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Thinking About Counter-Offers: Should You Accept Them?

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Be prepared to handle counter-offers. You may be taking a step back in your career.

As a recruitment company, we’ve seen this scenario happen all too often: an employee becomes unhappy at work due to factors such as salary, workload, strained relations with colleagues or superiors, proceeds to apply for jobs within their industry, goes to interviews and subsequently receives an offer employment. Delighted, they accept, and hand in their letter of resignation at their current employer.  

Then their employer makes them an "offer they can't refuse" - yes, that was in the Godfather voice. They propose a substantial pay rise, promise more benefits such as increased holiday, and swear that overall "things will get better". 

Receiving a counter-offer leaves them in a dilemma. The person begins to second-guess accepting their new job and considers their current employer's offer. They think they're finally going to get the pay deserve, and everything will be fine again. 

Only, it's not that easy. There are hidden implications of a counter-offer that people often overlook. If you find yourself in this situation, before proceeding with any decision making, consider these questions. 

Questions to ask yourself

  • Which job makes the best use of your skills and will develop your career in the direction you’d like to take it? 
  • What were the reasons why you chose to leave your current employer in the first place?
  • Other than a pay and benefits rise, do you think anything else would really change if you stayed? If issues weren’t fixable before, what makes you think you can fix them now?
  • Why does your employer only see your value now?

The last question is simple – they usually haven't. 

Employers have an agenda, and that is to put business interests first. By asking you to stay, it seems like you're irreplacable, but you're not. Finding a replacement employee is often expensive and time-consuming. It’s simply in their best interest to keep you there at that moment, perhaps they really need you to finish the project you’re currently working on. Also, losing an employee can have a negative reflection on the company, and it would suit them better to get rid of you in their own terms, now that they have knowledge of your desire to move.

Employees who accept counter-offers have a notorious track record of leaving that employer after a small period of time. Studies have shown that 80 per cent of people leave within 6 months and 93 per cent leave within eighteen months. 

There is certainly no one-size-fits-all scenario, and every person and employer is different. Perhaps accepting a counter-offer is the best for you and your career at a certain period of time, and perhaps your employer genuinely values you and doesn't want to let you go, because you're a true asset to the company. However, as recruiters with years of experience in the creative industry, we have found that in most situations this is a rare case, and that staying in the same company will only be a step back in your career. One has to really have a think about what's best for their happiness and career progression, and this can be difficult when you're stuck between an old employer and a new job that has just been accepted and with little time to decide between both. 

If you stay, most likely all the  problems you had with your company will remain. Pay increase aside, you'll still be unhappy at work, and you'll soon regret having turned down that other role and find yourself on the job hunt once again. Meanwhile, your job security will diminish, as the trust factor between you and your employer will dissolve, as they now know of your dissatisfaction in your role.