ABC’s of Hiring #15: Beware the Dangers of Counteroffers

The very best companies rarely make counteroffers. They understand that the most effective way to retain talent and avoid being pressured to make counteroffers is to make sure talented employees are challenged, promoted and rewarded before they are tapped by others. Counteroffers are only made in response to a resignation. When you resign, you have effectively “fired” your boss, an implied insult to their management skills.

Management Issue

Your interests are secondary to your boss’s career and your company’s profit. Counteroffers are attempts to manipulate you to do something that is in your employer’s best interests, not necessarily yours. They will try and prevent you from leaving and causing turmoil within the organization. They will play on your conflicting emotions by creating guilt about the present or uncertainty about the future with the new company. They will try to keep you from leaving until they are ready to take action.

Today’s Workplace Realities

Years ago, individuals with experience at several companies were considered “job hoppers.” Today, changing jobs has become a necessity if individuals expect to advance their careers. The very traits that made “job hoppers” unstable are now hallmarks of a well-rounded, ambitious and assertive professional. Still, to quit or not to quit, can be a gut-wrenching decision requiring careful consideration and objectivity. Usually, there are compelling reasons to make a move that are not financial in nature. People usually don’t move just for more money.


You may get an increase, a promotion or more responsibility but, statistically, it is tantamount to career suicide. The conventional wisdom is that counteroffers should never be accepted. The National Business Employment Weekly reports that 80% of the people who accept counteroffers are gone within one year. There are exceptions, but they are rare. If you are in a technical role in a high tech environment it may make sense for your employer to match the market rate and for you to accept it. However, frequently enough it’s a bad idea and you should be very wary and cautious before deciding to stay. Prepare to get a lawyer and get the counteroffer in writing if you do take it.


Before you accept a counteroffer, consider the following reasons why this last minute decision could be one of the last decisions you make with this company:

  1. Your employer will no longer consider you part of the inner circle of trusted confidants.
  2. Your boss will feel that his competence and leadership will now be called into question.
  3. It is easier to keep you with a counteroffer than it is to replace you.
  4. If you have to turn in your notice in order to get a raise and promotion, then is this the type of company you really want to work for?
  5. Once the crisis has passed, it is not uncommon for your raise and promotion to be revoked.
  6. They won’t respect you. They feel betrayed.
  7. There have to be strong reasons for leaving before most employees will consider making a change. Have those reasons disappeared? Will staying somehow solve them?
  8. Are you simply getting your raise or promotion in advance? Why didn’t you get it sooner? What happens with your next merit review/raise?
  9. You have likely seen upside opportunity with the new company that you will miss out on.
  10. You probably have burned bridges two or three levels higher in management, which will hurt future career opportunities in your current company.

How to Address Your Dissatisfaction

It is best to consider why you are dissatisfied with your current job before shopping for a new one. Then meet with your boss and talk about changes that could make you happier. When you give the boss the opportunity to help you, your relationship can actually grow stronger. Initiate a discussion about your future. Ask for career advice. If your boss doesn’t respond in a positive way to address your issues, then it could be the right time to look for another job. Using another job offer as a bargaining chip may be tempting but, too often, it ends badly. If you want a raise, then negotiate it on your own merits.

How to Resign

It is important to end your relationship as professionally as possible and not to burn your bridges — you never know when you may need a future reference or have the opportunity to return. Leaving a company happens to everyone in the work world. Have the confidence to stick with your decision.

The best time to give notice is Monday or Tuesday in the afternoon about 4 PM. Provide written notice.

Dear (Boss),

Please accept this letter as my official notice of resignation. I appreciate the work that we have accomplished together, but I have now made a commitment to another organization and will begin work for them in two weeks.

It is my intention to work with you to make this transition as smooth as possible. I am eager to leave on the most positive note possible.


(Your name)

There is nothing to say “thank you” or “I’m sorry” for at this point in your career. Do not recite a list of grievances which will only fuel debate. The focus should be on the transition because you have made a decision to leave which should be respected.


Fight the urge to accept a counteroffer and keep on cleaning out your desk. Regardless of how you feel about your indispensability, the company will survive, they will replace you and life will go on. The motivation for the change should be the driving force behind accepting what the new company has to offer and how it fits you and your career aspirations.


Bob Harrington Associates has been in the executive search business for 20 years and can help you find the best people for your business.

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