What to do when your boss asks you to stay

You sit down with your boss to tell her that you’ve received a job offer and you will be leaving the company in a few weeks. It will likely be a difficult, awkward conversation and will be come even more uncomfortable when she asks you to stay. She may offer you incentives like more money or a promotion- but as enticing as the counteroffer may be, experts say you shouldn’t accept.

The two weeks notice is often a wake up call to the employer that they’ve missed something. They then realize that they don’t want to loose you and they need to take action. Perhaps they are stretched in their capacity already and aren’t sure how they will manage without you or train someone new. Thus, they may counteroffer and pay a little extra to keep you. This could be dangerous for you- as you have now expressed your interest in leaving- and they may let you go once they have someone to replace you.

Things to consider when you get a counteroffer

Firstly, don’t disclose the salary you have been offered by the other company. If asked, you can respond with “I have agreed not to disclose the salary offer, and I would love to help with the transition by doing X, Y, and Z”.

It is important to consider why you were considering a new job. Was it money? A new challenge, new colleagues, a new culture, more flexibility, a new passion or interest? Accepting a counteroffer will not help you achieve those things.

Another reason it may not be in your best interests to accept a counter offer: you would burn two bridges (relationships) at once.

The other organization will likely never look at hiring you again and your current employer will question your motives and the relationship could quickly sour. Depending on how large the industry is that you are in, you may develop a reputation of engaging in counteroffers and this could impact opportunities down the road.

If you accept a counteroffer, you may be scrutinized within your own organization. First, now others know you are looking for a new job. Second, if they are paying you more or offering the terms you requested, your employer is going to expect something significant in return. It may be hard to deliver on those expectations in the same work environment you considered leaving. How motivated will you be to deliver?

If money is the only factor motivating you to look for a new job, obviously a counteroffer is something to consider. However, there is a risk that your standing in your existing job will change. You need to be ready for the potential consequences.

Accepting a counteroffer

If you choose to accept a counteroffer, no matter how you conduct yourself, you will be regarded with suspicion. You may not be viewed as a true team player. Other disadvantages: since you’ve proven that you’re ready to leave, management will be waiting for you to do it again; you’ll be at the bottom of the list for a promotion because you’ve shown little loyalty; and your employer may not invest in training you further because they think you might leave.

If you have tried to obtain more money, a new title, a better work schedule, or time off prior to putting in your two weeks notice, then the counteroffer is being offered solely to benefit the employer. If it was sincere, it would have been offered when you asked for those things initially.

There are instances where counteroffers are mutually beneficial to employee and employer. Sometimes when leadership changes occur or turnover happens, employees can be overlooked on compensation increases and promotions. You may have had conversations with your manager, and they end up leaving the company and the conversation gets lost. In these cases, the counteroffer can be a good thing.

Declining a counteroffer

If you decide not to accept a counteroffer, you need to decline professionally and avoid damaging the relationship. You never know- you may work with that manager or company again in a new capacity. Maybe they will become a customer, or a friend of someone you are trying to partner with.

First, thank them for the offer with something like “I am truly grateful, but the wheels are set in motion and I can not go back on my word. I realize my leaving may put you at a disadvantage so I have put all of my work in order, made notes on all projects I am currently working on, and am giving you a list of potential candidates I have already vetted”.

After leaving, consider sending a thank you note for the lessons learned and wishes for continued success.

But what if you decide to accept the counteroffer and turn down the new job? Ideally, you’d only engage in a counteroffer discussion if you hadn’t accepted the job (you’ve received the offer and have not yet signed it). Simply state that you appreciate the offer and the time, effort, and energy in the interview and hiring process, but you have decided not to accept the job. Be prepared for a conversation with the recruiter or hiring manager who may be shocked or even upset. You may even go as far as to apologize and offer a list of referrals.

There is no one best approach for every job seeker. It is best to consider all angles and make a decision you can live with.

About the author: Erin Stuart is a Recruitment Consultant at De Lacy Executive Recruitment. My expertise includes food animal pharmaceutical research, project management, data mining and analysis, technical writing, and marketing.


Adapted from the Forbes Article: What to do when the boss begs you to stay, written by Jacquelyn Smith, August 16, 2013:

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