Knowledge Center: Podcast

If You’re About to Take a New Job, Should You Consider Your Boss’s Counteroffer?

1/30/2019 Kelly O. Kay and Michael M. Cullen

You finally decide to start looking for a new job. You go through a lengthy search process, you’re presented with an enticing career opportunity, and get an offer you’re fully prepared to accept. But when you tell your current employer you’re planning to leave, they surprise you with a counteroffer. And you’re left with a question you thought you had already answered: Should you stay or should you go?

In our combined 30-plus years of placing senior executives in new positions, we’ve had more than a few late-night calls from people agonizing over this very question. And the answer? It’s not that simple.

In a recent national survey we conducted about best practices in resignation, nearly 40% of senior executives and HR leaders alike agreed that accepting a counteroffer from a current employer will adversely affect one’s career. Nevertheless, some 78% of senior executives and 80% of HR leaders indicated that it is sometimes acceptable to embrace a counteroffer. However, an additional open-ended question and supplementary interviews with transitioning executives and CHROs pointed to how hard it is to determine what those times might be and affirmed that the circumstances in particular cases are rarely identical.

What’s not in dispute is that counteroffers are a fact of corporate life today. While no hard statistics are available, we and our colleagues in executive recruiting have seen a rise in counteroffers in the past several years. And there’s no doubt that counteroffers are stressful for all concerned — bosses aware of today’s intense competition for talent and well-intentioned resignees suddenly finding themselves tempted by a counteroffer they didn’t expect. Should you find yourself in this position, here are some considerations that can help you navigate some very tricky terrain:

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