IT Employment optimize

The dangers of accepting a counteroffer

You may think that getting and accepting a counteroffer from your company is flattering. You may have to think again.

It's pretty tempting to think you're quite the valuable commodity when your company offers you a higher salary to keep you from leaving to go work for another company. Not so fast, hot stuff. Here are a couple of things to think about before you accept that offer.

You will be looked on here on out as a bit of a traitor.

Sure, you ultimately decided to stay, but in your company's eyes, you made an effort to find another job. And you might have interviewed on a day you called in sick, or asked to leave early using some excuse.

It may be a little naïve, but to your managers, your loyalty can't be counted on. And if you were just using the other job offer as leverage to get what you wanted from your employer in the first place, it can be construed as a kind of blackmail. People don't tend to forget that kind of thing, especially when promotions opportunities come around.

Money won't solve your problems.

If you began looking for another job because you were unhappy for various reasons, you can be assured that a little bump in salary is not going to make those issues disappear.

You've burned a bridge with the company that wanted to hire you.

If you tell the manager of the second company who was making you an offer that you've decided to stay with your current company, he or she is going to take note. If you pulled the rug out from under them once, they'll be very sure not to give you the opportunity in the future.

Last thoughts

By accepting a counteroffer from your company, you could be changing the dynamics of your relationship forever. And the counteroffer could just be buying time for your company until they can find your replacement--someone they feel will be glad to be where you are.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

91 comments
chris.leeworthy
chris.leeworthy

Getting an offer from another organisation can sometimes be the only way of getting your own company to address your needs. At one of the companies I've worked at a guy approached management, pointed out his increased skills, training and responsibilities and requested a raise. The response was "why would we give you a pay rise, we know you won't leave". As a consequence he started applying to other companies and when he came back with several offers he finally got the raise he wanted. This guy didn't want to leave and didn't want to be disloyal to the company but the only way he could get them to take him seriously was to threaten to leave. It strikes me that whenever a company is talking about loyalty it's always about your loyalty to them, there's rarely an indication that it works in the other direction.

gezeala
gezeala

There's nothing in this article we don't know already or is not common knowledge. Give us some statistics please instead to support the "dangers".

outtanames999
outtanames999

This is naive conventional wisdom from the past that is absolutely no longer relevant or correct or useful. And no one any longer believes it other than fools. Where did you get this idea from? No doubt from a corporate recruiter because this is what they have been saying for years to get employees to jump from one company to another. It's a common tactic they use to preempt a candidate from going to the current employer and using the new company's offer as a bargaining chip. Remember, the headhunter only makes money when you jump ship. But that's their problem. The days of assumed loyalty are over. What's good for the company is now good for the employee. If the company is not loyal to its employees, why should the employees be loyal to the company? How loyal is the company to you if it does not offer competitive wages, benefits, career opportunities or working conditions? Not what was competitive at the time you were hired years ago - what's competitive now. Does your company publish compensation ranges for all positions or pay grades? Probably not. Perhaps it should, perhaps not. Until it does however, how other than finding out what other companies are paying will you find out what you are really worth? If you leave and they replace you, do you think they will hire your replacement at the same rate they were paying you? No. They'll have to pay today's going rate just like the company you're considering jumping to. So if they're prepared to pay someone else that rate, why shouldn't they pay you? Your employer may consider you a traitor, but is that the kind of company you want to work for? And just exactly who at your company will consider you a traitor? Your boss? Is that the kind of boss you want to work for? How long has your boss even been on the job? Quite possibly less time than you have. Why? Because they likely jumped to a new position for higher pay themselves and that's how they became your boss in the first place. When you realize that all employees are in the same boat, including your boss, your boss's boss and the entire HR dept., it's easy to see why bargaining for competitive compensation is business as usual and being perceived as a traitor is a non-issue. They're just as likely to grant you greater respect for having the guts to ask for more with clear evidence of what you're worth. After all, if you can't negotiate on your own behalf, how will you represent the company's interests? And let's not forget that in today's economy where companies are assumed to be "not hiring", here comes a company that wants to hire you and not only that is willing to pay you more. What is the rational response from your existing employer? "You traitor"? No. How about, "Wow I didn't know he was that valuable. We better figure out how to keep him." The reality is that getting a better offer from another company today is an opportunity to open some frank discussion with your boss about your job, your role and the contribution you have to make to the company. That can lead to any number of positive outcomes that all include your staying at the company, not being considered a traitor, and achieving greater job satisfaction -- whether or not you get more pay.

