Did you accept a counter offer?

  • Post published:01/08/2011
  • Reading time:5 mins read

You should have been here. I got this call that all recruiters and hiring professionals hate to get. She called me just the other morning: “Sorry Khun Tom, but I don’t think I can join your client. I know I already signed the employment contract and that I promised I would never change my mind. But you see, my boss has given me a new big important project. She told me I’m the only one in the company who she can trust to lift this sort of responsibility. They are all so nice to me. And she also gave me a new title.”

Me (after she hung up): Aaaaarrrrggghhhh !*$#@#$*!!!

Let me warn you why accepting a counter offer is a shortcut to career suicide. As bad as having an affair with the boss. You see, today’s corporate environment has made the counteroffer an important weapon in the war for talent. Many companies on purpose keep salary costs down until they absolutely have to pay their best talent.

Your boss is going to be shocked that you have accepted another position and that you are leaving. The first thing that will go through her mind is how your resignation will have an impact on her. She may have to work more hours until a replacement is found; your leaving will lower the morale of the rest of the staff, and your boss may have an extremely difficult time finding someone with your qualifications to replace you. She is also thinking about what her own boss is going to say that a senior person is leaving the company. Perhaps you are not the first one who wanted to resign recently and she knows that it’s a spot on her own resume. The head office or the chairman will not be pleased. Honestly, this is not about you but how she gets herself out of the mess when you leave. End of the day it is much easier and cheaper for your company and boss to try to keep you rather than losing you (especially if it’s to a competitor).But ask yourself why it is that on the day you give notice suddenly your opinions are so important to the boss.

  • Why have the boss and company only now become concerned about your future?
  • Why is the company only now ready to talk about compensation and benefits when they are face to face with losing you?
  • Why weren’t you worth that much to them yesterday?
  • Where is the money for the counter offer coming from? Is it your next pay rise early? Or is it your year-end bonus now utilised as a short term measure?
  • Does it take you leaving to get something you should have been getting anyway?
  • If so, is that the type of company you want to work for?
  • When the economy goes down again, what are the chances that your boss have you on the top of the list for personnel cutbacks? She already knows you were unhappy and didn’t really want to be there.
  • Ask yourself if the counter offer is going to change everything that was wrong with your present job and that made you accept another offer?  What about all the reasons you had in the first place?

The counter-offer is an insult to your intelligence. You have been bought and it should be a blow to your pride. By resigning you are essentially breaking a trust that you had with your employer. If you take the counteroffer and stay, your company may feel that it owns you. You will be known as the one who caused your employer grief by threatening to quit. You’ll no longer be known as a loyal employee.

Will this cause your boss to pass you over on the next possible promotion? There are stories where companies only counter to get the employee to stay until they find a replacement and then let the employee go. Some companies feel that it’s better for people to leave on their terms instead of their employees’ terms. Not sure who came up with the claim that 80-90% of those accepting a counter will be out in the job market again some six months later.

So please don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Avoid career suicide. Believe me, decent and well managed companies never make counteroffers. Ever.



Tom Sorensen

Tom Sorensen is an executive search veteran with over 25 years of experience recruiting in Asia, Europe, and Africa. He has worked in executive search in Thailand since 2003 and is recognized as one of the country’s top recruiters and most profiled headhunters.