Why accepting a counteroffer is a bad idea (and why the die is cast once you do it)

Received a new job offer and your boss made a counter? Here are some things to consider.

August 16, 2012
by Robert Half International

You’ve just accepted a job offer with a great company and your mind is focused on moving on to your new position. A curveball is thrown your way, though, when you inform your boss of the news.

You’re given a counteroffer—and a very enticing one—that has you second-guessing your decision. What to do?

Say “no.” Here are the reasons it’s never a wise move to accept a counteroffer:

It’s likely a stopgap measure
As much as you’d like to think you were just too valuable to let go, chances are your manager’s reaction was a panicked one. It may be that workloads are so high, losing you could cause burnout with other employees or delay projects. Your supervisor may also dread the idea of spending time recruiting new staff, particularly if your role requires hard-to-find skills. Leaders are also assessed on their ability to retain staff, so your departure may cause personal career worries.

Once your boss slows down enough to reflect on the situation, there are likely to be strong reservations about your loyalty going forward. If you were willing to jump ship once, what’s to prevent you from doing it again soon? At the very least, you could be first on the list if your department downsizes or not be given the same consideration for future advancement.

Even with changes, you may not be happy staying
Give serious thought to the factors that prompted you to look for another job in the first place. Will they realistically be different if you accept the counteroffer? For instance, if you hated the long work hours or had interpersonal conflicts with colleagues, those situations aren’t likely to be different in the future.

Even if pay was the issue and you receive a nice salary increase to stay, you may begin to question why it took the threat of leaving for the company to reward your contributions financially. Additionally, your initial pay boost may mean a reduction in earnings down the road, as your firm offsets the expense by giving you fewer raises later.

You will damage your reputation
You’ve accepted an offer at another company and the manager there is getting ready for your arrival. Now, you’ve suddenly backed out of the deal to stay with your present employer. That supervisor must not only start recruiting again, but also faces the uncomfortable task of telling other leaders and staff of your actions.

Failing to live up to your word casts an unfavorable light on your character. In this age of social media, it can be particularly easy for word of your behavior to spread throughout the financial community.

Your current boss may also wonder if you were using a job search simply as a means of gaining a raise, promotion, or other advantage. This can greatly damage trust.

Interaction with colleagues can become awkward
Expect working relationships to change if you stay. The fact that you’re enjoying a pay raise and other perks (and, yes, the word does tend to get out) isn’t likely to sit well with colleagues who’ve worked just as hard but haven’t been given similar recognition. They may wonder why your disloyalty was rewarded and resent the entire situation.

You may find co-workers and other managers are more hesitant to ask you to play a prime role in projects, too. They may be thinking, “Who knows how long this employee is staying?” There may be concerns, as well, that your productivity and motivation will slack off now that you have everything you asked for at the company.

It can be very tempting to accept a generous counteroffer, but, in the final analysis, it may not be worth the career consequences it causes. The best decision is to honor your new offer of employment but stay focused on your current job during your final weeks. Then, move on to your new employer with no regrets. You’ll keep your professional reputation intact and stay energized for the fresh opportunities ahead.

This article is provided courtesy of Robert Half International, parent company of Accountemps, Robert Half Finance & Accounting, and Robert Half Management Resources. Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm placing accounting and finance professionals on a temporary, full-time, and project basis. Follow Robert Half on Twitter at twitter.com/roberthalf.