7 reasons to turn down a counter offer

If you are a skilled technical professional the chances are that your company does not want the hassle and delay of replacing you. Therefore they do not want you to leave. Many companies in this situation will offer potential leavers a pay-rise or other sweetener to stay. Such an offer can seem very attractive; more money plus none of the hassle and fear of leaving and trying something new.

You should never accept a counter offer under any circumstances.

Here are some reasons why:

  1. The counter offer is not about keeping you; it is about the costs and hassles of replacing you. The employer does not care about you (though they will tell you how good and important you are); they care about your skills and the time and costs to replace them.
  2. The average agency fee for a junior to mid-level technical employee is usually above £5000. For a senior or very highly skilled individual this figure can climb to more than £15,000. This means that any raise they offer you under this figure actually represents nothing more than a cost saving measure. Thus, if they offer you an extra £1500 to stay they are effectively saving £3500 straight away. This doesn't even take into account the extra costs of time to find someone and get them up to your level. The extra money is actually an insult and shows how little they care.
  3. If you are actually worth that money, why have they not paid it you before? Simple, you weren't leaving before. Do you want to work for a company that knowingly undervalues its staff in order to increase profits? A good tip for this situation is to see if they will backdate the raise to cover the amount of time you have worked there. They wont of course; so even though you are worth that money, they will not pay it.
  4. You have been disloyal and have forced their hand. They clearly didn't want to give you more money as described earlier. You are a flight risk now, and you have demonstrated you are not 100% committed to the company. All this will be remembered when looking into promotions and you will find you route up the ladder considerably harder than before. You may never be eligible for a promotion again with this employer.
  5. When you started your job hunt, the reason for looking was not just "to get more money". There are many other factors involved in switching jobs and these reasons have more to do with status and job satisfaction than just money. Would having more money make your problems with your manager go away? Would it change the way your department functions? Would it make your commute better? Would it really fix any of the myriad reasons you decided to move?
  6. Even if your company offers to make changes in management, function etc. to keep you this is still not enough. Even if they put it in writing it is still not enough. It is just your word against theirs and by the time they fail to live up to their end of the bargain the role you really wanted will have long been filled by another candidate.
  7. In certain technical sectors the talent market is very small. This means that lots and lots of senior mangers at competing companies actually know each other and rely on options and thoughts of others. Thankfully this scenario is pretty rare but candidates who get labelled as being "not seriously on the market" or "just looking for a raise out of their current employer" will find themselves excluded from future short-lists. If word gets around that you aren't serious you may be stuck with your current employer for a long, long time (and with no promotion in sight).

As you can see it is far better to commit to a course of action, no matter how tempting the offer is. Remember your current employers are merely stroking your ego to save themselves time and money. 

The best way to deal with a counter offer is to politely decline the moment it is offered. Let them know that you are flattered but that the new role fulfils more of your long-term role and career ambitions and that your move has little to do with just money. If you don't feel able to respond instantly, then it is fine to thank them for their offer and tell them you will seriously consider it. You can then respond at a time that suits you. Even another letter expressing your regret and turning down their generous counter offer is sufficient. The key is to remember their real purpose in offering you more money, and not the purpose that they claim.