Should you accept a counter offer to stay at your current job?

A smiling man carries a cardboard box and exits an office building.

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Conventional wisdom says no, but it’s not always on track.

Key points

  • If you tell your employer that you have found a new job, you could get a counter offer to stay.
  • Counter offers may not solve everything and may lead to future problems, so it’s usually better to decline.
  • However, there are exceptions to the rule, so you should take some time to think about what is best for your particular situation.

If you have found a new job, but your old employer wants to keep you, they may make you a counter offer. This can put you in a difficult situation. You’re probably used to the idea of ​​moving on, but suddenly, the choice isn’t so cut and dry.

Having two companies competing for your services is a good problem to have. But it’s also stressful to choose, especially knowing that your decision will have a huge impact on your career and your personal finances. While the traditional advice is that you should never accept a counter offer, it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation.

Arguments against taking a counter offer

The conventional wisdom about counter offers is that accepting one is a bad move. There is no shortage of horror stories about employees who accepted a counter offer and quickly regretted the decision. Here are the most common reasons why you shouldn’t accept a counter offer:

  • Your employer may consider you disloyal. Fair or not, there is a chance that your employer sees you as someone who is moving forward.
  • It could be hard to get ahead. If your employer isn’t sure you’re here to stay, they may be reluctant to give you more responsibility.
  • Future raises may be hard to come by. Just because management was willing to open the checkbook for a counter offer doesn’t mean they will do so in the future. In fact, they might use that counter offer as an excuse not to give you another raise.
  • Maybe it’s a short-term move to find your replacement. In the worst case scenario, your employer could use a counter offer to keep you temporarily until they find someone else.
  • Salary is not the only factor to consider. If you were frustrated or unhappy with your job, the same problems will still be there, even if you are making more money.

These are all valid points to think about when weighing a counter offer. Not every employer will react negatively, but a lot of people who accepted counter offers dealt with these issues.

A raise is nice, especially if your previous employer is now offering more than the new one. However, it is important to think long term. More money in your bank account now doesn’t mean much if you’re unable to advance in the future or if your employer lets you leave in three months after they’ve had more time to find your replacement.

Every situation and employer is different

It wouldn’t be fair to mention the horror stories against the offer without also talking about the other side of things. There are also employees who accepted counter-offers, stayed at their jobs and were satisfied with their decisions. Experiences are not universally negative.

This is not the norm, but it can happen. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you figure out what to do:

  • Any questions other than salary? Salary is important, but your career satisfaction is not the only thing.
  • If so, is your employer willing to address them? For example, if you have a long commute, an over-the-counter offer may need to include at least a few days of remote work to be worth it.
  • Does your employer have plans for your career? It may be worth considering a counter offer if your employer has clear plans for your future there, such as new roles and responsibilities you can take on.

Should you accept the counter offer?

In most cases, employees are better off rejecting a counter offer if they have found a new job. There are certain risks to staying after you’ve said you’re going to leave. And if you have several problems, a counter offer probably won’t solve them all.

That said, only you know your employer and your work environment, and not all counter offers are created equal. If it seems like your employer just wants to throw some money at you to keep you around during a busy period, then it’s clearly not in your best interest to stay.

On the other hand, maybe your boss talked to you, discussed what you were looking for, and came up with a counter offer that you would be happy with. Such a situation is when accepting a counter offer might make sense.

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