What to do about Counter-offers

I've spoken with some other recruiters here about the issue of counter-offers; a major pain in the you-know-what for recruiters trying to fill roles. I know you are imagining a number of attractive, sophisticated recruiters discussing this issue over a bottle of wine, right? Hee! Sorry. It usually come about in hallway conversation like "my candidate just called me and told me he got a counter-offer and he's actually considering it!". So anyway, as a recruiter, it's a reality you have to coach people through and for the highly skilled candidate, it's probably something you are going to run into at some point in your career. So let me give a little advice on the whole counter-offer scenario. Net: don't take it.

So here's the scenario: say you have interviewed for a position at a new company. Something motivated you to put that resume together, get all dressed up and take some time off from work. So you do great in the interviews (because you read my blog, of course...I'm just saying!) and are offered the job. When you go in to give notice at your current job, you are presented with a counter offer. You start to consider accepting the counter offer...you won't have to move, you won't have to learn a new company, you don't have to take the risk that you might not be as successful at the new company as you are at your current company.


Companies present counter offers to keep their intellectual property from walking out the door. This is about them, not you.

By interviewing, you have shown your employer that you are not 100% loyal to them. It's ridiculous that any company would demand unconditional loyalty from their employees, but many do. Just the act of letting them know that you have interviewed proves that you are a flight risk, even if you agree to stay now.

That big pay increase and promotion that they just offered you? Wouldn't you feel better about receiving it without having to threaten to leave? Wouldn't you want your employer to offer it to you because they appreciate your work rather than because they are fearful that you are leaving?

During your interviews with the new company, you probably told them why you were looking; some reasons why you would consider a new opportunity at this time. What about a counter-offer changes those things for you? If you were concerned about career progressions...is that changed by a counter-offer? If you were bored in your job....is that changed by a counter-offer?

I've had to coach some candidates through some pretty sticky resignations...no details or names but sometimes leaving a company and job that you have invested in is really tough. Here's what I recommend to make it easier (funny that I am coaching people on how to leave a job, but really you have to leave the old one to come to the new one...right?). So here are some tips I want to share with you:

1) Put it in writing. Simple language documenting your resignation and thanking your company for whatever (10 great years, believing in me...whatever). This puts a friendlier feel to the actual resignation and seeing it on paper makes it "real" for the recipient. Don't get too elaborate.

2) Don't share details of your new offer, even if you feel guilty about giving notice. Your new offer is your personal business.

3) Chances are that you are going to be asked why, why, why would you ever leave us? I don't really recommend going into a lot of detail here. Any reason you have should be communicated in terms of what you are moving toward versus what you are leaving behind (for example, "Microsoft called and I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to work there" not "this job is boring and I'm not really sure that this company is going to generate any revenue").

4) Don't belabor the point. I would try to gracefully end the conversation. There's a good chance that the conversation could get emotional because the manager is going to take it personally or will try to appeal to your sense of loyalty to get you to stay. Be firm...you made your decision. Feel free to get the heck out of there if you are uncomfortable with the conversation. Go back to your desk and continue your work.

5) Be nice on the way out. I know this sounds obvious, but you would be surprised at how grateful a company will be when you have outlined a plan to transition your work or train your replacement. Don't burn bridges...even yucky bridges that you would never plan crossing again (yikes...metaphor overload...sorry). Also, you are not required to do an exit interview. It's your choice either way, obviously, but if the idea of doing one gives you hives or you feel there could be any hostility, don't do it. The data collected during exit interviews is often used for positive change in an organization. If you do one, try to keep it positive (bridges burning...fire fire fire)...if you want to vent, vent at home...at work it only fans the flames (OK, I am a little proud of that metaphore montage).

6) Don't be surprised if you are walked to the door. This happens all the time. Sometimes it's corporate policy, sometimes it's because you are in a customer facing role and the company doesn't want departing employees interfacing with their customers, sometimes it's because the manager isn't handling your resignation very well and doesn't want to have to face you for two more weeks. If you had any personal items that you would feel uncomfortable packing in front of someone else, they should already be gone.

7) Meet with HR to understand any agreements you have signed (non-disclosure agreements, for example), how to transition your 401K, whether you will get a pay-out for your unused vacation time, etc.

There are a lot of articles out there on counter-offers (seriously, just search "counter offers") and I don't know anyone who recommends accepting one. In fact, you 'll find statistics that show that people that do accept a counter offer rarely remain at their workplace for any significant period of time afterward. They either quit because the things that made them want to leave the first time still make them want to leave, or they are let go because their employer just kept them around long enough for a replacement. Either way, the employee doesn't benefit.

So I'm just offering this advice in the spirit of making thoughtful and beneficial career decisions. And of course, if you are thinking about making a change, we hope you are thinking about Microsoft...Sorry, had to add that plug...but I waited until the end ; )


Comments (79)

  1. Howard Hoy says:


    You sure nailed this one. If a person is looking and finds another place that meets their needs, then accepting a counter offer is absurd. It will not (almost never) work out if you accept the counter offer. As soon as you accept the offer, the company will be looking for ways to secure their investement and insure they cover their ###. because they now know that you looked and will probably do it again.

    Best steps to take. If you are unhappy about your employment, express yourself and try to make changes… if things don’t change.. move on. Don’t expect things to change if you continue to do the same thing over and over again.

    Heather – http://www.doyousnap.com/portal/albums/7/6.aspx

    Its good to put blogs with faces.

    Have you ever accepted a counter offer? If so what happened.

    I don’t have a job.. I have a life – it is what I do – because I am.

    I am the Expert – Howard Hoy

  2. If I’m looking around, it’s because I’ve explored my options and found my current company lacking. It’d take a massive (and I mean massive) counter offer to get me to stay.

    Btw, sorry I haven’t commented in ages Heather, I AM still reading!

  3. DeepICE says:

    Do microsoft recruiters get a "commision" or similiar insentive per each recruitd candidate?

  4. Secret says:

    I’ve taken 2 counter offers from the same company any everything is great.

    I look around in the industry once every year – find work with another company that would pay more and then go and match it at my current employer.

    Infact they instisted that I stay for another 12 months after the last counter offer.

    Worked for me! – so if i didn’t go look elsewhere I wouldn’t get my 20% pay increases πŸ™‚

  5. Heather says:

    Howard Hoy-thanks for your comments!

    hey Jeremy


    "Secret"…then how come you are posting anonymously if it’s all good? I guess I’d question a company that thinks it’s OK for employees to systemically manipulate a pay increases….that’s just not good business. Just my .02.

  6. Dean Harding says:

    I was counter-offered when I left my last job. I didn’t take it, because if they had that spare $10k/yr to pay me, why did they wait until I wanted to leave to offer it to me? Besides, it’s not like the place I moved to paid all that much more, it was just a better working environment.

  7. Peter da Silva says:

    "Why are you leaving?"

    "I can’t afford to stay, I don’t want to leave, I know things are tough right now, and your reasons for limiting the raise pool are valid, but it’s this or moonlighting."

    Their counter-offer was 10k less than the new job, maybe a little more than the raise I’d been expecting… and they knew that. I stayed. I’m glad I did… the company that offered me the job dotbombed but I’m still employed.

    You can’t be loyal to a company, maybe, but you can be loyal to the people you work with… and that gets reciprocated, so long as they and you are up-front with what’s going on…

    Sorry if that upsets the recruiters, but let’s analyse things:"you probably told them why you were looking; some reasons why you would consider a new opportunity at this time"… what does that mean? Are those real reasons? Or are they rationalizations? I came up with the usual rationalizations… not enough challenges, stuck in a rut, the whole nine yards. But when I analysed them, after I got the offer, I realised that’s all they were. Rationalizations.

    If someone’s happy in their job, and you’re trying to recruit them, you can put all kinds of ideas like this in their head. You may not even know you’re doing it, and they don’t either, but if they turn around and take that counter-offer… odds are the real reason was money, and when that itch was scratched…

    Well… "What about a counter-offer changes those things for you?"… comes down to, "those were just excuses, it was really money all along." You’d get fewer of these 11th hour recantations if you confronted that possibility ahead of time.

  8. Jeff says:

    I’ve never had a problem with getting counter-offers from existing jobs because, well, I’ve been "lucky" enough to get laid-off from most of my jobs. I sure know how to pick ’em!

