why you shouldn’t take a counteroffer

For some reason, I’ve received a bunch of letters lately asking about how to use a job offer from somewhere else as leverage in getting a raise from a current employer. This is generally — not always, but generally — a bad idea.

Using another job offer as a bargaining chip may be tempting, but too often, it ends badly. If you want a raise, then negotiate it on your own merits—or prepare to move on.

Here’s why:

1. Employers often make counteroffers in a moment of panic. (“We can’t have Joe leave right now! We have that big conference next month.”) But after the initial relief passes, you may find your relationship with your employer—and your standing with the company—has fundamentally changed. You’re now the one who was looking to leave. You’re no longer part of the inner circle, and you might be at the top of the list if your company needs to make cutbacks in the future.

2. Even worse, your company might just want time to search for a replacement, figuring that it’s only a matter of time until you start looking around again. You might turn down your other offer and accept your employer’s counteroffer only to find yourself pushed out soon afterward. In fact, the rule of thumb among recruiters is that 70 to 80 percent of people who accept counteroffers either leave or are let go within a year.

3. There’s a reason you started job-searching in the first place. While more money is always a motivator, more often, there are also other factors that drove you to look: personality fit, dislike of your boss, boredom with the work, lack of recognition, insane deadlines—whatever it might have been. Those factors aren’t going change, and will likely start bothering you again as soon as the glow from your raise wears off.

4. Even if you get more money out of your company now, think about what it took to get it. You needed to have one foot out the door to get paid the wage you wanted, and there’s no reason to think that future salary increases will be any easier. The next time you want a raise, you might even be refused altogether on the grounds that “we just gave you that big increase when you were thinking about leaving.”

5. You may be told to take the other offer, even if you don’t really want it—and then you’ll have to follow through. Using another offer as a bluff is a really dangerous game.

6. Good luck getting that new employer to ever consider you again. If you go all the way through their hiring process only to accept a counteroffer from your current employer, then the former is going to be wary of considering you in the future. If it’s a company you’d like to work with, you might be shutting a door you’d rather keep open.

Now, are there times where accepting a counteroffer makes sense and works out? Sure, there are always exceptions. But it’s a bad idea frequently enough that you should be very, very cautious before doing so.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 62 comments… read them below }

  1. Anon*

    We have strict raise rules here at work, and my boss has told me that the only way to get paid what I am worth is to get an offer somewhere else so they can counter. I am wary of doing this, but it’s how two others in my department got raises and new job titles. Sigh.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I almost mentioned this — there are a minority of companies that operate this way, and it’s such a strong sign of bad management: short-sighted and totally wrong-headed about how you retain your best people.

    2. Jamie*

      Isn’t that kind of like telling a spouse, “I don’t care how unhappy you are – I’m not willing to work on the marriage unless you have an affair. As soon as you’re considering leaving me for them we’ll talk.”

      I know this practice exists, but it just makes no sense to me. It’s a dangerous game for a company to play if they have top performers they don’t want to lose.

    3. Andrea*

      Good luck. I hope you can just find something else and leave, though.

      My husband’s former employer was like this–amazingly short-sighted. We just got fed up and refused to play: My husband found a job in a different city, where the cost of living was about 10% higher but his salary is now 70% higher than his old one, plus there are other opportunities for growth. (We didn’t even realize just how much he was being underpaid until he’d gotten a few offers like the one he took.) When he gave his notice and refused to take the counteroffer, Former Boss was SHOCKED. He could not believe that anyone would actually leave (to be fair, many of the people who worked there did not have any other options). We’ve been here for over a year now, and he’s been contacted twice by Former Boss, asking what it would take for him to come back. I suppose I owe that idiot a thank-you card because if he had paid my husband like he couldn’t get along without him–and he truly couldn’t–then we wouldn’t have left, and we wouldn’t have more money and better opportunities and a better life and a nice house in a better place. All of this is to say that I hope that sometime soon in the future, you are also looking back and feeling grateful to have gotten away from that short-sighted employer…and on to better things.

