Should You Accept a Counteroffer? Three Pros and Cons

By Robert Half April 6, 2017 at 3:00pm

In a competitive hiring environment, many employers continue to find it challenging to hire the technical professionals needed to meet their technology objectives. So when faced with a surprise resignation their staffing challenges may be magnified. Frequently, an employer’s natural reaction is to try to keep a top performer who plans to leave, offering more money or a more interesting work project. But should you accept a counteroffer?

That counteroffer will likely hinge on a higher salary, work schedule flexibility or immediate promotion opportunities — things designed to persuade you to change your mind and stay with the company.

In general, I don’t think IT pros should accept counteroffers from their current employers. Here are three reasons why not:

  1. It shouldn’t take a formal resignation to spur your employer into action. If your manager was aware of your work-related concerns — perhaps you wanted to negotiate a pay increase — and wasn’t able to address them, why wait until your resignation to offer a raise? Consider whether it will take a resignation in the future to receive another increase in salary or a promotion if your initial negotiation doesn't work.
  2. Your loyalty will always be in question at work. Once you accept a counteroffer and they know you were prepared to move on, it will always be in the back of your employer’s mind. If the company is faced with layoffs or a reorganization, your previous resignation could influence your employer’s decisions.
  3. A counteroffer only addresses your immediate work concerns. You likely weighed all the factors about your job when you decided to leave the company, and you still chose to move on. Some issues — you have a completely different vision than your manager, for example — aren’t going to be easily resolved. So if you accepted their counter to your new job offer, it may only be a temporary resolution until the old work issues once again arise.

However, there are situations in which it could make sense to accept a counteroffer:

  1. The grass is not always greener. I can recite many examples of employees who left a good job to go to a new organization and what seemed like a great job. However, while a new firm may address some of your concerns (offer you more pay or a shorter commute, for example), you will be presented with an entirely new set of work concerns. Maybe you and your new counterpart won’t see eye to eye, or the corporate culture ends up being a bad fit. If you think your current employer is genuinely interested in addressing your concerns, it may not make sense to reject a counteroffer.
  2. It's a short-term situation that’s not ideal. It’s easy to get caught up in a period on the job where things feel stale or stressful. Try to evaluate your employer and career over the long term, and don’t overreact based on what may be temporary circumstances. You could regret making a career-defining decision based on a challenging but short-term period of time at your firm.
  3. You never clearly voiced your concerns. If you didn’t express your dissatisfaction with your current job to your manager, she obviously can't address your issues. (Assuming the concerns didn’t have to do with a personality issue, which is more complicated.) A counteroffer may simply be a response to your concerns when your manager hears of them for the first time. Remember, it's always better to provide your employer an opportunity to hear and address your concerns before you resign.

While there are exceptions, as I said earlier, I don't typically advise IT pros to accept a counteroffer. They are often a temporary fix to issues that can resurface again down the road.

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This post has been updated to reflect more current information.

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