Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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You’ve searched for that perfect position, aced the interview process and received a job offer. Now, you’ve given your boss the news you’re moving on. However, instead of the expected “best of luck to you” response, you have received a counteroffer––and an enticing one, at that. What should you do?

As the job market improves and competition for top talent grows more intense, companies are more likely to make counteroffers to keep their best employees. While it may be tempting to accept these deals, you should give careful consideration.

What Employers Are Thinking
A counteroffer is often a knee-jerk reaction. Managers never want to lose good people, and they often will do whatever it takes to change the situation. There also may be pressure to keep staff members during critical times, such as a server upgrade.

Your supervisor may have made a persuasive argument for you to stay, but also might have serious reservations about your loyalty now that you’ve admitted you were in the job market. You may be viewed as less dedicated even after you’ve accepted the counteroffer, which can put you in a static career pattern or at a greater risk during layoffs.

Additionally, by changing your mind at the last minute about which company to work for, you may have damaged your credibility with both your prospective and current employers. The firm that extended the job offer to you probably has told fellow employees and competing candidates that the position was filled, and now may need to find a replacement quickly. Perhaps more harmful to your career is that managers at both organizations may suspect you were manipulating them to improve your financial situation.

Sometimes job offers are the result of being recruited by someone who has worked with you in the past or has been referred to you by a mutual acquaintance. You may be perfectly happy in your job with no desire to leave. In these situations, accepting the counteroffer may make perfect sense. You get to stay where you are happy, and your employer is reminded of what a valuable employee you are.

What You Should Be Thinking
One question that should be at the top of your mind is, “Why did it take a job offer from another company for me to be considered for a raise or promotion?” Think carefully about whether you would have received these incentives if you had not sought opportunities elsewhere. The best employers compensate fairly at all times and award promotions when people are deserving––not just when forced to because someone threatens to leave.

Also, recognize that some of the factors that prompted you to look for a new job may not be resolved by a counteroffer. For instance, if you were frustrated that the company wasn’t investing in new technologies, you will likely still be unhappy with this practice even if you are earning more money. Research has shown that employees who accept counteroffers typically leave voluntarily or by dismissal within a year, often because certain factors did not change. Make sure your concerns aren’t so significant that they will affect your job satisfaction if you do decide to stay.

What to Do Next
If you’re on the fence, schedule a one-on-one meeting with your supervisor to candidly discuss your reservations. You may learn more about the reasoning behind the counteroffer and receive the necessary reassurances. For instance, you may discover that you were already in line for a promotion at an upcoming performance review, putting to rest concerns that this decision was only a desperate measure to keep you from leaving.

Recognize, too, that the information you share with your current employer about the competing offer may lead to positive developments for your co-workers, even if you do move on. For example, the firm might realize that it needs to provide its IT staff with more training opportunities or adjust its compensation packages to include more incentives and rewards for exceptional performance.

Before you make your decision, step back from the situation and take a look at the pros and cons of each offer. Solicit input from professional colleagues who will give you their honest assessment of your options. Armed with as much information and input as possible, you can determine whether the benefits outweigh the risks of accepting a counteroffer.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis, which offers online job search services at She can be reached at


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