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Counter offer – A kiss of death

Recently a senior accountant with a major accounting firm accepted a finance manager position with a major listed organisation that offered him $20,000 more than he currently earned. But the accountant changed his mind after his current employer made him a counter offer. The partner offered him a plethora of incentives, including the promise of partnership in the near future. Three months later, after the tax season ended, the accountant was fired.

Insights Louise Pope 21 December 2015
— 3 minute read

I wish this story was a one off. Unfortunately not. It is a sobering statistic that over 70 per cent of people who have accepted a counter offer will not be at their current employer in six months and 85% will not be there in twelves months’ time. This is because they will have subsequently realised why they were leaving in the first place and resigned again chosen to move or worse still been moved on by their current employer.


Assume you've been a valued employee, your company will not want to lose you, and are likely to propose a counter offer - a flattering incentive designed to tempt you into changing your mind. As tempting and ego-gratifying as it may be, accepting a counter offer could be a costly career mistake.

If you previously couldn’t get a raise from your boss when you provided proof that you are underpaid, ask yourself: “Why is my manager offering me a raise now that I’m resigning?” If you weren’t valuable enough to be given a raise before, why would your boss be willing to give you more money now? Most likely, it is not because you’ve suddenly become a more valuable employee. It’s because your manager doesn’t want to deal with the work disruption your departure could create.

Let me state that one more time to be sure you understand… it is not because you’ve suddenly become a more valuable employee. It is because your manager doesn’t want to deal with the work disruption your departure could create.

Far from being a vote of confidence, a counter offer is the career kiss of death and here are the reasons why:

• Any situation is suspect if an employee must receive an outside offer before the present employer will suggest a raise, promotion or better working conditions.

• No matter what the company says when making it's counteroffer, you'll always be a fidelity risk. Having once demonstrated your lack of loyalty (for whatever reason), you will lose your status as a team player and your place in the inner circle.

• Counteroffers are usually nothing more than stall devices to give your employer time to replace you. Your reasons for wanting to leave still exist. They'll just be slightly more tolerable in the short term because of the raise, promotion or promises made to keep you.

• Counteroffers are only made in response to a threat to quit. Will you have to solicit an offer and threaten to quit every time you deserve better working conditions?

• By accepting a counteroffer, you have committed the unprofessional and unethical sin of breaking your commitment to the prospective employer making the offer.

• Decent and well-managed companies don't make counteroffers...EVER! Their policies are fair and equitable. They will never be subjected to counteroffer coercion, which they perceive as blackmail. You have now made your employer aware that you are unhappy. From this day on, your loyalty will always be in question.

• When promotion time comes around, your employer will remember who is loyal and who is not.

• When times get tough, your employer will begin the cutbacks with you.

• Accepting a counteroffer is an insult to your intelligence and a blow to your personal pride: you were bought.

Don’t waiver on your decision to change jobs. You took the time to identify your reasons for leaving. You worked to fix all the issues that were within your control. There were issues that weren’t fixable and these were your deal-breakers. Because you couldn’t change the deal-breakers, you found a new job that was a better match to your career goals and aspirations. Don’t let your ego or feeling flattered that you’re being offered more money cloud your judgment or cause you to make a bad decision. You already did your homework, so feel secure about the process you went through to seek a different job.

Final Thought

Of course, this isn’t to say you’ve not been valuable to your organisation and they won’t be sad to see you go. If you’ve proven your worth, it is unlikely they will want to lose you. However, good bosses and hiring managers understand that people do not remain with one company their whole life, and that moving onwards and upwards is a natural part of a career cycle. A counter-offer may be a knee-jerk reaction to the prospect of losing a valued employee, but all good organisations know that personnel change is part of the part and parcel of running a business. If the urge to accept a counteroffer hits you, keep on cleaning out your desk as you count your blessings. And, if you decide to stay, hire an employment lawyer to put your newly won promises in the form of a contract.


Counter offer – A kiss of death
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Louise Pope

Louise Pope

Louise has accumulated more than 20 years of recruitment experience in the UK and Australia. After successfully managing teams for one of the largest finance recruiters in the world, Louise transferred to Sydney in April 1999 and launched new offices and new product lines, managing the group through significant growth as head of the Accounting and Finance division.

In 2004, Louise founded Aequalis Consulting. Louise has a down to earth approach, but her energy, passion and ambition still fuel the business today, and will continue to contribute to Aequalis’s long-term success. She is a strong advocate of acknowledging the shortcomings of the recruitment industry, and is known for telling it like it is.