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How to handle a counteroffer

You’ve handed in your notice, only to receive a counteroffer from your employer. What now?

When it comes to having an engaged, efficient, and contented workforce, retention is every bit as important as recruitment. As we continue to note the effects of the Great Resignation on the jobs market, many businesses are doing all they can to keep staff from leaving. Perhaps you’ve been in this position yourself: you’ve interviewed for, and been offered, an interesting new role at another firm. You hand in your notice to your current employer accordingly – only for them to make you a counteroffer. What now?

Take your time and really think about it

The key thing is: don’t panic! While getting a counteroffer may seem confusing or stressful at first, remind yourself that having a choice of roles is a good position to be in. No matter how this new development may strike you, I would advise anyone in this situation not to make any sudden decisions. Acknowledge receipt graciously and ask your boss for a day or two to think it over – just bear in mind that you can’t leave it much longer, or you risk ending up with nothing. The pros and cons of accepting counteroffers will largely depend on your own goals and circumstances, so let’s break these down in more detail.

If you’ve only given notice to try to get a bump on your salary internally, I’d really recommend you don’t do this. Not only are you going to shatter the trust of your current employer, you’re probably going to burn bridges externally as well. There may well be behind-the-scenes restructuring at your company that you are not privy to; handing in your notice may actually bring leadership opportunities in new business ventures.

Discuss the counteroffer internally

Be sure to discuss the counteroffer with your line manager, who might already be aware of any issues you have with your current place of work – whether these concern wages, culture, flexibility, or anything else that might be bothering you. They may already be trying to take steps to rectify that internally. If you’re using these grievances as reasons for your resignation, and your manager tells you how these are about to change, you should probably listen to what they’ve got in mind.

What made you look elsewhere in the first place?

Is your salary the main reason you wish to leave your role, or are there other factors? Most counteroffers will include a pay rise, and while it’s important to receive remuneration that reflects your worth, ultimately money will not solve any existing job dissatisfaction. It may seem easier, at first glance, to stay put – you are already familiar with your company and won’t need to adapt to a new environment. However, when faced with a counteroffer, consider what led you to look for other opportunities in the first place. Will you have more room to grow elsewhere? Do you need a change of scenery? And would you have even received a raise if you hadn’t given notice?

Furthermore, it’s worth considering how accepting a counteroffer might affect your future in your current workplace. You may get the promotion you’d wanted and throw yourself into the new role happily – but will this be enough to motivate you long-term? Perhaps most importantly of all, will arriving at this point in the first place affect your boss’s trust in you if you do decide to stay? Your chances for progression may be diminished if the company suspects that you are not fully committed. Ask yourself if your employer is really investing in you, or if they’re just making a new proposal to avoid the hassle of training in your replacement; generally, it’s cheaper to retain than recruit staff.

Above all – handle your decision gracefully

Whatever you decide, you will need to let either your boss or the outside opportunity down gently. I cannot stress enough how important this is. Turning down an offer and handling the situation with humility is not only the right thing to do – remember that industries are small, and it is unwise in the extreme to sever ties with contacts who may yet prove useful in the future.

If you’re a candidate mulling over a counteroffer, we are only too happy to help – don’t hesitate to get in touch!


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