DIY

When accepting a counteroffer is a good idea


I can't tell you how many times I have read career advice articles imploring the reader to never, ever consider accepting a counteroffer.  The advice giver, usually a well respected and well-read headhunter, explains that when you accept a counteroffer, you are just giving your employer time to find your replacement.

Working as the only computer technician in a small to medium sized business had taken its toll on me, especially since there was a long commute involved.  I received an offer from a local employer that was comparable in size, duties and compensation to my previous position.  Because it was closer to home, I accepted the offer.

When I submitted my resignation, I was shocked to receive a counteroffer that included a perk I had never before considered - working from home three days a week.  In addition, the counteroffer included a promise to find a junior staffer to take care of the endless user support requests that stood in the way of progress on projects.

I thought long and hard about the counteroffer.  I considered what I had read from the headhunter.  I consulted with friends and sought their advice.  In the end, I accepted the counteroffer.  Why?  I stuck with the job because I trusted my employer.  I know what you're thinking.  "What a fool!  How could you be so gullible?"

Look, I'll admit that I'm no expert on career counseling.  My area of expertise is running tech support for small businesses.  So I hope you'll forgive me for stepping out of the box on this one.  I'm just going to throw this out for consideration.  To have a successful working relationship with the boss, there has got to be some trust.

I hope I'm not a rarity in the business world.  It's been almost a year and I'm still with the company.  The boss made good on his promise and got me a full-time junior to take over the help desk issues.  I spend my time on projects for managers and executives.  Working from home most of the time has been a blast.

35 comments
mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

I have been a party to this type of discussion from the other end and it is not good, it is ugly. You paint an "X" on yourself and even if the "boss" doesn't immediately replace you; you go to the top of the list when there is blood in the water. As soon as there is a "reason" you are gone with a notes in your human resources folder to the effect of damning you with faint praise if anyone enquires about you. I am glad for your sake that it worked out but it is not recommended for a reason, it is usually suicidal.

bus66vw
bus66vw

I did take a counteroffer which turned out to be a good choice. I doubled my pay the day I accepted the offer and received a cash bonus of over 10,000.00 US dollars. I had that job for over 15 years. Jobs like that are rare today. If you ever go this route, I would say you better have a thick hide because your coworkers will find out and that can make for a tough work environment.

No-Dough
No-Dough

No, I don't mean the money you are being offered. I mean the money the advice-giver stands to make. From the article: "The advice giver, usually a well respected and well-read headhunter..." How much does a head-hunter stand to make if you accept a counter?

gkteo
gkteo

i've accepted a counteroffer b4 but things still didnt work out. :P

neiliss
neiliss

In your case I think the counter offer was genuine and your employer valued your contribution enough to make the offer. In my experience however most counter offers are usually just monetary in nature making them mostly irrelevant and often insulting. I also wonder why the necessity to leave a company can be changed by your employer once the new offer is on the table, when they could have been pro-active throughout your tenure and offered you the same conditions without you ever considering leaving, or maybe that was a conversation that you felt was hard to have until you had secured another position and had something to bargain with.

jdclyde
jdclyde

They offered me a wage that was unacceptable, so I politely told them thanks, but no thanks, and walked away. A week later, they called me back, offering me 10 more a year. My co-worker is burned on that because she just thinks I make that much more than her because I am a man, instead of me just knowing I was worth more while she settled for the first offer. It isn't MY fault she has a lower value on herself than I do, is it? How does she know what I make? Why, she abused her ADMIN rights and went in and looked, and then TRIED to use that information to get a big raise. She should have gotten fired for abusing her position.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

If your boss knows you are unhappy with certain aspects of the job, and comes up with a counter-offer after you've organised another job, forget it. If they have a habit of breaking their promises, or making ones thay can't keep, forget it. If the job came up out of the blue, headhunter rang you off an old cv, and you proceeded out of curiosity, then maybe, consider it. Remember while comapnies expect loyalty from their people, they very very very rarely do anything to deserve it. Once I took a counter offer, I was really sorry I did.

tim
tim

I would like to think that I'm not alone in my opinion that sometimes, accepting a counteroffer can be a good thing. Read the original post: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/techofalltrades/?p=128 What do you think? Has my experience been unique? Is it still too early to tell if my trust was well founded?

