What to do if employer makes counter offer when you quit

In How to quit your job and stay friends we looked at how to resign without harming your future career prospects.

Some resignations are messy, particularly if your existing employer makes a counter offer when you quit.

While these offers look tempting, nine times out of ten you shouldn’t even consider the counter-proposal. You’ve made a decision to quit. Just go.

Despite this, there are some circumstances when you should consider a counter offer. For example:

  1. The Leapfrog
    When your career is still at an early stage and you quit to take a higher-level job elsewhere, staying put makes sense if a counter offer involves a promotion that sees you leapfrog the external position. Although many of the negatives—see below—about staying put probably still apply, career advancement is more important at this stage.
  2. Changed Circumstances
    You quit because the terms of employment change making it impossible for you to stay, but the terms change again. For example, your employer plans to move your function to a distant city. If, after you resign, your employer cancels the move, then staying makes sense.

Of course there are other special cases. However, as a rule, an offer involving more money or a promise to correct behaviour or some other problem is not a good enough reason to stay.

Here are six reasons why you’ll be better off moving:

  • The Closing Door
    Failing to go through with a move could mean you won’t get another chance for some time. At least not from the spurned employer. And remember, employers talk to each other—your actions might have wider repercussions.
  • Motivation
    Something moved you to quit. Whatever it was, it must have been important. A counter offer might address all the things that bug you about your current job—possible but unlikely.
  • Boss Panic
    If you’re a key employee, your manager probably went into crises mode when your resignation arrived. While the panic persists he or she would be willing to make promises he or she can’t deliver. Consciously or not, that person will say whatever it takes to keep you. The backtracking will almost certainly start within days of your agreeing to stay.
  • Funny Money
    Any promised salary increases made as a counter offer are likely to be at the expense of your next scheduled increase. Employers lift employee salaries at these moments only to bypass that employee in the next salary review. When the review comes they’ll remind you of that big hike—but sidestep the reasons for giving it to you.
  • Leverage
    Agreeing to stay weakens your future negotiating position. Your employer knows you blinked first last time. He or she knows they’ve got you where they want you and how to keep you under control.
  • Self-esteem
    A financial counter offer is an insult. If you were only worth $x a year yesterday, how come you’re suddenly worth $x+y today? Obviously these guys have underpaid you in the past. What’s to say they won’t do so again? If you stay, they’ll figure you lack self-respect and treat you so.