Should you accept a counter offer?

Starting a new job can be a stressful experience. Interviewers are essentially looking to reassure themselves that someone can not only do the job, but walk it with their eyes closed, and achieve this with rigorous tasks and testing, lengthy discussions and exhaustive questioning. And candidates all this just to move out into the unknown, away from their colleagues and fantasy football league, from the extra days of holiday accrued over time. It’s no wonder when employees go to post their resignation a counter offer can seem tempting. Why not stay when your employer’s finally realised your true value?

While it might seem riskier to jump ship, the statistics tell the true story. 80% of employees who accept a counter offer end up leaving the company within six months. 90% will have left within 12 months. That’s just one in 10 employees left after a year of accepting their company’s offer. So why so high?

Once an employee makes their employer aware of their plans to leave, they’ve effectively broken trust with the company – or worse, are straight-up betraying them by moving to a competitor. At the point of resignation you hold all the bargaining power, but as soon as you turn down the new job offer, that power drops to nothing. Now you’re known to be unhappy, dissatisfied, and prepared to walk – and your employer now has all the time in the world to find a more enthusiastic replacement.

Counter offers principally revolve around more money, but the driving forces for leavers are generally much more complex. A higher wage might make things easier at home, but the underlying stressors of the workplace – the politics, workload, commute or employment package – remain just as they were, but now with the added discomfort of the employee’s escape attempt thrown into the mix. Job hunting is generally a last resort for a unhappy employee – was it really only about the money?

Even a pay rise might not be quite as black and white as it seems. At first it might seem like the company is finally financially appreciating your value. But actually, cost for cost, recruitment can be highly expensive and whatever pay rise you have is still saving the employer money overall. Added to this is the galling thought that they may have simply brought forward your next pay rise – which was likely due, given your ability to find a higher-paid role.

There are obviously exceptions to every rule, as attested by that 10% of employees still in their company a year on. You’ll need to size the particulars of your situation and specifically the quality of your relationship with your employers. While the statistics can’t judge your individual circumstances, they do at least suggest you should assess the situation with a dose of cynicism.