Debunking the counteroffer mythology according to recruiters

From a recruiter’s perspective, we have been taught since day one of our careers to demonize the counteroffer. It was as if the recruitment industry as a whole got together at the dawn of time and invented the “Counteroffer Boogeyman” that all of us were told scary stories about around the campfire and none of us wanted to ever encounter. If we did encounter this Boogeyman, we were to be armed with all of our talking points and statistics to help defeat said Boogeyman. Turns out, there is no Boogeyman and there are most definitely two sides to every story. This blog post is not going to be yet another in the long line of posts furthering this Boogeyman myth, but to rather, as objectively as possible, look at the counteroffer from both perspectives – good and bad. A lot of recruiters might hate on this post because it will take some shots at what they are told is the truth from day one. To them I say – “the times, they are a changing”. These are typically the “tools and talking points” that recruiters are given, the ones below common to just about every “why not to accept a counter offer blog you will see”. I will provide my thoughts on each. Let’s do this, shall we?

Even if you accept a counteroffer, from this day on, your loyalty will always be in question – I call BS here. That is quite a sweeping statement and I am sure in some cases or companies this might be accurate, but I can also see a situation where a company is either being ignorant to market conditions or simply valuing an employee enough to do what it takes to keep them retained and happy when made aware that he/she is not – simply because, you know – they value the employee. I don’t believe in there being a secret file of people on the “watch list” of disloyal employees, especially as the talent climate has changed. Retention is a HUGE focus now, and as I have stated in other pieces, talent is in the driver seat today, not employers. There is no evil boss in the corner twirling his/her mustache as someone accepts a counteroffer. In my experience, a counteroffer is made because the company really wants to keep the employee. Simple, huh?

When promotion time comes, the company will remember who is loyal and who is not – See above. This feels like a statement from the 1950s era “personnel department”. Now, if you accepted a counteroffer that most likely has a compensation increase tied to it, be reasonable on what to expect in an increase come review time. But promotions? Again – the idea behind a counteroffer is to keep valued employees . What would be the logic of going through the counteroffer process as a company if you had no intention of retaining the employee? My thought here is that if you accepted a counteroffer and deserve a promotion, you will get one. If you don’t, you won’t. Simple as that. I have seen many people accept counteroffers at companies I have worked at and subsequently seen them get promoted and stay for long periods. Again – not always and no absolute here – but to refer to this “secret file of disloyal employees” is a thinking that, in most businesses, went away back when Elvis was still on the charts.

When times get tough, your employer will begin the cutbacks with you – Again – what is the logic here? Let’s see. Company extends a counteroffer, along with addressing the concerns of the employee who they countered, obviously because the company feels the person is valuable and someone they need to retain. So, having said all that, where is the logic here? Think about the people who DON’T get counteroffers. I would argue those are the ones who would be effected here, not the ones that company makes a concerted effort to keep.
Accepting a counteroffer is an insult to your intelligence and a blow to your personal pride: you were bought – Ouch. I don’t think it is insulting to one’s intelligence or pride if the person truly wants to stay at a company to accept more money and responsibility to do so. What I do think is this – “why now?”. That is the question I ask candidates when they receive a counteroffer. Is it because you are a business problem that they need to put a “finger in the dam” or is it coming from a more genuine place. If you understand the “why now” and take the emotion out of it and think rationally, then you can make a clear decision.

The same circumstances that now cause you to consider a change will repeat themselves in the future, even if you accept a counteroffer – Most likely true on this one. I always ask a candidate when they consider a counteroffer to consider why they were looking in the first place. More money and a new title doesn’t make the things that made you start looking in the first place go away. Sure – there might be a brief period of good vibes, but as they say, a tiger can’t change its stripes. Sometimes there are more important things than money and title when accepting a role – whether at a new company or at your current one.

Statistics show that if you accept a counteroffer, the probability of voluntarily leaving in six months or being let go in one year is extremely high – I have seen some stats here that do back this up, but more-so on the voluntary side. I think this probably aligns with the answer above. Money and title are often band-aids on bigger issues for candidates. Once the shine of a new compensation package wears off, the same stuff that led you to look before is usually there.

Once the word gets out, the relationship that you now enjoy with your co-workers will never be the same – Nope. BS here too. Newsflash – we are all working for ourselves. How your co-workers would hold you bettering your situation against you seems downright silly to me. If your co-workers do hold it against you, they weren’t a good friend or co-worker in the first place. How could anyone fault someone for trying to do what is best for them and their family?

What type of company do you work for if you have to threaten to resign before they give you what you are worth? –I do think the “why now” is an important question for anyone to ask themselves when getting a counteroffer from their current employer. Be honest when asking this question. Are you a “business problem” or is this really about you and their value of you as an employee? Is this because the project you are working on can’t afford to not have you on it., or is it because they were simply ignorant of changed market conditions? I typically think this one has some merit, but to use it as a blanket statement is also not giving the other side of the coin it’s due. Sometimes companies need a nudge to realize what is right too.


So there you have it. Some of these reasons seem legit, and some….not so much. A counter-offer can be a really tough thing to face for anyone. Be informed, take the emotion out of it and make the right decision for you. And remember – there is no Boogeyman.

Posted on April 7, 2015 in counteroffer, Employment Brand, job posting, Nerd Stuff, Recruiting, selection, talent acquisition, unemployment

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Response (1)

  1. Ruth
    April 16, 2015 at 5:50 pm ·

    Love this post! Without a doubt the second sentence in this article is probably the truest thing I’ve read about counter offers! I moved from working in IT into IT recruitment and one of the first things I noticed was how recruiters tried to imply that accepting a counter offer was one of the most despicable things a person could do – it’s really refreshing to see someone publicly shed some light on this! I look forward to reading more of your blog posts!

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