tim
tim

I totally agree. I do NOT recommend accepting a counteroffer, especially in a larger company. My negotiations were directly with the owner / chairman / CEO. This is a small to medium sized business with less than 200 employees. If I were in a larger company and we were discussing headcount reductions, someone who had accepted a counteroffer would be first on the chopping block. That's one of the reasons I swore off working for big biz. Another great thing about being the computer guy in a small company is that you get to know the HR manager very well. We have a close working relationship as I need to be informed when others are terminated. I get advance notice so I can backup mailboxes before they clean them out. It would not be hard to read warning signals if all of a sudden HR gets real quiet. I have even worked on her home network to keep things happy. It's my way of playing golf. I'm not good at office politics in big companies. I can handle an SMB family.

tim
tim

I have experienced that very thing - a little bit of resentment from co-workers. I am not the first employee to be allowed to work some days from home, but the first in computer support. It takes them some getting used to. There is a large amount of trust involved from the employer. I am surprised that there are not more checks in place to ascertain productivity. I guess if the boss ever hears of problems not being taken care of in a timely manner then things might change. I make sure that doesn't happen. Email, Remote Desktop and call forwarding are my friends.

highlander718
highlander718

that we are not talking about the head hunter involved in any of these transactions.

tim
tim

You don't hear that side of the story very often. Of course headhunters don't like counter offers. Not only do they make nothing, they also lose face with their client - the employer that made you the offer. They can hardly afford that. A headhunter's clients are much, much more important to them than we ever will be. They want repeat business from their clients. How often will a prospective employee be wanting or needing their services in the next few years? Thanks for the comment, No-Dough.

tim
tim

What a thought provoking second paragraph about management proactivity in the area of employee satisfaction. We've all read stories of some companies who claim that their employees are their most valuable asset. I'm not sure if I believe them. It has been my experience that management is just too swamped running a business to take the time for regular reviews. I'm talking small to medium sized business here. Annual reviews in large corporations are a joke. I was once reviewed by a manager that spent a grand total of two hours with me in the previous year. We worked different sites. But more to the point of your comment - I guess it's just good business to offer a sweeter deal when you know an employee has accepted another offer. In my case, the boss is very competitive. He complained that I hadn't given him a chance to bid on the deal. I formally resigned without talking to him first. He was out of town. When he got back into town, he had his secretary call me in (a power play?). We never talked money. The deal wasn't about money. It was about commuting. I think that more companies are wising up to the fact that employees can remain productive even if they are not always onsite. This works especially well with sales positions. I would venture to guess that there are many contract programmers and developers who work from the home office, but I may be wrong. I have friends who do software implementation that work out of a different office every month. Of course that is all billable time. Managing tech support for a small business from a remote office may be a new thing. So far it seems to be working well.

JamesRL
JamesRL

That would have been an automatic firing. No appeals would be considered, and no manager would dare ask for one. I've seen a few wages (other than my direct reports) inadvertently, and its policy that I must not share that information, like an internal non-disclosure. At my employer you can estimate pretty well. Every job band has a range, and the range is posted. We have limits on raises and set amounts for promotions. So if you can guess their starting salary and guess their raises and you know how long they have been here... Never argue for a raise based on what other people are making(at your company). Always argue based on the value YOU bring to the table. You can argue based on market rates but thats a slippery slope sometimes. James

tim
tim

I've had mixed experiences with practicing loyalty to an employer in my career. In one company, I had co-workers who had been with the company for over thirty years. It was common knowledge that the press operator made $120,000 a year. He got that simply by being employed and getting raises year after year. I stuck with the company for many years before moving on. They are now out of business. Why? I think, in part because they paid their employees too much. In this case, the long-time employees had to scramble to find new jobs just before they were ready to retire. Some had to take positions that paid half as much. I confess that up until recently, I have been a bit of a job hopper. Early in my career, the best way to get a raise was to find a new job. With the salary level up there, that strategy no longer works. So loyalty now seems to be the order of the day. I agree that most companies rarely ever do anything to deserve loyalty. I recognize that I have a sweet deal going right now. Maybe it's because the CEO has never been able to get a previous tech employee to maintain his home network right. I guess that's my way of staying in good with the boss - fix his home computers and network whenever asked. But if business were to turn South, I can just imagine that the overhead of IT would be axed without any thought for past home network service. Sorry to read that your experience with a counter offer did not work out. Was it due to the warning that I have read about - you're toast as soon as they find a replacement?

