Why Accepting a Counteroffer Is a Bad Career Move

Feeling dissatisfied and overworked in your current job, you launch a casual search for a new position, not really expecting much given the current employment market. But you’re soon surprised to be called in for an interview for a promising role. And you can hardly believe it when you’re offered the job!

But that’s not the end of the story.

After you give notice at your current employer, your manager surprises you with a generous counteroffer: a higher salary, an extra week of vacation, and some gratifying words about your importance to the team.


You are now facing a dilemma: Should you remain with your current employer or jump ship? “I know I’ve always done first-rate work,” you think to yourself, “but I had no idea they valued my contributions so highly.” That thought alone should tip you off as to what you should do. While a counteroffer might seem attractive on the surface, accepting one is a bad career move. Here’s why:

Your loyalty will be questioned. Even if your manager makes a compelling pitch for you to remain on board, chances are he or she will question your loyalty. And in today’s uncertain economic environment, you don’t want to be viewed as someone who’s merely biding your time. If your employer has to make cuts down the road, you might be a prime target because you’ve already shown an interest in departing.

Your relationships with colleagues are likely to become strained, too. Suspecting that you stayed only because you received a salary boost, some coworkers will feel they’re being penalized for not threatening to leave. Fair or not, being resented can undercut your effectiveness on the job.

Your primary concerns will remain unaddressed. You must also think about the reason you decided to look for employment elsewhere. Your manager’s sudden generosity doesn’t change the fact that you’ve felt dissatisfied and overworked at times, for instance. Whatever the negatives about your current job were, they won’t suddenly disappear because you’ve been offered a raise and a temporary vote of confidence.

Your reputation will be damaged. Also at stake if you accept a counteroffer: your reputation. If you decide to accept, you could easily face a worst-case scenario: you are trusted by neither your current employer nor the employer that offered you the new position. Your actions might even be noticed and discussed by others in your professional community.

When you renege on your acceptance, the company that offered you the new job may presume you were using them as a leveraging tool to extract a raise from your current employer. Even if this is not their assumption, your backing out will cause them some difficulties they’re not likely to forget soon. They will have to scramble and incur additional costs to find a replacement and may have to explain what has occurred to staff members who were passed over for the position.

A counteroffer is a Hail Mary attempt by an employer desperate to keep a good worker on board. A bump in pay or title won’t solve the problems that made you want to leave, and the reality is you’ll probably find yourself dealing with the same issues that caused you to seek a new position in the first place–you might even find yourself in a worse situation than before. So, if you’re presented with a counteroffer, say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” You can be confident you’re moving on to a new, better opportunity.

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