Why You Should Never Accept a Counter Offer

It’s not uncommon for employers, upon learning that their employee is planning to make a job change, to present a counter offer. Often, this counter offer includes a pay raise, a promise for better working conditions, or even a desirable promotion.

Change is hard. Employees could be enticed with the perks their employer promises, coupled with the comfort of routine—it’s a job and company they know. But let’s get serious.

A counter offer is a bandage on a larger problem, and it’s no way to secure long-term job satisfaction. In fact, your boss probably doesn’t even have your best interests at heart when he or she makes mention of a counter offer.


Bosses typically make counter offers for selfish reasons. Perhaps it’s a bad time for a position to become vacant, or the prospect of an employee leaving will make your boss look bad to their boss.

These are some of the reasons employers make counter offers:

  • Losing an employee will be bad for department morale.
  • You may be a top employee, which will make replacing you extremely difficult.
  • Your department may not have capacity to take on your work once you leave.
  • If employee retention is a key performance indicator for your boss or supervisor, they will feel incentivized to keep you—at any cost.
  • If your employer knows it’s only a matter of time before you find a new position for good, they may just use a counter offer as way to buy time while they search for your replacement.


When you have the difficult discussion with your boss about your plans to leave the company, look for red flags that could indicate a counter offer is on the horizon. In most instances, your boss will make some kind of promise, however empty, to convince you not to go.

Here are a few common responses to look out for:

  • A request to have another discussion before you make your “final decision” to leave.
  • The revelation of some “confidential” plans to change your position or department in an appealing way.
  • Name-dropping higher-ups and mentioning how pleased they are with your performance—maybe even their plans to improve your working conditions in some way.
  • A promise to enact your next raise or bonus immediately.
  • Talking negatively about the company you’ve accepted a position with.


The bottom line is this: if you must tell your company that you’ve accepted a new position before you’re considered for a raise, promotion, or other bargaining chip, your boss and supervisors clearly didn’t recognize your potential. That’s not the kind of company you should work for.

And, even if your boss promises otherwise while making a counter offer, you will always be considered a retention risk for the company. Your boss won’t think of you as a “team player” and will likely be leery of your loyalty from then on.

Finally, your reasons for wanting to leave in the first place probably still exist. Counter offers are usually just short-term solutions to keep you invested in the company for a few more months.

Photo by Brendan Church from Unsplash 

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