SURVEY SAYS: Have You Ever Encountered a Counter-Offer?

August 13, 2010 ( - There might not seem to be a lot of hiring going on, but there are certainly a lot of people looking for work.   

Now, while one reader said, “Seems to be less counter-offers and negotiations in this round of high unemployment”, this week I asked readers if, after taking an offer for a new job, had they ever received a counteroffer to remain with their current employer – and to share something about how that decision had panned out. 

Now, there may be a certain selectivity among this week’s respondents (that is, people who have actually received a counter-offer might be predisposed to respond to a survey on that topic), but more than half (55.9%) said they had received a counter-offer (the rest hadn’t, obviously – perhaps including the respondent who said “What is a “counter-offer”?”). 

Now, of those who had received a counter-offer, most (58.5%) turned it down, though 41.5% said they accepted it – and no one said they had used that counter-offer to negotiate a better deal  

Turning the tables for a minute, I asked readers if they had ever counter-offered on a job offer they had received – and on this point, just over half (52.2%) said they had, while 38.8% hadn’t, and the rest – well, they opted for “sort of.” 

As for what they renegotiated about, it broke down as follows: 

  • 28.3% - Pay 
  • 26.1% - Vacation/time off 
  •  2.2% - Telework options 

The rest said they had renegotiated about multiple options (title, bonus, office, and relocation allowance were also on the list of choices).  One reader said they had negotiated for “Pay, hours, and a computer network.  9 years ago my company had no network and only 2 computers for a eight admin staff.”  Another negotiated on the “Job itself - new roles and responsibilities as well as pay.” 

As for how all this offering, counter-offering, and counter-counter-offering worked out, just over half (55.8%) said they got what they wanted, just under 12% said they did not get what they wanted – and a third said “we compromised.” 

This week I also asked readers about the weirdest negotiation readers had ever been part of/party to: 

Offered a window office if would stay on. 

Someone I know was offered a position through a headhunter, and when he tried to negotiate a higher salary the salary via the recruiter, instead of simply explaining that she had negotiated the maximum they were willing to offer him (which was unknown to him), she went a little crazy calling him greedy, and saying that if the hiring company found out about his request, they would certainly retract the offer. 

At my previous firm, I presented my boss (CEO) with some market research that I was underpaid by a substantial amount. His response: get a written offer from another firm and they will match it. I secured that offer, and despite an offer to match, I turned in my two-week notice.  

The weirdest negotiation (or conversation rather) I remember was when an employee I was firing approached me offering to "help" me with transitioning his role and he wanted to negotiate a "consulting rate" for his help...  

One employee, after touring our plastic injection molding plant, wanted to make sure she had an aloe vera plant next to her work station in case she got burned on the job. 

As always, there were lots of interesting experiences, perspectives, and insights – but here were my favorites: 

I make it a point to never accept a job without trying to negotiate salary.  I've found that if employer can't (or won't) budge on salary, they're usually very willing to offer other concessions instead, such as increased benefits, additional days off, etc.  Never, ever accept their first offer - there's always room for some negotiation! 

I have successfully counter-offered about pay.  I have not been successful with counter-offers about title. pay and vacation time  

I have found that the rumors about poor treatment and mistrust when electing to stay with your current employer after accepting a counter-offer are unfounded.  This is largely an effort by headhunters to hold onto their commission.  If an employer offers you more to stay, they usually value you and aren't going to think less of you afterward.  

From an employee's perspective: Do not make a decision lightly but expect to be booted unceremoniously or to receive a counter.  Stay committed to the decision you've already made.  You started looking because you were dissatisfied and things generally don't change." 

For both this job and my previous job, I was asked what it would take to get me to take the position. Shucks, I should have asked for the moon instead of just the stars! 

I wanted more vacation; I told my potential boss's boss that it was because if a family member became ill, I wanted to be sure I had time to take of them.  I got the vacation but now I have VPN, so I can work from home.  Moral of this story - be careful what you wish! 

An individual should never expect their current company to counter when they accept another job. If they go into it with that expectation, they may be sorely disappointed.  

But this week’s Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who noted, “I've never received a counteroffer to stay, reckon' they were all too excited to see me go! ;-{“ 

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!  Check out more selected verbatim on the pages that follow! 

My boss gave me a counter off a week after I gave my notice. A lot of my customers wanted me to stay with the company I was leaving but I gave my word to the new company and didn't feel right about going back on it. 

If you're gonna "talk-the-talk" you'd better darn well "walk-the-walk". There's still plenty of room on the resume line for wannabes who can only walk-on-their-tongues. 

"I am fond of noting that if you have to get another job to get the pay you deserve at your current job, do you really want to stay there?  Of course, in this market, folks might take the ""bird in hand"" or the ""devil they know"" for the unknown.   

The last time I started a new job and left another company (13 years the day actually...yes this is my 13th anniversary at my new company), I told my then boss what my offer from my new company was.  His response was, ""We can't pay you that.  That's out of what this company considers to be your range.""  My reply was, ""That's part of the reason I am leaving.  You don't value my skills.""  And the rest is history. 

Being in Human Resources and for the majority of my career specializing in Labor Relations, I felt that Employers expected a bit of negotiations when concluding the hiring process. It has generally worked for me but the key is to do your research and know what is prudent and what isn't. Every request should be accompanied with justification for that request. 

