Why You Should Never Accept That Counteroffer

When you decide to quit your job, you’re probably going to have some second thoughts. And so will your employer.

After the initial shock of your imminent departure wears off, your current bosses may realize that you’re a valuable part of the team. They might decide that they don’t have the time or resources to conduct a search, or that in the current economic climate it will be very difficult to replace you.

Whatever the reason, they’re likely to come up with what’s known as a counteroffer — a package designed to entice you to stay. They may make you an offer of better compensation (a salary increase or stock options), increased benefits (such as more vacation time) or more flexibility (letting you work from home a certain number of days a week). A promotion, a title change, or increased responsibility might be on the table. It can run the gamut — anything that they can think of to get you to stay, even for a short time.

At this point, you might be feeling pretty good about the place. You might romanticize your time there, remembering the good times and wondering whether the reasons you gave notice were the right ones. You start to second guess your reasons for leaving in the first place.

At Averity, we’ve seen this scenario play out frequently. We’ve come to the conclusion that it’s never a good idea to accept the counteroffer. Here’s some of the major reasons why:

It won’t solve your problems with the job. There was a reason you decided to leave, remember? Chances are it wasn’t just about the salary. You didn’t see a chance for a promotion, or your skills weren’t being used, or your input didn’t seem to be valued. Most of all, you probably didn’t think the job was taking your career where you thought it should go. All those things are going to creep up again.

You’re likely to leave anyway. Study after study comes up with the same results: Employees who accept counteroffers don’t stick around for long. LinkedIn reports that 80% of those who accept a counteroffer are looking for a job after three months. They’re not just absentmindedly scrolling through job posts — they’re sending out resumes or working with a recruiter. About half of those who take a counteroffer end up departing within a year.

You won’t be seen as loyal. Because you announced your intention to leave, your employer will question whether you’re in it for the long haul. (Harvard Business Review reports that 80% of executives say that employees who accept a counteroffer have a diminished reputation in the company.) Your supervisors think of you as disloyal. Colleagues look at you differently. Giving your notice, even if you change your mind, forever alters your work environment. If any budget cuts happen in the future, you’re likely to be on the block sooner than others. Also, if an opportunity arises for an interesting project that everyone wants to work on, you will likely be the last to be considered, since you will be seen as a “flight risk”.

You won’t move up the ladder. If you felt that your career was stalled before, wait until you take that counteroffer. Since they wonder whether you’ll leave in six months or a year, your supervisors aren’t going to consider you for a promotion. Here’s a good exercise: Think about the highest possible position you can realistically reach at your current company. Then consider the jobs you’re qualified for at other companies. If these put you farther along your career path, you’re making the right decision to leave.

So what should you do if you get a counteroffer? Be friendly, but firm. Thank your employer profusely, but explain that you’re ready to move on. Resist the urge to offer any critiques of your team or your supervisor, even if you’re asked to do so. And don’t badmouth the company with coworkers. Things like that have a way of getting back to the boss.

Leaving a company won’t necessarily reflect poorly on you, but 84% of HR executives say that leaving on bad terms will adversely affect your career. There’s a chance that you’ll work at this company again in the future, or that you’ll work alongside some of the same colleagues elsewhere. At the very least you’ll want to reach out to someone as a reference. Do the best you can to not burn bridges.

It’s never an easy choice to leave your current employer and move on to a job at a new firm. But once you make that difficult decision, stick to it. At the end of the day you’ll find yourself happier and have fewer regrets.

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