There’s an oft-quoted statistic in the recruitment world that 80% of job seekers who accept a counter offer go on to leave their job within six months anyway.
Despite considerable ferreting around the internet, I can’t find the source of that fact anywhere. I suspect it might be the result of a snap poll around a recruitment office somewhere, circa 2001, and it’s become accepted lore.
Recruiters love that 80% statistic, of course, because they have a vested interest in people accepting job offers.
But even though we recruiters have some skin in the game, it doesn’t mean the argument against accepting a counter offer isn’t a very, very strong one - punchy statistics or not.
Any recruiter with a few k’s on the clock will have witnessed the slow-motion train wreck that is an accepted counter offer. Generally speaking, it ain’t pretty.
There are six major problems you’ll run into if you accept a counter offer from your current boss:
1. The real issues don’t go away
It’s rare that being underpaid or getting that promotion is the only reason for leaving a job. For most people, it’s a combination of factors that’s behind their search for greener pastures.
What this means is, even if you get that pay rise or promotion, the other important factors that compelled you to leave in the first place (such as the company culture or difficult colleagues) remain. And - worse still - they often get even more challenging after you accept the counter offer.
2. It means your employer is probably pretty crappy
If it takes you actually resigning for your employer to consider your concerns, they are not a good employer. Period. Good employers don’t make counter offers – they’re proactive in keeping good staff.
Note that this hinges on you doing your part and being open and honest about your concerns and suggesting a solution - before you start your job search.
3. It kills future pay rises or promotions
Consider where the counter offer is coming from – are you actually just getting your next pay rise or promotion in advance? Will you have to threaten to resign every time you deserve a pay rise or promotion?
4. It kills trust
If you do accept a counter offer, I guarantee you that your boss will now question your loyalty, and view you as a flight risk. There’s a good chance they’ve made the offer just to stall for time so that they can get a succession plan in place. In the meantime, you’ll be passed over for the juiciest projects or future promotions.
5. It sours work relationships
It’s amazing how quickly this kind of thing gets out. When your colleagues discover you wrangled a pay rise by threatening to resign, don’t be surprised if they view your tactics as unfair.
6. It damages your outside reputation
If you turn down a solid offer made to you by someone in good faith, you’re wasting their time and money. They will almost certainly have turned down other candidates during the recruitment process and will now have to start from scratch. Employers have long memories - and good managers are usually well-networked with other good managers.
While you’re the only one who make the right decisions about your career, I can honestly say I can’t think of a single likely situation where I would recommend taking a counter offer (OK, sure; one that doubled your salary might give you pause for thought). And that’s whether I was involved as a recruiter or not.
If you’ve done your research and you know you deserve a pay rise, or you’d like any other change at work, you owe it to yourself and your employer to ask for it directly, before you start your job search. If things go well and you come to a mutual agreement, great. If not, then accepting a counter offer is only going to make you miserable somewhere down the line. Back yourself and your decision, hold your head high, and resign with grace.