How to Handle a Counter Offer when Resigning

Navigating counter offers: Tips and strategies for successfully handling a job offer and negotiating a counter offer with professionalism and confidence.

15 Feb 2022

Counter Offers

You’re over the moon to have accepted an exciting new role and all that stands between you and your next opportunity is resigning from your current position. But then your current employer throws a spanner in the works. They’ve proposed an attractive counter offer which includes a new promotion, a pay rise and other glittering benefits. Staying isn’t really something you’d thought about but now that the offer is on the table, it’s something you feel you need to consider. It’s an important decision that could have a lasting impact on your career.

In reality, proposals like this aren’t uncommon – especially in marketing, digital and eCommerce roles. Stats vary, but it’s widely reported that over 50% of employers issue counter offers following a resignation. Plus around 80% of people who accepted a counter were back on the market within six months. Ouch!

Counter offer meaning

A job counter offer is an offer made by your current employer in an attempt to stop you from accepting a new role elsewhere.  With the estimated number of vacancies in the UK reaching 1,266,000 in July – September 2022 (according to the ONS), it’s hardly surprising that your current employer is keen to keep you.

Why do employers counter offer?

It’s likely that you will have a solid grasp of your current role and how to do your job to a high standard – from business processes and systems to campaigns and agency relationships. The moment your employer is faced with replacing you, they have to invest time and money into training someone else. It’s much more cost-effective to offer you a higher salary than to recruit your replacement. It’s the hassle-free option.

Not only that, but in many cases, a business will work with a recruitment agency to find your replacement. With that comes an agency fee and time required for shortlisting applicants and interviewing. Even then, the individual being offered might be requesting a higher salary. All of the uncertainty around replacing your role means that it’s easier to just give you a pay rise.

And finally, a counter offer might be issued because you are going to be joining a competing business/agency, or a company in a similar industry. You are equipped with the knowledge, process, and clients/customers of your current employer – all of which could aid your new employer in gaining a competitive advantage. Now, a pay rise of a few thousand pounds and a new job title pales in comparison to the amount of revenue your current company could lose if you were to take that knowledge and experience elsewhere.

Things to consider with a counter offer

Given that so many employees leave their current employer within six months of accepting a counter offer, we must look at why accepting is not always a good idea, as well as the advantages.

1. Will these changes really materialise?

You’ve had a really honest conversation about why you’re moving on, and now promises are being made that there will be lots of changes. Perhaps you were looking for more responsibility, a better flexible working pattern, or even to learn a new skill. Why has it taken until a resignation for your employer to act on these? It’s likely that these current challenges you’re facing will continue. And even if things do change, it’s probable that this will only be for the short-term. And if you’re looking to make a move from agency to in-house or vice versa, it’s unlikely you’re going to suddenly change your mind off the back of a counter offer.

2. Damaged relationship with employer/manager

Now that your manager knows you were looking for a new role, you might find there’s less trust in your professional relationship. Your manager knows you’ve resigned once before and could well do so again before long. You may always feel like your manager is checking up on you more often, or not trusting you and your whereabouts.

3. You wanted to leave for a reason

When you’re being counter offered and lots of changes are being promised, remember what made you want to leave in the first place. The drivers which made you decide to update your CV, start meeting with potential new employers, and accept that new role are still there. This is key if the company culture is behind your reason for looking elsewhere. You need to consider whether it is likely this will actually change.

4. Missed opportunity

You were actually really excited about your new gig. It was a chance to start afresh and get your teeth stuck into a new challenge. By accepting that proposition, you could miss the opportunity to learn new skills and develop your career in a different environment. This is especially important if the driving factor to leave your current role was feeling bored, too in your comfort zone, or stagnant.

5. Higher expectations

Your counter offer might involve a salary increase or a promotion, but this often comes with higher expectations from your manager. If you’ve been paid unfairly up until now, it’s unlikely that your current employer is willing to increase your salary without seeing improved results. This can potentially lead to undue pressure and can be a recipe for an unhealthy environment.

6. It’s taken this long….

Something to really think about here. If you have had numerous conversations – whether formally or informally and have voiced concerns with little or no change – then perhaps it’s a case of too little, too late. Waiting until you formally resign before offering any changes is a true indicator that you’ve been undervalued by your employer. This is perhaps the most sure-fire sign that the best thing to do is to move on.

How to accept a counter offer

Many articles will say that you should absolutely never accept a counter offer. But it’s really not that clear cut. A large proportion of employees will look for a new role before being honest with their current employer and asking for what it is that they want. Be that a pay rise, more responsibility, training in a certain area or to be part of that new project. If you have not raised any concerns, your manager will never have the chance to resolve these. Likewise, if issues are around company culture – perhaps it’s worth having a chat with HR first.

If you’re thinking of accepting a counter offer from your current employer, here are some top tips:

Consider the terms of the offer

make sure that the offer addresses your key motivators. Whether this includes a pay rise, your desire for more responsibility or a better work-life balance. Assess the opportunities for future career progression and go with your gut. Consider how happy and motivated you’ll be if you stay. Take your time on this.

Chat to your recruiter

If you’re working with a Recruiter, get in touch with them to discuss the latest proposition. They will encounter this situation all the time and can provide you with their professional opinion on how to handle it. Remember that it’s in their best interest to find the perfect candidate for the position, so be honest with them.

Tell your boss

As soon as you’ve made your decision, let your employer know and reassure them of your reasons for staying.

How to turn down a counter offer

When you feel that you’ve exhausted all avenues and there’s nothing your current employer can do – then, at that point, a counter offer is unlikely to be the best decision for you.

Our tips for declining a counter offer are:

Express your appreciation

Thank your employer and let them know you’re grateful for the opportunity.

Reiterate your reasons

Reiterate your reasons for leaving and be clear that you are rejecting the offer. You can keep it short – don’t feel you need to explain all of your reasons.

Keep it professional

You never know when your paths may cross again, so keep it professional to leave a lasting good impression.

Our verdict

Whatever you decide to do with your counter offer, it’s important to make sure it’s the right decision for you and your future career. It’s a decision which could have a lasting impact on your career, so we suggest you weigh up the pros and cons carefully before deciding which way to go. Keep up to date with more top tips and industry news by following us on LinkedInFacebook, or Instagram.

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Image by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

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