Have you ever Googled the question, “should I take a counteroffer?”
If you have, you’ve seen article after article from recruitment or staffing firms claiming that 80% of people who take a counteroffer are no longer with their company after 6 months and that it’s the worst idea ever. We’re not going to use that stat. However, we do know from experience that taking a counteroffer isn’t a great decision and neither is offering one. It mainly has to do with what resigning and then taking a counteroffer does to the relationship between employee and employer: trust erodes, and things usually never feel the same.
Think of your best breakup. Maybe you mutually decided to part ways and you remained friends. But what if your ex asked you to stay with them and promised to change – he’ll take you out to eat more, she’ll give you more space; you’ll each make compromises? You might give it a go, but if you do, would you really be happy, or would the things that bothered you before creep back in and make you leave in a few months?
This is the general claim of the “never take a counteroffer” argument. And while it may seem unscientific, unproven, or silly, in most cases this tainted relationship is the reality that makes taking a counteroffer a bad idea. So rather than giving your employer the chance to hire your replacement on their timing, take a moment to evaluate a few things:
1. Why do you want to leave your current role?
Before you even accept an offer and hand in your resignation, think about your reasons for leaving. Did you apply for a job on whim, or were you truly dissatisfied with other aspects of your current role? Did you not like your responsibilities or the company culture? Was it just about your pay, or were you feeling under appreciated in other ways? Sorting through these questions will help guide your decision when it comes to taking a different job.
We recommend you work through this process before you reach a counteroffer stage. After thinking through your reasons for leaving and deciding to move on, politely resign. Don’t talk about money or factors that your current employer could—in theory—change. Instead, share that you’ve accepted an offer for a position that’s aligned with your career goals, or is best for your future. If your time of reflection leads you to decide that you don’t really have good reasons to leave, decline the opportunity you’ve been pursuing, and talk with your supervisor about the things you’d like to change. In either case, by avoiding the counteroffer situation to begin with, you’re not burning bridges with either your current or potential employer.
2. What’s your relationship with your manager like today?
If the relationship with your current manager is part of the reason you’re looking to leave, chances are they won’t be happy to be put in a situation where they need to “bribe” you to stay. This type of manager will usually offer you more money or changes in your position to get you to stay not because they can’t live without you, but because they need to buy some time to find your replacement. If you already have issues with your current manager, staying because of a counteroffer isn’t likely to improve it.
If you are one of those lucky individuals with a great relationship with your current manager, they may want to keep you on board and could be more lenient about receiving your resignation. But from our experience, it’s much more likely that this type of manager won’t make a counteroffer at all, and instead will be supportive and encouraging of you making a career-move that will benefit you long-term.
3. What happens if you stay?
We’ve already discussed the change to your relationship with your supervisor, but this isn’t the only relationship at risk when you choose to stay. You’re considered a fidelity risk by your boss and viewed as disloyal by your peers. In addition, your coworkers may harbor resentment against both you and your manager, causing significant tension in the workplace. You’re also potentially damaging your relationship, and any possible future, with the firm where you accepted, and then rescinded your acceptance of their offer.
Staying for higher pay? It probably won’t last long. We’ve heard time and time again of employees staying for an increase in pay, and then receiving a smaller raise – or no raise at all – when that time comes around. The company needs to recoup the extra cost they incurred to keep you and will justify their actions by reasoning that they met your desire for higher pay just a few months prior.
So, I’m a Legal Tech Pro, Should I Take a Counteroffer?
From our years of helping technology professionals gain new opportunities at top law firms and advising them toward career success, we’d suggest it’s never a good idea to take a counteroffer. Remember: your firm made you a counteroffer because they don’t want to lose you now—but what really makes you more valuable today than you were yesterday?
It’s a competitive market for hiring technology professionals right now, so law firms are particularly eager to hang on to the individuals they already have on board. If you’ve decided to move on to greener pastures, but in your resignation left room for your manager to think you’d be open to a counteroffer, you’re likely to get one. When you’ve reached this point you’re already in a lose/lose situation for law firm and employee. Instead of leaving that door open, make it clear to your current employer that you’re thankful for the time you spent at their firm but that this career change is something you can’t pass up. As a legal technology professional that has worked hard to obtain a new role, stick to your decision and you’ll be happier in the long run.
If you’re thinking of making a career change, our recruiters are here to help.
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This blog was originally published in 2011 and has been updated to reflect current trends.