    So what happens when you get offers from more than one company and they get into a bidding war for you? That happened to me about a year ago. In the end it worked out well because it was a contract job I took so I didn’t feel any long-term loyalty and only did it for about four months (though I mostly quit to make time to write my book).

  9. There’s one scenario you haven’t considered but has happened. You want to leave the company because your boss won’t move you on to the next level or responsibility and there’s no recourse.

    However, when you tender your resignation, you find you have friends at the executive level who actually counter with your bosses position and a hefty raise. Unknown to you, your boss was a jerk and management has been looking for a way to restructure.

    In this case, if you really like the company, the counter should be seriously considered.

  10. Ian says:

    Someone said: <i> "if they had that spare $10k/yr to pay me, why did they wait until I wanted to leave to offer it to me?" </i>

    *Typically* no company is immediately going to jump someone to the highest salary bracket; so a they can usually afford to pay more. Personal example: A company I used to work for would bring in people, and let’s say the range they were prepared to pay was $10 – $15/hr. They would ask how much you expected in the interview. If you said $7, they would say (with a smile): "Well, why don’t we give you $8?" Here’s the problem: Eventually, people who had been there for 5 years would be getting $10 and a newbie like me would come in getting $14 (because I asked for $12). Veeery sneaky…

    What I’m saying is that I agree with NOT accepting a counter-offer assuming that you’re leaving for reasons other than salary. If your ONLY reason for leaving is salary (but you love the company, the environment, your coworkers, etc.) and they are prepared to increase it to keep you, I think it’s a different story. As you mentioned: <i> "If you were concerned about career progressions…is that changed by a counter-offer? If you were bored in your job….is that changed by a counter-offer?" </i>. If your job sucks, and they’re just offering you much more money, it would be ridiculous to stay. BUT, if you still have career opportunities, you love your job AND they’re going to pay you more (because they can!), why not?

    As great as you make MS sound, I’m sure people must leave sometimes ;). You would probably make a counter-offer right? Not because you didn’t value them before, but because you value them so much that you don’t want to lose them, right? πŸ™‚

    I just realized this is REALLY long…sorry!

  11. Andy says:

    "IlluminatiLord" wrote something like: "if your immediate boss was the jerk and upper managment really wanted to promote you all along… your resigation is how they find out and then you realize it was all just your boss…"

    Uh, no. First, it is very likely that upper management was very aware of what had happened and they are doing the "good cop, bad cop" bit on you. Your boss’s boss should be in communication with his boss – if not, that is a bad sign too. If so, they all knew & accepted plans to hold you down. In that case a counter offer is just a tiny bone they’ll throw you to keep you happy – most likley they will work it to their advantage as well (we pay you more so you have to work harder now… etc). I just recently had this type of thing happen where the VP of my department requested a meeting and started floating lines like "I always envisioned you as a manager here…". Regardless if he had or hadn’t, he had never communicted that to me in any way. It also came out that alot of the middle managers were promoted through counter offers… shows you how much they really appreciate that level – more like trophy positions to hand out – not worth it.

    Heather, you say candidates call and actually admit they are considering a counter offer. I gotta figure that is very negative… I mean are they fishing around trying to boost their offer with you? IMHO, if someone I was hiring called and told me that I’d tell them to take it – not because it’s good advice to them, but because I’d be withdrawing my offer to them.

  12. Sean Kent says:

    Heather – Well said, I believe you hit all the pertinent points. And for those folks who believe that their situation is different, I assure you, it isn’t. Just because you may have managed to manipulate your current employer into paying you more doesn’t mean that they aren’t looking for your replacement. It costs a fair amount of money to hire a person, but even more to LOSE a person and then have their position go unfilled for another 30-60-90 days or more.

    Bottom line – accepting counter offers is a bad idea – 9.9 out of every 10 times.

  13. Maurits says:

    Suppose, as a Microsoft HR director, a prized Microsoft employee came to you and said that he’d gotten an offer from Google for more money. Would you make him a counter-offer? Would you want him to accept it? Or would you terminate him on the spot?

  14. Heather says:

    I love it when a blog post generates this kind of interest. Not to sound like too much of a Microsoftie, but I think this is a great dialogue that will help other people so thank you all for comenting. So let’s see here, let me respond to some of your points:

    Peter-ideally that kind of conversation happens before you interview (and if it doesn’t..why?). You are lucky that your company dealt with it well but if they have cutbacks and they have to eliminate either you or a similarly skilled person that they see as loyal (and who they didn;t have to pay more), then you could be in trouble. At the end of the day, just because they took it OK when it happens doesn’t really tell you how they think about your interviewing. Companies don’t forget the fact that you interviewed…Real reason versus rationalization is something the person has to figure out for themselves. I’m not going to try and tell people how to think. BUt I have to believe that people interview for a reason. And as much as I try to make it fun for people, they don’t do it because they enjoy it.

    Jeff-you can let them bid, but what it does is shows both sides that money is your main motivator. Id’ try to cut the bidding short (you want the company to feel good about you once they’ve got you on board). Call the company that offers the better job (however you define it) and tell them "hey, I’ve got this other company trying to woo me by offering me more money. I’d really like to take the role you have offered me…what’s the best offer you can give me at this point? I’d like to make my decision quickly". Again, remember, you have to work with the folks you are negotiating with.

    Illuminati-interesting…I’m sure there are other unusual scenarios. Why, exactly, didn’t this company remove the bad manager before? If it was me, I’d get out of there for that reason alone.

    Ian-that scenario happened to me right out of college (before I had any staffing experience and in the middle of a recession…whee!). They asked what I needed and I didn’t even pad it before I told them…stupid,stupid,stupid. That was a big lesson for me.

    Companies use counter-offers to regain some control of the situation. They are not a long term strategy to keep someone (then the company has to deal with the other person doing the same job that didn’t interview and is making less…someone will always be unhappy if pay is not tied directly to performance and experience). If they have somebody walking out the door, they don’t lose anything by making a counter offer other than potentially creating resentment amng the team and an unfair compensation strategy. The counter-ffer is just to keep the person there long enough for them to find a replacement. It rarely turns out well for the employee. Like Sean said, 9.9 times out of 10 it turns out badly. Roll the dice if you want and hope you are the .1 but I don’t recommend it.

    Andy-great points. People shouldn’t be promoted because they threaten to leave. Think about the credibility problem this creates for the person who has been newly promoted and the resentment from other people on the team. Yikes. I do think people tell a company they are interviewing with about a counter-offer because they think it will help them negiatiate more $$. My reaction is generally, that if the only reason they would want to come here is for more money, they may be happier in their current role. We have a lot more to offer than that. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt though. I remind myself that this is an emotional decision for people and it involves ego. So I haven’t ever pulled an offer strictly on the basis of the candidate mentioning a counter offer. I just feel a little less-good about their reasoning if that’s what it ends up being about.


    Maurits-OK, if this was me, I would hope I would have a good enough relationship with the person and would know what was troubling them in their position. If I were surprised, I’d have to ask them why they were thinking about leaving in the first place. If their reason was something that was not within my control, I would wish them luck in their new position and then check in with them every 6 months to see if we could recruit them back (if it makes sense, of course). If their reason was something that was in my control, I would probably try to address it if it wasn’t just about money. If I felt I could address it fairly and that they would stay if I did so, then I would. But increasing someone’s pay just because they threaten to leave creates an inequitable situation for others in the same job. Sometimes it’s better to lose the one employee, as painful as that is, than create unfairness and resentment among the team because that impacts a number of people. People always work harder and better when they feel they are being treated fairly.

  15. Andrew says:

    If somebody does have a genuine change of heart about leaving their current company and a counter-offer is on the table the only way I’ve seen that work successfully is to reject both the counter-offer and the new job. This way the employee stays at their existing company but doesn’t feel ‘bought’ and the company doesn’t feel it was forced into something just to keep the employee. In other words, everybody’s autonomy is intact.


  16. Howard Hoy says:

    What a great topic.

    Do you think most counter offers are accepted just due to money. That would be sad if it was true.

    There is more to a J.O.B than money.

    I found another picture of Heather…..



  17. Purathatil Krishnan says:

    I don’t believe it is fair to generalize and say – "Do not accept counter-offers". To accept you counter-offer, you’ve got to love what you were ready to leave behind.