Confucious say...
Confucious say...

If you consider this simple fact, regardless of where you are within an organization, then the question is simple - do you believe you are getting what you think you are worth? Only you can answer this question, and yes, we all place different values on the attributes listed in this conversation, but first and foremost, we work for money. EVERYTHING else is secondary to this simple fact. That said, a few other folks touched on the topic of self improvement. I have discovered the meaning of life. Hmmm, rather full ourself aren't we? Well if that were the end of the statement, then yes, that pre-judgement would be valid. Allow me to explain. As we go through life, one of the easiest ways to self improvement is to teach others how to do what you do. Once this is accomplished, you are free to go and learn new topics and avoid being 'pigeon-holed'. By doing this, we pass on our knowledge to the next generation (and even our current colleagues). If we take this knowledge about our discoveries to the grave with us, then what was the meaning (purpose) of our life? Thus, the meaning of life is to pass on knowledge. Consider all those who have passed before us who have revealed their knowledge, they are now immortalized. While this may sound vain, the feeling of freedom that comes with this philosophy is outstanding. Who we work for has nothing to do with how we approach our life journey - discuss.

RNR1995
RNR1995

Being from both sides of this coin, this is extremely simple Whatever the issue is, whether money or job duties, discuss it with the HMFIC If it is not resolved, find another job, because that is they are telling you

jsaccoccio
jsaccoccio

It was an internal post though, to make matters worse politically. Six months later, my current manager who slathered on the praise (and money) had to lay me off. I couldn't even go to the guy with the offer I reneged on because he made his disappointment very clear. I was interviewing because I didn't like what I was doing and ended up staying on because of a high praise snow-job? - very stupid. Another mistake: Following a boss you like out the door into his new 'opportunity'.

tech
tech

If you are the employee you are expected to bend over and take it, normally, without so much as a thank you. But if you dare to ask anything of the company or try to better yourself, then you are deemed to be a traitor. The company can cut you at the drop of a hat, but if you dare to ask anything of them you are a trouble maker. I would never accept a counter offer. I might ask for a raise, and then go looking if it is not forthcoming.

thomasmortimer
thomasmortimer

Left my current employer quite a few years ago while I was still viewed as an underling. No counter offer was presented. Company brought me back 3 times to train my replacement(s) in my ex-job for 1 1/2 the pay I was asking to stay in the first place. New company tanked after a year and a half. I had too many opportunities to sort through so I never even called my old employer. They called me with quite an impressive offer. Thirty years later, I am still there and happy. Moral; DO NOT burn ANY bridges.

Pravat
Pravat

I believe it all depends on the managers/company, some take it little too personally, that’s where things going to be sour forever and all of your insight is absolutely applicable. But there are instances where someone is actually an asset to an organization and even though the manager has the full honest intent to do all that he can to retain the resource, he is bind by the pay grade limitations, where situations like these (pre-counteroffer stage) gives an opportunity to raise some eyebrows in higher ranks and get stuff done out of the box. But again, money isn’t something going to keep folks motivated forever.

fhrivers
fhrivers

It's a recipe for animosity. They will expect more out of you and when it becomes convenient, you will be the first to get let go. The fact of the matter is that if they didn't think you were worth the pay increase before, then you can be sure that any counter-offer will be put out there reluctantly. The only exception for me would be a rather large company where the counter-offer is packaged with a promotion with another division or under a different manager.

