Leaving your job: How to handle a counter-offer

You’ve made it through the process of finding a new job – polishing your CV, performing well at the interview, getting a job offer for a fantastic new role and telling your boss that you’re leaving. Once you’ve handed in your resignation, the hard part is over, right?

But then your employer comes back with a counter-offer, designed to tempt you to stay. It’s a popular tactic among employers; up to 50% of candidates who resign will receive a counter-offer.


So, what should you do? 

Many would advise you to decline the counter-offer. According to the stats, up to 80% of those who accept counteroffers end up leaving current employer within 6 months, and 9 out of 10 leave within a year. But it’s not always an easy decision to make, and you have to weigh up what’s right for you, long-term –however persuasive the offer might be.


What is a counter-offer?

A counter-offer is an offer made in response to another offer. In a recruitment scenario, it’s an employer’s bid to keep a high performing employee from leaving, and it’s usually made once the employee has handed in their notice. A counter-offer is intended to make you reconsider your resignation, and it typically promises a salary increase or promotion.

Employers tend to make counter-offers for the following reasons:

  • To retain the employee’s knowledge of the company, customers and processes.
  • To minimize the costs of hiring and training a replacement.
  • To avoid passing extra workload onto the rest of the team.
  • To maintain employee morale and team relationships.


The potential pitfalls of staying

There are several reasons that the best option might be to stick with the job offer for your new role.

  • Your main reason for leaving is the work culture. No amount of pay hike, compensations, and training opportunities is worth staying if the work environment is not right for you.
  • The only offer is an increase in salary. On balance, your future career growth is at least as important, if not more so, than short term financial gain.
  • You do not have a good relationship with your manager. Your intent to resign may create resentment and a lack of trust even if you choose to stay. Eventually, you could be passed over for promotions or training opportunities if your manager feels you aren’t fully committed to a long-term career at the company.
  • The reason the employer is counter-offering is just to avoid the hassle of finding a replacement for you. If you feel that you’re being asked to stay just to cut down on hiring costs and not because they value and appreciate you, it might be best to head for the exit.


How to handle a counter-offer

Whatever your reasons are for resigning, avoid accepting or rejecting a counter-offer straight away. Here’s some tips for dealing with a counter-offer.


  • Speak to your manager and check out the terms of the offer.
    Go directly to your manager, and find out why they want to keep you. Is it because you are valued or is it just to avoid turnover costs? You don’t need to decide right there and then – ask for a day or two to think it over. Take some time to consider their proposal so that you can be confident you’re making the right decision, whichever way you go.
  • Compare the offer with your new job offer.
    Assess the strength of the counter-offer, and compare it with the offer from your prospective employer. Look at more than just the salary and benefits. Consider which company will help you to develop your career in the long term. Where can you develop most? Which offers more opportunities for progression? Also consider which company best aligns with your values; company culture and vision is an important factor as it can affect how engaged, motivated and happy you are at work.
  • Speak to your Recruitment Consultant
    If you’re using a Recruiter, let them know about the counter-offer as soon as possible. They’ll have been through this process plenty of times before with other candidates and can give you their professional opinion on what else you need to consider. It’s in their interest to help you make the right decision, as their client will be looking for candidates who want to stay long term and progress within their company, not to leave after a few months and go back to their old employer.
  • Revisit your reasons for leaving.
    Most counter-offers involve a pay rise, but money isn’t usually the number one reason someone leaves their job. Many people look for employment elsewhere to have better work-life balance, to gain more experience and responsibility, or to be in a more dynamic work environment. Ask yourself why you looked for a new job in the first place and assess whether the counter-offer will give you everything you need.
  • Listen to your inner voice.
    You’re probably familiar with the advice to ‘go with your gut’ or ‘trust your intuition’. This applies when finding a new job, too. Although you should be methodical when assessing the pros and cons of the counter-offer versus the new job offer you’ve accepted, if there’s a nagging feeling that staying isn’t the right thing to do, listen to it. Whether it was down to the lack of inspirational leadership, opportunities that are few and far between, or subtle office politics, your inner voice was telling you to leave and look for another job, so if you ignore it, it could cost you in the future.
  • Make your Decision
    Whether it’s best to stay or to go depends on your unique situation –from your career goals to your financial needs. Ultimately, you are the one who knows what’s best for yourself and your career. Once you’ve decided what to do, let your current employer, and your Recruiter or new employer know as soon as possible.