Here you are, caught in a love triangle between two competing employers. One wants to woo you away, while the other is desperate for you to stay. You feel liked, wanted — even loved. But as in all love triangles, someone’s going to get hurt. If you accept a counteroffer, it’s probably going to be you.
Counteroffers are on the rise. Now that the economy is flourishing again — at least in the digital space — the competition for top talent is intensifying. If you’ve got a new gig lined up and are preparing to drop your resignation on the boss’s desk, be prepared to receive a counteroffer — but think long and hard before you accept it. Better yet, don’t accept it at all.
1. There’s a reason you were looking elsewhere in the first place.
Does more money fix the problem you had with your current gig? Does a director or VP title change the fact that you’re bored and unchallenged, or that your boss is a tool, or that the company culture is toxic? Does it change the fact you had to quit in order to get a raise? Of course not. A few grand more or a snazzier title might make you happy for a second, but it won’t last. Stop rationalizing about staying another year and just rip the band-aid off once and for all.
2. Your boss won’t forget.
Since you’re so necessary, your boss will bend over backward to keep you happy, right?
Your boss will be relieved that you opted to stay, but she won’t forget that you were looking to leave in the first place — or that you were willing to abandon her and your team to pursue your own goals. She probably won’t be too thrilled that she had to jump through so many hoops to keep you, either. She’ll remember all of this, and little by little, she’ll make sure you remember it, too.
3. The other hiring manager won’t forget, either.
If you accept a counteroffer, the hiring manager who’s offer you declined will make a mental tally of the hours he wasted during the hiring process, as well as the amount of time and money lost on whatever project you were going to work on. By accepting the counteroffer, you will completely burn your bridge with him and his company, plus any company he may work for down the line. You’re not just closing one door — you’re closing several.
4. Your colleagues may lose their trust in you.
Any relationship capital you created in your current role will likely disappear — or at least diminish — when word gets out about your counteroffer (and word always gets out). Like your boss, they’ll know you were looking, and they’ll assume you aren’t committed. They’ll also know that getting you to stay meant a raise or a better title or any number of perks. They’re going to resent that, and they’re going to lose their trust in you as a colleague or manager.
5. Signing a counteroffer means signing your walking papers.
The vast majority of those who accept counteroffers find themselves out of the company in short order. These departures are often voluntary (see all the reasons listed in #1 above), but not always. Remember, as soon as your boss knows you’re looking, she’s going to start looking, too. She doesn’t want to be caught short again, and she’d certainly rather have someone who’s actively interested in the job at hand. Either way, accepting a counteroffer is more like a stay of execution than a full pardon from the governor.
Of course there are exceptions to this rule. If you have a great relationship with your current boss, or if your company is so rigidly structured that a competing offer is the only way to get a raise, then it may make sense to explore a counteroffer. But in the vast majority of cases, taking a counteroffer creates the worst kind of love triangle: the kind where everyone ends up heartbroken.