jj3pa
jj3pa

The article overstates the obvious, and is attempting to offer advice on a very complex subject in 500 words or less. As others mentioned, in some companies the only way to get more money is to leave, or threaten to leave. Of course you have to consider very carefully taking a counteroffer these days -- I'd even go out on a limb and say you have to consider leaving and taking a new job more carefully now than in the past. The situation is different in each case. A counteroffer could offer more than just money -- perhaps it involves another position or different duties. Perhaps your notice put the company on notice that others might be unhappy in your departement.

lance
lance

You might want to ask yourself why the company you are working for didn't give you the raise before they had to counter, after all what has changed, except now they will have to look for your replacement and process paperwork. Statistically about 80-85% of employees who accept counters are gone within in a year...because as was pointed out they were viewed as a traitor as mentioned or as was also pointed out...things don't change with a salary bump...

jpgeek5704
jpgeek5704

Without leverage from another company current employers are not inclined to boost your salary. There is no loyalty out there any more. It's every man for himself, or woman.

mjc5
mjc5

Good heavens. In a world where the employee is considered the enemy, and to be got rid of if possible, the idea that accepting a counteroffer makes you look bad is to be frank, sort of silly. They will get rid of you before or afterwards with just as much remorse, which is to say, no remorse at all.

b_slice
b_slice

I wouldnt agree with this article wholeheartedly. i suppose in certain situations its going to hurt you, but I accepted a counter offer from my current employer years ago and have since grown and taken better positions with the company. Im known as the one that drinks the company kool-aid. As another commenter mentioned, it can definitely be seen as a sign of loyalty. Obviously, it all depends on the situation and environment, but you cant take what this article says as gospel.

kleigh01
kleigh01

Once you want to leave, you should go, no matter what. Typically by the time you become aware that you want to leave, it means you should have left sometime ago. We typically wait until the we've become extremely dissatisfied to make a change. Now of course, if the only reason you wanted to leave was salary, then maybe. However your current employer, if the management there is immature - which is a very common situation, may resent your desire for a higher salary and may feel you have held the company over a barrel to get it. So you should probably not accept the counteroffer. There can be exceptions to this rule, but they are few and far between. The top and middle management in many companies really resents an employee who leaves or wants to leave. It would vastly prefer to fire or lay off the employee. More than one HR director I have met was very open about this and said the company wanted to get to the point where they had no voluntary separations (i.e. employees wanting to leave) and had only involuntary ones (i.e. firing or layoffs.)

jsargent
jsargent

There is a lot of talk of loyalty but I think that most people don't understand what it means. Loyalty is not about sticking blindly with something, it's about an attitude and understanding that both sides have of each other. It's whether they like your attitude and how you will support the other side for what they are giving you. If you have 10 years experience and produce the same quality and quantity as someone with 5 years experience but you get twice the salary then there is something wrong. As time goes by you need to work at other areas of your career and not just the same old things. What I mean by that is that by the time you have your duties down to a routine you can find the time to handle things that will help you consolidate your position in the company and the general market.

bill-waisnor
bill-waisnor

In all my years of working with small, med, or large private sector companies I have never accepted a counter offer. When I decided it was time for a change, I had listed the reasons why I needed to seek alternative employment. I was always leaving for something better and leaving what I no longer wanted behind. Counters are just bad at both ends. The company that made an offer will never consider you again and the company you take the counter from thinks they have you the the bag for the future.

gr8hands
gr8hands

-All realistic and valid considerations. Perhaps the next installment could address why one should never defy death by driving to work in the morning; after all, there really are some reasons it would be safer.. I am persuaded that fear mongering only weakens people. The second (missing) half of this article should offer follow-up strategies to those who find themselves at this crossroad, for whatever reason. It is NOT a hopeless situation, and a percentage of your readers should, in fact move on.

stokesje3
stokesje3

Bear with me: In 1984 I went t0 work for a CA utility, life was good, then deregulation came a long, to the companys credit they looked to the furture, and had concern for there employees. Around 1986 / 87 our CEO had a series of all hands meetings, two things I take from that conversation 1) The way we do business is about to change, you can no longer go from cradle to grave with the same company, there is NO COMPANY ALIGENCE, look around most management upper and middle have a life of seven (7) years, then you move on. 2) Train for the future requirements, in other words keep up to date, you are responsible for your future. In saying that, what is the adage: "The best time to look for a job is when you have a job", is that not true. If a counter offer is given, the one thing to remember is that the only thing you are really working for are medical benefits, nothing more nor anything less. Think about it. Are you really concerned about what the other guy thinks, REALLY? Don't worry about the spelling (don't sweet the small stuff).