    That you are still employed means your employer likes you and your work. Doesn’t mean they’ll go to any length to keep you forever.

    As someone mentioned in their blogs, it is very expensive to hire a new person and bring them up to speed on the knowledge you’ve acquired on the job. So they could counter the offer by an amount that is a fraction of the cost compared to the cost of hiring a new person. Makes you wonder – am I being paid more because I deserve it or am I am being paid to stick around and keep my mouth shut. Will I get a raise at the next review. If I do get a raise, will it be smaller.

    Sometimes a company fails to realize that you are good resource and cough up the appropriate bonuses, raises or even promotions. You accomplishments could be lost in a big organization. Use your employers annual review process to provide feedback and to present accomplishments to your supervisor. The 500000 you saved by automating a process for the company should result in something for you. Be proactive in marketing your worth. Nobody else can do it for you, but you.

    I personally benefitted by being offered a 15% raise and 3 titles higher by listing down all my accomplishments on the project I was working on. Numbers make a big difference whether it is lines of code reduced, benefits in hard or soft dollars, you name it. I always gave my best at work, but realized I lacked the "marketing your worth’ part.

    For those of you that feel you are doing a great job, try "marketing your worth". If that doesn’t work and you are made a counter-offer when you quit – Do not accept it!!.

    First time blogger, hope to do more of it from now on.


  18. Mark Mullin says:

    Hmmmm – methinks my ‘slant’ detector is firing. Heather, I like your blog and it’s got a pretty high credibility quotient, but I’d argue as a recruiter of incoming talent (at least it seems that way) you’re likely to be biased against counter offers – they undo your done deal

    Counter offers are very tricky – but there’s a few pretty reasonable ground rules

    1) As some have alluded to, sometimes the exit process uncovers a serious problem that only was exposed by the exit process, e.g. really bad line management – this is what exit processes are for!

    2) Making a profit involves doing as much as possible with as little as possible – so theres always a risk of misallocation – counter offers can often be responses to that. That said, if you take one of those offers, know that someone else somewhere got screwed and they are _not_ happy about it or with you.

    3) MSFT offers are fundamentally ‘valuations’, as y’all are the 800 lb banana eater. So a counter offer can be seen as a reaction to a change in ‘valuation’ on an employee.

    I’ve been on both sides of this issue (fwiw, y’all and symantec raided me silly in the early ’90s) and it’s not a situation where you can apply a few simple rules – it’s damn complicated – that said, I have found that there are two rules that work in the general case

    a) mgmt side -never ever ever start or participate in a bidding war that goes more than one cycle – if you want to counter offer, then really slam the original offer or just fold.

    employee side – don’t ask for a counter, and if you do get one – make up your mind quickly and stick with the decision you make

    b) all sides – recruiters exist to make the grass somewhere else appear greener. If you keep listening, they will finally convince you. Remember to kick the tires.



  19. Mark Tookey says:

    I can’t imagine even thinking about accepting a counter-offer. If you’ve got the stage of having a new job offer in place, half of you is already mentally geared up for the new position anyway. And how important is money anyway? OK, that’s kind of silly because of course money is critical, but a counter-offer is kind of like the parent trying to solve their child’s problems by buying them a new toy. It will probably make them smile for a few hours, but will it do anything to cure why they were upset to start with? I doubt it.

    It seems to me that if your boss offers you a counter-offer they are treating you like a commodity or a mercenary. Either way it would do little to make me change my mind and stay.


  20. Heather says:

    Hey Mark, what about the fact that I work for a company that employes people. What if the person I’m advising happens to be a Microsoft employee? That means I have another job to fill. It works both ways.

    1) whatever the employee is talking about in the exit process, they should have addressed before interviewing, if they truly loved their job/company. If they were afraid to do so, then how happy could they have been?

    2) right, but you also have to treat people right for them to stay in the first place. You make revenue by generating profits and controlling costs. You have to strike a blance between paying people what they are (or feel they are) worth and controlling expenses. I don’t think anyone would argue that.

    3) the time to "valuate" an employee is during the review and/or promotion process, not during the exit interview

    a) good advice…I still don’t recommend accepting a counter-offer but the rest sounds good to me.

    b) absolutely. ANY company with even decent recruiters is going to sell you on the opportunity. Look for evidence of what they are saying!

  21. Mark Mullin says:

    When the exit process uncovers real issues, you’re correct – it’s a more serious problem – for many companies however, the bandwidth for problems is not as big as the set of problems, so this does happen from time to time – all of us have powerful self delusion skills, whether we work in the trenches or on mahogany row

    2 and 3 are related – any company goes through the valuation process on employees on a regular basis, but valuation is a consensus based measurement thats prone to a lot of error – msft has a long history of it’s own with this issue in the public markets, both under and over valued – the same is true of people. As far as valuation by msft being a significant factor, thats just a fact – if I see someone as a 75K/yr engineer and msft goes all out to recruit them for 130K/yr, one of two things is true

    1) somebody in the management chain between me and the employee needs to buy a vowel

    2) msft knows something I don’t

    3) msft has gone crazy – yeah, it happens, but it’s not a sucker bet

    Now, make exactly the same scenario, but replace msft with a web service startup – am I going to have the same reaction ? I doubt it.

    As far as slant goes – I meant no offense – I am just observing that you’re primarily focused on intake, it’s quite evident you’ve got a lot of skilled people hammering on your doors – in general in recruiting, what one recruiter does by getting an offer on the table another will try to quickly undo by getting a new bid on the table – the employee is in play, the issue isn’t so much of retention (from that perspective) as aquisition, by some new firm, which may be the old one πŸ™‚

  22. Anil says:


    This is one of the issues I have addressed on my blog. I believe our views on counter-offers match.



  23. Employer says:

    Things are a bit different in a smaller company. If you’re one of 8 people in a shop, your actions carry more weight. As an owner of an outfit of this size, I have never made a counter offer to someone who looks for outside opportunities, especially if they don’t come to me to discuss a pay rate increase first. Doing so would send a message to other employees that if they want a pay raise, all they have to do is threaten to quit. That’s poison to a small shop.

    Not happy here? Good luck elsewhere…

  24. Cameron says:

    Hi Heather,

    I enjoyed the way you covered the topic of counter-offers and was interested in reading everyones’ perspectives on it. I’d have to agree with the majority of folks, here, that accepting counter-offers never really works in your favor for the long term.

    Thinking about this post made me think more about effective salary negotiation without ruining your chances for getting a job. For most of us, money coupled with interest and skill in a particular field is the main driver for employment. When you have multiple offers for a new job, I think it would be prudent to try to negotiate the best offer that you can without giving the potential employers a bad taste in the mouth. Can you give us your perspective on the best way to do this?

    Also, in my personal case, I am close to being made an offer for a product marketing position. The company I am at now, is not paying me close to fair market rate for my position and my contributions to the company. I have received perfect performance reviews and salary increases each year, when my colleagues have not. Having said that, my raises don’t even track inflation. So, after having learned and contributed as much as I could, without focusing on my compensation, I have decided that 3 years of this is enough. I feel that it will begin to hurt my career if I continue working below market value.

    The prospective employer knows my current salary and has relayed to me that I am grossly underpaid and that they would make and offer that would be worth my while. How do I negotiate the best offer possible without ruining my chances of getting the job? I have no idea how much they plan to offer me, but I can say that I am about $25K – $30K under market value now.

    I hope you can cover this topic. I would really value your advice and perspective on this. If I have left out important details for you to properly evaluate my situation, please let me know and I’d be more than happy to provide you with the information.

    I’m sure others that read you blog may have been in my shoes at one point or another. I hope they are all in better places now and getting fair salaries:-)



  25. Brian Korzeniowski says:

    MMM – I peronally like kicking the recruiter now and then, not just the tires! *lol*

    Secret – I personally think giving someone more money for continuing to do the same amount of work is just plain nuts! Playing potential employers and current employers in a bidding war will backfire on you. That I can guarantee you. If you were my employee and I found out about that, I would fire you (after checking with legal of course) *lol*

    Dean – Its the basics of business – conserve cash, keep expenses low. Perhaps you did not ask firmly enough. Personally, I negotiate the heck out of a salary. I get book allowances, gas allowances and all kinds of things. Have a backbone, but be nice when negotiating salaray, and perhaps next time you can get that extra 10k. For example, I am fully prepared to negotiate a package of around $85,000-90,000 with Microsoft someday. And I will get it. Hands down.

