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.

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?


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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.

The best time to consider these questions, of course, is before you hand in your resignation. As you prepare to give notice, assume that you may receive a counteroffer. If you do get one, ask for some time to ponder the proposal.

If, after some serious thinking, you're still unsure about what to do, meet with your supervisor to discuss your qualms. He or she may provide information about the reasoning behind the counteroffer and give you the necessary reassurances to accept—or reject—the deal. For instance, you may learn that you were actually up for a promotion in the coming months, eliminating concerns that the counteroffer was only a desperate measure to prevent your departure. On the other hand, you may learn that the IT department is short-staffed and needs "all hands on deck" for the next few months, after which workloads will lighten. In this case, it may be time to move on.

On a more positive note, mentioning the competing offer to your current employer isn't all doom and gloom. It may lead to encouraging developments for your co-workers, even if you do leave the company. For example, the firm might realize that it needs to provide its IT staff with more training opportunities or adjust its compensation packages to include more incentives and rewards for exceptional performance.

Before making your final decision, step back and weigh the pros and cons of each option. In addition, talk with trusted colleagues to get their feedback. You may even stumble upon someone who went through a similar situation and can provide you with a valuable perspective. Both staying and leaving carry risks, but by arming yourself with as much information as possible, you'll be well positioned to determine your best option.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations worldwide and offers online job search services

This story, "How To Evaluate a Counter-Offer" was originally published by Computerworld.


Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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