JustinDYoung
JustinDYoung

Sometimes it takes a pretty girl flirt with you to remind the wife that you are indeed still desirable. Same thing goes here. There are still companies out there that still force you to go out and get that offer before they are willing to bump your pay in a meaningful way.

settle.g
settle.g

Corporate loyalty is a thing of the past. The company expects you to be loyal but rewarding it is quite another matter. The bottom line in this day and age is to get the money, plain and simple. The day you become "outdated" in your company you can expect to be shown the door no matter what you've contributed to the business. Anyone who doesn't see employment in this light is dwelling in the past.

thdomo
thdomo

It's just ridiculous for companies to expect loyalty of any sort. Of course you don't screw people over, say like promising to not look at offers for a certain time but then leave or giving one day's notice. But if a company needs to cut you and contract out work, they're going to do it. Sure the individual manager might not like having to lay you off. But he will do it. You should avoid duplicity, but in the end you have to take care of yourself and your responsibilities first.

JeffHolst
JeffHolst

I had a somewhat unusual experience with a counter-offer. I was working for a contract firm on an option-to-hire contract with one of their clients. Both I and my employer knew that an offer would be forthcoming from the client, so my employer told me what sort of raise I would receive at the end of the contract, and it was a nice one that I thought was quite fair. I really did not want to become an employee of the client, so when they asked me what sort of salary I wanted, I gave them a figure that I really thought was much more than I was worth. They came up with an offer that met my request. I went back to my employer and told them of the offer and expressed that I would have a hard time turning it down, since it was about 20% more than what I would have received after my raise. I did not ask them to match, just possibly sweeten the promised raise, yet they matched the offer and continued to employ me for several more years. I guess they just had to increase my billing rate to cover my higher salary.

bryan_martin
bryan_martin

While money is always a consideration in looking at making a move, it is typically not the primary consideration. A significant advancement in possition within a new company could be extremey attractive if your current company has little room for advancement. Job security overall is also key to your consideration. If your company is laying off around you and the new company is in growth mode it may tend to reason that the new company has a better shot at stability, if even short term. Finally the culture and excitement level of an organization can either make you ignore the call from a recruiter or actually seek them out. No amount of money can address a miserable environment but a lot of professionals will consider a lateral, or even slight decrease, in order to improve their overall career satisfaction.

submissions
submissions

There is only one person, you should be loyal to. "You". Your boss or workplace could be the nicest. Friendliest (Guy/Gal) on the planet. When push comes to shove. It's you who goes over the cliff first..not the boss. If you're unhappy and took those steps, don't look back. If your work satisfaction is based on misplaced "Loyalty"..go work for the Apple Genius Bar, and drink the Purple Koolaid. Maybe you should pick up a copy of Ayn Rand also!. Doesn't mean you have to be a jerk. But welcome to 2012.

mark305
mark305

This is completely subjective in my opinion. If a company is paying you less than you are worth and at the same time you enjoy your job, you should not feel bad for looking elsewhere, and then using another offer to get a raise. It's part of the game, and if a company is not paying you what you deserve, and you have already approached them about it, then you have to do what's best for you.

akltam
akltam

I was in a situation 2 years ago that the employer want to fire me because I and my boss did not get along. The plan was leaked and I knew about this. But then a big project came along and my boss needed me for that. I thought twice seriously to resign but did not. 6 months later when the project was about over, I was axed. Comeon, loyalty does not worth a penny. Just 'do' what you think is best.

francisjake
francisjake

Accepting a counter offer will really start a bad aura to the other workers, giving them it may be a way of 'getting a raise'?!