    Ian – Leave it to me to be the odd man out on your theory there. I usually get what I ask for. I am a great debater and negotiator. I ask for the max because that is the level of passion, energy and results I give every day on the job. Why should I not get the maximum the job pays? It’s not about what is fair. It’s about who wants to really work hard anymore.

    Sean – Maybe I am just a good one for sniffing out BS in an interview, but I have never had an open position I interviewed for go unfilled for any length of time. Maybe that is why that specific job was sad to see me go after I helped them staff their entire local office. πŸ™‚

    Maurits – I would be more concerned with talking with the person and asking why they feel they need to leave the company. Dismissing someone outright usually means there is politics at play, and politics rarely benefit anyone involved because one must put another down to raise themselves up in the eyes of another. Not my style. But I will verbally kick someone’s butt if they need it! *lol*

    Purathatil – I agree with you 100%. If you save the company money, you should have a portion of that added back into your wallet. If everyone did that, think how much leaner companies would be! (Not to mention the increased salary is an expensible item on the balance sheet as "Salary Expense".) Right on. Thanks for the idea. I will figure that into my current salary estimator for my new business venture. (My moonlighting venture as yet…)

    Employer – I agree. As an aspiring business owner myself what you say is true. In fact, I’ll even help them move their stuff, escort them from the building with their last check in hand. Good bye I say!

  26. Andy says:

    Cameron, I was in the same boat you were in, being paid less that what was considered "market". I took 2 actions. The first (as has been stated here) was to talk to my direct boss… when he claimed he couldn’t do anything I asked for his permission to talk to his boss (who was the CEO). The trouble here is that to get any type of movement from the company you have to have at least one of the following:

    1) You provide some skill or service that there is no replacment for (or very hard to replace)

    2) You have shown extreme dedication to the company

    3) Your employer knows you are being underpaid and just waits for people to come bring that fact up…

    4) You have conclusive (and solid) data indicating you are underpaid.

    Point #4 is really tricky. Just talking with co-workers and knowing the salary of others is really not a good idea. Salary.com had some decent stuff… which is all I had to work with.

    I always took the tact of "I am happy in my current position, I am not looking to leave, I believe my current compensation is below average for above average performance – I believe it is in the best interest of the company and myself to examine this".

    All of this did get me some salary increases, but it was very much like pulling teeth. I even suggested (and got) additional "perks" instead of salary.

    Having said all of this, I totally hate the "squeaky wheel gets the oil" method. To me, my boss should be right on the value I bring to the company and the compensation I get for it. If he/she is not, they are doing a poor job and the possiblity that you could work for someone who would do a good job at that exists. All the increases were generous, however eventually I left because I felt I had to keep kicking the company to realize the value I added (and the values I was missing out on by not finding a "market rate" job).

    That was the 2nd action, finding other work. Since they know your current salary I’d suggest just being honest. State how while salary isn’t the only factor, it is an element you are unhappy with in your current job. If they are willing to offer you a 15% increase and you’re 25% under the "curve" that offer is compelling for more money, but you eventually risk leaving there because of the same reason (one step closer to having an "average" salary). Honestly if the market rates you know are accurate, that new company should have no problem meeting it. If they do, they either underpay as bad as your current employer or are trying to "lowball" you because you were honest about disclosing your current salary. (Keep in mind I’d leave all this until an actual offer is on the table). Tell them what you believe the market rate to be and ask them if they would like to discredit that. Ask them what salary range a person with that title in the company can expect to make. If the recruiter has any trouble talking about this they are full of it – salary is something they talk about as part of their job.

    If this is anything like what I went through, a big objective for you is to be compensated what you consider to be a market average. That isn’t negative. Espically if you can proove to them that you are an above average performer.

    I also agree with Purathatil. You have to market yourself internally at your current job as much as (if not more) than you would interviewing outside your company. I’m not into boasting, so even if you only do that during a review – it helps.


  27. Heather says:

    Brian-I can tell you that kicking recruiters certainly won’t get you the Microsoft job you are looking for. Easy killer. You seem to have mastered the "Greatest Love of All" *LOL*

  28. Ian says:

    Brian – When you ("hands down") secure that job for $90K @ MS, just remember they can afford to pay you $100K! πŸ˜‰ I do agree, "it’s not about what is fair" anymore, but perhaps not for the same reasons! πŸ™‚

  29. Richard says:

    There is an exception every once in a while – I was hacked off with a number of decisions the company had made, and was offered a job at a local startup. The GM of the division I was in asked to see me to find out why I wanted to leave, and when I explained he agreed that some things did need to be fixed, and offered me more money. I eventually agreed to stay, not intrinsically because of the extra money but because I liked the people I worked with. Some things subsequently changed, some didn’t… but the company didn’t bear a grudge, which is surprising because loyalty was a big deal to them. In fact they promoted me a couple of times since then (its been a couple of years) – maybe that was the punishment πŸ™‚

    I don’t regret accepting the counter-offer, particularly as the startup bombed under very acrimonious circumstances – curiously we also hired back a couple of former colleagues who had quit before me to go to the same place.

    On reflection though I think your advice is sound – I was just lucky.

  30. Carlos says:

    A year ago the company I am currently at counter offered a counter offer from my previous company. I took it because it was a 25% increase plus other reasons. I now received another 23% offer from another company. When I informed my boss about this new offer he had me speak to the director and they both convinced me to stay by promising a 23% increase plus maybe more although in 6 months .Nothing is in writing other than my review will be in 6 months instead of 1 yr. Did I make the right decision be agreeing to stay? I need advice. Thank you.

  31. Heather says:

    Hi Carlos…Not sure I can give you 100% fool-proof advice because only you know the relationship you have with your company. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with your current company knowing that your former company is trying to get you back, as long as you aren’t using it simply as a bargaining tol (and I don’t think you are doing that). Especially since your former employer is basing this on your previous performance (rather than you interviewing). The fact that they want you back doens’t suggest any disloyalty to your current employer.

    The concerns I would have in your situation are around the motivations of your current employer. Do they feel that you are truly worth the extra 25% they offered you and if so, why were they paying you less? There is a possibility that they are giving you the extra money to keep you and consider their options in the meantime ("what are we going to do when Carlos leaves us eventually?"). They may simply feel that you are a flight risk and they are mitigating that risk in the short term by paying you more.

    In the end, though, if you are confident that your previous employer would take you back at any time (say 6 months down the road if things don’t work out with your current comployer), then no harm done.

    But again, only you know the relationship you have with your chain of command. If they don’t have a track record of doing right by people, then you may need to keep your options open.

    I hope that helps.

  32. Brad says:


    isn’t the real reason you think counter-offers are a bad idea is because you are a recruiter, and that is your worse nightmare. I am not discrediting everything you or anyone else has said, but there has to be some truth to that. I have a few freinds in the people selling business and I hear it all the time.

  33. Heather says:

    I don’t actually close candidates (I manage programs) so it’s not my worst nightmare. I don’t form my opinions based on whether not something is convenient for me. That’s just not how I am wired.

    For me, a hire is successful if both the client and the candidate are happy (I think of the candidate as my customer too). If a candidate feels they would be happier staying at their current employer and they are not concerned about the risks involved in accepting counter offers, they should stay. I want people to make the best decision for themselves (and, of course, I hope that’s Microsoft), but I don’t manipulate info to make them believe it’s us if it isn’t. The risks involved with accepting counter offers aren’t something I invented. There are many industry experts not involved in recruiting that agree.

    And again, as I mentioned, since we employ people, we could be on the other end of the counter-offer. So it’s not like I have something to gain by giving this advice other than trying to help people make career decisions.

    Oh, yeah, and I have some integrity too, by the way. ; )

  34. Barry says:

    I’m interested in an opinion of a scenario I’m about to enter. I work for a public institution, and have a skillset that’s pretty difficult to find in the midwest. Everything is public record, and every department knows what every other department is doing.

