3 Reasons Why a Counteroffer is Too Good to Be True

So, you’re thinking about making a career move. Fast forward a couple of months and you have a few really solid opportunities in front of you. You go into the final stages of interviewing and are presented with an offer. You accept the offer and are ready to give your notice to your current employer (who has no idea you were job searching, by the way).

During that conversation, tides quickly change and your boss tries to talk you into staying. He/she is also telling you they value your contributions, you are pivotal to the team, and they would like to pay you more, etc. The next day, they come back to you with an offer that is more than the one you just got. Easy, right? But…

Is this too good to be true? Yes, yes it is.

Using another job offer as a bargaining chip (even if that wasn’t your original intent) may be tempting, but all too often it ends up biting you in the you know what, as Forbes argues here.

If all you wanted in the first place was a raise, then you should ask your boss for more money. Of course, be prepared to speak to why you deserve it.


In all my years of recruiting, I have rarely seen someone who accepts a counter-offer stay with that employer for longer than a year.

Here’s why accepting a counteroffer can hurt your career:

  1. Your employer is scared. They can’t possibly survive the next three months without you because you are running the upcoming sales conference, you own the intellectual capital of the latest product, you are about to bring in the biggest deal in company history, and the list goes on. But after the initial relief passes, you may find that you aren’t viewed as a loyal employee anymore.
  2. They’re buying time. Your employer could already be in the process of searching for your replacement.  In fact, the rule of thumb among recruiters is that 70 to 80 percent of people who accept counteroffers either leave or are let go within a year.
  3. You remember all those other reasons why you wanted to leave. While more money is nice to have, it’s not everything. I always tell people who are considering a new opportunity to sit down with a pen and paper – draw a line down the middle of the paper – and make a list of ‘negotiables’ and ‘non-negotiables’ for their next career opportunity. Much like dating, you don’t want to talk yourself into someone…I mean, a job…just because it seems to fit.

What’s most important to you? A connection with your boss? A comfortable commute? A flexible work arrangement? An employer that invests in your professional development? The size of the organization and/or industry?

Whatever the case, write those things down first before you’re tempted with an opportunity. When you find something you think is right, go back to your list and see if you can check each ‘non-negotiable’ box.

Also, think about the future sacrifices you might have to make. Even if you get more money out of your company now, you might have to give up career development down the road. You had one foot exiting the organization to get a compensation bump, so the next time you want a raise you might be refused altogether. Your boss might say, “Remember that time we gave you extra money to stay with the organization…yeah.”

It’s also possible that you’ve burned a bridge (or two). You let down not only the employer who initially offered you a job, but also potentially the recruiter who worked with you to get it. Burning bridges is not recommended in this market where many firms and HR professionals talk to one another. You can establish a poor reputation fast, and that can stop your career in its tracks.

Now, I’m sure there are instances where accepting a counteroffer makes complete sense, and works out in the long run. But from our vantage point, it’s not a decision that makes much sense when you look at the data.

Do you have a story about dealing with a counteroffer? Share in the comments section!

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