      1. Anon*

        Thanks everyone! The problem is really with the larger organization (a public university) rather than my department, where I get to do work I care about and that I love – at a somewhat low pay rate. But I love where I live and the quality of life it affords me (walk/bike to work, low low low cost of living, near family), so it would have to be one hell of a pay raise to get me to move – add to that that it might be tough for my husband to find work if we moved.

        I am keeping my eye on the job market, though, and will apply elsewhere if there is a job that is worth having and can make up for my husband’s lost income (a long shot). I don’t feel comfortable having another organization pay for an interview if I know I am not going to take it, so it’s pretty much either leave or live with the lowish pay and no clear path for advancement.

  2. Laurie*

    AAM, loved this post. I was in a situation recently where my previous employer offered to discuss with management and match or exceed the offer from my new employer, and I told them that while it was flattering and much appreciated, that I had made up my mind and will be going forward with the new offer. But, it made me think about why people would accept such a counter-offer and what the consequences might be. Very interesting!

    1. Jamie*

      You did the smart thing and sounds like you were able to refuse graciously. Did they take it well?

      I can see why it would be tempting to take a counter-offer. There are a million reasons people look for other opportunities, and sometimes it really is about the money. If you generally like your job and wouldn’t even look if your salary was higher, it can seem like the perfect solution. Sometimes the devil you know feels safer. No matter how awesome the new job, none of them come without a degree of risk and stress. It’s tempting to want to forgo that.

      And the more you like your job and your employer, the easier it is to convince yourself that all of the reasons that make it a bad idea don’t apply.

      But they do apply. If you have to force someone’s hand to get them to up the ante it’s better to soldier through the stress of change to an employer that’s happy about you coming on board (or they wouldn’t have made the offer and be paying the bigger money). The alternative is staying with an employer that grudgingly met your price, but most likely feels some resentment – like you’ve shaken them down.

  3. The Other Dawn*

    We have never given a counteroffer. When someone says they have an offer from XYZ Company making x dollars, we tell them good luck in their future career. The thought being that they must not be happy here and if they looked elsewhere once, they’ll do it again. They have one foot out the door. No one is irreplaceable.

  4. Anonymous*

    To me, it all boils down to how it changes the relationship. Nobody likes to find out they’re not the apple of your eye anymore.

    In a similar situation, I had to threaten to sue a former company because they had illegally classified me as a contractor when I was clearly an employee. They eventually acknowledged their mistake and paid me back pay. However, our relationship was never the same again. I quickly realized I would need to switch jobs and did.

  5. BCW*

    I’ve never been in this situation, but sometimes it really is just about the money. I’ve worked at a couple of non-profits. I loved my job, but I was getting paid crap. I ended up leaving, and I told them point blank that I really just needed more money than what they could offer. In this situation, it really just wasn’t in the budget to give me more. I truly believe that my manager valued me enough to match that if she could. I don’t think they should see it as personal at all. People’s situations change. If I have a kid or something like that, sometimes you just need more money. There is nothing wrong with that, and mature managers should understand it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, sometimes it truly is just about the money — in which case you should try to negotiate a raise on your own merits, not go out and get another offer that you then try to use as leverage for that raise. Because if you can’t get it on your own merits and it takes a counteroffer, that’s when you get into all the problems I described in my post. (This is very different from your situation, though; you weren’t attempting to use a counteroffer as leverage.)

  6. Erik*

    Your article is spot-on.

    I would never consider a counteroffer. It’s career suicide. If you had a reason to leave, then just do so.

  7. MaryTerry*

    When I gave notice at my former position, they asked me to name my terms to stay. The sad thing for them is, I had talked to both my boss and HR about what I could to do to get a promotion and/or more money with no response other than lame excuses. While their response was flattering, I did not feel confident that I’d be able to stay for very long after they knew I was looking.

  8. anon-2*

    My experience has been a bit different.

    I have accepted counter-offers, and it has worked out.

    First of all, if a manager presents a counter-offer, it could be just like anon stated – a place may have a policy where they will not negotiate new employee terms / salary / etc., unless “the gun is stuck to their heads”. This pig-headed policy is basically thought of in backward companies as “don’t bid against yourself.”

