Consider this scenario: You’ve accepted a job offer, and when you tell your current employer you’re leaving, they extend a counteroffer to get you to reconsider. Now two companies are bidding for your services. This is a good thing, right?
Not necessarily. It might give a confidence boost to feel wanted by two employers, but proceed with caution. Accepting a counteroffer may or may not be the smartest thing for your career.
It’s wise to consider in advance how you will handle counteroffers because they are more common now that employers are experiencing talent scarcity, which leads to more difficult and time-consuming hiring processes.
Will a counteroffer be beneficial?
For the most part, career coaches counsel candidates not to accept a counteroffer because, no matter what it involves, reasons to turn it down outweigh reasons to accept it. Before you draw your own conclusion, here are some potential impacts for you to consider.
You might get what you want.
Leveraging one employer against the other might gain you a pay raise or other desired change. When your search for a different job is motivated by a need for increased salary or a new challenge, for instance, your employer might offer to make that change once becoming aware of how important it is to you. “Generally, a counteroffer is like a normal job offer in that it’s negotiable, meaning there’s usually no harm in asking your boss to sweeten her proposition,” says Daniel Bortz writing for Monster.
But: Do they value you?
A conversation about your compensation and job satisfaction hopefully has happened before you become unhappy enough to leave. If you have discussed your needs with your boss but nothing changed, then once you tell them you’re leaving they offer you a raise, how they see your value is apparent. It would seem their main concern is the disruption and expense your departure will cause them.
Your concerns will get a hearing.
As a corollary to the last point, a negotiation over a counteroffer will make your current employer aware of your feelings of being devalued or of poor working relationships that require attention from management.
But: Why weren’t they listening before?
If communication channels had been working, this would not be news to them. They have simply not been listening to you. “Your current company could offer you plenty of perks, but would it really be worth being subjected to a toxic workplace environment day in and day out?” asks Bortz.
4 negative impacts of accepting a counteroffer
When considering whether or not to accept a counteroffer, candidates should also take into some negative impacts.
You will have lost the employer’s trust.
They know now that your commitment is not firm because you’ve already said you were ready to leave. Your employer “may question your loyalty and always be waiting for the other shoe to drop if another better offer comes your way in the future,” writes Jaime Heidel for Career Intelligence. They understandably might be more cautious about offering opportunities for career advancement going forward.
Your relationships with coworkers will suffer.
“No matter how hard you try to keep the fact you received another job offer just between you and management, the information is going to leak,” says Heidel. “Not only will your employer have difficulty trusting you, but it may cause rifts in your relations with your coworkers as well.” If you stay, they will likely resent that the person who has demonstrated the least loyalty – you — is now getting the best treatment.
You’ll be going back on your word.
Backing out now from the commitment you’ve made to a new employer, even if it is not in writing yet, will plant doubts about whether you can be counted on to do what you say. As a result, you will most likely have forfeited future chances to work with them – chances you might need if the terms of a counteroffer never materialize.
Con: You’ll be seen as indecisive.
Employers value strategic decision-making skills. This is an opportunity to demonstrate yours to two employers. Be slow to make up your mind about leaving your current job. Make a reasoned decision, then stand firm. When your current employer makes a counteroffer, decline it graciously and don’t look back.
Use this overarching guideline: Ask yourself whether any of the reasons you decided to seek a different job will change if you decide to stay. Even if the answer is yes, think carefully about the tradeoffs in the long run.