What to do if you receive an employer counter offer

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While you may have spent time considering your resignation, it may come as a shock to your manager if they didn’t anticipate it. As a result, it’s difficult to predict how they’ll respond. It’s not uncommon for an employer to try to change your mind about your resignation, and stay working with your current company.

​This is known as a counter offer and has the potential to throw a spanner in the works as you plan moving onto your next role. Our counter offer advice will help you understand the shortfall of accepting this offer, and how to navigate the process politely, ensuring you finish your current role on a positive note.

What is a counter offer?

A counter offer is an employment offer made to you by your current employer, after they become aware that you’ve been offered a role at another company. A counter offer can take different forms – it may be an increase to your salary, an evolution of your responsibilities or even a promotion. Your options are to accept the counter offer, reject it, or make another offer if you’re keen to stay.

Why accepting a counter offer is a bad idea

By the time you resigned, you’ve likely reflected on future prospects at your current employer and made the decision that a better opportunity exists at another organisation. While additional offerings from your current employer may make staying in your current role seem more appealing, they’re unlikely to permanently resolve the reason you started your job search in the first place.

Counter offers are often made by your employer under duress and with haste. This means that your employer’s immediate concern may be the headaches your departure will mean for them, and they’ll be looking for ways to remedy this by making you promises that haven’t been fully considered. As a result, promises may not ultimately be delivered on, leaving your problems unresolved.

There’s a high probability that, in coming months, you’ll be looking for a role again. The 2020 PACE Survey reports that 66% of people who accept a counter offer end up resigning (again) within 12 months. You’ll likely be frustrated that you declined another opportunity which in hindsight you wish you’d taken – a role which is no longer available.

Finally, consider your reputation both within and outside your current employer. The process of resigning and going through a counter offer process may have a lasting impact on your relationship with your manager. As you’ve already tried to resign once, will there be a lingering concern about your loyalty to the business that may impact your ability to progress your career there? When you need to take a morning off work to go to the dentist, will your absence bring with it nervousness that you’re interviewing elsewhere? Additionally, by the time you resign, you’ve likely accepted an offer elsewhere meaning you’re going to have to rescind that acceptance. This breach of trust may create a blemish on your reputation at a company you’d like to work for one day.

How to reject a counter offer politely

Resigning from a job can be challenging. The process is made even more difficult when your boss conveys how important you are to the business and provides you with additional incentive to stay. It’s critical that you remain objective, remember what prompted you to look for work in the first place, and remind yourself of the opportunity that lies ahead in your new job.

It’s appropriate to ensure that your current employer feels heard and not immediately dismissed, though don’t elongate the resignation process unnecessarily. Ensure healthy dialogue during your resignation, but be clear and firm about leaving your role.

How to avoid a messy counter offer

Resigning from a position is a big decision and should be carefully considered. Before starting your job search, be sure to consider your key motivators for moving roles, and ensure they can’t be satisfied at your current employer.

For example, if you’re seeking a higher salary, more responsibility or a promotion, formally request this from your current employer. Give them the opportunity to take up your offer, rectify the problem and extinguish your desire to move roles. If you’re successful, you’ll save yourself (and others) a lot of time and energy, and keep your career on track. If not, you’ll solidify your decision to move and eliminate the counter offer conversation, as you’ll already have given your employer an opportunity to satisfy your requirements prior to your resignation.

When resigning, make sure you’re prepared. Book a time to meet with your manager and have a resignation letter ready. Be resolute in your communication, but reiterate your gratitude for the opportunity and enjoyment of the role. See our full list of resignation tips.

Like breaking up with a partner, resigning from a role that someone wants you to stay in may lead to a sense of guilt. This is natural. But there’s no need to feel guilty – as long as you manage your resignation professionally and ensure you support your current employer by giving them adequate notice and remaining productive until your departure.