Beware of the Counteroffer: What it Really Says . . .

November 3, 2014 in Career and Job Search Tips, HR Best Practices


Don Charlton explains why a counteroffer may work for professional athletes but not in the workplace. 

Think about it: an employee successfully went through the process of finding, interviewing, and accepting a new job, only to be pulled back in by the company they already committed to leaving. It may make you ask, “Should I make a counteroffer?”

We’ve talked about instances in which it might actually be beneficial to have employees who are motivated by money, but this isn’t one of them. Whether their reason is salary, position, a better company, or sheer boredom, there are very few instances, if any, when a counteroffer should be made–or accepted.

The reality is even if a counteroffer is accepted, the employee will soon fall back into the funnel of unhappiness or doubt that originally caused him to look for a new job. More often than not, the offer just delays the inevitable.

What does a counter offer truly say from an employer?

“Hey, you know what? You called our bluff! We have been underpaying you for years. You are truly worth a lot more than we are currently paying you, so let’s make this right.”

“We understand your frustrations. This $20k increase in your pay will make those frustrations disappear.”

“Now that we have “committed” to you as a vital cog in our organization’s success, we expect you to up your game. You didn’t expect that $20k raise to come without more responsibilities did you? You owe us!”

What accepting a counteroffer truly says about the employee.

“For sale!”

“I’m going to go with whoever makes me the best deal! Their commitment to me doesn’t matter.”

“I’m probably going to do it to you, too! Each day without a raise starts the clock ticking!”

What does giving a counteroffer tell your co-workers?

“Wait a second–two days ago, that guy was hacked off and out the door. Now he’s walking into a bigger office with a bigger smile? Gee, I wonder what could have happened. . .”

“The only way to get a raise around here is to threaten to leave.”

“That guy gets $10k more than me, so shouldn’t I have to do $10k less work? Or should I just tell them I got a better offer?”

Sounds bad, right? Here’s the alternative. Great employees don’t act randomly. They’re too talented and in too much demand for that. Instead of scratching and clawing to keep them, ask yourself: “Why is this super-talented person leaving my company? And how can I stop it from happening again?”

The effects of counteroffers–even juicy ones–are temporary. Bad workplaces are much longer-term. Put the $20k to good use and invest in your current employees. Use the savings to invest in the employees that deserve to be invested in.

Simply put: counteroffers may work for professional athletes, but leave them out of the office! What are your thoughts on counter offers? Comment below.