    Second – if your manager goes out and gets you that counter offer — it means that he/she is “going to the wall” for you. Generally, when a manager does that, you’re going to have his or her backing. A legitimate counter-offer is generally an apology for past transgressions against you , but a token of appreciation.

    Remember that it’s politically a difficult thing for your manager to do, because he has to go in and confess that he should have paid you more over the years, and he’s trying to fix that now.

    Third, you will generally get more respect as an individual. They’re less likely to toy with you over money in the future. They now know, they can’t do that.

    Now – here’s the REAL deal.

    – if you have expressed concerns over career path, and/or money, and you get the proverbial brush off, “maybe next year”, “times are tough”, yada yada yada — go out and get another job offer. Get one that you’d be willing to accept.

    – Give your resignation quietly. Do not tell ANYONE – that might make it impossible for management to counter-offer. The last thing you want to do is show someone up, or generate any “loss of face”.

    – Do indicate, verbally — that the problems we had discussed earlier have not been resolved — and you would have liked to have stayed – but — it’s impossible in the current situation.

    – Gauge reaction. Three things could happen

    1) Your resignation will be accepted, and you will be wished good luck in your next position. This is an indicator that they didn’t want you along for the ride anyway, and it solves things for them as well as you. Begin to transition yourself to your new position at the new firm.

    2) You will be asked — “can we discuss this, and work things out?” … meaning, they’re willing to talk. Talk is OK. Actions are what count. Specific actions, and specific time frames are critical. Don’t be fooled into a “maybe next year”, or, “next year we will do this for you”. Only negotiate in the here and now.

    3) You might be told – “Oh, too bad, because you would have been promoted next month, and…” Yeah, right, but this is a counter-offer, too.

    So, if you quit – you’re either gonna get a raise, or a promotion, or both — or even a retroactive raise (sometimes given in the form of a “stay bonus”). OR you’re going to lose your current job. You have to be prepared for anything.

    Finally – one common line that is used is “there’s no money in the budget” … no, maybe not – but there almost always IS a slush fund set aside, so a department can cover emergency raises “off (their) budget”. This is especially true in larger companies.

    In most cases, you’ll emerge the winner — either in a better job, or better conditions in your current job.

    I’ve had some counter-offer situations work out well; a couple have not. The right answer is, “it all depends”.

    Remember, the counter-offer is a headhunter’s worst enemy. This is why most of them write “never accept a counter”. But from a real employee’s point of view , there are times when it will work.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I agree they’re a headhunter’s worst nightmare, but for what it’s worth, I’m not a headhunter or a recruiter; I write from a manager’s side of things. That said, I totally agree that there are some times when a counteroffer can make sense; it’s just not usually the case.

      Mainly what I see in my mail are people asking about counteroffers with no appreciation for the downsides, and I want people to get more aware of those.

  9. Bonnie*

    We don’t give counteroffers but we do have several boomerang employees who realized the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence.

  10. Fd*

    Well, I have accepted a counter offer and I think it was the right thing to do at the time, it fortunately has worked out. But after having read your article I think I was really lucky…

  11. Blue Dog*

    Most job applicants are afraid that their employer will find out that it would adversely affect them for the reasons stated above. It surprises me that someone would encourage you to do so. I suppose it could be liberating from an employee’s point of view in that you could always say, “No, I’m happy. I was just hoping that market conditions warranted a raise and I was doing my research.” It is built in excuse.

    But, that being said, it still seems very offensive that someone would say, “We won’t consider giving you one cent more….Unless you get another offer and then we will match it.” Seems like you should have to do better than simply matching it, because while I do not know whether the new company is nuts, I KNOW that this one is.

  12. Fd*

    Actually, now a question comes to me. If your prospective employer has offered you a position and you have not taken it yet, would it still be a problem to reject it?

    Say, if during the interview process you discover that the company or the position you’re applying to are not what you expect or like, should you dismiss it before an offer is made? Following your suggestion an offer is actually becoming an imperative.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      An offer is never an imperative. You should consider it on its own merits, and be open to the idea that it might not be right for you and that you might reject it.

