How To Evaluate a Counter-Offer

To determine whether you should stick with your current employer or take a new job you've been offered, consider what's motivating your current employer's counter-offer as well as your own motivations.

By Katherine Spencer Lee
Wed, September 24, 2008

Computerworld — The ongoing need for highly skilled IT professionals has made the following dilemma more commonplace among employees with in-demand skills: After careful deliberation, you accept an attractive job offer from a new employer, but as soon as you give notice, your manager surprises you with a generous counteroffer. What do you do?

It may be tempting to stay with the organization you know best—especially after it has reaffirmed its appreciation of your work with a sizable raise. But remaining with your current company may not be the best choice, no matter how appealing the counteroffer seems. To determine whether you should stay or go, look at your employer's motivations as well as your own. Start by asking the following four questions:

  • Why now? Consider why it took the threat of your departure to prompt your manager to extend a raise or promotion. The best employers provide immediate raises and promotions to employees who have earned them.
  • Is the counteroffer an emergency move? Is your supervisor asking you to stay because of the value you bring to the role, or merely to keep an important project on track or prevent a temporary skills shortage? For example, if you're currently the only member of your department with a certain programming skill, consider whether you'll be so highly valued if someone else who has the same ability is brought on board. Asking some straightforward questions about how your boss sees your role evolving can shed light on the motivation behind the offer, as well as your long-term prospects with the company.
  • How will staying affect your relationships? After you've accepted a counteroffer, your manager may question your dedication and loyalty to the company, and that can threaten your continued advancement. And once word gets out that you've received a raise or promotion as a result of your decision to leave, your relationships with colleagues may suffer. Deciding to stay at your current organization can also jeopardize your standing with the potential employer—especially if you've given any indication that you were about to accept its offer.
  • What were your original reasons for leaving? A counteroffer may not resolve all the issues that prompted you to search for a new job in the first place. If you were frustrated with the IT department's relations with other parts of the business, for example, a raise isn't going to help. Any concerns that aren't solved by the counteroffer are likely to compound over time if you dwell on the fact that you passed up a chance to make a clean break.

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