You've been offered a new job, but just as you hand in your notice, you're approached with a counter-offer from your current employer. What to do? These questions will help you work through your options...
Why did you consider a new job in the first place?
Changing jobs is never easy, so you must have had good reason to explore the job market and consider leaving your current role. Perhaps you've been lacking motivation lately and have felt like you aren't moving quickly enough or maybe you've fallen out of sync with the company values since you joined.
There are plenty of reasons why it might be time to move on, and for most people these are not just about money. It can feel flattering to get a pay rise and feel you’re wanted, but it’s unlikely to be a long-term solution for you unless you can feel confident that the underlying issues that made you want to leave in the first place are likely to be addressed.
"After all, 39% of people who initially accept a counter-offer end up back in the job market within a year anyway," according to Sam Walters, Director at Robert Walters.
Have you taken some time to weigh up your decision?
Our initial reactions to a counter-offer can be emotional and impulsive – a flush of pleasure at feeling in demand, perhaps, and the feel-good factor of an unexpected pay rise. Loyalty and affection for your current colleagues and workplace can play a part too.
"But it's important to separate the emotional side of leaving your job with the reasons behind your decision," says Katie Drewitt, an expert consultant who places temporary secretarial and business support staff in the North of England.
“It can feel like going through a break-up when you leave your job,” she says, “but try to distance yourself and be rational.”
39% of people who initially accept a counter-offer end up back in the job market within a year
Katie recommends making sure you take a few days to consider your options. Draw up a list of pros and cons, and discuss the issue with family and friends you trust. In this way, you can make sure that your decision has been carefully argued, and isn’t just based on an initial emotional reaction.
“Don't be blindsided by the emotion of leaving a workplace; focus on the reasons you decided to do so,” she adds.
Is the pay rise enough to stay? And why are you only being offered a pay rise now?
Part of the counter-offer is usually a significant pay rise. This certainly makes staying in your current role an appealing option – but is higher pay really enough? After all, if your pay was the problem you probably would have addressed this issue with your manager before feeling compelled to look for other jobs.
And why has it taken until now, as you're about to resign, for your company to offer you a pay rise? You need to consider whether you would have been rewarded for your hard work and contribution to the company if you hadn't handed in your notice.
“If they can offer you more money now, it’s only natural to ask: Is there a reason they didn’t pay you that before?” says Ken Okumura, an expert Robert Walters consultant who recruits lawyers for roles in London and offshore.
“It could mean they’ve been under valuing you. And even if they pay you more now, are you just being frontloaded a pay review you might have got anyway, taking you to a pay level you will now be stuck on for longer?”
From a business point of view, it's frankly cheaper and easier for a company to pay a bit more to retain an existing, valued employee rather than invest in recruiting, training and developing a new starter from scratch. From this perspective, the pay rise may seem less flattering. So again, it's important to look beyond and think about your position in the long run, when the novelty of increased pay has worn off.
How will your future in the company be affected?
Some employees worry that the fact that they are now known to have considered accepting another job could affect the way they are perceived in the company if they choose to stay.
It might be that you sense a lessening of trust in you, so that if ever you work from home or have to attend a medical appointment, you feel all eyes watching you. Or it might be a concern that people in the company see you as a ‘flight risk’, and so are reluctant to involve you in strategic work or confidential information because they fear you may be on the verge of looking to leave again.
“Bear in mind that it will now be common knowledge that at one point at least, you wanted to leave,” says Ken Okumura. “So, you need to factor in whether that knowledge will prejudice your future and they only want to save the cost and disruption of having to replace you.”
What is going to make you happy?
If you've been feeling excited and ready to begin working in a new environment and a more fulfilling role, this is a very telling sign that you shouldn't accept your counter-offer.
Whilst it's tempting to stick to what you know, with the benefit of a bigger pay cheque, taking the time to evaluate your options will mean you don't regret your choice in a few months' time.
So make sure that, whatever option you choose to accept, it's for the right reasons.