Accepting A Counteroffer: A Career Killer 

marketing executive search

In my role at MarketPro, I have worked with many different organizations and a large number of extremely talented marketing candidates. Today, I wanted to talk about counteroffers, which candidates encounter sometimes during the recruitment process, and what you should do if you find yourself facing a counteroffer.

Here Is A Typical Counteroffer Scenario

A hiring organization presents you with an attractive job offer, which you accept. You have been through several rounds of interviews and find the opportunity very attractive. It’s an upwardly strategic career move with extensive growth potential. Then, when you meet with your current employer to submit your resignation, your boss offers you an attractive counteroffer to stay put. You become confused and start to second-guess your decision.

The Hidden Agenda Behind A Counteroffer

While you may think this counteroffer is flattering at first and it may even be tempting, after all, changing jobs comes with a certain threshold of pain, but you need to think again because it is not about you. Although you may be one of their best employees, a top performer, and have been with the company for years, these facts have nothing to do with the offer they just quickly presented to you. As hard as it may be to hear this, that offer is more about them than you or any of your accolades or past accomplishments.

Here are some key reasons you should always walk away from a company proposing a counteroffer:

  • It should never take the resignation of an employee for a company to engage in reputable business practices such as updating compensation standards to align with the marketplace or to promote deserving individuals.
  • Offering you a counteroffer to stay is often a tactic an employer uses temporarily to allow them time to find a suitable replacement. They understand your leaving is a disruption to the business, and there is a cost associated with finding your replacement.
  • Once it is discovered that you were pursuing other career opportunities, your loyalty to the company and your team will be permanently questioned. You will have shown them that you have some level of dissatisfaction with your circumstances, and this will always be in the back of their minds if you were to stay. We have had candidates who think the strength of their relationship with their manager overcomes this hurdle. No matter how good of a relationship you have before you resign, no matter how long you have been there, it changes after you have shown a willingness to pursue other opportunities. It has to be based on your actions, and you are not likely to be the exception to the rule.
  • It will restrict your future opportunities at the company, and you may be labeled as a potential flight risk, which affects your chance of receiving further professional development opportunities or a future promotion.
  • Accepting a counteroffer rarely stays a secret. Other team members may see this as the path to a raise, creating a very negative culture. Management will always see you as a flight risk, meaning you are no longer in the inner circle and no longer invited to meetings you previously participated in.
  • If the company finds itself in a situation requiring downsizing, you will likely be at the top of the list regardless of how strong your performance is because you are no longer viewed as someone who is dedicated to your employer.
  • Accepting a counteroffer, while it may come with a pay raise and a fancier title, does not change the core challenge(s) that led you to look for another job in the first place.

Top-tier organizations steer clear of counteroffers because they understand the challenges that will become a part of their culture as a result. Offering a counteroffer is exchanging short-term pain for long-term pain unless they just plan to let the employee go after you have found their replacement.

Accepting A Counter Offer Will Not Alleviate Dissatisfaction

You kind of have to ask yourself, Why did it take me leaving for them to offer me a pay package that was commensurate with my market rate? What are you going to do next time you want a raise? Most likely, you will want to resign again and accept another counteroffer.

In my 25-year tenure with MarketPro, I have had experience with three candidates who accepted offers from a hiring organization and then came back to me with the news that they accepted a counteroffer from their current employer. Within a month, I heard back from each of them, telling me it was the dumbest thing they had ever done.

The fact that you are even considering accepting an offer somewhere else indicates that you are not 100% content with your current circumstances. Aside from any salary increase you may receive, any counteroffer will fail to eliminate the things about your current situation that led you to look for a new opportunity in the first place.

In fact, statistics show that between 80% and 93% of candidates who have accepted counteroffers are no longer working for that employer after 12 months. Regardless of the reason behind these statistics, the bottom line is that taking a counteroffer as an employee is not a smart career move and making counteroffers as a company is not a good business practice.

Be Ready To Handle A Counter Offer With Skill And Confidence

If you receive and accept a job offer from a new organization, you must be prepared for the possibility that your current employer may present a counteroffer. It is very important to recognize that this counteroffer is usually not a genuine effort to listen and respond to your concerns so they can retain you as a valued employee. More often than not, it is a knee-jerk reaction to avoid the disruption and inconvenience your resignation will cause them.

Here are some helpful tips on tendering your resignation without getting caught in the counteroffer trap:

  • Ensure you have fully made up your mind to resign from your current position before accepting a job offer from another company or handing in your resignation to your current employer. Appearing indecisive in the eyes of either party could suggest weak leadership skills and significantly limit your future career potential.
  • Carefully craft a resignation letter to present to your employer the same day you give your notice. The letter should be polite, express gratitude for the experience, knowledge, and opportunity gained, and clearly state that you have accepted another position that makes the most strategic sense for you and your career path.
  • Avoid expressing negative personal feedback regarding the reasons you are leaving, and relay this type of information if desired in your exit interview with the human resources department.
  • When you turn in your letter of resignation, avoid being baited into conversations regarding why you are leaving and what they can do to keep you. Do not discuss your reasons with your co-workers; word can travel fast around the water cooler, and you want to display the utmost professionalism.
  • Regardless of how much leadership leans on you, simply restate that you have already accepted an offer, and while you are grateful for the time you have had there, you have been offered an opportunity that you cannot turn down and are excited to be moving onto the next step of your career path.
  • Make sure you let them know that you are happy to work out your notice and that you want to help them during that time with whatever they need, so the transition is as smooth as possible.

Strategic Career Advancement Is Key

In my experience in my 25 years with MarketPro, I have to agree with the statement made in Forbes by executive onboarding expert George Bradt: “Job counter offers are lame attempts to correct past omissions and are almost never successful. Either people don’t take them or they do take them and end up leaving relatively quickly thereafter.”

When you find yourself considering a possible career change, it is an indication that you are no longer satisfied with your current situation, that your career has stalled, or that you are on the wrong track. If you are offered the opportunity to advance your career through a new position, make sure you are ready to be “all in” and then gracefully cash out your chips and move on. Don’t gamble your career by accepting a risky counteroffer.

MarketPro has spent the last 25 years gaining a reputation for excellence in executive recruitment and the placement of top-tier marketing talent. Our exceptionally knowledgeable team has been hand-selected and assembled for their background and expertise as previous executive marketing professionals.

We outperform other executive search firms in recruiting executive marketing leaders because our team has a deep understanding of the skills and qualities necessary to lead an organization successfully forward through an ever-changing marketplace. You can trust MarketPro to help you find the perfect next step on the path toward your career goals.