      However, where counteroffers come into play is where you take that offer to your current employer as a way to get them to pay you more. And that’s what’s generally a bad idea.

      1. Fd*

        Thanks, I think you’re quite right.

        But let me tell my tale to illustrate just how life is complicated sometimes: after I spoke with my boss about a job offer he got his predecessor – who used to be the supervisor of my would-be boss and of another would-be colleague – to chat with me, and the picture he made about my then future workplace wasn’t that great. I didn’t think it was a good idea to reject the offer by saying “look, I spoke with prof. XYZ and he said you guys suck!”. Anyway, I can’t complain about my decision, though I certainly would have handled this differently today.

  13. Catbertismy hero*

    Great post! I fight against making counteroffers, and when forced, they have never worked out. To counter the notion that staff is not paid enough, we also bring in a consultant every few years to independently test that our salaries and benefits are in line with the market, and we make adjustments if needed. Staff tend to leave for the right reasons – they get promotions and greater responsibilities at other organizations which we can’t offer (since other staff already have those promotions and responsibilities). Exit interviews are also great ways to find out if there were other non-monetary issues for the resignation, and those issues generally can’t be fixed with more money or a different title.

    1. anon-2*

      Generally, if someone is leaving for reasons other than money, those reasons are usually apparent.

      If someone is passed over for a promotion, and resigns and moves on, it’s usually a given – “I was passed over for a position I was qualified for — at least I think so — and I’m getting that chance elsewhere.” Even if the departing employee is right, and management was dead wrong, they cannot “fix” this without appearing wishy-washy / indecisive, or without a loss of face.

      What are they going to do, fire the guy or gal who DID get the job, and give it to you? Of course not. If you were passed over, but qualified, they might be able to smooth your feathers by giving you a raise, or a “promotion” and title change, and a good company will do that pre-emptively.

      On the other hand, if there is a massive disparity in pay – and it goes on for awhile — things like that CAN be fixed with money. And if management were to have a “come to Jesus” meeting, with themselves, and later, with the employee — and FIX the problem — the counter-offer situation might just work out for all parties.

      Example = Joanne works in an administrative role, as an admin. Her salary is $40k. Joanne has aspirations to do more, and expresses interest in a higher position (say, office manager, or a manager). She has proven herself. They promote her — and give her a $6000 raise. However, she learns that the range for her position is $75-90K.

      She tries to negotiate after doing well by the new job for a year. They give her a 3% raise, she claims she wants the disparity resolved. Management digs in and sticks to their guns. Joanne resigns when another company offers her $75,000.

      Management is faced with three problems –

      – Joanne is leaving, taking her skills set out the door.
      – Joanne’s departure bodes badly for HER management, and not only will Joanne express her displeasure at a resolvable situation at an exit interview, others will wonder what went on. There may be an aftershock, will others follow her out?

      … the big one

      – Management may have to go to the street to replace Joanne – and end up paying more money than Joanne would have cost — AND HIRING AN UNKNOWN QUANTITY!

      Joanne’s hand was forced — and management has a bad road ahead. How about a peace treaty? We’ll give you the money you deserve. Privately “WE WERE WRONG.” They don’t even have to admit it. Offer a stay bonus (effectively, a retroactive raise).

      Sometimes that might be the better way to go, especially if Joanne had an extensive period of time invested in the company.

      So — don’t just dismiss the idea of counter-offers being generally bad. Often, they’re attempts to fix things that were broken. And quite often, people DON’T react until they’re hit with the 2 x 4 across the face. And quite often, that’s the way things work in many industries.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        However, the next time Joanne wants a raise, she should be prepared to hear “we gave you an 87% raise last year, so we can’t do much this year.”

        1. anon-2*

          Oh, absolutely.

          One thing overlooked, is that you’re constantly saying “market rate”. Often, a counter-offer is extended to repair a problem — where someone WASN’T making the market rate. And the market is fluid, and changing.

