Family Magazine

Counter Offers. When to Say Yes. When to Say No.

By Michelle Merritt @michellemerritt

With national unemployment rates hovering below 5% for the last 12 months, employers are struggling to find good people. This can be great news for candidates and may bring opportunities to negotiate for higher salaries, better benefits, and other perks that employers weren't offering just a few years ago. It also means that counter offers are on the rise. You can find yourself in a bidding war between your current and possible future employer. Sounds like a good problem to have right? Only if you know how to negotiate, when to say yes and when to say no.

You've negotiated a good offer from a potential future employer and they've agreed to give you a few days to consider it. Your boss is devastated when you turn in your notice because he didn't see this coming and immediately asks what it will take to make you stay. You throw out a pie in the sky number and add an extra week of vacation and he immediately agrees. What do you say, yes or no? You're not miserable at your job so staying would be nice but the grass is looking pretty green on the other side of the fence. These are the decisions that impact the rest of your life.

First, take a deep breath. It's important to remember that you don't have to make a decision immediately. Ask for the offer in writing and for a few days to consider it. This will give you an opportunity to take inventory of the reasons you're making a change in the first place. Ask yourself why you said yes to the interview. Do you dread going to work every day? Are you bored out of your mind with zero advancement opportunities? Were you perfectly happy but the recruiter who called made the position sound to good to pass up? Do you need more money and/or better benefits?

If you dread going to work every day and your coworkers make you crazy, money will only make that situation more tolerable for a short period of time. Sooner or later the old problems will pop up again and you'll be miserable. This is likely a good reason to say no to the counter offer.

If the lack of advancement opportunities caused you to seek greener pastures, take a hard look at the opportunity with the new employer to make sure the advancement they're promising is real. Do they currently promote from within? Do their employees have a long tenure with the organization? Do they have a plan for your first year that demonstrates more opportunity? If after a closer look the new employer's offer looks like empty promises, consider excepting the counter offer. While the counter offer may not promise more advancement it may buy you time to find a new position that really does offer a great opportunity.

If you were searching for a new job based on salary alone (rarely is that the case), a counter offer is worth considering. Keep in mind that you've outed yourself by sharing that you're looking for a new job and the counter offer may only be to give the employer time to look for your replacement. Many recruiters we work with believe candidates who accept a counter offer will only be with the company 6 months or less after they accept.

Counter offers are risky but can work in a few select cases. What's most important is that you do you research ahead of time and you understand your reasons for making a change.

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