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Why accepting a counter-offer from your current employer can be damaging to your career

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So, if you’re reading this, chances are you’ve made it through the long and arduous process of finding a new job, or have found yourself suddenly being headhunted by another employer or a recruiter. Kudos to you. It’s likely you have begun to mentally prepare yourself for a new opportunity, and maybe you’ve even handed in your notice to your current employer.

But what do you do if presented with a counter-offer?

Do you give in to your current employer’s offer to stay where you currently are, or throw caution to the wind and jump into unchartered waters?

Depending on your unique situation and circumstances, the implications (or benefits) of a counter-offer vary. But either way, it can have a significant impact on your career, and potentially, reputation. Harvard Business Review conducted a survey that found nearly 40 per cent of senior executives and HR leaders agreed a counter-offer can adversely affect one’s career. On the flip side, however, 80 per cent of HR leaders said it is ‘sometimes’ acceptable to accept one – depending on the situation, of course.

Regardless, our co-founder, Dominic Wade, agrees that accepting a counter-offer from your current employer can be damaging to your career. Here’s why.

You’ve already moved on... mentally

If you’ve already considered another employer/job, then chances are you aren’t at your happiest and most fulfilled in your current role. People don’t leave a role or company they’re happy in. Therefore, it’s important to objectively consider why your eyes wandered in the first place. Was it work-life balance? Workload/work content? Salary? Many of these things aren’t exclusive to one company, and you may well find yourself battling with the same issues at a new company. However, some circumstances do call for change. Accepting a counter-offer won’t make issues go away.

Don’t settle for a less than satisfactory job when an opportunity for a better one presents itself.

Staff retention

The fact that you’ve considered leaving your company may damage your relationship with your current employer, even if you do accept their counter-offer. Research has shown that up to 80 per cent of those who accept counter-offers end up leaving their current employer within six months anyway, so there is a high chance you’re already seen as a flight-risk. Other studies have shown that your job security will decrease after accepting the counter-offer, and if suddenly redundancies need to be made, you may be first in line.

What if?

At the interview or job acceptance stage, you would have already envisioned your new role, company, commute, and routine. Clients may have been researched, Glassdoor reviews viewed, and potential new colleagues’ profiles peeked at. By taking the counter-offer, you lose this train of thought and close these unopened doors. Later on, at your current company, you may find yourself wondering ‘what if?’ and ponder on what opportunities the new job would have offered.

As the saying goes, nothing grows in a comfort zone.

A balanced argument

While some aspects of a new package, such as pay, may favour the counter-offer, it’s important to assess the strength of the offer and weigh up your options objectively in terms of career progression and fulfilment. Consider your long-term goals and salary ambitions and make your decision accordingly. Your current role may be in your ideal sector and area, so staying will be more beneficial in terms of gaining experience and climbing the ladder. However, a new and unknown opportunity could be a game changer.

When finding yourself in the hands of a counter-offer, it is crucial to make a list of pros and cons. Take a step back and take a balanced and objective view. If you have one, have a confidential chat with your recruiter or HR professional before making an informed decision.

If you need career advice, or are predicting that your employer might make a counter-offer, get in touch with one of our consultants.


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