          As you probably know, and I’ve stated — in many larger companies, there’s ALWAYS a “slush fund”, an emergency fund, for “off budget” increases.

          “There’s no money in the budget” doesn’t necessarily translate to “there’s no money to give you an increase that you deserve.” Trust me, I’ve been through that wringer as an employee.

          Extending a counter-offer as a manager can be painful. It requires eating some humble pie. It’s a hat-in-hand gesture. It’s a situation where the manager does not have the upper hand, and is usually a “damage control” maneuver — the management often having caused the damage.

          But it can also be a redemptive process. Management might take the opportunity to actually consider, “hey, what this person wants, makes sense, and it will cost us a lot more to allow her to walk. Probably we should FIX this.”

          Privately, management can say to themselves, “Hell, we were underpaying her all those years. We got away with it, good for us.”

          Isn’t employee retention, while staying within market boundaries, a preferable option to gambling on a new employee and churning a loyal, long-timer out the door? Is “sticking to your guns” truly a good policy, with its downside?

          Obviously- the BEST way to handle these situations is to ensure you don’t put yourself into them in the first place!

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Sticking to your guns isn’t necessarily a good policy, but the time to change it is when the employee is negotiating for a raise, not when they’ve been forced to go out looking for another job. In other words, if it takes another job offer to get an employer to pay fairly, there’s a problem.

            1. anon-2*

              I agree with you on that fully.

              If a person is paid fairly / market rate, you won’t have to worry about counter-offers.

              And I’ve also learned that in most times, daring an underpaid employee to test his market value — YOU LOSE.

  14. Anonymous*

    I think you overestimate the number of managers who have the desire and ability (from those above) to pay their employees at “market rate”.

    I have not got a counteroffer, but definitely considered it for about a year. Obviously it would have to be an offer I would have been willing and excited to take.

    I finally got a raise I’m 85% happy with, and that’s enough for now. But getting the highest performance review ratings, taking on additional responsibilities… then not getting the title/raise to go with it? It hurts. Not just the pocketbook either.

    I do think my manager is pretty great, he just doesn’t have the power from corporate above. We eventually got our way after a year, but I wonder if he wouldn’t have been happy to have a counter offer to get what we needed from above.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, by definition, most employers are paying market rate. That’s what makes it the market rate. Those who aren’t, and who aren’t responsive to raise requests or don’t make up for it in other ways, probably aren’t the ones you want to be working for.

      1. LeeL*

        What defines the “market rate”?

        When I took my current job I knew it was below what I wanted and expected for the role but when you’re unemployed, you take what you can get. For me it was based on anecdotal evidence, but somehow I knew it should be more. Beyond that, how could I know the market rate?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The market rate is what the market will pay for your skills/background in your particular geographic area at this point in time. So if you conduct a thorough job search and don’t take the first thing offered to you, you’ll get a good sense of what the market is (or isn’t) willing to pay. Beyond that, there are ideas here:

          But remember, if people aren’t offering you what you think you should earn, that’s the marketplace telling you that you actually command less than you think you should.

        2. Jamie*

          The best way to gauge market rate is to see what similar jobs are going for.

          It’s not a perfect science, especially if your job isn’t a cookie cutter position, but if you look at similarities in responsibilities, authority, company size, industry, experience required in your local area it will give you a good idea of what is reasonably within the market and what is not.

  15. Jamie*

    “But remember, if people aren’t offering you what you think you should earn, that’s the marketplace telling you that you actually command less than you think you should.”

    This is an excellent point. There is market rate for a position, but every individual has their own market rate based on what they can command.

    Unfortunately while that’s the most important number to know, it’s the hardest to determine if you’re not on the market, since it boils down to the salary you’re earning now and the salaries other companies are willing to pay…in real money, not hypothetically.

  16. Chris*

    I think I’ve discovered another reason why taking a counteroffer may be risky.

    Last summer, a position opened up in my group that was in the next grade level above mine. I had expressed interest in moving into that position, but was rebuffed by the person who was promoted out of that position — and would be my team lead if I were to take the job. It felt like a vote of no-confidence. A few months later, a similar position opened up in another group in the company. A telephone conversation with the hiring manager went very well, and I ended up formally requesting an internal transfer.

