3 Questions to Ask Before Accepting a Counteroffer


While most career advice professionals will adamantly advise you against ever accepting a counteroffer from your current employer, the honest truth is accepting one can sometimes be a good career decision. It all depends on a few factors.

The sad fate of those who do accept counteroffers is often referenced in recruiting circles: 90 percent of them leave or are let go from their company within a year. I’m not sure about the origin of this widely referenced stat, but here’s the thinking behind it: When you accept a counteroffer, the issues that initially drove you to search for a new job are likely to remain unresolved. So while you may get a nice raise and a title bump in a counteroffer, you’re likely to end up back on the market as soon as the novelty wears off.

If you’re wondering whether or not to accept a counteroffer, you need to do two things:

  1. Be very honest with yourself about what you want and need to be happy at work.
  2. Trust what your gut is telling you.

Here are some things to think about the next time you have to decide between a new job and a counteroffer:

1. Are You After the Money, or Something More?

For one reason or another, you were tempted to explore other opportunities. Whether you initiated the process or were courted by a recruiter, the end result is the same: You have a new job offer on the table, as well as a counteroffer from your employer.

If the only reason you contemplated leaving is the money, then accepting a counteroffer that puts your compensation where you want it to be could be a perfectly fine course of action. However, money is rarely the main motivating factor behind a job search.

Think about the new opportunities you’ve been considering. What excites you about them? Do you want a new set of responsibilities? Will you have more room for growth and the opportunity to learn new skills? Assuming those are the reasons, it’s best to decline the counteroffer. A higher salary isn’t going to bring the same satisfaction. Move forward and don’t look back.

Taking a counteroffer to stay in the same role you currently have is putting a band-aid on a bad situation at work. It will only protect you from your professional dissatisfaction for a while. That dissatisfaction is bound to return again soon.

2. Will Your Role Change?

Sometimes, a counteroffer is your bosses’ way of expressing an earnest desire to have an open conversation with you about your role. If your boss seems to be after such a chat, it’s definitely advisable to engage in one.

Your boss may have no idea you’re unhappy or that you feel underutilized. They may be willing to shift your role to accommodate your professional desires. We all make mistakes. Maybe your boss made the mistake of not being as attuned to your needs as they should have been. Perhaps you made the mistake of avoiding a difficult conversation with your boss regarding your professional frustrations. Whatever the case, if you feel the counteroffer is based on a sincere desire to retain you as a valued member of the organization and genuinely addresses your career frustrations, then maybe taking it isn’t a bad idea after all.

3. Is It Worth the Risk?

A counteroffer allows an employer to avoid the time-intensive, productivity-draining, and expensive process of finding a replacement for you. Hence, it is in your employer’s best interest to get you to accept their offer.

But let’s say you’ve already declined the counteroffer and accepted your new job. After embarking on a search for your replacement, your employer may come up empty. This may lead them to realize how invaluable you are — which means they may be willing to make yet another counteroffer.

This situation isn’t common, but it does happen. If you find yourself in this scenario, then you have a chance to negotiate a very special deal for yourself. You may want to take it.

As with most things in life, it’s best to stay away from a philosophy of always and never. There is no doubt that accepting an offer to return to a company you just left comes with some risk — but so does taking a new role. Sometimes you have to take a big risk to gain a big reward.

In the end, you need to trust your gut. Go with what feels right — but only after evaluating the situation from all points of view and considering all possible outcomes. When it comes deciding whether or not you should accept a counteroffer, the only right answer is yours.

A version of this article originally appeared on the Atrium Staffing blog.

Michele Mavi is Atrium Staffing‘s resident career expert.

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