There are few professional moments more emotionally draining than turning in your resignation with a company. Chances are, your manager doesn’t know you’ve even been putting out feelers on other opportunities, and here you are ready to jump ship. Your palms are sweaty, but you’ve practiced what you want to say. You’re convicted in your decision to leave, and you’re halfway through your “I appreciate the opportunity you’ve given me here” soliloquy when your manager stops you.
What happens next catches a lot of my clients off guard. The manager ponies up a salary bump, an offer of more development opportunities or increased flexibility—maybe even all of the above. They had no idea you were unhappy, they might say. They’re prepared to work with you to improve your situation.
At that moment, this might be music to your ears. And with this new counter-offer on the table, you might suddenly be thinking of turning down the new job offer you were quitting for. But if I could offer any advice to people who’ve found themselves in a counter-offer situation, it would be to graciously but firmly turn down the counter.
Don’t accept a short-term fix for a long-term problem
If you’ve gone through the process of earning a new job—applying, interviewing and so on—it was probably for a very good reason or even a heap of good reasons. You’re over-worked, under-paid, under-appreciated, under-developed—whatever your motivations, they were real enough for you to start looking around. And while the counter-offer might sound nice, it’s probably not going to get to the heart of the issues that had you starting your search in the first place.
In fact, a recent study found that 80% of people who accept a counter-offer end up leaving their roles within six months. As a Recruiter, I can say firsthand that I work with plenty of people who have already tried to quit once. Maybe they took a counter-offer six months ago, but they’re still running into a lot of the same issues. In the end, if a company’s culture is a bad fit, that’s not going to change anytime soon.
You’ve already shown your cards
If you decide to take the counter-offer, you still might be regarded as being less loyal than you were before your boss knew you were looking to leave. This erosion of trust might be hard for you and your boss to overcome. The next time you have to duck out for a dentist appointment, there might be a whisper of suspicion for your boss. Are you really headed to a personal appointment? Or are you interviewing again?
And like it or not, a person’s favorable longevity in a role and loyalty to a company can be reasons someone moves up the ladder. On the other side of that coin, someone who has proven they’re willing to leave should something better come along might be a little easier to let go in the event of layoffs or restructuring.
They’re probably not countering for the right reasons
In a market like this one—where talent is hard to find—a company that comes back with a counter-offer is looking out for themselves far more than they’re trying to make amends with you. They’d rather not let work languish while they look for your replacement, so if they can spend a little money to keep you, it’s most certainly worth a shot for them to try.
The upside for them is work keeps moving, but for you, the power is back in their corner to decide if you’re the right long-term fit for them. And there’s nothing to prevent them from looking for your replacement while you get back to work.
So if you’re starting to think the grass might be greener somewhere else, and you’ve already gone to the trouble of finding that new opportunity, my advice is always to take it. You have far more to gain with a new opportunity than trying to repair old issues with the company you’ve already decided to leave.