Should I Stay? Or Should I Go?

Dealing With a Counter Offer

Congratulations! You’ve done your research, sent out your resumes, aced your interview and been offered a new job. Your prospects are rosy and all is right with the world. You’ve even taken the difficult step of giving notice to your current employer.

But wait! Your employer does not want you to leave, and extends a “counter offer” to entice you to stay. If it is like most counter offers it involves more money, and perhaps even a new title. The offer is tempting. Very tempting.

And risky. Very risky.

The Motivation Behind the Offer

Although receiving a counter offer from your employer is often surprising – and flattering – accepting the offer is rarely a good idea. According to human resources consultant Jamie Fabian, writing on, “Before you grab a counter offer, it’s important to think about what’s being offered and what actually brought you to the point of leaving in the first place.”

If your employer really wanted to pay your more money and give you a better title, why did they wait until you threatened to leave? And is more money the only reason you sought another job? More likely, there are other reasons behind your dissatisfaction, and no amount of money will change those. If you are unhappy with your working conditions now, the thrill of a bigger paycheck will soon wear off and you will still be in the same old job.

It may feel as if, with offers from both a new company and your present employer on the table, you are in control of your own destiny. But, in reality, succumbing to the temptation of a counter offer cedes a degree of control back to your employer. A counter offer may be just a delaying tactic used to buy time until the company can find a replacement for you. Once that person is hired, you are likely to be shown the door – long after your new job offer has lapsed.

Staying On a Dead End Road

An even more difficult situation may develop if you decide to accept the counter offer and stay with your employer. By looking for another job, you are immediately labeled as disloyal and suspect. You can forget about any promotions or career advancements – those go to trustworthy employees. And what company is going to invest in training a worker who has already shown an inclination to jump ship for another job?

What about your fellow employees? While many will certainly be happy to continue to see your smiling face every day, there will also be a streak of jealousy and distrust. Coworkers may be secretly angry with you for getting more money just because you threatened to leave.

Burn No Bridges

For many reasons, accepting a counter offer to remain at your present job is something to be avoided. But that does not mean you should dismiss the offer out of hand, creating bad feelings. The way in which you leave a position should always leave the door open for a return. Take the time to consider the counter offer thoroughly, and turn it down respectfully and gratefully.

Your employer may ask you to stay on “a little longer,” until a replacement can be found. If you have the flexibility and willingness to do so, be sure that the time period and conditions are clearly defined. An open-ended extension brings no urgency to your employer’s search for a replacement, and can quickly become a burden on you at a time when you should be eagerly starting anew.

Make the Leap

The initial thrill of a counter offer must be balanced by the overall situation. Remember why you went looking for a new job in the first place, and try to anticipate the situation you will face if you remain in place. For most job seekers, saying good-bye to the old and hello to the new is almost always the right choice.