Accepting a Counteroffer – Right or Wrong?

  • Posted by: AD Finance
  • Date: 01 January 1970

By Lauren Beattie

When I started my recruitment career back in 2010 I was ever so excited when I got my first offer in. Finally, I had made some money and I began to think I knew exactly how this whole recruitment malarkey worked. How wrong could I have been……?

It turned out that getting to offer stage was only half the battle, in fact even when the candidate accepted I was not home and dry, far from it. The counter offer came in like a massive wrecking ball and hit me square between the eyes. And believe me it hurt.

However, resilient as I was, I dusted myself off and got on with it, promising myself I would never let something like that come as a shock to me in future. So that brings me onto the debate of counter offers, what they mean and if it is ever right to accept one.

As a recruiter I like to cover the counter offer or buy back at the very beginning of the process. I get the candidate to rank their top three motivators for moving. These can include work/life balance, location, line manager, money, company culture, lack of career progression etc. Quite often money comes out as number one on the list which sets off alarm bells, especially if the candidate hasn’t spoken to their line manager about feeling undervalued. In these circumstances I recommend they do speak with their boss before pursuing any other opportunities, it could save everyone a lot of time. I like to ask “What will your manager say when you hand in your notice?” it is something everyone who is job searching should be asking themselves.

I also like to reiterate to candidates throughout the process their reasons for looking and understand if these have changed at all as the whole world can change in the time it takes to go through a recruitment process.

So, getting to the point, you get the offer for the job you were interviewing for, you are dead excited about it and you even got a nice uplift on your current salary, winner! Then comes the point of handing in your notice, not a pleasant experience for anybody. There is nothing worse than seeing a figure of authority looking totally and utterly devastated at something you have just said (or as my old director used to say “Lauren, I’m not angry, just disappointed” I would far rather he had been angry!) However, you have to keep reminding yourself of the reason you are here having this conversation and not to back down.

They don’t want you to leave for the following reasons;
They actually do value you – well sorry buddy, but too little too late. If they did value you they wouldn’t have refused that uplift on pay a few months back when you challenged them on your market worth. Now they are saying they will give you the extra £5k you are looking for…. I don’t think so. Giving you an extra £5k is cheaper for them than going back out to market and having to re-hire. Basically you are a cheaper option… you want to stay to be known as the cheap option?
It is going to cost them more to replace you – Think about it, they have the cost of advertising, agency fee, on-boarding costs and the cost of the position sitting empty if they don’t find someone before you leave. That is going to come to a lot more than the extra £5k they are offering you to stay.
It will disrupt the team – When someone leaves an organisation it plants seeds in other employees minds and may be the trigger for them to start looking and subsequently finding a new role. If they can keep hold of you they won’t risk losing even more people.
They were just about to offer you a promotion – this may be true in some cases but in most cases it means we will just change your job title so that you sound more senior and you get a slight pay rise but in reality you are doing the exact same job.
In most cases a counter offer will be a monetary offer, however, sometimes it will be the promise of a project to work on, training that you will be put on or even a change to the structure so you no longer have to work with that manager you dislike so much. Whatever it is, my advice would be to think very seriously before accepting it and there are a number of reason for this.
Money was never your motivator for leaving – Back to my earlier point, always remind yourself why you decided to look externally, if money was not one of your main motivators then how is an extra £5k going to improve your role, experience, enjoyment of the job? Simple, it won’t!
You have broken the trust – By handing in your notice you have admitted to interviewing with another organisation and any trust they had in you has now been broken. Any holiday taken will be looked upon suspiciously, are you out at another interview? If redundancies are made in future, your card has been marked.
Few promises will be kept – They tell you that structures are going to change and your role will become far more important when in reality nothing changes. We are going to look at x, y and z over the coming months and make some changes…unlikely to materialise.

So, while some organisations may well pull out all the stops and actually stick true to their promises, research suggests the majority don’t. I will never sell hard against a candidate who wants to take a counter offer but I will ask them to take a moment to think about why they wanted to leave in the first place. Counter offers can be very flattering but sometimes it is worth taking yourself out of the box and looking in from the outside.

You may feel cheated to have got to the end of this and I’ve not answered the question. However, I don’t think there is a text book answer. You have to assess your own individual situation and if having really thought hard about it you decide to accept the counter offer, well then it must have been right for you at that point in time.