    After explaining that the reason for wanting to leave was the opportunity to get this new position that I wanted, I was given a counteroffer which consisted of getting the original job combined with strong hints that I would be promoted during the next annual raise cycle. Six months later, I am working in the new position and I got the promotion.

    While that’s the good news, the bad news happens to be around not money, but office politics. First, my current team lead is the very same guys that gave me the “no confidence” vote previously. It can be a bit demoralizing at times working for someone who does not have faith in your abilities. Second, I still work for the same project manager as before, and occasionally get called up to do the type of work that I used to do in my old position. This is because my replacement is low-proficiency and I’ve more proficient. This second option is particularly painful because it takes me away from getting proficient at my new job, further giving my new team lead less things to be confident with me! And finally, I’m worried about how my relationship with my coworkers will change over time, considering that I got promoted and they didn’t.

    This experience has made me wonder whether one should only seek out a promotion with a different organization than their own. With a new organization, there is no baggage to deal with post-promotion…

  17. Jamie*

    “This experience has made me wonder whether one should only seek out a promotion with a different organization than their own. With a new organization, there is no baggage to deal with post-promotion…”

    There is still baggage, you’ll just be more aware of it within your own organization than a new one.

    Promoted within your company and co-workers may resent your promotion. Same job at a new company it’s a sure bet that at least one person there is resentful that they hired you instead of promoting from within.

    The only way to avoid this is to stagnate – which is a lousy option. I would just choose not to worry about the reaction of others to your success. If they cause work place issues over it, sure, but if not just wait…things will even out.

  18. Grey Area*

    I would reference the fact that this blog is called “AskAManager”. It’s great to say at the start that you should negotiate an increase “based on your merits”…but there are many managers who won’t consider any such thing (especially in today’s environment) unless they are staring down the barrel of a gun.

    Maybe there should be an “AskAWorker” blog.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d say 90% of my point in writing this blog is to help employees understand what their manager is thinking and how to succeed at work or in a job search. The other 10% is for managers. It’s feels good to say “use another offer to get a raise from your current employer,” but the reality is that it’s rarely a good idea because it will hurt you in the long-run, for all the reasons I describe in my post. That’s actually a pro-worker stance, not a pro-management stance. Management wants you to take the counteroffer when they make it.

  19. Counteroffer Consideration*

    Thanks for all of your posts, which’ve been really helpful.

    I’m in that decision-making period of whether or not to accept an offer from a new employer or consider a counteroffer from my current employer. I’m not using this as a method to get a raise as that is fifth on a list of six areas of importance to me. My manager has indicated that their willing to provide more vacation time and allow flexibility in my work arrangements, which are important to me. My career is a close second in my list of priorities, and there have been challenges getting to what I want to do at my current position. This new position offers me the opportunity to pursue my career interests. Plus, the position is a big move across the country. It would bring me back to my original hometown, which is also important to me.

    Ideas? Suggestions?

