Counter Offers: Should You Stay or Should You Go?

A question that comes up time and time again in our industry.  Should you accept a counter offer?  I think deep down everyone knows the right answer to this.  

I have so much to say.  But I will try and keep it brief for the sake of the blog.  

To be blunt, in my opinion, no – you should not accept a counter offer, and there are plenty of facts and arguments to back up this view.

You are probably thinking that because I come from a recruitment background that I’m biased.  I would say that.  Well yes, I suppose, in one sense, you’re right.  See it from the recruiter’s point of view for a minute:  imagine putting all that work in for weeks to get someone their apparent dream job for them then to turn round, withdraw from the process and accept a counter offer – frustrating to say the least.  

But my advice isn’t biased one specific way because I’m in recruitment.  It’s based on experience backed by some pretty compelling research evidence - which is that 80% of people who accept counter offers leave their company within 6 months and a staggering 90% will leave within 12 months of accepting a counter offer  (Recruitment Software).

So, keep the above facts in mind while reading this….

Why do we get counter offers?

It’s easy for employers to assume that all you employees are happy.  It’s easy for them to become complacent and not have the conversation with you about a pay rise/career structure/benefits/anything else that might be bothering you, unless you bring it up.

However, business is business and retaining staff should be something that employers actively focus on.  The statistics are clear: it costs a lot more to hire someone new than it does to retain existing staff on a higher salary.  To replace a senior executive, I read, can cost as much as double the annual salary!  Madness.  Not to mention the time lost in doing the handover and getting someone new started – a huge loss of productivity for the business, especially when the employee has a wide impact on the business.

In addition to that, the governance market is extremely candidate-led due to a limited talent pool, which makes it harder still to hire the right someone with the relevant experience and skill set.

Why do people accept counter offers?

The long and short of it is that it’s just easier.   You don’t have to go through the effort of moving and settling in at a new company.  You don’t have to socialise with your new work colleagues to make new friends, and, above all, by staying you would be doing the same job you have always done at your company but getting paid more for it. 

Us humans are creatures of habit and change can look daunting when it’s staring you in the face.  If we can stick to something we know, without having to go through the possible, some might say inevitable, stress of moving to a new company, then why wouldn’t we?  

Well, I suggest you look again at those damning statistics at the start of this blog.  Ask yourself - why were you looking for a new job in the first place?  What were the reasons you picked up the phone to that recruitment consultant?  Why did you even entertain moving if you are happy at your current employer?  Is your commute a pain in the neck?  Are you bored?  Have you hit your ceiling in terms of progression?  Do you get on with your manager and/or team?  Do you, in fact, need a new challenge?  You get the idea.  Keep these questions well in mind when weighing up a counter offer.  Money isn’t everything, your happiness, your long-term wellbeing, is!

The pros and cons of accepting counter offers

Pros

  • You don’t have to go through being the ‘newbie’. 
  • You don’t have to make new friends.
  • You don’t have to go through the stress of moving companies. 
  • Your pay goes up so, if you handed your notice in just to get a pay rise, then, yes, you are winning.

Cons

  • There was a reason (or multiple) that you started to look for a new job in the first place
  • 80% of people leave within 6 months of accepting a counter offer – it’s a stat for a reason!
  • The trust with your current employer will be broken and your previously untarnished loyalty will be questioned. 
  • Most employers promise great things if you accept the counter offer, but rarely are they fulfilled.  Also, why are they all of a sudden promising you this now instead of months ago?  Your trust in your employer will be shaken.  Do you really want to have to threaten to leave every time you want to get a pay rise?
  • More money will not miraculously make you happier in your job. 
  • You could halt your career because there’s a question mark next to your commitment.
  • It’s not usually a sign that you’re actually valued – more often it’s used simply as a staff retention tool. 
  • Turning down a job you already accepted and which involved your potential new employer in a lot of time/effort could go against you with future employers - concerned you are not serious about a new role.

This list is not definitive of course and I’m sure there is a lot more that can be said, but what I have listed above are the top pros and cons I identified over the years I was recruiting.

There’s nothing more gut wrenching for a recruitment consultant than getting that call from a candidate a month or so after they accepted that counter offer - telling you that you were right, and they wish they had listened in the first place.  What I always used to say when that counter offer came in to the picture was “If they think you are worth that now, why weren’t they paying you that earlier?” I stick by this truth and will always do so!

Summary 

There’s no one who knows your current work situation better than you, so of course ultimately this decision is yours.  But, before jumping in to accept a counter offer, you should think long and hard about exactly what you want.  Think back to the reasons why you started looking in the first place.  Are those reasons miraculously going to go away or get better if you are paid more money?  Would you have even started job searching if you thought it could get better?  Think of your career and where you want to be in the next few years and how you are more likely to achieve that - by staying put, or by moving to a new company with different growth/career opportunities?  Consider all of the above – maybe make your own list of your own pros and cons (as some of you may know, I love lists!) - before taking – or not - the counter offer plunge.  It could mean the difference between sinking or swimming in your career.


About the Author:

Keeley Fitzsimmons
Training and Development Manager
Broadgate Search
www.broadgatesearch.com/