allenrowell
allenrowell

We all know that the employee has very little negotiating power in most employment situations. You don't say to your boss, "give me a raise or else I'll ..." what? Quit? No. You have to have job offer in your hand to have any negotiating power. As such, I'm not sure all this horriblizing about negotiating a counter offer is helpful. I've seen employees get a counter offer and say "screw you, you should have offered me a raise *before* I went looking for another job." Employer beware! Employee beware! It's a dog eat dog world out there.

remspect
remspect

There is no definite solution to this. It depends on corporate culture and personality of your managers/supervisors. Go with your guts for your best interests.

gscratchtr
gscratchtr

(not all, so if I missed something important, I apologise), and I agree with the sentiments and with the original article. However, read any of the "how to get a raise" advice and they all include "get an offer from another company" full_disclosure:: I have, in my career, accepted and rejected counter-offers, and survived each time. I think every situation has to be evaluated individually

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

What about a counter-offer to the counter-offer. :p Or a counter-offer to the counter-offer of the counter offer. Ah well, back to the real world. :(

msnyder
msnyder

I accepted a counteroffer once about 15 years ago and still consider it to be one of the stupidest things I've ever done. As was pointed out, I alienated the organization I had applied to; they initially thought I walked on water. And the managers at my original company never trusted me or took me seriously again. Every observation or complaint, even when legitimate, was considered a ploy to get more money. When I finally did leave for good, my supervisor's initial response was "I suppose you want a counteroffer?" I said no thanks, I was simply resigning. The loss of good will between me and my long term boss was something that took three years after I left before it began to heal. My advice regarding counteroffers is very simple: do NOT accept them. If you were unsatisfied to the point that you found work elsewhere, those conditions won't change as part of a counteroffer. You'll be marked as disloyal, untrustworthy and greedy. Once you've made the decision to move on, carry it through.

richard233
richard233

In any case, every person's circumstances are different. 1) Taking an interview does not obligate you to take the job. Taking an interview helps you learn your status. Receiving a job offer helps you determine your market value. As long as you keep in mind that starting a new job does not mean you will be able to keep that new job. 2) You are a professional, hopefully, and if you accept a counter offer you need to do it in a professional manner. This means an actual contract in exchange for giving up an opportunity elsewhere. 3) Taking a "sick day" to interview is not all that professional. Taking a personal day is. What you do on your days off are your business. There are ways of leaving that do not burn bridges, assuming you are working with professionals. If you use the offer, that you have not yet accepted, as leverage, that may be risky but it's what professionals do. Don't make it personal. An unwillingness to look at options and negotiate generally just guarantee you lower pay over the long haul. If nothing else, use the offer to give you a little backbone to address the issues that are making you unhappy. If you can't resolve those issues then it is time to move on. Once you accept an offer, that's it unless you want to burn the bridge with the new company. Likewise, letting your current employer know you are being recruited is not a bad way to accelerate the process of getting better compensation. "I'd like to stay, but the new place offers healthcare/daycare/matching 401K, etc." If you have multiple offers its even better. Just remember, in most places you are not "family" you are simply an employee. If they are not treating you as family they have no right to demand such a thing as "loyalty" especially if they are willing to cut your benefits and yet give the top brass bonuses.

dregeh
dregeh

I have found that it's always best to give a positive reason for leaving your job for another one, then stick to that when rejecting counteroffers. I left my last job because my new job is in the field where I'm guiding my career, and it's only 4 minutes from my house instead of 45. When I received the counteroffer, I could honestly say I enjoyed working for them, but the 2 things I was going after at my new job were things they could not offer. They understood, and said they'd hire me back if I was ever interested.

ernied
ernied

In all the years I've been looking for work, whether it be while I'm employed or not, I've learned one important fact. There's lots of fish in the sea. Literally, I could apply to a hundred different places, and especially if my application is rejected, it's highly unlikely that they will ever remember me or anything about me. Oh sure, if there's three competitors in your field, and one of them goes out of their way to try to hire me (like this example), then sure maybe they might remember who I am. But far more likely, especially if this is a large company, they have trouble keeping track of their *own* people. At the bank that my wife works at, if you got an entry level job in the call centre and quit 6 months later, you would be one out of ten thousand who have done that. Even their IT department has had tens of thousands of applications and thousands of interviews. To top that all off, every single company is different. Every bit of interview advice or even career advice should be taken with a 10-lb block of salt. Personally, in this case I would be insulted that I would have to resort to blackmail to actually get a raise within the company I was working at. Why didn't said company offer more to begin with? Is money the only reason for me leaving or staying? Have they shown me an iota of loyalty to begin with?