wayoutinva
wayoutinva

and they counter, I have to look at the situation. When I leave a company I am leaving for a reason, not always for better pay, maybe closer to home, more opportunity etc. If the counter does not change the underlying reasons for me leaving, then I wont accept it, even if its for more money...I to dont burn bridges...because you never know....

merddyin
merddyin

I am not just referring to your approach, but also the approach of the management. I think if you are dissatisfied with your work environment, it is your responsibility to have a 1-on-1 with your managers. You should share, not just what your problem is, but by presenting things that fit within the framework of your company that could alleviate the issues. If you do this and they blow you off until you have an offer from another company, then you should not accept a counter. If they didn't think your issues mattered before, it's unlikely they think the issues matter now, they are just buying time. As far as the 'out of the blue' offers, we all know there is really no such thing. By the time you have an offer, you've already interviewed and won the job. Again, the approach I think is the important thing since it answers the questions you need to know to decide whether or not to accept a counter. In my own case, I approached the boss with the offer I received. I made it clear that I had not been actively looking for alternative employment, but that there were aspects of the offer that were appealing. I explained what those were and why. I went on further to address those potential concerns for loyalty by providing a compromise. I did not ask the company to match the offer $ for $ and perk for perk, but instead I proferred what I thought would sweeten the deal for me while pointing out the elements from my past performance that I felt helped justify these changes. I was told after the fact that, even though this company could not counter, the manager had really wanted to. It wasn't just my prior performance on the job, nor even the fact that I had an offer in hand, it was the way I had approached the conversation. At the end of the day we parted friends because we both understood that, lacking any sort of counter, this was the best move for my family and not being made out of greed. Just my thoughts...

timjgreen2
timjgreen2

The problem with accepting a counter-offer is that it means one of 2 things: 1 - You never spoke to your boss about the problems you are having. If this is the case, you should consider the counter-offer, but it's not the best way of negotiating with your boss! I know from experience that by avoiding confrontation, it's difficult to get job satisfaction, because no job is perfect, and no employer is clairvoyant. It's always best to speak to the boss about the issues you have: they may pleasantly surprise you, and staying at a company for a few years is usually a plus on your resum?. 2 - You did speak to the boss, but they didn't take you seriously until you resigned. If this is the case, what makes you think things will really be different once you have turned the offer down and no longer have another option? It's not accepting the counter-offer per se that is the problem, it's just the fact that you shouldn't get yourself into that position to begin with.

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

they start planning to find your replacement. You lack of loyalty and motives are now in the open.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I always present my resignation as fait au compli. My older brother, on the other hand, has accepted multiple counters. His early jobs involved sales and travel, and usually his reasons for leaving is to find a job with less travel. He almost always gets a counter with more money, but more money isn't what he wants. They sometimes counter with other roles in the company with less travel but it often works out that the role expands to include more travel. He never burns bridges, and it has served him well. James

highlander718
highlander718

I went through the same, being a one man show in a small to medium business, after moving to a big city, following my wife on her career path. Everything was quite all-right but I knew I can do better and indeed after less than 6 month a new opportunity arise, basically one block away, with a 33% increase. I was not so sure the environment would be as nice, but the IT part of the job itself was at least as interesting. When I presented the situation to my boss, she asked me if I would be at all interested to stay, in case they can match the other offer. I said I would definitely think about it, and sure enough in half an hour she came back with good news. I didn't think much honestly, I never thought they might play tricks with me, I did trust my boss with whom I had (I think) a very god professional relation). I stayed there for the next 4 years and a half, until the mothership decided to move the company to a different city. Maybe I was just lucky.

tim
tim

Correct. I found out about the local job though an email. Well, actually I am registered on Dice and have an 'agent' that sends me an email every day of new job listings in my area. I applied because it was so close to my home and things just progressively moved along until they made me an offer. I felt bad after I had to rescind my acceptance. They even asked if if would do any good to start bidding. That only made me feel worse. I would have enjoyed working with the local company but I wanted to try the working from home thing with my current employer to see how it worked out.

