You stride into your boss’ office with the big news: You’ve got a new opportunity and you want to announce your resignation. Suddenly, you’re the most important person in the company — with a proposed raise to match.
As the labor market tightens, the counteroffer is becoming far more prevalent: In a recent survey by The Creative Group, 44% of employees said they’ve received a counteroffer after giving notice.
While it can feel awesome to suddenly be the belle of the ball, you’ll have some soul searching to do. Here’s how to negotiate the counteroffer like a boss.
IF YOU DECIDE TO STAY
Figure out why you’re leaving in the first place. If money was the main reason you wanted a new gig, then the counteroffer might be enough to welcome you back. But if it wasn’t, don’t let the fatter paycheck distract you. “The reasons you wanted to leave your job — a difficult manager, grueling hours, no opportunity for growth — still exist,” Joe Kotlinski, partner at talent acquisition firm WinterWyman, says. “Those problems aren’t going to magically disappear, even with more money.” So weigh whether the bump in pay will make up for the cons in work culture.
Negotiate other aspects of your job. Are there other parts of your job you wish were better or different? Use the counteroffer as an opportunity to change the things that might have led you to look for another job in the first place, says Elizabeth Becker, career expert at recruiting firm Protech. You can start with your desired salary if the counteroffer wasn’t enticing enough, but you should also be ready to discuss other perks like the flexibility to work from home or extra vacation days. Or if more responsibility or getting to work on bigger projects is what you’re after, now’s the time to speak up.
Close the loop quickly with the other company. Once you’re certain you’ll stay at your current job, tell the other company you were speaking with as soon as possible. Becker recommends a script along the lines of: “Thank you so much for offering me this opportunity with [company name]. After much consideration, I decided to accept another opportunity with my current company that I felt was better in line with my career goals. I really appreciate all the time you and your team took to meet with me and discuss this role, and I wish you all the best.”
Timing is key, because no one ever looks good refusing an offer they have previously accepted. Typically a company will extend a verbal offer and then put the offer in writing only after the person has agreed to the verbal one. The least painful time to refuse is before a company goes through the trouble of preparing a written offer.
Being promised the world out of panic, rather than sound business strategy, seldom works out.
IF YOU DECIDE TO LEAVE
Think twice before using your counteroffer to get more money. Don’t assume your potential employer will go to the moon to try and lure you over. “Keep in mind it is possible for your potential new employer to completely rescind the offer if you try to use a counteroffer to negotiate further,” Becker says. “And at the very least, it will put a very bad taste in their mouths.” So while it’s acceptable to try to negotiate a better offer on your merits, she recommends not mentioning the counteroffer.
Here’s a worst-case scenario: You leverage the counteroffer to try to get more money, the prospective employer doesn’t budge, and you still decline the counteroffer and accept the new job. “You may have to do damage control with your new employer to repair your relationship and assure them you are committed to the new role before you even start,” Kotlinksi says.
Don’t be swayed by a guilt trip. You should never feel bad about taking the next step in your career. In extreme cases, your manager may even plead with you or ask, “How could you do this to us? We need you. The department can’t run without you.” Or they may tout the big plans they were just about to announce as a proof that things will change.
Being promised the world out of panic, rather than sound business strategy, seldom works out, says Kotlinksi — and could be why 13% of respondents to The Creative Group study regretted accepting a counteroffer.
Make a graceful exit. Offer your current company at least two weeks’ notice — although more is better if you’re in a senior position. And plan a smooth handoff of your projects. After all, professional paths are bound to cross, and you’ll likely be remembered for how you left a company as much as for why you were hired.