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Written by:
Josh Abbott

How to handle a counter-offer

So, you’ve handed in your notice and your boss has come back with a counter-offer. What do you do?! And more importantly, what is the best way to handle them?

I was tempted to keep this blog to an economical two words: reject it! But I thought better of it. Even if I feel like that is the best answer in most cases where employees have offers from elsewhere. I’ll come back to why I think that later in the blog. First, some balance…

‘Leaver fever’, ‘The Great Resignation’, ‘The Great Reshuffle’… call it what you want, they all mean the same thing: workers are on the move right now, prompted by a high number of vacancies and burnout caused by the pandemic.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that resignation rates are rocketing with the numbers of people transitioning to new jobs or leaving old ones at their highest levels for at least seven years.

For employers, higher resignation rates present an obvious problem. In many cases, their best bet is to hit employees who’ve had their heads turned with a counter-offer. It’s cheaper and less hassle than getting someone to replace them, at least in the short term.

And so, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

Are counter-offers a good or bad thing for candidates?

The answer to that question depends on the industry and the employer doing the offering. As we all know, the tech industry is crying out for talent right now. At the back end of 2021, we reported that tech and IT-related vacancies made up 13% of all UK job vacancies.

To attract this finite talent, employers are offering candidates lucrative salaries along with a whole host of interesting benefits.

It’s not just skilled tech workers who employers are going after. LinkedIn data showed that from August to October 2021 the net flow of workers moving to software and IT services from other industries more than doubled year on year.

So, for tech candidates, if you get itchy feet, chances are you’re going to land on them and get a better offer elsewhere.

Stick or twist?

OK, so this is where I must remain balanced in my advice. Ultimately, all counter-offers require a degree of consideration. First things first, when faced with a counter-offer, you should do the following:

  • Hear your current employer out – but ask yourself why it’s taken your resignation to get an offer like this.
  • Work out why your employer is making this counter-offer. Is it because they want you to stay? Or because it’s easier and cheaper than hiring again?
  • Remember why you wanted to leave in the first place. If it’s to do with the culture, this can’t change overnight. If it’s to do with lack of progression but they promise you an entirely new organisation structure that gives you what you want, and they can guarantee this happening (get it in writing) then you may consider it.
  • Phone a friend. Seek the advice of friends and mentors you trust.

At the end of the day, it’s easier to stay put than it is to start somewhere new – and the promise of more money or greater flexibility is tempting.

Your personal circumstances will probably lead you one way or another. However, try to focus on the job itself and the work environment. If they’re not intrinsically providing you with what you want and need, your long-term satisfaction is going to suffer regardless of the salary bump.

So what are we really saying?

Only you can decide on the merits of a counter-offer. Our advice would be to trust your gut.

But, generally speaking, we feel counter-offers are backhanded and desperate. Employers only offer them because they know they will lose your skills and knowledge, and they don’t want to spend the time getting a new person up to speed.

Counter-offers aren’t usually made out of respect for the employee – it’s more of a defensive move for the benefit of the business. Why has it had to come to this for them to show some kind of recognition of what you give them?

Who’s to say that, while happy to keep you on, they won’t perceive your resignation as a lack of loyalty later down the line? You could find your career path blocked should you choose to stay.

Your employer will probably have half an eye out for a replacement just in case you resign again. It doesn’t exactly make for a relationship built on trust moving forward, does it?

When things quickly revert to how they used to be, where does that leave you? Back at square one again.

Ultimately, if you have any doubts about the medium- to long-term future at your current company, politely decline the counter-offer, maintaining your professionalism.

Hopefully, we’ve given you something to think about when it comes to counter-offers. If you’ve been in this situation before, we’d love to know what other advice you’d have for others!

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