In my original offer, I was promised a network, easier access to a computer and working over a couple of months into a full time accounting position.  After 3 months, not only was there not a network in sight, it was very obvious the Executive Director had no idea where to start.  The two computers that were available to staff were not connected, so I was watching everyone duplicate work on them. In addition, it became very clear that full time work was not something the Executive Director was going to allow anytime soon. So I started looking for another job.  It did not take long to find one.  I presented it to the BOD with my letter of resignation and explained that what was expected in 20 hrs a week was unrealistic especially with the continued duplication of work. I also gave the BOD a plan of " attack" to get the job they needed done. The BOD wanted the accounting function brought back inside the Company ( it was being done by an outside CPA firm) and all manual accounting work to be automated (like payroll).  2 days later the Chair contacted me with a counter offer. It has a happy ending.  Not only was I allowed to work full time, I was given an increase and the "go ahead" to develop the network project myself.  It is 9 years later and the Organization has tripled in size.  The IT needs are now such that I had to turn it over 2 years ago to an outside firm so I can concentrate on my role as CFO. 

Companies are better off letting an employee go when they accept another job offer instead of countering their offer.  Counter offers do not tend to work in the favor of the company.  First of all, the company is in the blind and doesn't really know the true offer in hand.  Secondly the employee can take their current company's counter offer and use it to negotiate a higher starting salary in their new job.  And lastly, even if the employee accepts the counter and stays with their current company, the employee has already 'left' psychologically if whatever caused them to look for another job in the first place hasn't been resolved - which usually isn't salary. 

They can easily backfire, so it's important to know who you're dealing with and how much value you really have.  In a past job, when I accepted another position outside the company, my existing employer jumped through hoops to keep me.  And in my case, it worked - I was promoted, got a salary increase, and enjoyed another 8 years at that company before I left on my own for good. 

I'm not a big fan of counter-offering.  I've always felt that if I accepted the counter-offer, my name would shoot to the top of the list for those who could be released in the future.  As a result, I walked away from a "name your price" counter-offer and happily never looked back. 

I think most companies, when extending a job offer, expect qualified candidates to make reasonable counter-offers. 

"From a manager's perspective:  If someone has gone so far as to accept a position with another firm (even a competitor) LET HEM GO!  They're clearly dissatisfied with what they currently have.  That's not disloyalty - it's self-interest.  If you haven't picked up on their disenchantment this time, it will just come back later.  If you fix one aspect of their employment, they'll find other areas later - do no negotiate with terrorists. 

My counter-offer was over 25 years ago, when I was new to the work force and innocently thought that big companies care about quality workers.  I'd never counter-offer now.  If, after accepting a new offer, my boss came to me and made a counter offer, I'd say, "Why wasn't my work worth that yesterday?"  A counter offer would have to be BIG to get me to take it. 

One of my employees, a young, aggressive individual who was a bit of a "loose cannon" came to me and told me he had received an offer from another company.  He indicated that they had offered him 10% over his current pay level - and then looked at me expectantly.  He was dumbfounded when, after a slight pause, I congratulated him on the great opportunity and told him that I wished him the best.  I felt that if I really was going to have to spend 10% more than I was paying him, I could do better. Moral of the story: don't use another offer just as a negotiating tool. 

In my experience, once someone tries to leave but then doesn't, the person is never the same at work and almost never stays more than a year or two after the "big" negotiation.  This is just my personal observation - but I don't think most people leave over one specific item like "pay" or "flex time" - they just don't like their job - and after the euphoria of the negotiation settles, they slip back into the same misery and leave the firm relatively quickly. 

When you stay within the same company for a long time, usually your pay increases steadily, but not as much as if you leave and come back.  I stayed with my company because they outbid the offer that I had to go to another company so it worked out. 

When i was much younger and "compressed" and the economy was better of course. The rush was exhilarating.  I learned a valuable lesson - big companies pay a premium to keep good talent (albeit temporarily - I left once the vesting expired anyway) 

Counter-offers from a current employer are kind of silly if you think about it.  If you received an offer from another company it is because you are looking for a new job and you want to leave the old employer.  Chances are that you are looking for a new job due to compensation and you have tried to talk to your old employer about this to no avail.  They should have offered you the increase a long time ago! 

I would guess that in today's world countering and accepting counters is seen as smart and savvy; it seems unethical to me though.  First you are being dishonest with a potential employer that apparently has a need to fill a position.  In addition to that, why would you trust and stay at a company that already didn't treat you fairly?  If they counter it's only to keep you until an immediate project/need has passed - once you have finished the specific item someone else will be hired and you'll be let go (because they know you are looking for another job).  By then that other company has filled the job.  I've seen that happen all too often. 


I have accepted two job offers, both times were asked what it would take to stay, and i did not negotiate with the old firm.  And both changes were well worth the move. 

I didn't counter offer on the job I am in now and I have regretted it ever since. I didn't have good enough self-esteem to ask for more money and thanks to spreadsheets and raises as percents, it has hampered my income growth ever since. 

There are days that I feel like it was a mistake to reject the counter-offer from that employer... 

"Counter-offers are a symptom of either poorly framed compensation philosophy or an incompetent compensation department - neither should be tolerated. 

If compensation is on the table - business is at a standstill." 

Economic climates and talent will dictate offers and counter-offers.  Seems to me the former seems to override the latter in our current environment. 

I've received counter-offers from employers to encourage me to stay twice.  I decided to accept and stay with the second employer who did this because I was growing concerned about the other job ("frying pan to fire" situation).  I was worried how I would be treated if I did stay, but there seemed to be no ill-feelings at all.  I ended up getting a large pay increase and telecommuting benefits, so it was a good decision in the end. 

This has occurred twice, once within the Company and once outside of the Company. I was told, third at-bat, I'd be out but I never felt the urge again, as opportunities continued to flow within my division afterward. It was almost like the two instances showed what interested me (operations and IT) and subsequent jobs typically included elements of both.