What should you do when you're trying to quit and your boss makes a counter offer?

For the millions of Americans currently participating in the Great Reshuffle, increased pay and job flexibility continue to be driving factors in the decision to seek new employment opportunities. If you are one of the tens of millions of people who are considering a similar move, there is a good chance that you too may be seeking better compensation. With a little hard work and time, you will eventually locate a new opportunity and be ready to hand in your resignation to your current employer.

But what happens if your current employer responds to your resignation with a significant and tempting counter offer? Should you still quit if your boss offers more money to get you to stay? 

In this post, we will explore that question and discuss some of the pros and cons involved with any decision to accept an employment counter offer. We also include two templates for how you might respond to a counter offer, should you decide to accept or decline.

Why some employers will make counter offers

First, it is important to understand that counter offers are by no means a standard practice for all companies. In fact, many companies refuse to make counter offers, simply because they want to avoid incentivizing employees to use new job offers as leverage to get more money. So, do not be surprised if you resign and no counter offer is forthcoming.

Still, some employers will make such offers, especially during the type of labor shortage that the U.S. economy is currently experiencing. With thousands of companies desperate for workers, many businesses are eager to retain the talent they have – even if it costs them more in the short-term. In addition, some employers may be so fearful of losing top talent that they instinctively offer more money when they receive a resignation.

Reasons why you may want to accept a counter offer

There are times when you may want to seriously consider accepting a counter offer. Typically, this might make sense in a situation where compensation was the only reason you wanted to leave or if you had been overlooked for advancement opportunities through some company oversight. For example, if the company has experienced a great deal of turnover or went through a leadership change, there may be legitimate reasons why a promotion or pay increase was overlooked.

If any of those circumstances have occurred at your workplace, then a counter offer may be an honest attempt to remedy an oversight. In such a case, you may want to give serious thought to the offer, especially if you are otherwise happy with your employer. Just weigh all the factors involved and assess whether accepting the counter offer will be mutually beneficial for you and your current employer.

Keep in mind that a counter offer might involve more than compensation. Your current employer may offer you additional benefits, such as increased vacation time or other non-salary benefits that you should take into consideration.

Reasons why you should still quit if your boss offers more money

On the other hand, there are a whole host of reasons why you may be putting your career at risk by accepting this type of counter offer, including the fact that most counter offers are made only because the employer believes that it benefits the company. Other common reasons include the following. 

1. Employers who make counter offers can experience buyer's remorse

Since most employers who make these counter offers only do so when they are faced with the loss of a valuable employee, the offers are typically made under duress. It is understandable, therefore, that a boss who makes that sort of snap decision might later come to experience real buyer's remorse. Some may even feel as though they had been extorted into the offer after being confronted with the choice between losing a key employee or paying them more than they had previously agreed to accept.

That type of regret can lead to resentment. Worse, the employer may decide that the new compensation will only be paid until the company can train a replacement for the worker. Never underestimate the negative consequences that these types of reactionary counter offers can create.

Most importantly, though, recognize that accepting a counter offer may lead to remorse at your end too. Think about why you were so ready to leave your job in the first place. What reasons inspired you to want to quit? If your reasons involved more than just increased compensation, then chances are that no salary negotiation will be enough to satisfy those other concerns.

2. Your advancement at the company will likely be stunted

Even if your employer does not look for an opportunity to replace you, chances are that any hope of further advancement at the company will be wishful thinking. Since you have already shown that you are willing to leave for a perceived better offer, you probably should not expect the company to invest any further in your career development. In their minds, you may always represent a flight risk.

3. Your employer may raise expectations

Beyond those issues, you may also have to deal with expanded expectations. Since the company would be paying you more, it is likely that your boss will want to receive even more value for the company's money. That could mean expanded hours, a broader portfolio of duties and responsibilities, or more accountability – perhaps over things that you cannot control. Few things in life are free, so expect your employer to look for some way to justify the added cost.

4. The company that made the job offer may never want to hire you in the future

One other thing to consider is that you may be burning bridges with the company that was offering you the new job, especially if you had accepted the position. That company is likely to never again consider you as a potential hire. Why would they?

5. You may harm your reputation in the industry

Finally, never underestimate the harm that you might do to your own reputation by accepting a counter offer. If word gets out in your industry that you are an unreliable prospect who uses the job search process to garner counter offers from your employer, your name could become toxic to other organizations.

How to respond to a counter offer

If you decide to decline the counter offer, it is a good idea to have a professional reply prepared in advance. Your reply should be polite, professional, and delivered with a promise to help make the transition as easy as possible. For example, you could say:

“I appreciate the counter offer, but I have already accepted another job offer and cannot in good conscience go back on my word. However, I want to assure you that I will do all that I can to help ease the transition, including any assistance you may need in training any temporary replacement you may choose.”

This assumes, of course, that you are providing some advance notice of your departure. If that is not the case, then you should try to organize your work and leave your employer with notes detailing your current project progress to assist with the transition.

How to notify a prospective employer that you are remaining at your current job

As we discussed above, there may be times when compensation is the only reason you consider a job change, and the company's failure to keep pace with your salary requirements was the result of an oversight of some kind. If that is the case, and you believe the counter offer to be a sincere attempt to remedy that oversight, you may choose to forgo the new job offer. In that instance, you should notify the other employer of your intent to turn down their job offer. Again, be polite and professional:

“Thank you for your time and the interest you expressed with your recent job offer. However, I have decided to remain with my current employer at this time. I have enjoyed my time meeting with your team, and hope that you will keep me in mind should circumstances change in the future.”


While counter offers can sometimes work out to everyone's mutual satisfaction, they can also pose a variety of long-term problems for workers who accept them. Ultimately, only you will know if you should still quit if your current company offers you a compelling reason to stay. Armed with these considerations, you should feel prepared to assess your options, knowing you are a valuable candidate.

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