You quit your job—so, should you resist the counter offer?

Oh, it feels nice to be wanted.

After finally mustering the courage to walk away from your current job – writing that resignation letter, telling the boss “I quit” – a counter offer from your current company feels flattering. Yet, it can nevertheless make your life and decision-making process much more challenging.

“But they finally recognize my value!” you say. “More money and I don’t have to start over!”

Hold on. Have you thought through the ramifications of accepting a counter offer and why you’re being asked to stay in the first place? During an already emotional time, a counter offer can create confusion, stress and complications—as well as impact your employment if you decide to stay.

Take a moment to look a little closer at counter offers—and proceed carefully.

Solving a symptom or the root issues?

Counter offers can be good, of course. If you’re completely happy in your current job – you feel respected, you like your boss and co-workers, etc. – but you simply need more money, then accepting a counter offer may be the right solution for you. The problem is that while salary is important, it’s increasingly falling behind many other satisfaction metrics for the majority of employees—and it’s a deficiency in one or more of these areas that likely caused you to look elsewhere in the first place.

In fact, in a recent study by the Work Institute, the top reason for leaving was career development, followed by work/life balance and manager behavior. Compensation came in much lower on the list in 7th place. These root causes of your unhappiness in your current role will not likely be solved with a counter offer, writes Wendy Phan:

“Whatever the reasons, as a job seeker, you would have attempted to resolve some of these underlying issues. But certain things are beyond your control, so would the problem disappear after accepting a counter offer from your current employer? Very highly no.”

We often see job seekers accept a counter offer and then be right back in the market for a new job within only a few months. The short-term solution of the counter offer did nothing to solve the larger issues at play. In the meantime, they’ve given up a potentially positive career move.

Look for the underlying motivation

The reasons for the counter offer may often be less flattering than how you may initially perceive them. Consider this: If your employer is all of a sudden open to increasing your salary when you have one foot out the door, it’s likely he or she was aware you were underpaid—which probably means you weren’t fully appreciated in the first place. Are you sure that’s a situation you want to stay in?

The counter offer may also be more about how your boss views the effect your departure may have on team morale, or even how it may impact the team’s vacation schedule or his own workload. How will another resignation from the department look to his supervisors?

And while your current role may feel at least comfortable – and it’s tough to leave that for an unknown – the truth is that staying in your comfort zone also means you might be missing out on a potentially amazing opportunity that offers career and personal growth.

Potential dangers of accepting a counter offer

Accepting a counter offer and staying in your current role may offer you more money, but it may also have unforeseen negative effects as well. First, you could possibly be creating a trust issue—not only with your boss but also your fellow team members. Your supervisor may now see you as a flight risk (and therefore not as worthy of company investment), and your co-workers may think you only used the threat of leaving as a way to get special treatment.

That kind of dynamic can have long-term effects: Harvard Business Review reports on a study that showed that around 40% of HR professionals and executives believed that accepting a counter offer and staying in your current role would have an adverse effect on the person’s career, and 80% agreed the move could undermine your reputation and trustworthiness.

Finally, Kansas City is a small town at the end of the day, and turning down a new job to accept a counter offer often leaves a bad taste, as one former chief operating officer tells HBR:

“You’ve got to watch the reputational damage that comes with accepting an offer and then reneging on it. People know that if it happened once, it could happen again.”

Consider all your options with a trusted recruiter

At the end of the day, of course, the choice is yours, and counter offers can be an effective way to adjust your job in positive ways. SHRM reports that multiple components are common, including raises, more vacation, increased flexibility, even new roles.

However, the decision is not always cut and dry, and it’s wise to discuss all angles with a trusted mentor or your recruiter, who can help you weigh all the pros and cons of each option. At the end of the day, we want to work with you to make the choice that’s in your best interest—to simply find the right fit for you.


Adele Hoch is recruiting manager of the Accounting & Finance team at Morgan Hunter, serving Kansas City-area employers to help them meet a range of hiring needs, from temporary staffing to direct-hire placements. Share your thoughts on Facebook, LinkedIn or on Twitter @MorganHunterCo.