info
info

On that last point, arguing YOUR value is always best but your boss/HR, however good a friend they are, has a job to do. Save your company money. So they'll try to politically sell you short on what you're worth to them. Heck, I'm thinking of asking for a raise, and suddenly I'm sent to all of these meetings with IT outsourcing companies! "Please list these areas where we can save you money...#1/ Systems Administrator - Salary" *Laugh* Knowing what other people in similar positions in the company make can be a bit of a lever. When asked how you know the information, NEVER directly answer. "It came to me eventually," usually works.

jdclyde
jdclyde

I have seen most of the income, but that is because IT had to help print out W2's and you had to make sure everything was lining up correctly, so you couldn't NOT look. I agree, just because someone else makes a certain amount is not reason for YOU to make that amount. She has made comments since then about how it isn't fair that she makes so much less, so I asked her how she knows how much I made.... B-) I fully agree that she should be long gone, for that and many other issues. Oh well, it doesn't effect me, so not my problem.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

very successful American firm steping into the european market via the UK. The guys they employed initially employed their mates, who also didn't know what they were doing and spent most of the budget, shall we say unwisely. I came in and started looking around at the mess, and tried to find out how the f*** they'd got here, meanwhile the big boys were secretely plotting a wholesale replacement of the top echelon. So when I said I'd had enough, they promised me a new brush, a team leader spot and some real authority to prune the deadwood that were the previous incumbents mates. A few weeks later new manager, from a failed IT venture who knew VB started bringing all his mates in. No b'stard gets me twice. The entire thing failed five months after I left. Not because I did of course, but because they did get fooled twice.

ggriffin
ggriffin

Tim Greene hits the nail on the head - if you as the employee are handling the situation right, you will have already raised the concerns that made you look in the first place (assuming we're not talking about an out of the blue offer). You will have tried to find solutions with your manager and failed. In that case, your resignation should be a done deal and you should not accept the counter offer. If you have not made your concerns clear, or your manager has not taken them seriously until you drop the envelope on his desk, you should move on to somewhere that takes you more seriously. If you're not addressing issues to your manager before going to the trouble of finding a new job, you need to look at how you are managing your career, as being surprised by a resignation out of the blue does nothing for the company's confidence in you, your reliability or loyalty. However, advice coming from a recruiter that you should NEVER look at a counter offer is cynical - these rodents only make their money when you move - they get nothing if you stay, so of course they think you should always move as their fat bonus depends on it. G

Minstrel Mike
Minstrel Mike

It really depends on the person. If you believe you can trust the boss, then they probably just weren't paying attention to your work or you weren't complaining. When they first hear of issues is when you take a new job so they give you a counter-offer. That is different from the boss who knows he's shafting you and only counters in order to hold you while he hires a replacement. They both exist and determining who you are working for is one of the primary tasks involved in this issue.

Ollie J
Ollie J

In my experience it depends on the reasons for leaving. If the reasons for leaving can be mitigated by a counteroffer (such as working from home to mitigate a long commute or hiring a junior to spread the workload) then I see no problem with accepting a counteroffer. However, if these are such problems that you'd resign, why didn't you raise then with your boss in the first place? If you did and it takes a resignation to spur them into action, it's not worth staying.

JamesRL
JamesRL

One of my previous bosses hired me again when he moved to another company. He actually came looking for me. And I know several situations of "boomerangs", people who leave and come back. My own department has a couple of them. They went for greener pastures, didn't find them, and we valued their experience enough to bring them back. Of course they were exceptional employees. James

JamesRL
JamesRL

I know it is a fine balance. Like it or not, someone higher up determines the "average" for the years salary increases and I have to fit in that limit (aside from promotions) or have a business case for an exception that goes pretty high up the food chain for approval. So I do try to look at balancing rewarding those who excel in their work with making sure that those who might be a little low in their grade rise up. You know I don't think about saving money on salary, because my department, and my peers departments are chronically understaffed to start with. If we have a department that has more people than it needs, we redploy those people into departments that need more. Where you really save money on staffing is by avoiding a new hire, until you really really need the new hire. We generally have a tough process to add a permanent headcount, less so with contractors. If you come to me with a manager and tell me what someone else makes, I'm not going to discuss it with you in detail. There are all kinds of reasons they may make what they make, and I would be violating lots of privacy rules to tell you those details. If you press the issue, I will shut you down. I did have a staff member complain that someone in the same grade but different role had a more generous bonus structure. I suggested that if he wanted that bonus structure, he should apply for that job. If you really are all about the $$, go to the sales department, but realize that many become salespeople, few of them become long term successful. James

