Counter Offers


Gemma Stirrup, Director of Ben Johnson Recruitment explains the thinking behind the “counter offer”

It’s a challenging hiring market out there right now and when it comes to hiring, employers are as keen to retain and hold on to their employees as they are to attract the best talent. If you are half-decent at your job and about to walk, your employer knows that it’s a hard task to replace you and will more than likely “counter offer” you with a lure to stay.

As a recruiter I’ve been on the unfortunate receiving end of a candidate taking a counter offer a handful of times in my career. As my experience has progressed I have learnt to accept the inevitable apologetic “I didn’t see it coming”. Hopefully on a call but sometimes via an email.
It stings. Not because things didn’t go my way, or I am having to re-start a few weeks’ worth of work again. It stings because it was absolutely foreseen by them. They went looking for a counter-offer. They courted it. The only reason a counter is being presented is because it was made clear when they delivered their notice, they were open to offers.
Don’t believe me? Here’s how it goes:

Scenario A

Committed to the offer

You accept the job in writing before handing your notice in and confirm what you think will be your start date. You then write your resignation and take it to your boss with a succinct “Thank you for everything, I’ve enjoyed it here. I’ve accepted another position and will be leaving on x date. Please let me know if you need any help…

Awesome. Polite, grateful, affirmative you are leaving.

Scenario B

Counter me please…..

You don’t reply to the offer in writing and put off handing in your notice as you are “not sure”. When you do, you make every indication that you would love to stay … “I love working for you, but I’ve had an offer I can’t refuse. I’ve been struggling to come and talk to you… it’s just that I need more flexibility/the offer is too great etc…”

You indicate what your swaying points are and your boss will react with the following:

  • You want progression

    Boss says: “I’m shocked that you feel undervalued and I wish I had talked to you about the new project we are starting next month as you are key to it…. “

    Boss Thinks: We can’t be a person down going into budget – I’ll need to see what we can put together to bide our time.


  • You want more flexibility

    Boss says: “I don’t understand why you didn’t come and talk to me about it .. we are a very flexible business and we would have absolutely accommodated you”

    Boss thinks: This is such a straightforward thing to come and ask, I’m amazed they would go to the lengths of getting a new job to start the conversation. Why didn’t they have the confidence to just ask me. Disappointing.


  • You want more money

    Boss says: “We have always valued your commitment to the business and I’m sorry we have not caught up on our salary reviews. You were in the pot this year for a big bonus”

    Boss thinks: I’m amazed at what you got offered. Still to replace you is going to cost more – a salary increase, recruitment costs and the expense of training will be a pain.


  • You are struggling with your workload

    Boss says “I’m sorry you have been feeling like this – if only I had known we would have absolutely put resource in place”

    Boss thinks: I can’t rely on communication from this person, they don’t look to resolve problems before they get out of hand.


When you accept a counter offer you are telling your boss:

  • You are not decisive in your decision making
  • You lack integrity as you are given back word on a verbal commitment elsewhere
  • You’re not able to communicate with them
  • You are open to offers elsewhere and they need to think about replacing you soon
  • They can’t trust you in the same way they used to
  • You are self-serving

Self-serving? Is that not a bit harsh?
Is it? When you accepted the job and had no intention of resigning then potentially someone else lost the opportunity of being the successful candidate.

Sadly, the likelihood is that you will leave your current job imminently as your employer’s view of you has changed and will never be the same. The moment a “counter offer” is presented there is a departure from truth and an honest working partnership can’t prevail. Counters are just like sticking plasters that inevitably peel off in time revealing the discontent underneath!