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So, you're about to hand in your resignation letter to your (soon-to-be-ex) boss. You've done all the thinking you need to do about your exit, right? Not exactly. When you give notice, one of two things will likely happen: your boss will accept your resignation and wish you well; or your boss will take your resignation and then come back with a counteroffer to convince you to stay. When should you consider taking the counteroffer, and when should you stand firm on your resignation?
You should consider accepting the counteroffer if…
It addresses the reasons you wanted to leave in the first place. If your boss comes back with a higher salary or a re-aligned job description, think about whether this satisfies your desire to move on. Some people explore other jobs or companies because they don't think their current job will meet the next pay level or align with their next-step career goals. If you get the counteroffer and find that they are willing to work with you on these things, then consider staying.
You were recruited rather than seeking a new gig. If you got your shiny new job offer as the result of someone approaching you (rather than you trying to jump ship from your current job), a counteroffer can be a way to secure a raise outside of the annual review process or get other concessions. If you weren't feeling strongly driven to leave in the first place, it's worth considering whether this “keep me” package will make things even better than a new job would.
You're leaving mostly because you think you should. If you've been at your current job for a few years and feel like you should be applying to shake things up and advance your career, a counteroffer may achieve the same results as leaving—it's a chance to do a little negotiation outside of the normal timelines. Does the counteroffer give you a clearer promotion path if you stay where you are? Does it bump up your pay in line with the job offer you're holding, or even improve upon it? If you can trade up without leaving, it's worth considering the counteroffer.
You feel validated by the counteroffer. Counteroffers are not a given. When you get one, it's because you provide a value to the company that they don't want to lose without a fight (so to speak). If you were looking elsewhere because you felt under-appreciated, then this could be the validation you need. If you decide to take your new job offer and move on, you'll be starting the process of proving yourself all over.
Your gut says “stay.” Don't underestimate your own instincts here. If that little voice in your head is saying, “take it,” don't tune it out.
You should consider rejecting the counteroffer if…
It feels like too little, too late. If you tried in vain to get a pay raise six months ago and suddenly your boss is willing to make concessions, think about what that means—they weren't willing to compensate you until it got to the breaking point.
The counteroffer doesn't really change anything you're trying to escape. A counteroffer may throw more money your way, but if your job responsibilities, boss, chances for advancement, etc., stay the same, is that acceptable to you? If a little more money in your paycheck doesn't feel worthwhile compared to everything else you'd be committing to if you stay, then consider rejecting.
Your company's culture or your boss makes you miserable. These are larger issues that can't necessarily be resolved with more money or a bump in job title. If you have larger issues with your workplace that made you start to feel around elsewhere, then the new job offer is likely to be the best solution, regardless of the counteroffer.
Your gut says “get out.” Again, listen to your instincts. A counteroffer may be tempting in the face of having to change jobs, get to know a new workplace, and start over. However, if there's something preventing you from taking the counteroffer right away, listen to that voice.
When you're getting ready to resign, it may seem like your decision is already made—after all, you went through the whole process to get hired somewhere else, right? But don't be so quick to assume that you should reject a counteroffer out of hand. Take the time to think about what it would mean to stay, and what you'll be leaving if you go.
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