After a series of excellent interviews, you have been made a very good offer for your services and you are happy to accept this new role. You go into work having mentally prepared to resign, you ask your boss for a “quiet word” and the conversation takes an unexpected turn.

Your boss makes you a counteroffer. Although this seems like an ideal situation for many people you are rather happy with the move to a new company. So handling this counter offer sensitively, in order to stop burning bridges, becomes really important.

Counteroffers can be really hard to reject because there is a financial incentive to say yes, the commute and co-workers will not change and the social relationships which have formed can be difficult to leave behind. However, understanding why managers make counteroffers will help you fend of these arguments.

Why do manager’s make counteroffers?

The reason companies counter offer is down to a number of issues, mainly it is down to fear, rejection and economics.

The economic issue is generally the easiest one to understand – if recruiting your replacement is going to cost $5,000 giving you a pay rise of $3,000 makes sense. The real question that comes from this should be, why are you not getting this amount already, and has your current employer been taking you for granted?

Fear is another reason that managers can put in a counteroffer. This comes from a multitude of sources including the fear of looking bad among other managers, fear that other members of the team may also decide to leave, putting excess pressure on your boss or it can just be a fear of rejection. This rejection factor is most often the reason that managers give a counter offer. This is a gut reaction; no one wants to be rejected and someone saying I do not want to work with you on a daily basis is quite a statement, that many people will initially find hard to accept.

Generally, if your counter offer comes from loss or rejection factors your decision to reject is in some respects for the company’s (and your line manager’s own good) own good. Most importantly the reason you should be rejecting a counter offer out of a sense of self-worth.

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Being given an extra few thousand pounds can really sound appealing, however there are practical and moral reasons as to why saying no is important.

  1. If the company values you enough to be able to pay you extra money, what was the reason they had for not paying you that money in the first place? Essentially if they offer you a 10% pay rise, then you have been working for free one morning a week since you joined.
  2. Within 6 months 80% of people who receive counteroffers leave. Any pay rise will be enjoyed in the first month, however, after month two it will just feel normal and the underlying reasons to why you wanted to move will resurface.

How to handle and reject the counteroffer

In the resignation meeting you need to have a clear understanding of what can happen.  If you are countered in your resignation meeting the best thing that you can do is be straight.

Firstly, state that the reason for leaving is not personal (even if it is) and is for your own career development (even if they are a tyrant and the company you work for is akin to a Victorian workshop).

Secondly, preempt any counteroffer before they ask it by saying (again) it is not about the money and that you will reject a counteroffer.

Thirdly, move the conversation onto tangible actions for the rest of the day and ask to schedule a meeting later in the afternoon or the next day to put together a leaving action plan, ideally asking them what they want from you before you leave. Also, offer all you can to help them find a replacement.

Fourthly, bring the meeting to a close quickly. The sooner it is over the better so you can give them time to take in what has happened and rationalize it.

Throughout the process aim to be polite, and courteous. Although your hiring manager may take the process badly at first as they adjust to the news they are likely to accept it and move on. Your aim is to keep your bridges un-burned.

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