jdclyde
jdclyde

Is the employee that LOVES their job, right up until the second they find out someone else is making more money than they are. Then their petty egos get in the way and they hate their job. Losers like that deserve to be fired, which is why MANY companies have policies against discussing your wages. The same goes for jealousy over other workers that are seen as not pulling their own weight. If someone else is or isn't doing a good job makes no reflection on me or my job, nor should it reflect my wages, provided I am not the one that has to pick up the slack for what they don't do. I have my job, and that is what I do.

JamesRL
JamesRL

More people would look at the ranges we publish. People would better understand that when we move into management, we don't automatically make big bucks. In fact some of us lose money because management can't charge OT. I've had staff earn more than me and then complain about their income. People need to understand that if they think they are underpaid and they remain at that company, they are making a choice. If they want more money they can make their case to management, or look for another job or both. James

Glastron
Glastron

I agree that it completely depends on the reason and how you present why your leaving. If you quit because the job sucks and the people are jerks and the only reason you accept counter offer is money then you are done. If you have a good relationship with your boss and can have a honest dialogue about why you are leaving then I see no reason not to accept a counter offer. As long as the original reasons for looking elsewhere are resolved.

tim
tim

That's a good question, Ollie. Why didn't I approach the boss directly with my concern about the long commute? In the initial interview process, when they see how far away you live, some employers will specifically ask if the distance is a problem. When you're trying to land a job, you want to provide as few reasons as possible for the prospective employer to remove you from the short list. In my case, 52 miles is right on the edge of my commute tolerance level. That's about an hour of driving when there is no traffic. Some people will drive twice that distance for a good job. There are very few jobs that have everything you want: high pay, low commute distance, interesting work, good people to work with, an understanding boss, challenging projects, opportunity for advancement, educational benefits...and the list goes on and on. We all take jobs that are less than ideal. So that's what I did in this case. It wasn't until after about two years of the long commute that I decided to seek a change, which led to the offer from the employer that was 3 miles away. It probably would have been a good idea to simply ask the boss for different working arrangements before I had the other offer in hand, but what would be his motivation to offer any kind of change? And frankly, it did not occur to me that such an arrangement was possible. I tried to fix my problem in the only way I knew how - get a job closer to home. I sincerely did not expect the unique counteroffer. I had made up my mind in advance that the career counselors were right. There could be no good reason to stay once you have accepted a job with another employer. In this case, I had not imagined that the boss would even consider allowing me to manage the computer support from home. That's why I didn't bring it up. It was a complete and very welcome surprise. He solved the problem and so far things have worked out. So in my case, it was worth staying because the proposed solution from the boss was a win-win situation. I then had to decide if I really trusted him. He put his offer in writing. Just before I signed it, I made sure that there was no resentment on his part. He made it clear that he was not giving anything up and that it would work. I was fortunate. It has worked out. The point of my post is that sometimes, the career counselors are wrong. In most cases, it is a bad idea to accept a counteroffer. The unique circumstances of my position made an exception to this generalized rule. Thanks for asking the question, Ollie.

info
info

In North America, anyway... It takes a fire for management to acknowledge that there's a problem. Otherwise, ignoring it seems to work for most of them. But yes, the reasons ARE very important. If they're too 'personal', they'll know you'll never be happy. The same if there's not many other openings in your area and more people looking for work... A girl I used to know decided to move from Nova Scotia to British Columbia (Canada), and her boyfriend was going with. He went to tell his boss the bad news. The boss came back with counter after counter, until finally the salary offer was DOUBLE what he'd been originally making for several years. His response? "Now I KNOW I want to leave, since you didn't offer me even a quarter of that before..." It DOES help if you're leaving anyway, though. I'm still trying to get my nerve up to ask for my first raise. And I've been in IT for near 20 years. *Laugh*

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