Counter Offers Seldom Pay Off Long Term


Q. I accepted a job offer from a competing agency last week and told my current boss that I was leaving on Friday. She was upset and told me not to announce anything internally until she could arrange a counter offer. On Monday, she came back with an offer matching the 20% increase from the new place. I decided to stay put, but I’m now having second thoughts since I’m getting mixed signals from my two supervisors. Did I make a mistake? -SRS

A. You didn’t make a mistake unless you truly wanted to get out of your current job because of the work environment or the type of things you’re doing. It’s time to move on when you are in a rut with no sign or opportunity to change the situation. So be careful when making the decision to go or stay.

I follow the assumption that everyone is entitled to one counter offer during a career. In fact, counter offers seldom pan out for the long term. According to, 80% of employees who have accepted a counter-offer leave the company in six months and 93% are gone within 18 months.

During my career, I personally accepted one counter offer but, like you, I started getting vibes from my boss that he made the offer because he didn’t want to lose me in the short term, but he realized I wouldn’t be there for the long haul. I moved to another job a year later. When managing agencies, I helped arrange several counter offers for individuals we needed to keep in place for important client relationships. I can only think of a handful of individuals receiving counter offers that are still with those same agencies several years later. In these cases, they actually enjoyed what they were doing and were only tempted to leave because of salary.

Counter offers can bump up your salary, but they also can affect your personal brand if you take the raise and leave shortly thereafter. It’s best to have honest, on-going conversations with your supervisor about how you are doing–and what it takes to get promoted. Only when you’re disappointed with the answers and potential should you think about jumping ship. By no means try to pit one firm against the other in a “bidding war”. You eventually lose. If you clearly want to do something else, then make the decision to move on and don’t turn back.

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