  20. Anonymous*

    Please reply me.
    Recently i had a meeting with my boss: ceo, in which the admiration is a fact for both ends.
    He is the leader you read in the books, the best I had. I have been serving him for 8 years and now I urge for better life, career and motivation. I see no possibility of grownth. I have just grad from a International MBA from a top business college in my country, from my own budget. I have accumulated a lot of activities in past 5 years. I have save for the company at least 2 workforces expenses and taxes, without never been recognized in terms salary, but I had never asked for either. On the other hand, verbally recognition of my competences/work was all always spoken out loud.
    This company for many years had been my favorite place to be. Mondays were my favorite days. But aren`t anymore. Monday became my fear day. I don’t feel home anymore. I dont want to be there any longer for professional and personal reasons I reached my limit. I dont to interact.
    Here in Brasil when you fired, you have a few income rights, that grants you a confy$ in order to look for new job without passing a difficult financial time. But if you leave, you get nothing. And I have no conditions to leave with nothing. I do not have a job yet. So i asked to be fired as recognition of all my efforts and dedication, this would help me, once i don’t have a new job yet even though I have stated looking for. It would be honest to do this way. Instead of finding one still in the company. My wish to leave is notice to all. I could not hide it. I`m the sincere type.
    My boss said that in terms of competence I am ready to face the market, but was not ready emotionally. that i was not leaving for the right decision, and he counteroffer. To stay for 6 months to a year and plan my way out, so he can organize himself and the he would grant the fire as I proposed. In this time he would help me be ready by couching me in my weak points ( not flexible enough, not humble enough) to bear the market in the right way. And avoid a possible downgrade in the next 20 years. I am 34 now. I asked why he didn’t do this before, he said its never too late. He is also planning to retire in 2 years. And my leave now would complicate his life with our headquarters outside the country, once I`m Icon there, and other Icons recently has just left the company, this would fragile his management. He says i need to reach the balance to lead with lions i named, but i have led them for the past 8 years.
    Please advise me. Please.

  21. Anonymous*

    What about in situations where you didn’t go out and seek new opportunity, but rather you were presented with an opportunity that’s compelling and your current company came back with an offer?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The dangers remain basically the same — figuring out which job you want and then sticking to that decision is usually your best bet.

  22. Anonymous*

    I’m in a situation were I have signed a contract with my new employer (which was also an old employer). and now my current employer have said they don’t want to loose me and ask me what I want to do.
    2 questions – Is it sensible to go back to a previous employer ( I was with them for 18 years until last August)?
    If my current company come up with an offer that I find acceptable (its about the job not the money) then how do I handle new employer as I have signed the contract.

  23. Simon_Garfunkle*

    The concensus seems to be, do not accept a counter offer. But what if the counter wasn’t about money but about personal development, e.g. getting your employer to agree to put you through a part time Uni course, then should you stay or go!?!?! :(

  24. Nonprofit Employee*

    Thank you for this post – it’s given me a lot to think about that I didn’t consider before.

    I work for a nonprofit and although I love my job, I am not being paid a fair salary compared to my coworkers in my department, in my organization, and in my field. I’ve always gotten excellent reviews, and last year, my supervisor told me that not only was she giving me the maximum merit increase, but she was going to bump me up a pay grade and increase my salary at “the next available opportunity.” A few months, later, however, our department was reorganized and I got a new supervisor. I brought this issue up to her and she agreed that I deserved a raise and started the process of working on it for me. To make a long story short, more than 6 months later and many conversations later (where she told me that I deserved this raise more than anyone in our department and my work was stellar, etc.), she ran into many roadblocks and only ended up securing me a very small (almost inconsequential) raise (which I can tell that she’s very disappointed and frustrated about). She claims that the process isn’t over and she “has ideas” to still get me more money, but I’m not feeling very hopeful. Along this process, she mentioned that if I were looking for other opportunities (and she hoped that I wasn’t, but wouldn’t blame me if I was), to please definitely let her know if I had another offer before I took it. It even seemed as though she was hinting that this would be the best way for her to break through the roadblocks she was encountering.

    In the meantime, I just found a job opening that seems tailor-made for me at another organization. I have connections there and I think that I have a really great chance at this position. Assuming that it pays more (which I don’t know yet, but believe that it would), I was planning on applying to it, and if offered the job, perhaps trying to use it as leverage to finally get the raise at my current job. But after reading your post, I don’t know what to do. The job that I have now is essentially my dream job at my dream employer, but to stay at my current salary rate, there’s no way that I could start a family, which I’d like to do within the next few years. The other job is at another organization that I like, but there are disadvantages to it, and I don’t want to jeopardize future possible employment with this company down the road if I reject their offer now.

    Please help!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think you’re getting ahead of yourself, since you’ve only applied for this job and haven’t even been interviewed yet. If you get an interview, go with an open mind and gather information so you can make an informed decision.

