Why You Should be Weary of Accepting a Counteroffer

Last updated on November 19th, 2023 at 11:36 pm

If you take a counteroffer, you might make more money, but you're not going to address anything else that made you look for a new job in the first place.

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There’s nothing more empowering than getting a job offer when you’re already gainfully employed. Assuming the job offer is a position you want, you may find yourself in the position of dealing with a counteroffer from your current employer in an attempt to retain you. So what should you do?

Why Were You Looking for Another Job?

Assuming you already have an offer letter in hand and a counteroffer from your existing employer, it’s important to think about how you ended up with that new offer letter in the first place.

Were you actively looking for a new job? If so, why?

Consider the reasons you went looking in the first place. Was it simply for more money? Or are there issues at your current job that make it an undesirable place to work? Perhaps you’re pigeon-holed into a mundane set of tasks that no longer excite you or there’s no room in for upward-mobility.

The odds are that if your job is making you unhappy, a bit more money isn’t going to change that. Very rarely does a company change the way they do business or treat their employees simply because someone’s quitting.

If you take a counteroffer, you might make more money, but you’re not going to address anything else that made you look for a new job in the first place. In fact, most people I know who’ve accepted counteroffers ended up leaving within 6 months anyway.

What if you weren’t looking and the new opportunity just popped up?

It’s not uncommon, especially in the technology industry, for employees to be solicited by competitors. The job market for qualified professionals is as difficult for job seekers as it is for companies with positions to fill. And technology professionals can have lots of reasons for leaving their jobs.

In this case, it could be a tossup as to what you do. Are you happy at your current job? If so, taking that counteroffer might be in your best interest.

But beware – your company may be retaining you, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t taken note that you’re willing to leave. It’s important to consider what type of company you work for and what kind of relationship you have with your supervisors. Are they the kind of people who’d hold it against you if you walked into their office with an offer letter from somewhere else? That counteroffer might be their way of keeping you around just long enough until they find a replacement whom they might consider to be more loyal.

What Do You Think of The Prospective New Company?

This is a big one. I once had a friend who got a job offer from a company he really wanted to work for, but it didn’t come in at the salary he wanted. He decided that he’d take it back to his employer with the intention of getting a counteroffer and maybe raising the stakes.

His employer did give him a counteroffer. A significant one. One that was so good, he knew the new company would not even consider matching it. So he had to make a choice, go to the company he really wanted to work or stay with his current company.

In the end, he chose to stay. A few years later, another great position opened up at the same company he really had wanted to work for. But when he interviewed for it, they remembered him as the guy who ‘used’ them to get a pay bump. He was qualified, but didn’t get the job. Taking the counteroffer helped him in the short-term, but ultimately hurt him when a true career opportunity came along.

Man counting money with calculator

When Should You Take a Counteroffer?

There are a some rare circumstances where a counteroffer might be the best way to go.

I knew someone whose boss told him he couldn’t give him a raise unless he had an offer letter from another company to take to HR. The company simply didn’t give raises out for any other purpose.

Another friend of mine took a counteroffer when it came with a promotion and new job duties more along the lines of what he’d wanted in his career path.

But these examples are the exception.

The Bottom Line on Counteroffers

In most cases, taking a counteroffer isn’t in your best interest. It erodes the trust companies have for you – both your current company, and your prospective company.

In fact, going through the application and interview process and then not taking the job paints you as flaky.

Apply and interview only for jobs you actually want. Apply for those which are good career moves. When the offer comes in, take it. And don’t look back.

Sharif Jameel is a business owner, IT professional, runner, & musician. His professional certifications include CASP, Sec+, Net+, MCSA, & ITIL and others. He’s also the guitar player for the Baltimore-based cover bands, Liquifaction and Minority Report.

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