Three Ways to Counter a Job Counteroffer

4 min read

Given the very tight job market, firms are in panic mode and are offering counteroffers to more people than ever that are leaving their organization.

My advice to candidates is very simple when it comes to taking a counteroffer from your boss: DON’T DO IT. A long-time candidate/friend of mine recently took a counteroffer from her firm, a leading WDC-based insurance broker. Predictability, it did not work out. Within six months she called me. She was in tears. Her story is a familiar one. Counteroffers almost always end in disaster.

Here are three ways to counter a job counteroffer:

1. Money is not Everything: When a candidate walks into the boss’s office and resigns, the reaction is almost always swift and emotional. Having been in this situation myself experiencing a valued employee depart, I can attest to the fact it feels like someone broke into your house to steal your TV set while you were away on vacation. Only worse.

Assuming the departing employee is a valued A+ player, most firms will say and do almost anything in desperation to retain the employee – usually in the form of money including throwing a big bonus and raise at the departing employee in a last-ditch effort to get him/her to stay. It’s the quick and easy fix.

Of course, once the dust settles, the employer comes back to reality and realizes this employee was probably not worth retaining at this new and inflated compensation level and position. Plus, this disloyal employee can never be fully trusted anymore by management while being resented by their colleagues. Bad situation to find yourself in. The walls will start to close in on you in a matter of weeks. Happens all the time.

So how do you counter more money? When confronted with the plea to stay for more money, you simply state the reason is because it has little to do with money and is more about the new opportunity.

Departing for simply more money is never the right reason to depart your firm. It must be for qualitative reasons such as 1) more growth, 2) more professional opportunity, 3) a different position with different responsibilities, 4) a promotion, 5) a better boss, 6) the opportunity to work remotely, etc. The new firm simply offers things that money can’t buy.

2. Emotions: Make sure before you resign and take a new position with a new firm that the new position is qualitatively better than the one you are leaving behind. Make sure you are well-rested and formally resign at the end of the day, preferably, on a Friday. This way, you take the emotion out of it by not having to deal with the parade of old friends and colleagues working on you all day to change your mind – it is mentally and emotionally draining to say “no, thanks” to this many people over course of one day.

If your decisions are ruled by emotion, and not by reason, you have already lost.

How do you counter this? Draw up a list of Pros and Cons of the new position and make sure taking a new position is based on logic and reason and NOT on emotions. Everyone has a bad day at the office. Make sure your decision is based on reason and not on a bad week at the office.

3. Put it in Writing: Okay, let’s say that you resign and your boss responds with not only a big raise and bonus but offers to provide you with all the new opportunities and growth the new firm is promising you?

How do you counter this? Simple: Put it all in writing within 24 hours. This is not difficult if the counteroffer is sincere and approved. Have HR put everything your boss just promised you in a memo to be placed in your HR file. Make it specific. If you are promised more training, what are the dates? If you are promised a promotion, okay, when does the promotion take effect? If you’re a hotshot salesperson and they have promised you a piece of the company or equity in your book of business, okay, put that in as an addendum to your employment agreement. My point is to get everything in writing. Demand it.

I actually did a YouTube video on this topic not too long ago: Dancin’ with the Devil: Counteroffers Watch it and you will not only get a slightly different perspective but a glimpse of me on the beach in Abu Dhabi.

Final Thoughts: Don’t be afraid to counter any counteroffer from your employer. Prepare for an immediate and emotional response from your boss. But keep your cool and lean into it. Just remember the qualitative reasons why you are departing are things more money can’t buy. And chances are those qualitative reasons you are departing cannot be replicated by your existing employer.

Next Episode: Three Ways to be Better Listener.

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All the best,

Rob Houghton

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