    Shortly before another department posted a job that amounted to a promotion for me, my department head came to me and said "Hey, we’re going to post a position at the same level as this other position, you should apply." I’m 99% certain they did this because they saw the other one coming. The job ads will be identical and I’ll probably get offers for both jobs simultaneously.

    Does this sound like a preemptive counter offer? Any thoughts?

    As a sidebar, I’m amazed at how paranoid companies are about keeping salaries a secret. Mine gets published in the paper every year: http://www.press-citizen.com/salaries2004/uihome.htm

  35. Heather says:

    Barry—It sounds like it’s POSSIBLE that they didn’t want to promote you unless they knew you were going to stay in your position. But I am connecting the dots here…it’s hard to say for sure. I wouldn’t worry about it being a preemptive counter offer. Loyalty to a company is different than loyalty to a group within the company.

    I guess if I were in your position, I would ask my current manager whether the new position in your group is substantially different enough from your current position that you would have to interview for it. If it would be meant to just be a promo, then why the interview? Why don’t they give it to you now (the answer could be that it would make it easier for the other group to consider you). If you were to interview for the other position at your company and not get it, would they not promote you to the new position anyway? It sounds strange but I guess I’m not familiar enough with the situation that I could say for sure whether their intentions are good. So if I were you, I’d ask a few questions. And also, go for the opportunity that is the most interesting to you (and best for your career path) if all else is the same.

    Good luck! We’d love to hear how this works out.

  36. Heather says:

    Waaaay back in the old days, when I started recruiting, I read an article about counter-offers that really helped shape my opinion… I found it again: http://www.msgsearch.com/counter.html

  37. Chaz says:

    So then guys what do you think I should do… I have been head hunted for another job. I am happy in my current one and told my boss that I had been approached with a $10k/yr increase and more responsibilty. I told him this at it only seems fair for him to know there is poaching going on. They have come back with a counter-offer of a $7k/yr raise and more resonsibility…But now I am tempted to move as they realise my potential and my current ones needed to be knocked into touch to know this. What would you do in this situation? its causing my brain to overload!


  38. Heather says:

    Chaz…go! Unless your reason for leaving was about cash (sounds like it was more about utilizing your skill set). Are there any other reasons why you would stay besides cash and the comfort of staying where you are already comfortable?

    Whatever made you look in the first place, that’s your reason to leave. If you weren’t looking but the company actively recruited you, you may not be as motivated to leave. But now that you’ve already told your current company, the chances of it working out well are reduced.

    You could do a little pro/con analysis. I find in these situations that it’s helpful to talk to whomever knows me best but is not personally involved (for example, someone who’s not motivated to try and convince you one way or the other). Just make sure that you factor in the fact that your current boss may consider you disloyal and/or a flight risk. It’s not the only consideration but you still need to think about it.

  39. Chris says:


    I’ve read all your info on the above topics. Very informative.

    My issue is that I voluntarily left an organization. I did so for

    money; hourly/comm to salary-and for personnel issues. A

    person who disrupted our inside sales group. I was the top performer in a group of 4 guys. Consquently, I am at the new position and having serious second thoughts.

    I’ve been invited back, and have an meeting scheduled with them.

    I know up front that the money will not be addressed, and unclear how the personnel issue wil be addressed. I had asked that he be controlled…moved etc,/// It is a small, private company, and is

    kinda of odd in its management. Having said all that they are asking me how I will be a team player, and my plans to improve

    sales–all this after several meetings with mgmt stating I wanted to stay pending the correction of the personnel issue. I did ask for more $, and was OK for now with the answer no. My question is should I return, or even attend this meeting which i am leaning to.?? I look forward to your thoughts.

  40. Heather says:

    Chris-I’d go to the meeting to hear what they have to say (just out of curiousity and some kind of an explanation for why things got so bad) but would not consider going back. It sounds to me like they are seeing if they can convince you to come back but 1) I don’t hear anything that makes me think that they are going to do something about this troublesome person, 2) they obviously put up with his behavior so they don’t really seem to have a culture that holds people accountable for bad behavior, 3) they weren’t paying you what you were worth and 4) they would always be worried about you leaving again if you came back (if they don’t feel you are loyal to them, it’s unlikley they would be loyal to you)

    It doesn’t sound to me like they would be offering you anything you haven’t already left behind. Don’t look back.

  41. Chris says:


    How do I address feelings of wanting to return. When on paper, where I am is so much better, salary, benefits..etc. It is a manufaacturing concern–however it has technical part that I am worried. Simply said I could do the job well, where I was–at the point I left my commisions kicked in, and I was rolling. Bad timing

    on my part. I’ve gone to a salary only, decent though.

    It seems it is a no win situation that I am feeling now. One person

    had responded earlier as to feelings of remorse, etc…if I go to the meeting will I make the wrong decision? One other thing this issue affected my partner as well,,he is more resolute than I..

    Look forward to your thoughts..


  42. Heather says:

    Chris-tell yourself not to make a decision at the meeting itself. Do not give them any kind of answer before you walk out. They will definitely play on your emotions.

    Do you like the new job? In the new job, do they have realistic expectations of you learning the technical aspects of the position? If so, and you like the work, it sounds like a great growth opportunity. Don’t let risk scare you too much…it’s how you grow. Risk/reward versus comfort…

    Seriously, do a pro/con analysis on paper. I do this all the time. It helps me to rationalize some of the fuzzy aspects like comfort level, learning curve, etc. You have to make the best decision for YOU. This is the time to think about yourself. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for leaving. They are running a business and you are running your career. You have EVERY RIGHT to do what is best for you even if they desparately want you back.

  43. Chris says:

    Heather- I’ve done the pro/con and still have difficulty with this.

    I am leaning toward comfort, and its because I feel like a fish out of water here. Again, on paper its a win(new job)–but like anythiung else–your first day tells all. I may be premature in my handling of this, but have been in thhis type of pickle before…

    The main choices are salary v. hrly/comm–starting over in time, and benefits v.. better benefits and lower costs…I guess the things I’m comparing have nothing to do with…Can I do the job?

    after all, isn’t that the main question I should be asking…I will

    do one thing–I will not committ to anything. I did want to tell them how difficult it was working with Larry, and didn’t feel the need to address the $ issue now…I guess the main concern is how loyal back will they be, if I returned. I will let you know how it works out. C/

  44. Heather says:

    Good luck Chris…maybe your feeling of being a "fish out of water" will pass. I think we all feel like that when we start something new ; )

  45. Heather’s &quot;Marketing and Finance at Microsoft&quot; Blog : What to do about Counter-offers I’ve spoken with some other recruiters here about the issue of counter-offers; a major pain in the you-know-what for recruiters trying to fill roles. I know you are imagining a number of attractive, sophisticated recruiters discussing this issue over a bottle of wine, right? Hee! Sorry. It usually come about in hallway conversation like &quot;my candidate just called me and told me he got a counter-offer and he’s actually considering it!&quot;. So anyway, as a recruiter, it’s a reality you have to coach people through and for the highly skilled candidate, it’s probably something you are going to run into at some point in your career. So let me give a little advice on the whole counter-offer scenario. Net: don’t take it. Interesting piece….

  46. Ed says:

    Interesting. I feel that based on what the market is paying, and the fact that I was making more money before my present job, plus the fact that all I hear is about what a great job I’m doing, that a small raise was in order. I approached my boss about it and got shot down in flames, even though I told him about these things and the fact that I didn’t know when I got hired that the company health insurance plan costs $540 a month for a family. (That is almost a full weeks pay of mine after taxes).

    So another company that had been interested contacted me and made an offer for what I wanted. I then went to my current employer and told them, and what did they do but first ask me why I was leaving. Well since I asked for a raise and you refused and we all know I’m underpaid based on the market, hello is anyone home. So then they counter with even more money than the new company was offering. But I didn’t accept it, I can’t, first of all I promised the new company I would take their offer. Secondly why didn’t they listen to me BEFORE I got another offer and make it right so I would want to stay right here, it would have been a lot cheaper to do that. Hey it’s hard hearing the CEO plead with you not to leave, but then why weren’t they worried about making it right before I got an offer? I have a feeling if I stayed it would just be until they could replace me anyway, but I wouldn’t do that because I feel I have a moral obligation to keep my word to my new employer.

