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Should You Stay Or Should You Go?

30 Aug 2022

Mark Byrne

Counter offers in a job searching process - weigh them up carefully

In the war for talent, one of the biggest bugbears for recruiters and hiring managers is the dreaded counteroffer. When a jobseeker gets all the way through a (sometimes gruelling) interview process, then just as they’ve signed contracts, announce they have received an counteroffer and actually, thanks very much but they’ll be staying with their current employer after all! An incredibly frustrating result for all involved, especially when all statistics indicate that a staggeringly high percentage of people who accept counteroffers will still leave within 6-12 months. At Brightwater, we’ve done plenty of surveys over the years on this very issue and invariably over 80% of people who accepted a counteroffer   

Borne out of desperation - why organisations make a counteroffer

It is easy for employers to become complacent about their employees. There may be plenty of employee engagement activities, but quite often it is not until someone resigns that an employer understands there’s something wrong. And even then, people may not be all that honest about their reasons in an exit interview so if a counteroffer is made, it may not address all the issues of why they were leaving in the first place. Employers know that it is considerably easier to keep someone on with the offer of higher salaries, better projects or a promotion than it is to recruit and train someone new. In an increasingly tight talent market, making a counteroffer makes sense. But counteroffers are very short term solutions for a long term problem.

Why does a jobseeker accept a counteroffer?

Having worked with jobseekers of all levels over the years, we understand their motivation and needs. We also recognise that jobseekers are human beings with a mindset of “better the devil you know”. They have very understandable reasons for accepting a counteroffer which include:

  • Less stress if you don’t have to move
  • No need to get to know new people/routines/culture
  • Familiarity with the company/colleagues
  • Doing the same job but for a better salary
  • Getting promoted faster

But before accepting a counteroffer, you need to really examine your reasons for resigning in the first place which may be any one or a combination of the following:

  • Feeling underpaid or underappreciated
  • No flexibility in the hours/ working models
  • Slow or non-existent career progression
  • Company culture / politics
  • Boredom in the job
  • Long commute

Why not to accept a counter-offer

(1)    In all likelihood, nothing will change except for your salary. But will that be enough? And will that salary be reviewed again in 12 months or will the employer feel that you’ve leveraged your way to enough of a raise already?

(2)    Being paid your worth – if an employer is prepared to pay a premium for you once the threat of you leaving appears real, then why weren’t they paying you that all along? The feelings of being undervalued and underappreciated won’t go away

(3)    Trust / loyalty – quite often a resignation (or even the mere threat of one) can be seen as a lack of loyalty. For every future career progression opportunity, your employer may question if they can depend on you staying. No matter how amicable the counter process is, there will always be an element of mistrust


How employers can avoid counteroffers

Working with employers over the years, our consultants at Brightwater are often asked how to avoid the counteroffer situation. Certainly, during our own rigorous interview and shortlisting processes, we recognise that a counteroffer could be made once the employee first resigns. We try and address that at the start of the job search by asking the candidate the right questions about their motivations for leaving in the first place and we prepare them for the possibility of a counteroffer being made. We always urge them to think about their reasons for leaving and why those reasons won’t magically disappear if they do end up accepting a counteroffer.

From the employer’s perspective, it's always better to avoid a counteroffer than be forced to have to make one. The consensus is that annual staff reviews need to be a two-way street. Issues need to be addressed as soon as possible before it gets to a resignation and counteroffer situation. It also comes down to the employee experience. Often more care and attention gets lavished upon potential employees than on the ones currently working for you. It may simply be a small change to their working arrangements, or recognition of their achievements and hard work or it may be examining your remuneration packages with a more critical eye. If however, a counteroffer is made and turned down, then it’s important to still ensure that the employee’s exit experience is as positive as possible. Ex-employees can still be great advocates for the organisation and who knows, may even ask to return if they find the grass is not as green in other pastures.


Before accepting a counteroffer, really think about why you wanted to leave in the first place. Are those problems going to be solved by what they’ve offered you? Think about how excited you were about getting your offer from your new employer. Think carefully about where you want to be in five years and how you can achieve that – by staying with your current employer, are your career goals still realistic? Ultimately, it’s your decision to accept or turn down a counteroffer and you are the one that must be happy with the result. However, it would be wise to make those decisions before you embark on a job search in the first place.


Mark Byrne is Commercial Director with The Brightwater Group and heads up Brightwater's Legal division.