The Deadly Counter Offer

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So you’ve decided to hand your notice in.

The grass is looking oh-so-much greener on the other side, and in the envelope you’ve just handed to your manager, you have the power to cut ties and run towards it. Freedom – hallelujah!

You know this decision has not been taken lightly. You’ve weighed up every option – money, office dynamic, location… all the little things that add up. It’s a brave move to change career, and the chances are, you’ve had to think hard about it.

But you’ve made your decision! Sorted. Right…?


You weren’t expecting someone to (metaphorically) rip up your resignation letter. You weren’t expecting them to throw a tantrum about your imminent departure. Basically, you just weren’t expecting anyone to say no.

Well, have a bit of faith in yourself! If you’ve made a good impression in your workplace, why would they want you to leave? The answer is simple – they wouldn’t. Not only do they not want to lose your services, they don’t want to go to the expense or hassle of advertising your position. It’s a long-winded process to train someone new, not to mention pricey, and you already do the job for them! It’s well within their interests to keep hold of you.

Behold… The Deadly Counter Offer!

There are a few ways this could go.

There’s not a snowball in a bonfire’s chance that you’re sticking around

Sometimes, the decision to quit is indisputable. If you have concrete, unshakeable reasons to leave, you’re probably going to be closed off to a counter offer. “Not for all the tea in China” springs to mind – so keep those shutters down. If you feel that way about your job, your choice to leave was the right one.

You were (not so secretly) hoping for a counter offer

If you’ve made an empty threat to jack in your job, you’re probably hoping that somebody will offer you a huge amount of money (or a promotion) to stay. I hope it works out for you. Unfortunately, the flip-side of that coin is that your employer may not take the bait. Assess the situation before you recklessly hand your notice in. If you want something that you aren’t getting, it may be negotiable (minus the drastic action). Make sure you have a genuine reason to leave before declaring your departure. Counter offers can be deadly in this way too – by not materialising!

You weren’t expecting a counter offer and now you’re stuck

And here we have the most likely outcome. You agonised over your decision for weeks, before the scales tipped in favour of moving on. Now, your employer is wise to your plans – and if they want you to stay, they’re going to try and change your mind. A fly in the ointment, if ever there was one!

Here’s my advice on how to tackle it – whichever way you decide to go…

  • Who are you really dealing with?

Think about it – did it really have to come to this? You’ve made a major career decision, and your employer has left it until the very last minute to offer you a better deal. Have they been short-changing your salary all along? Have they been denying you the career progression you know you deserve? If so, it’s wise to think about whether you want to continue working for a company with such standards.

  • Empty pockets, or empty promises?

If you’ve chosen to resign for financial reasons, consider this.

A common reason for pay-rise rejection is “lack of funds.” If your salary has (thus far) remained static, it’s bad luck. However, if you’ve handed in your notice and been offered a huge increase, alarm bells should be ringing. Where is that money coming from? Well, either they were fibbing about the coffers being empty, or it’s your next pay-rise in disguise. Most companies have super-strict finance policies, so it’s pretty likely they’ve borrowed the money from your future self.

Make sure your progression won’t be affected by a one-time salary hike. If you suspect you’re being sold a dummy, it’s probably time to make an exit.

  • Blotted copybook

The moment your escape plans become public, you’ve changed your position forever.

Even if you then choose to accept a counter offer, your loyalty to the company is likely to be questioned – because you thought about leaving. In essence, you’ve become an unknown entity, and their loyalty to you may diminish as a result.

Forced redundancies? You may (literally) be in the ‘firing’ line now.

Future promotions? Now that you’ve made it clear you’re open to opportunities outside of your current company, possibly not. Join the back of the queue.

Be very clear about what it is you want – or don’t want. Are you after extra responsibility? An approachable boss? A more collaborative team? If there’s something about the office dynamic that you’ve found untenable before, it isn’t going to change because you’ve got a bit more cash in your pocket. Listen to your instincts and think it through carefully.

The final result…

Money is rarely the sole reason for leaving a job. Despite this, the majority of counter offers are money-based. The fact is, the company is simply buying its way out of a problem – your impending departure.

If you’re seriously considering a counter offer, define why that is.  More cash at the end of the month will neither change (nor compensate for) your boss’s attitude, the company culture, the long hours, the burdening workload or living out of a suitcase 4 nights a week.

Companies want to keep good staff, and good staff want good jobs. It’s a simple equation! When considering your next career move, make sure you don’t base your choice on the wrong factors. If you’re the easy option because you’re already in post, don’t let anyone push you into staying where you aren’t appreciated.

On the other side, a counter offer can sometimes be the right choice. Strike the right balance, and you get to stay in a company you value – and that values you.