EthicalLoner
EthicalLoner

where business hold all the cards and the "loyalist" peons in HR are kissing the butts of upper management so they can keep THEIR jobs. I am happy and proud to say this is not the case everywhere. I know an HR Admin who refused to place everybody in the company on salary because she recognized the move for what it was and also realized it to be illegal. Of course she soon "retired" because companies don't want honest people working for them, they want trolls and ogres that will do as they are told. As I have grown older I have come to see the American capitalist system for what it is in most cases - vulture capitalism; a system bent on squeezing employees for everything they can get while they hide behind phony excuses of "hard times". All hard times means is instead of netting $1M an exec might have to settle for a paltry $950K. So the long and short of it is - play their game. Take them for all you can get and don't even consider loyalty. They don't care, why should you?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

To accept the point of view you describe, they'd have to accept that they were employees with a management role. Where as we are employees with some other (obviously less valuable :p ) one. They'd have to accept equivalent values. That they were interchangeable, disposable, out-sourceable parts of a large an unfeeling edifice created to maximise profit. In general they find that too scary to contemplate. So you get this sort of delusion slanted to feed their fiction. Counter-offers, hiring negotiation, some one like me interviewing them at an interview pierce this comforting fantasy. And they don't like it... So you are uncomfortably correct. :(

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Some one with less getting paid more is not wrong. They are doing something of more perceived value than I am. You get paid what your employer thinks you are worth. Leave and go somewhere where you are more valued, or work on the problem and become more valued where you are. Longevity is not seniority, I've worked in places with that mindset, trust me it's not pretty. There were guys at the top of the food chain, I could have out performed twenty-five years ago...

jsargent
jsargent

Before you reply and say that the guy with 5 years of experience gets more than you take a really good look to see what he is doing right. It doesn't pay to stay bitter.

kleigh01
kleigh01

I haven't left that many jobs -- I typically stay a long time, maybe too long -- however I have never accepted a counter offer. In most cases I didn't receive a counter offer, because I made it very clear that I was leaving.

OurITLady
OurITLady

you would hopefully not have actually accepted the other offer, you would just be using the thought as leverage in your current company. I don't have a problem with going to the boss and saying that I've been made a better offer, but I'd rather stay if they can go some way to match it. What I wouldn't do is accept the other offer then start messing both parties around with counter offers, once I've been offered and accepted a new position I'm working notice and moving on.

jsargent
jsargent

If you didn't have a job to go to when the big project came up then you did the right thing. The mistake is if you stopped looking for a job. They didn't know that you had learnt of the plan and continued with the original plan. It had nothing to do with loyalty. Loyalty is something that one sees from their own side.

miauwington
miauwington

Bad aura or not : It's just the way it works, practically everywhere. In my case, I was loyal and obedient for about 3 years. Employer was very happy with me, but the job was underpaid bigtime. I thought my attitude would pay off eventually. It did not. I had small raises every year. The last few years I've gotten BIG raises because I've threatened to leave twice. Management folks are always opportunists. They pay whatever minimum that keeps you going. The game is called capitalism and employees and employers are all pawns looking for their own interest. It is what it is.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Tough. One of the people you need wanting to leave is the management issue. If that failure hadn't occurred, knock on effects from reactinbg to it wouldn't be an issue.

JamesRL
JamesRL

My brother has a very good reputation in his industry (not IT). He left one firms for another, but never slammed the door. So when word got around he was tired of being on the road all the time, his previous employer made him a sweet offer. He shared that with his current employer, and a bidding war ensued. And he has had something similar happen on other occasions.