Why You Should Never Take a Counter Offer

Companies are always keen to retain their top employees, so you are likely to be presented with a counter offer if you hand in your resignation. Deciding whether or not to accept a counter offer can be difficult in the thick of it. You are faced with a tough choice and you don’t want to seem ungrateful. And maybe you are reluctant to take it as you do not want to leave your comfort zone as changing jobs could be stressful and you do not want to deal with that.

When you resign, there are a number of underlying reasons for it. It could be the company culture, your co-workers, or the fact that you are simply not reaching your full potential in your current workplace.

A Counter Offer Doesn’t Tackle the Underlying Issue

When presented with a counter offer, it is important to remember why you resigned in the first place. Counter offers rarely address the true factors behind what prompted you to decide to leave. Even if you are offered a better salary, promotion, or working conditions, chances are you will go back to feeling the same way about your job because a toxic workplace or micromanaging leader will not change overnight.

While it may seem flattering to see your employer entice you to stay, there are considerable arguments to be made as to why you should never accept a counter offer and instead explore new opportunities.

Should You Stay or Should You Go?

There are many studies out there that cover this issue and articles listing dozens of reasons why or why not to accept a counter offer. One of the often quoted statistics in the recruitment world says that 80% of job seekers who accept a counter offer go on to leave their job within six months anyway and after 12 months the number can even be up to 90%. There is zero evidence or proof of that or even a study confirming the validity of this statement.

The 80% is an urban myth, like the ‘six-second resume scan’ done by recruiters or the idea that 70 percent of resumes get filtered out of the initial screening process through the use of ATS. Over the years I found out that you can apply an easy rule of thumb to recruitment statistics; if you see a recruitment statistic that is rounded (up or down), it is usually fake and not backed up by any studies.

What I Learned During 15 Years

I have been a recruiter for too many years, and I’ve placed a lot of people in that time. And like any other recruiter, I have had my share of counter offers. As I was always trying to understand reasons why people change their jobs, I also wanted to know the reason why candidates accept counter offers and if accepting them will work for them.

Over more than 15 years, I tracked 127 people who received a counter offer and decided to stay in their current job. For every counter offer, I gave myself a period of one year to see if the company delivered its promise and if they remained in their role for a year or changed their job within twelve months.

  • 4% (5 people) changed their job change within three months
  • 11% (14 people) changed their job within six months
  • 9% (11 people) changed their job within nine months
  • 24% (31 people) changed their job within a year
  • 52% (66 people) stayed longer than a year

Based on this data, you have a 52% chance of staying in the company for more than a year when you accept a counter offer. This is aligned with data from CEB that shows that 50% of employees who accept a counter offer leave within 12 months.

After three years, I checked if the person was still working for the company or not at all. And I found out that 92% of all people, who accept a counter offer, left their company within 36 months.

As I stayed in touch with many of those candidates or had the chance to speak with them about their different roles over the years, I asked them why they left at the end. The majority of them told me that the issues why they left were much deeper (no fulfilled promise, no clear career path, a micromanaging boss) and they could not be resolved by throwing money at them.

Last Thoughts

Will a counteroffer address the real problem? Sometimes higher pay is the only reason employees want to change jobs, but in reality, this is not often the case; it is often connected with other things. More money will not miraculously make you happier in your job if your manager is still a control freak.

Bear in mind that if you get a counter offer, you haven’t suddenly become a more valuable employee. In most cases, the manager is trying to prevent the disruption of the business or buy time to arrange a replacement in their own time. And if you are using the counter offer as leverage to negotiate a promotion or get a higher salary, this requires a delicate approach and comes with risks.

Nearly 40% of senior executives and HR leaders alike agreed that accepting a counter offer from a current employer will adversely affect one’s career. And 71% of senior executives and 67% of HR leaders said that superiors in the current company would question the employee’s loyalty going forward.

Before you accept a counter offer, always ask yourself why you were looking in the first place. Will all those reasons why you started interviewing somehow magically resolve if you accept the counter offer? Probably not!

The truth is it is very rare for a counteroffer to be successful in the long term. Maybe you will be among the 52% of people who stayed in their job for longer than a year or the initial reasons for leaving may resurface sooner than you think and you will be faced with starting the job search process all over again.