      1. Nonprofit Employee*

        Haha – I know! I’m a worrier! But do you think that even by embarking on this interview process that I may harm my future chances with this other organization? (given the possibility that I may turn down their offer if they extend one?) To clarify, would you say to definitely go ahead and apply to this other job? (I haven’t yet, but planned to send in the application tonight.)

        Thank you so much for your super-quick response! You seem to be very attentive to this older post (which is much appreciated!), so I’ll give you an update later and seek advice then! Thanks!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Well, if you’re really only applying there in order to take an offer back to your current employer, that’s probably not something you want to do to this organization, since you might want to work with them at some point in the future. But if you’re genuinely open to considering the job and think it’s possible that you’d be interested in it if offered, or that you’re at least interested in learning more in order to determine it, then it’s reasonable to apply. Applying and interviewing doesn’t commit you to taking the job if offered, of course. But if you really wouldn’t take it regardless, then you shouldn’t waste their time (and take the interview slot from another candidate).

          1. Nonprofit Employee*

            Okay, thanks. Yes, I am definitely interested in learning more about the job and would seriously consider it if offered (assuming that I like what I hear as I learn more about it). I will apply. Thanks again!

  25. Nonprofit Employee*

    I should also mention that my niche and pool of potential employers is very small (given my specialization within this nonprofit field), and the organization that I’m applying to is probably my #2 choice (after my current employer) which is why I’m worrying so much about offending and possibly cutting future ties with them. Thanks!

    1. Anonymous*

      Just wanted to give you an update! My second interview for this job is tomorrow! Nothing has changed from my original post (oh, except that my current company is extending our work hours by one hour a day without increasing our compensation and may be doing away with merit increases this year). My current boss is still trying to get me a grade increase and raise and is still encountering roadblocks and stalls. I’m hoping to learn more about this possible new job tomorrow, but from what I know so far, it doesn’t sound like I would like it as much as my current job. I do love my current job and get so much satisfaction from the work that I do. (Unfortunately satisfaction doesn’t make a house payment or provide funds for future child care, though!) Although things could change with new information that I may learn tomorrow, I’m still leaning towards using a potential job offer to ask for a salary increase at my current job. I have confided in a colleage about this (she was also my previous boss at my current job, before the reorganization) and she supports me through all of this. Do you have any additional thoughts? Thanks so much!

  26. Anonymous*

    Many of the posts I’ve read deal with folks who were looking for new jobs and were considering whether to accept counter-offers from their employers. If after receiving an offer of more money and title increase from a prospective employer, you state to your current boss that you were not looking for a new job but were simply exploring an opportunity after having been recruited, does that change the dynamic?

  27. danr*

    Knowing what I know now … I’d jump ship if you get an offer. Things are not going to get better at your company. Increasing hours without extra pay, ending merit increases, and stalling your current boss on the grade increase and raise are all big red flags. Next to go will be any sort of raise, and layoffs may start.

    If you get a good offer, take it. Don’t try to squeeze your current company. They’ve already shown you that they’re not interested in paying more money to their employees.

  28. Anonymous*

    Thanks for the reply. The interesting twist for me is that I will be getting a promotion within the next 3-4 months and an accompanying raise. The company which is trying to recruit me knows this as well as the fact that I was not looking for a new job in the first place and has said their offer (should they decide to make me one) would be compelling (whatever that means). I would be interested in hearing others’ opinions from the perspective of someone not interested in leaving but ensuring their salary/level is market competitive.

  29. Anon*

    I just had my first experience with a counter offer and ended up saying no thanks. My reason for leaving my company is poor management and feeling like my hard work was being taken advantage of. I was majorly burnt out.

    Their counter offer involved offering me a position they’d been trying to fill on a part time basis (even though a recently former manager advised it should be full time) as a full time reporting to my same supervisor.
    Had this offer come even 3 months before I might have considered it (been waiting almost a year for them to reorganize my duties as they promised) but after having my eyes opened to new possibilities I really felt it was too little too late. I don’t think I could muster up the enthusiasm to give this employer 100% anymore and wouldn’t feel happy with.

    Granted I was pretty tempted to stay with the familiar, but it shouldn’t take my resignation for someone to listen to me.

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