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How to handle a counter-offer

You may think that accepting a new job offer and resigning from your current role is straightforward enough, but if your current employer then makes a counter offer – perhaps a pay rise, a bonus, or a new job title – it can throw a spanner in the works. Here are some points to consider when deciding whether to stay or go.

Timing

Consider why your current employer has only offered you an increased salary now that you’ve resigned: why wasn’t your worth recognised before you handed in your notice? If you feel undervalued in your current role but your employer only takes action when you resign, then you may be better off with a company that is more proactive in helping you fulfil your career ambitions.

You may also wish to consider where the money for a pay rise or bonus is coming from: it may well be that you are merely getting your next promotion early, and it may then be a while until your next one.

Finally, it’s also possible that you are only being kept on until your current employer is able to find someone to fill your role at your old salary: it’s far more convenient for your employer if you leave on their timescale rather than yours.

More than money

Unless you were only looking for a new job in order to increase your salary, counter-offers are rarely the answer (and even then, consider the points above). If you are looking for more flexible working, a better work-life balance, a change in direction or even just different colleagues, a salary raise may not be enough to paper over the cracks, and you may find yourself looking for a new role again shortly down the line if the current issues remain unresolved.

If your current employer promises to address any issues which led to you seeking a new role, consider whether they are likely to keep their promise and ask for details of how they intend to resolve the problem. It may be useful to get any promises in writing so that you can reference them in future if necessary.

Loyalty and trust

It can be difficult to continue working in a role once your employer knows that you’ve been looking elsewhere. You may have to prove your commitment to the company, especially if you only stayed for a higher salary or a company car. From your company’s point of view, you may be viewed as disloyal, or they may fear that you will take knowledge of the company to a competitor, having a knock-on effect on how much responsibility you’re given going forward, plus you may no longer be seen as a team player, and could potentially be first out the door if there is an internal reorganisation.

The case for staying

If you’ve worked for a company for a while then you may have developed close working relationships with your colleagues or have a good service record, all of which will take time to recreate with a new employer. Consider external factors as well: for example, if you’re buying a house then a mortgagor may prefer the security of a long-term job.

The case for going

While it’s important to take time to consider any counter offer, most experts agree that the odds are against you: more than 60% of UK-based employees who accept a counter-offer end up leaving the company within 12 months anyway. Bear in mind that something made you want to leave your current role enough for you to start job hunting; and equally something about the new role was enticing enough to make you accept the offer.

And although the counter-offer deserves fair consideration, most people make the most dramatic improvements to their career progression, immediate and long-term earning potential by making an external move.

Rejecting the counter-offer

If you decide to go ahead with your new role, take the opportunity to thank your current employer for the offer and reiterate that, while you enjoyed your time with the organisation, you remain firm in your decision to leave. As with any resignation, remaining professional is vital, so avoid the temptation to badmouth the company or to reiterate old complaints and focus instead on making your remaining time in your role as positive as possible.

In conclusion

If you do receive a counter-offer, it’s important to consider it as thoroughly as you do the new role. Consider which job makes the best use of your skills and will develop your career in the direction in which you’d like to take it. How do you feel about each business, your direct managers in each and your colleagues? Which role offers the best combination of salary plus other benefits and opportunities, and how do they each fit with your current circumstances? Finally, you may wish to bear in mind that you have already accepted the new job offer, and changing your mind at this juncture may well create bad feeling or an awkward situation. In many situations, the best response to a counter-offer is a gracious thanks but no thanks.

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