Marketing Talent Agency Explains How to Respond to Job Counteroffers
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Imagine this scenario that as a marketing talent agency we see happens with some frequency among marketing professionals who are poised to make a big career move.

After a lengthy recruitment and interview process, you’ve been offered a great new marketing job that makes a smart step forward in your career path. Congratulations!

Like a good employee, you notify your current place of work as soon as possible and give them two weeks’ notice so you can all start preparing for the transition.

But then something happens that you probably weren’t prepared for. A few days into your preparations, your boss calls you in for a special meeting. In light of the news that you’ve found a new job, your current company has made a counteroffer.

They want you to stay, and they’re willing to pay for it. Often this counteroffer will match or even exceed the compensation package you’ve negotiated with the new job. Perhaps it will include a promotion, or other perks and benefits: more vacation days, a coveted parking spot, or better flexibility with where and how you work.

Some counteroffers are easy to turn down, but many are extremely tempting. Imagine in this scenario your current employer is able to pull together an offer you can’t ignore–how should you respond?

When the Simplest Answer is the Smartest

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Your decision in this situation is ultimately an extremely personal one to make, and there’s no universally right decision. There are a lot of factors to consider, and it’s up to you to determine what is best for yourself, your career, and (if applicable) your family.

That said, there’s usually a default position you can take that will apply to the vast majority of counteroffers. That is, quite simply, to reply with a straightforward “no thanks.”

As a marketing talent agency with over 20 years helping high-performing marketing professionals move their careers forward, we’ve found that this simple strategy is best in almost all situations.

Why?

Even though a counteroffer might be extremely attractive, it is almost never worth accepting it. Consider:

  • If your current place of employment truly valued your presence and contributions, they would have made this offer to your before they found out you were on the cusp of leaving.
  • You probably wouldn’t have considered a counteroffer in the first place unless you weren’t ready to move on or were in some way unsatisfied with your previous employer.
  • Once you’ve announced you’re ready to go once, your loyalty will always be in question. That can influence how you’re treated in the future and can impact how effective you’ll be.
  • Statistically, counteroffers don’t lead to productive outcomes. About 85% of professionals who accept a counteroffer end up leaving within a year anyway.
  • A counteroffer is not a proactive business decision by a company that prioritizes talent retention. It’s a desperate, reactive move by organizations that want to avoid the short-term costs of finding a replacement.

All else being equal, the detriments usually heavily outweigh the benefits. So unless you’re 100% sure the counteroffer is perfect and you’re really invested in working at this business, our recommendation is to avoid it.

How to Say No

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Knowing that you should probably say no to a counteroffer is useful. But equally important to what you say is how you say it.

People don’t take rejection well. Businesses often take it even worse. So when you opt to turn down a counteroffer, it’s wise to approach it with tact. You don’t want to leave on a negative note, or compromise your effectiveness through your last days at the company.

When it’s time to decline a counteroffer, approach with caution.

There’s no need to burn bridges or upset anyone. After all, your former colleagues are often valuable connections you’ll be turning to for professional references in the future. Some of them may even be friends. And you never know where your career will take you in the future–perhaps after some time away you’ll end up returning to this business with valuable new skills and experience. Marketing career paths can be very twisted.

So when it’s time to decline a counteroffer, approach with caution.

You can always ask for a little time to consider the offer, so you can weigh your options and make your decision with confidence. If you choose to reject the offer right away, make sure you don’t come off as dismissive or ungrateful for the offer. If you happen to have been presented the job by marketing recruitment specialists, don’t forget that you can turn to them for advice and guidance.

Avoid the temptation to be haughty or condescending, even if the counteroffer is almost insultingly weak. Simply say something like, “I appreciate the offer, but am committed to this new opportunity and transitioning out of this role while leaving you in the best possible position.”

And of course, always make your best effort to make the most of your last two weeks and leave on a high note!

  • PJ Icasas

    I agree with a lot of the points here. When I was in the agency we counter offered one of our departing PMs, but it ended up causing resentment when others learned about his pay raise. It became a joke that the only way to get a raise was to quit.

    • Mark Miller

      Great point PJ. Someone deciding to stay with a counteroffer can absolutely disrupt team dynamics. They’ll inevitably be “the person who almost left” or “the person who got special treatment.”