    Do I sound naive or like a dumb hick? Maybe, but I try to play by these rules even if the corps don’t. I’ve had CEOs lay me off without a concern about what happened to me and my family, but I never like doing this to anyone and it bothers me. I guess I’m definately not cut out for management.

    What’s best? Don’t play games to start with I figure, ask for a raise explain why you’re worth it, if they don’t see the light, let the market show what you’re worth and don’t sweat it or at least try not to. Keep in mind how little sleep they’d lose over laying you off if you need to, you have to watch out for your family cause no one else is gonna do it for you. That said, I still hate giving notice. It’s never a nice thing.

  47. Karen M says:

    Heather Great post – Here are some additional facts –

    Survey had been Done by the Wall Street Journal – Site that mentions it is


    β€“β€œOver 50 percent of individuals receiving counter-offers after turning in their resignations accepted them.

    Within 18 months, 93 percent of those accepting counter offers had left, some voluntarily and some fired. All of the remaining 7 percent were actively seeking new employment.

    All in all, the reasons the employee had for searching for new employment in the first place.”

    According to a National Business Employment Weekly Article , 82% of individuals which negotiate or accept counter offers with their original employer, are fired within nine months.

  48. jax says:

    Hi Everyone,

    I came across this blog through a random search for possible solutions for my current situation, and found most advice to be quite educational.  However, my situation is slightly different, in that I have not submitted a resignation letter.  My current employer found out about my job-hunting and interviewing through my ex-CEO, who I’ve asked to be my professional reference.  The new CEO has made me an offer to stay, for higher wages, more responsibilites, and my choice of career path within our entire corporate office.  She’s also asked me to give her a fair chance before making any decisions (she just took over the office 3 months ago).  I don’t have any concrete offers yet, as I’ve just started applying to new jobs, and have only met with one recruiter.  That recruiter presented several attractive  opportunities to me today that also included a $15k increase.  

    My questions to you is: Should I treat my new CEO’s offer as an "counter-offer", and reject it as what most of you have suggested on this blog?  

  49. jax says:

    Hi Everyone,

    Excellent blog!  I came across this blog through a random search for possible solutions for my current situation, and found most advice to be quite educational.  However, my situation is slightly different, in that I have not submitted a resignation letter.  My current employer found out about my job-hunting and interviewing through my ex-CEO, who I’ve asked to be my professional reference.  The new CEO has made me an offer to stay, for higher wages, more responsibilites, and my choice of career path within our entire corporate office.  She’s also asked me to give her a fair chance before making any decisions (she just took over the office 3 months ago).  I don’t have any concrete offers yet, as I’ve just started applying to new jobs, and have only met with one recruiter.  That recruiter presented several attractive  opportunities to me today that also included a $15k increase.  

    My questions to you is: Should I treat my new CEO’s offer as an "counter-offer", and reject it as what most of you have suggested on this blog?  

    Thank you in advance!

  50. HeatherLeigh says:

    Jax, I would consider that a counter-offer since they knew your intention to leave. I’ve been in your situation. It’s hard to reject it outright because if you say no, you are basically telling them there’s no way you are staying. That puts you in a tough situation if you don’t get an offer from another company that you like. You have to judge what their intentions are. If you decide to move forward with the counter-offer, you have to consider that it could be a short-term move on their part (I hope not, but you just can’t tell) and I’d at least make sure I was doing some speculative interviewing outside the company.

    When this happened to me, I ended up leaving anyway. If you thikn the new CEOs intentions are good, you are still taking a risk in staying. If it’s a risk you feel comfortable taking, then do it. If the reasons why you wanted to leave will not be mitigated by the counter-offer, I’d step up the job hunt.

    Hope that  helps.

  51. Jax says:


    Thank you very much for the prompt response and sound advice!

  52. Frank says:

    Heather –

    What an excellent post, and interesting responses too.  As Jax, I came across it looking for an answer to my own situation which is only partly similar to a general counter-offer one.  In a nutshell:

    1) I love working at my company.  The people are great; the work is interesting, and there are opportunities for growth.  The *only* downside is a slightly (~5%) lower pay the average (of course, most people want a salary higher than average rather than exactly the average or, worse, lower)

    2) I’ve been approached by a recruiter from one of the "big" companies (though not MSFT so you may be unbiased :o) ) and have set up an interview with them.  What I’m hoping to get out of it is information about what I may be missing (e.g. perhaps they would pay me 10% more than average – or maybe 15% less in which case I’d stop right there), but also a potential gambling stake against my own company.

    3) The problem is that not only have I not been in my current job long enough to get a taste of a performance review (~10 months) but it’s also my first job out of college! That means I haven’t been able to become indispensible to the company. I’ve worked on a number of small projects with different managers, and most gave me a higher-than-average rating, but I’d feel guilty asking for a raise without a major accomplishment in my hand. Also, the company has sort of "invested" in me through all the knowledge transfer that’s been happening, so I again I’ve bad conscience about asking for a raise so soon. My only defence is that I *did* ask for a higher salary when they were hiring, and accepted their original offer to give them a chance to see me at work.

    I’m thinking of a couple of ways to handle this if the new employer is interested:

    a) push for an offer from them, and approach my boss immediately asking for a raise. In light of what I’ve read here, this seems a pretty bad option, but it is also the only "real" one (backed by real sums of money)

    b) get a verbal offer from the new employer, decline it on the spot, but only mention it later, during the perf. review

    c) forget about it

    What do you think?

    Thanks in advance, and sorry the post came out rather long.

  53. HeatherLeigh says:

    Frank, at this point in your career, building some tenure and successes in your current company are worth more than the incremental income. Stay at your company, do good work, don’t pursue the interviews for another year or so. Work on building a case for more compensation at your review. Unfortunately, you aren’t in the power position here as much as someone with more experience and tenure with the company and you NEED to build that on your resume. Stay, stay, stay (unless they mis-treat you).

    Just my opinion, of course.

  54. Chris says:

    I’m in a similar situation to the one described by Frank. I’ve left my previous job to go back to University and get another degree. I accepted the position I’m currently employed in, now 3 months later I get offered a position by another company that I applied to before accepting the current one. I’m very happy with my working environment, but the offer is substantially higher than what I’m earning currently.

    My current boss found out about the offer and made a counter offer that slightly betters the one on the table.

    My issue is now this, how does the typical issues with counter offers apply to my scenario?

    I wasn’t looking for a new position, they came to me.

  55. HeatherLeigh says:

    It’s similar, but since you had no intent to leave, they may not question your loyalty (unless you actually interviewed with the other company after you joined your current one).

    OK, first I have to ask how your current company "found out" you had another offer. Tha’t skind of scary.  Then I’d ask them why they offered you more money; was it because they were worried about you leaving, because they felt they offered you too little or both?

    Chris, I’d really only worry about it if the circumstances surrounding the situation give your current employer the impression that you were dis-loyal (maeaning you interviewed with the other company after you had agreed to join). It could just be that now that you are there, they have seen your work and feel like an increase in pay is justified.  I would never encourage someone to leave a company after 3 months unless something was seriously wrong. But if you pursued that other company in any way and your current company knows it, you might want to consider that other offer.

  56. Chris says:

    Ok, let me clarify the position.

    I actually told my boss about the offer and told him I’m seriously considering it. I did interview with them after joining the company, but only after making it clear that I would only be interested in a significantly higher salary, and they wanted to see me anyways.

    When I told my current boss about the offer I was very clear about the scenario, ie. they did ask to see me for a 4th (yes 4th) interview, I did ask for way more than I’m earning now and that the money was the only reason I actually went for the interview.

    He clearly told me (before the offer) that in the long run there were very good future opportunities within the company, but that it would take at least 18 months to mature into a possible benefit for me.

    I trust him to be able to move past the percieved disloyalty in the time it will take for me to get to a position where I need to get to a senior position. But at the same time that thought will always be there… Which is something to keep in mind, I know.

    Any new thoughts?

  57. HeatherLeigh says:

    Chris-thanks for the clarification. So if I were your current manager, I would definitely consider you a flight risk, partially because money is such a big motivator for you. You basically told him that for the right $$ amount, you are willing to leave. Loyalty is a tricky thing in the business world. Seems more based on emotion. But what a company really wants to know is whether they will be able to retain you; whether their investment in you (time, benefits, etc) will pay off (meaning you stay at the company).

