How To Respond To A Counter-Offer


by Laura Ross

28th January 2019

You've made it through the tough stages of finding a new job: updating your CV, selling yourself at interview, being offered the role and then handing in your resignation. Done and dusted, or so you thought. But then your employer makes an enticing counter-offer for you to reconsider your resignation. How do you handle it?

Our Accountancy, Finance and Legal recruiter, Laura Ross, responds to a question we're beginning to receive more frequently – how to respond to a counter-offer. If you are the candidate, this might sound like great news, but it's surprising how much soul searching and worry over making the right decision counter-offers can cause.

Unfortunately, there's no 'one size fits all' answer because each person's priorities and motivations are unique. Most people's reaction upon receiving a counter-offer is to feel flattered by the fact that their boss wants to keep them, not to mention delighted by the prospect of a higher salary. However, don't be naive. Retaining you is probably a lot less hassle and more cost effective than replacing you. Consider too that your longer term compensation may be affected as a pay increase now may be offset by smaller increases in the future, particularly if the counter-offer is not based on your merits and effectiveness.

It's important to weigh up the new internal offer as thoroughly as you considered the external option. Which makes the best use of your skills and will develop your career in the direction you'd really like to take it? How do you feel about each business, your existing and potential new manager? Which offers the best financial reward in conjunction with the other benefits on offer? Are your personal aspirations being met? If they aren't, can you reconcile this by being paid more?

When my candidates are struggling with the dilemma of how to handle a counter-offer we often talk through the following points.

1. Know Your Value

Check out the market rate for your role and responsibilities. There are loads of online guides (try this North East Salary Guide, it relates specifically to Aberdeen city and shire).

2. It's Not Just About The Money

Unless salary was the sole purpose for looking at new opportunities, counter-offers aren't necessarily the answer to being happier at work. Remember if you're bored with your job and frustrated by a lack of learning and career development, extra cash won't change this. So, if you accept a counter-offer make sure it's because you are motivated by the job not just the cash. Some of the reasons we enjoy working includes having pride in our work, a good work life balance and generally feeling our work is making a difference.

3. Think What You're Leaving Behind

Working in an organisation for a good period of time means you've built up equity, whether it's the relationships you've developed, your professional reputation or your service record. Dramatic improvements to career progression, immediate and long-term earning potential can be achieved by making an external move, but consider whether that could be to the detriment of your team fit, ability to influence decisions or the flexibility your loyalty and hard work has garnered.

4. Don't Act On Impulse

If you have asked for a pay rise which has been declined, don't react impulsively. There's likely to be a myriad of reasons why your employer turned down your request so interviewing for the first job that comes along and accepting an offer you're not excited about is just self-sabotage. Make sure the move is a logical progression for your career.

5. Keep It Professional

Always conduct yourself professionally as no matter what your decision it's important that you act with integrity and respect all the parties involved in your job offer and subsequent negotiations.

6. Delayed Recognition

If you're worth your increased salary and responsibilities, why was this not recognised before you handed in your notice? Part of your frustration from the outset may be that you're undervalued, and if it takes your resignation for this to be noticed you may be better off with an organisation that is more proactive in helping you fulfil your career ambitions.

But what if you're the employer trying to do the retaining? Retention planning is a long game, made harder in the north east of Scotland by the number of companies competing to be an employer of choice. There's no 'one size fits all' answer here either with a delicate balance to be achieved between retaining your best people, maintaining a work culture where people thrive and are most productive and accepting that making a counter-offer in the short term is only delaying the inevitable in the longer term.

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