Published: 24 December 2022

Remember the moment when you last handed in your resignation? It feels momentous. When you say ‘I’m leaving’, you are making the final step in one part of your life and moving on to one that is clearly better. Then, from out of the blue, your current employer asks you to stay and makes a counter-offer that seems difficult to turn down. So, what do you do if you receive a counter-offer after you have accepted a post?

It is tempting to just accept, and you will probably feel pressured to answer quickly. To say ‘yes’ seems the obvious answer, but it may well be a mistake. There is a problem to be considered here, so you need to take your time. As with a lot of life’s problems, it is easier for you to figure out what to do if you break it down into smaller pieces. So here are five main questions to ask yourself before you decide to accept and stay where you are.

Is the offer as good as it sounds?

Your current employer may have matched or even gone slightly above your new job offer, but does that really change enough to make it worth staying? There is never one factor in the decision to move to a new job, so does the counter-offer meet all of your needs, and even if it does, will it result in a better working life and career progression than the new offer?

Is the counter-offer a long-term commitment or plugging a hole?

When your current employer makes the decision to counter-offer, they are thinking very differently to you. If they consider you important enough to keep, then clearly, you are bringing something important to the role they do not want to lose. However, how long will that be the case? Try not to mistake the fact that the business needs to have someone in your role with a desire to keep you specifically. If the offer is just a stop-gap way of keeping someone doing your job, then it doesn’t feel like a long-term proposition, does it?

Are you reacting to emotional motivation rather than logic?

It is flattering to think that you are so important that the boss is prepared to counter your offer, but don’t let it go to your head. Other emotional factors such as liking the people you work with, not wanting to let anyone down, trepidation over change, and so on can all skew your perspective. Go through it logically first. Yes, of course, emotion will be a part of your decision, but make sure it isn’t the biggest part.

Is money everything?

Usually, the offer to stay will be based on a pay rise or perhaps additional perks and benefits. The important question to ask yourself here is not ‘how much money will I take home’ it is ‘what is the value of the money I am being offered’? Even if the counter-offer exceeds your new job in terms of salary, work out what that means in practical terms. Money is nice, but the value is better. By which we mean the money offered needs to be enough to make it worth staying. An extra £1000 a year sounds great, but after-tax it can mean as little as £15 a week. Is it really worth staying for that? 

Does this change why you wanted to leave in the first place?

Usually, this is the real decision-maker. Most people leave an employer for multiple reasons, most of which involve job satisfaction and career progression more than financial reward. After the counter-offer, can you be certain that things will improve? The employer may well now resent your decision to look for another job as well.

Here is a final thought. The first part of the title for this article is from a well known saying that really resonates here. It goes like this:

‘Is what you are doing today getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow’?

We have been in the recruitment space for a long time, and everyone here will tell you that 99.9% of the time, getting closer to where you want to be tomorrow is the real reason people move jobs. In our experience, this is a huge factor in why accepting a counter-offer rarely works. In fact, most people who accept a counter-offer leave the company within six months anyway, usually because the reasons they wanted to leave in the first place were still there.


So, the bottom line is to ask yourself if accepting the counter-offer is getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow. If it isn’t, well, it’s hard to see why you wouldn’t move on to a new role that is taking your career where you want it to go.