    You are right that the thought will always be there. In retrospect, you should not have told him. By telling him, I think you actually moved closer to needing to take this other job, to be really honest with you.

    Another way to think about it is this: let’s say that your company hits some tough times and they need to cut your department by half. And let’s say that there are others there that have expressed that they are motivated by things other than money (new experiences, scope of work, titles, work environment..whatever). Your focus on money as a motivator (when the company knows it doens’t have money to spare) really puts you at a disadvantage relative to your peers.

    So it’s not really "loyalty" in the traditional sense that matters. You kind of put yourself in a spot here. You could stay and nothing bad could happen (I can’t predict), but if you put yourself in the employers shoes, even from a business (versus loyalty) standpoint, you could see how down the road, this could come back to haunt you.

    And if I were your current employer, that would always be in the back of my mind when it came to making people decisions.

    I’m probably seriously bumming you out (sorry), but that’s how I see it. You take a risk if you stay, you take a risk if you go….different risks.

  58. Chris says:

    Thanks for your honest reply. I’m not yet sure what I’m going to do, but your advice will definitely feature in my decision in a big way.

    There was actually no way I could turn down the offer. The work is interesting, there are good long term opportunities, the company is very highly rated, it’s a 50% increase on my current income etc, etc. That’s part of the reason I told my boss about it, I was ready to resign and I didn’t expect the counter-offer.

    But now that it’s on the table, it makes my life very difficult. There are many pros at my current company as well.

    As always there are no easy answers in life…

  59. HeatherLeigh says:

    Yeah Chris, no problem…I think that it sounds like you need to take the new job…just a guess. But do let us know what you decide! I hope you make whatever decision you feel most comfortable with and I hope it works out for the best for your career!

    Seriously, have you done the pro/cpn exercise on paper? It might help. Anyway, good luck and let us know how you are doing with your decision.

  60. Amy says:

    Hi Heather – thanks for your blog!

    I am an executive recruiter and am all too familliar with the curse of the counter offer!!!  I had been working with a candidate for the last 2 months on a position that our client just extended an offer to last week.  He verbally accepted on Friday, signed all the paperwork and sent us his customer references by Tuesday of this week.  Yesterday,  he called to let me know he was actually not going to accept the position (which had already accepted verbally AND on paper).  His current employer came back with a counter offer that was about a 20% increase on his base.  All the while I had been speaking with him he emphasized the point that it is not about the money but about the actual sales plan of the company and how he was not happy with that and he knew they wouldn’t change the company around just for him.  He called me immediateley last week when they countered and told me he felt he owed it to them to entertain the offer since he had been with the company 5 years and had also developed personal relationships along the way.  He said no matter what they said to him, his decision still would not change.  Well the very next morning after he sent us his customer references is when he called to inform me that he was not going to accept the position with our client (even though he already did).  What my candidate doesn’t realize is that what he thought was his employers efforts to keep a great candidate, the company is most likely just buying time to replace him with someone that will be cheaper… the writting is on the wall… now even if he realizes he made a mistake and wants to take the job with my client, they don’t want to hire someone who goes back on thier word and obviously doesn’t really want to be there.  Not to mention the bridges he burned with myself and my firm… my last thought… if you are a candidate considering a career move, take the time to really think about what you want and only then make a decision, whether it be yes or no and STICK to it!!!  If worse comes to worse and you accept a position that isn’t working out how you though it would and are not happy, as long as you left your former employeer with integrity and professionalism, you have a really good shot at getting your old job back!

  61. Ronny says:


    One other thing I would implore people to think about when they have a new job opportunity is the corporate climate.  I had been at the same advertising company for 8 years, increasing my role and title at a steady rate.  The company i worked for is known for keeping long-term employees happy because of its fun, low-stress atmosphere.

    I was recruited for a "big" job at a more traditional but well-respected company.  Others were wowed by the title and the money and the prestige.  Although I agonized over leaving the company i had worked so hard at establishing myself at (especially when the big counteroffer came)…I took the leap.  Signing a two year employment contract and starting the new job.

    Now five months later I am still regretting my decision.  I had not counted on the freedom and general life satisfaction that working in a casual atmosphere afforded me.  Things that seemed small before (working from home, casual dress, lack of corporate politics) seem quite worth the 20k difference in salary.  My current job feels managerial and uninspiring and i now have something i hadn’t experienced before…bosses looking over my shoulder.

    I would encourage people to take a walk around the offices when they are on an interview.  Talk to other employees.  Really get a good sense of the job before deciding if you want to make the change.   I’m not sure if i’d have been satisfied if i accepted the counter-offer at my old company…but I might have thought twice about accepting this position if i had spent a little more time thinking about the things I LIKED about my old job.

  62. HeatherLeigh says:

    Good recommendation. I’ve taken a job before and regretted it soon after. Man, I couldn’t wait to get out of there but decided to stick it out a little bit so it didn’t look so bad on the resume. That was really hard.

  63. John says:

    What about when you’re head hunted? I recently was approached by a recruiter that told me a specific company was interested in me and would do anything to get me to talk to them. Well I did & they offered me more responsibility & a considerable increase ($25,000) in pay and perks. I’m not unhappy at my current company but the additional responsibility does excite me along with the increase. Problem is my current company of 3 years did the same thing with me (head hunted). I’m convinced they will counter and while everything points to making a desicion and going I am rather fond of the company and people I work with now.

  64. HeatherLeigh says:

    John-all the rules apply to that situation. If you go in and give notice, I’d be fully ready to leave and if they counter-offer and you stay, they may still consider you a flight risk. It’s a tough decision. What you know versus what you don’t know plus $25K.

  65. Joe T says:

    I have just run into the same situation, but I have decided to stay with my current employer.  After reading all of this information, I’m afraid I have made a terrible mistake.  I was not looking for a job.  I let the head hunter put my resume out there to just see what was there.  I ended up going on 1 interview and got a job that was a pay increase and a bonus increase.  I am bored with my current position but I really love the co I work for and the people I work for.

    I did the pro/con list and to be honest, I had more pros for staying where I am then leaving.  Salary is not everything.  I really wish I would have talked to my current employer b/f I went on the interview.  Then I would not have run into this position.  I actually gave my notice and then changed my mind.  I’m sure I have burned some bridges over this, but I have to do what is right for me now.  My current responsibilities are going to change.  I’m hoping this makes a difference.  As I said earlier, after reading this blog, I’m afraid I’ve made a mistake by staying.


  66. HeatherLeigh says:

    Joe T – don’t stress about it too much. Just watch for signs that something is amiss at work. Also, don’t neglect to build up your personal network during this time just in case (that’s a lesson everyone should use). But don’t make it obvius to anyone at work that you are doing that. And just focus on doing a good job. Make sure they know why you are staying and that you are happy with your work. If that ends up not being the case, it might make sense to be proactive about seeking out other opportunities. You might not want to think about that now, but your pros/cons equatin could turn out differently if you look at other positions.

    Please don’t stress out about this. What is done is done. They may be watching you to see if your eye strays. Just stay focused on your work.

  67. Alexander Gonzalez says:

    Okay Guys — So i’m in a very tricky situation.  And would love your help —  this year i started working at the most amazing company and position for 1 year now, & after a long year of hard work I climbed up to the #1 performing employee in the company.  I currently work at an agency with a multimillion dollar client.  This client has now offered me a new job.

    The client has yet to write up an offer, but the word is out that they are very interested in me, and will soon – HR has already asked how much i make, and they made arrangements to meet with the current accounts for training. (So they say).  This past week I met with my current supervisor and he is devistated and asked me to stay. . .  yada yada yada…  

    Now I have 2 options:

    1) Stay at my current job which i love and get a nice 18% raise for staying, im due a raise anyway in january.  ( i have not burned any bridges and have kept everyone well aware of this new opportunity)  Heck — if i take the job i would be their "client".  

    2) Or, Wait to hear from the client and take their offer and move to another state and work my way up once again after only being in a job for 1 year?  

    Either way — i will be still working with the same people, just as different position.  unlike taking an offer from a different company.  I just want to do what is right, and make the best of an opportunity whether it be by dollar gain, building my future in a new job.

    What are your thoughts?

