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Two Big Reasons Not to Accept a Counter OfferBack when I joined OpenView, my very first blog post was about making a career move and the things that you should consider when making that decision. In that post I spoke briefly about counter offers — now, two years later, I would like to go back to that subject and dig in a bit deeper.

As a recruiter for OpenView and our portfolio companies, I’m consistently striving to land the very best talent possible. By nature, these candidates are top performers in their field, and they contribute a lot to their companies. That typically means the last thing those companies want to hear is that they’re leaving for another opportunity! In addition to surprise and dismay, the company’s response will often include a counter offer promising more money, a promotion, or maybe even a different position better suited to the candidate’s goals.

My advice for candidates who receive counter offers? Don’t just immediately accept them. Stop, relax, and consider the following…

Two Big Reasons Not to Accept a Counter Offer

There’s no denying counter offers are enticing. After all, making a move is scary. Add some extra incentive not to take the risk and instead stay in the place where you’ve been successful and comfortable? That’s hard to resist.

Beware though, accepting that counter offer may not be the right decision in the long run. Here’s why.

1) The Reasons You Were Looking to Leave May Not Change

The most common reasons for looking at a career change are culture, career growth, and challenging/interesting work. If you take a counter offer, really think about whether or not that will solve the problems you were having before deciding to look for a change.

If you were offered more money, the answer is probably no. If your current company offers you a promotion or a different role, think about the position and how it fits in the company. Are they just changing your title? Did they create a new role for you that doesn’t really fit? You want to make sure that they aren’t simply putting a Band-Aid over your problems — all Band-Aids come off eventually.

2) You Now Have a Target on Your Back

If you’ve received a counter offer that means you’ve told your current employer that you have received an offer from another company and that you are considering taking it. Your employer isn’t dumb. They can assume that means you have interviewed with at least one (but most likely more) new companies. While they may want you to stay they know that you tried to leave and may try again. As a result, your name may be one that comes up when cuts need to be made, or they may even start looking for your replacement.

I’m not suggesting that will definitely be the case, or that accepting a counter offer is always a bad idea. What I am saying is that it’s not a decision that should be made based on the thrill of more money, being wanted, or staying in a comfortable place.

In the end, your decision should come down to determining which offer presents the most career growth potential and the best chance for you to be happy.

What’s your take on counter offers? Let me know in the comments below!

Meghan Maher is a Senior Talent Specialist, actively recruiting top talent for OpenView and its Portfolio Companies.

  • Don Smith

    Great post. By not making counter offers, you confirm an organization’s integrity and enhance clarity – to those leaving and those who remain. The talented have learned to look for opportunities while perform outstanding work where they are. Smart organizational leaders have learned to be hyper-vigilant – ever engaged with their talented – affirming, challenging, rewarding. Great leaders have learned to invest in their flock, while knowing some will leave for better pastures.

  • James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Good article, but I think you can be more concise…

    Until we started a Startup (where you really can’t “fire your boss”) I had a rule.

    “If I am looking to leave a company it is already time to go !”

    This is always true and I count more wasted time in my past to ignoring this than to anything else.

  • Marc Verdi

    External talent resource people are bottom feeders. Take the deal that best fits you needs. Never consider your “recruiter”, because there is a %99.999 change that they wont remember you, 3 months from now. They are all whores to getting the placement, monthly, or conversion fee’s.

  • Mike

    I agree with James: My question for exit interviews has always been: What made you look? Asking what made you leave is always a positive answer sometimes out of your control; moving towards family, back to school, better position, more money. Why did they look brings answers that you can work on fixing.

  • Steve Hawksworth

    When working at Oracle Consulting (that had a 23% year-to-year turnover), it became both an article of faith and practice for the direct manager to ask one simple question, “Have you crossed the river?” This question was meant to separate those that wanted more money from those that needed to leave regardless of money. In other words, if it isn’t about the money, don’t stay under any circumstances.

  • Amit Bhagat

    Okay, here is my situation. Accepting the new job means that I move away from my family for at least a year and a half – and maintain two households, travel 12 hours every weekend by car. The money in the new job allows me to do that – but monetarily I don’t gain much after that. On the other hand my company is making a counter offer which does not match the new offer but is pretty decent. They had already indicated that they were interested in promoting me, just that things move at a glacial pace. I also know that in my specialized area – we have lost two employees in the last year which the company has not been able to replace … again due to to bureaucracy, pay rates, and lack of suitable candidates. It took them over a year and a half previously to replace people in similar positions. Considering I have been with the company on great terms in general, for about 13 years – in I.T. – I am totally confused as to what I should do.