dissatisfaction with at least some part of the work environment.
If you do stay, your manager may constantly be worried that you’re continuing to look for another job, which can impact your career growth for the remainder or your time with the company. Further, counteroffers are sometimes used to buy time to find your replacement, which could put you in the unfortunate position of losing your job shortly after you were planning to leave—and once you’ve already turned down a new role with a different company.
If you do accept a counteroffer, have a frank discussion with your manager to align expectations and goals, and check in regularly to be sure that you’re both satisfied with how things are going and encourage transparency.
Consider personal reputation
In addition to the relationship and credibility with your manager, you may also experience reputational damage with your colleagues after accepting a counteroffer. Other loyal employees might question whether you’re really a team player and avoid pulling you into projects or trusting you with sensitive information. In addition, you colleagues might assume that you used another job offer as a tactic to secure a higher salary or title, which can be perceived as unfair if they judge their own performance to be better than yours.
To begin with, it’s generally a good idea to keep conversations about other job offers between you and your manager until things are firm—and your manager will likely appreciate your discretion as well. If you do discuss these matters with colleagues and subsequently decide to stay with the company, be transparent about why you made the decision to avoid unnecessary speculation and scrutiny.
Use your best judgement
While it’s easy to give general guidance regarding career best practices, there are always exceptions to these “rules”, and the reality is that the best decision will always be subject to your unique situation. Be sure to account for the context and relationships at stake before making any rash decisions—and if staying with your current company is truly the best decision for your career growth and satisfaction, don’t let a rule of thumb change your mind.