  68. Kevin says:


    I’m pretty much guilty on all counts here I think πŸ™‚ Speaking as a manager who’s had staff do exactly what you’re considering, and who has in turn poached consultants himself, and also as an employee who left a company for a client once, I’d recommend against it.

    When we’ve poached consultants, it’s been a pretty hard-nosed "they have skills we want and need and we should bring those skills in-house" decision. Note that at no point there did I say "wow, he/she is great – we need to hire him/her." It’s about the skills base. Combined with the fact that we already knew (from the fact that they took up our offers) they’re disloyal to their previous employer and not afraid of breaking the non-compete clauses in their contracts, they’ve had to work MUCH harder than everyone else to get to the top of my list of valued employees.

    When I’ve had staff leave under the same circumstances, I’ve wished them well – and meant it – and all has been pleasant. After all, as you say, they’re going to work for someone we have a dependency upon, so it’s not worth falling out with them. I wouldn’t, however, re-employ them – ever. And this industry might seem big, but it’s amazingly incestuous.

    As for my own personal experiences of doing it, I got a hefty pay rise of over $100k, completed the projects I’d been working on, and then found myself in a company which didn’t do what I wanted to spend my life doing (which is why they brought in consultants in the first place). Ultimately I just ended up leaving, bored and unchallenged and fed up, regretted leaving the previous company, and wished I could go back.

    Don’t do it!


  69. Martin says:


    Stay the course.  Like it or not, you made a decision at some point to jump ship (like my horrific nautical metaphors?  I’ll stop).

    Your current employer now views you at some level as tainted goods.  If you stay, do you think they’ll second-guess putting you on key accounts in the future?  I would – you’re clearly going to be tempted again, and the next time I doubt they’ll be willing to pony up the dough like they were this time.  On top of that, putting someone they’ve identified as a major flight-risk into the middle of important clients could leave them hurting at a critical time.

    Bottom line is, you’re tainted goods with your current employer.  My guess is that the client you are working with did some ego-stroking, and you got tempted.  Then, you fessed up to your current employer (without an offer in hand – gulp).  For your sake, I hope the offer comes through and you accept.  If not, you’re the guy they (your current employer) love but can’t trust.  And who stays in a long-term relationship like that?


  70. Chris says:

    Hey people,

    I just thought I’d share the outcome of my decision. I’m the same Chris who wrote last year on making a decision on if I should take a counter offer.

    I decided to stay after a long process of weighing up pros and cons. It wasn’t easy, but as per the expectation, my workload increased significantly but not beyond the point that I expected. I coped quite well with the added workload and I’m enjoying my work more than ever.

    At the start of this year I approached my boss and told him that I would need a raise to compensate for the additional workload and responsibility. He agreed, so now I’m in with another 25% raise on top of the 50% I got last year.

    In my case, I believe I took the right option, of accepting a counter-offer.

    Cheers, and good luck to those of you who will run into this post, it’s not an easy decision to take or reject a counter offer.

  71. HeatherLeigh says:

    Chris, I am glad that worked out for you!

  72. Aleka says:

    I have been working for 2 years with this company. They "promoted me in title" this last month. But my responsibilities increased and the salary dicreased? How is that possible? They told me is because is a new job title and position but the next year they will increase the salary.

    I felt betrayed and bad because even they claimed is a promotion it doesn’t reflect in the salary. I Like the company, environment and people I work with but I can’t stand the fact that I am earning less than more.

    I submitted my resume to other companies and now I have another offer. I still don’t know what to do as this company is smaller than my previous one.

  73. HeatherLeigh says:

    Aleka, you will have to make a decision about whether to stay a company you feel betrayed by or risk a move to another company. That is all their is to it.

    What you described is not a promotion, it’s a demotion. They have you a bigger title and more resonsiblity to make up for the fact that they are paying you less? What’s the good part of the deal?

  74. Leslie says:

    OK, I really need advice. I like my job, but I want more growth opportunities. My boss knows this and has said, "don’t worry, I’ll retire someday".  I can’t wait for that and I need a position bump now in order to get the growth opportunity I seek. I have another offer for more money, with a great company (ranked #1 in the industry as the best place to work).  So what’s keeping me? The place I live is beautiful and filled with far more recreation opportunities and a great quality of life then where I would be moving to.  I feel like I’m gambling between happiness and my career! Should I try for a title bump and some more money to stay?  

  75. HeatherLeigh says:

    Leslie – only you can make that decision. That’s why it’s so hard : ) If I were in your position and my manager said something along the lines of "I’ll retire someday", I’d encourage him or her to prove it. What a duimb thing to say to an employee looking for growth opportunities. That person is NOT invested in your career development.

    If you try to get a better title and compensation, you need to make it about your contribution to the company. I see that as a separate issue than career growth though. If you are happy where you live and aren’t increasing your contribution to the company (through career growth or just working your butt off), you definitely shouldn’t ask for a pay increase. I’d just make sure you are really clear on how you communicate about this topic before you go an and ask for anything πŸ™‚ Companies rarely give raises because someone wants/needs it unless that person has increased their contribution or otherwise proven themselves indespensible. It’s all about tying it back to the business.

    Not sure if that helps…hope so.

  76. myself says:

    Can someone please advise me, I currently earn 56k in NJ in a permanent position (with benefits) but got an offer through a temp agency (ongoing) in TX for $37/hr which roughly translates to about 75k of course with no benefits. I tender my resignation and my boss is promising to get a counter approved (I don’t know by how much) should I accept? Bear in mind that cost of living in TX is more than 25% cheaper in TX from the research I did.

  77. HeatherLeigh says:

    I wouldn’t have quit the full-time job for the temp job. The hourly rate only equates to $75K if you work full-time for a whole year. Subtract benefits from that too. I would have taken my time to find another full-time job if I felt I was underpaid.

    Everything stated above still applies to your situation. Under the circumstances, I wou;d probably take the counter offer, stay for 6 months and use the time to look for another full-time job.

  78. Ashley says:

    Heather, I will be honest with you, and I would need an honest answer from a recruiter’s point of view.

    I was not looking for a job, but I had subscribed a job opening (it’s the company my husband works for), and I was kept on getting job post for more then an year.

    Then, one of the job posting, automatically email to my email address caught my eyes.  I was not quite ready to look for job for many many reasons, but I felt almost guilty if I don’t even apply for this position.

    I applied, and unexpectly, I was interviewed, and after couple of days I got an offer letter.  And very next day I signed the letter.

    Okay…  because I wasn’t looking for changing job, and everything was totally unexpected one, I did not do any of research prior to accept an offer, meaning there were no negotiation at all.

    Then now I realize, I am offered at least $5k – 10K less then the minimum of what current market value is.

    Oh well, the decision is already made, I can’t do much… so I made up my mind and be happy with my decision.

    Then I give my regination to my current employer, then unexpectly, they offer me a counter-offer little bit more money then what a new company offered.  And yeah, promised for promotion & assinged to more challanging project.

    Yes, I have no idea how to handle a counter-offer until I did some research.

    I am very certain I am not leaving this current job because of money.

    Let me get to the point.  I still want to take the new job, if I compare benefits/commuting/salary, it’s not any better then my current company, but the work I will be doing really motivates me.

    But I keep on thinking I was offered too low, I would have try to at least negotiate.

    Is it right to ask the HR in new job for more money ( I’m not asking a lot, just want to meet the min. of market value) by mentioning a counter-offer?

    I don’t even want to mention it if I give a bad impression by mentioning it.  

    The reason I’m asking this is for me, not to regrat again by not doing what I should have done.  Just like regrating so much for not doing my homework before accepting an offer.

    Please advise me how to handle this situation.

  79. ben says:

    93.7544% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

    Quote –

    " #  re: What to do about Counter-offers

    Friday, January 13, 2006 10:20 PM by Karen M

    Heather Great post – Here are some additional facts –

    Survey had been Done by the Wall Street Journal – Site that mentions it is


    β€“β€œOver 50 percent of individuals receiving counter-offers after turning in their resignations accepted them.

    Within 18 months, 93 percent of those accepting counter offers had left, some voluntarily and some fired. All of the remaining 7 percent were actively seeking new employment.

    All in all, the reasons the employee had for searching for new employment in the first place.”

    According to a National Business Employment Weekly Article , 82% of individuals which negotiate or accept counter offers with their original employer, are fired within nine months."

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