Should I stay or should I go?

  • You have tortured yourself with the dilemma of changing your job. You weigh up the benefits and concerns, and then finally make your decision to move on from your current job.
  • You find your perfect job, successfully pass several interviews and/or assessments and finally receive a well deserved offer of employment. 
  • Monday morning arrives and you pluck up the courage to hand in your letter of resignation to your line manager.
  • Once done, you feel the weight has been lifted from your shoulders and look forward to starting your exciting new career.
  • Then your line manager throws a spanner in the works… by making an unexpected counter offer.

Understanding the Counter Offer

Assume you've been a valued employee, your company will not want to lose you, and are likely to propose a counter offer - a flattering incentive designed to tempt you into changing your mind. As tempting and ego-gratifying as it may be, accepting a counter offer could be a costly career mistake.

The Hidden Agenda

In order to keep you in the company, your current employer may offer extra benefits. Yes, because you are, of course ‘irreplaceable’ in your expertise, and your joke telling would be sorely missed over at the water cooler, but also for numerous hidden agendas…


  • Replacing an employee can be expensive.


  • It might mess up their budget to re-recruit that time of year.


  • They have no time to re-recruit right now.


  • They want you to finish the project you're working on.


  • They don't have the time to train someone new at the moment.


  • Losing staff may be perceived as a negative reflection on the company, or management.

Don’t Surrender

Before you let the flattery of a counter offer tempt you, consider the real reasons you’re wavering on that exciting new career.
Don’t jeopardise …

Your Future

A counter offer may sweeten the deal, but remember your reasons or wanting to leave in the first place. If you were really in-line for a promotion, or about to be given extra benefits for your hard work and commitment, why did they wait until you resigned, to offer you what you're really worth to them?

A new title or benefits will not necessarily compensate for a lack of interesting assignments. Your future starts now – which is why you were looking for a new job and to further your career.

Your Bank Balance

More money may make you happy in the short term, but accepting a counter offer for a pay rise may simply appear to your employer that you were attempting to use your job for financial gain. Our studies show that 89% of those that accept a counter offer, leave the company within 12 months anyway. Money, cannot buy you career satisfaction.

Your Reputation

No matter what the company may say, you will forever be considered a loyalty risk. Having once demonstrated your ‘lack of loyalty’ by having looked for another job, you will lose your status as a "team player" and your place in the inner circle.

‘Jilted’ companies have long memories and know that even if you decide to stay, statistically you are almost certain to leave them again. You will always be suspected of attending a job interview whenever you are absent. The counter offer, therefore, is usually nothing more than a stalling device to keep you around until your employer can quietly find a cheaper or more dedicated replacement for you.

As for your reputation, does the company have a good reputation? For very good reasons, well-managed companies don't make counter offers -- ever! They believe their policies are fair and equitable and will not be subjected to what they see as being blackmailed by ‘counteroffer coercion’.

Your Relationships

Accepting a counter offer after you’ve made the decision to leave will only weaken your relationships and decrease the trust your colleagues and superiors have in you. In their eyes, you could be off again at the next opportunity, or when things aren’t going your way. Who likes a cry baby?

If your colleagues really are your friends, you will remain in contact long after you have left, and avoid straining your friendships through tense environments at work. It will be so much better to chat about how excited you are in your new role, than go over for the 20th time, your reasons for disliking your current job…

Be Prepared

Rejecting a counter offer will only further alienate you from the company, so your goal should be to resign in a manner that avoids a counter offer from ever being made in the first place.

Say It

Be sure to state in unmistakable terms that your decision is final. A less direct approach such as muttering something that sounds like, "I'm thinking of changing jobs" or “I’m leaving for more money” is likely to leave the embarrassing impression that what you are really doing is attempting to use your job to gain extra allowances.

Write It

To eliminate any possible misunderstanding, always submit your resignation in writing. Your written letter should be brief and should contain a clear-cut statement of resignation, an expression of thanks for the professional association you have enjoyed, a final date of employment, and a cooperative statement expressing your willingness to help during the transition period prior to your last day of work.

Reject It

If anything is said that even sounds like a lead into a counter offer, re-iterate that you have now made the commitment to join another company. Be sure to let your employer know that you are prepared to offer a full business handover, and ask if there is anything else you can do to make the transition easier. 

Be prepared for any kind of reaction, ranging from congratulatory handshakes to guilt trips to out-and-out anger. Regardless of the company's reaction, your plan is to remain calm and professional. You have done nothing wrong and do not have to answer attacks like, "How could you do this to us?" or any other hostile accusations.

It is imperative that you handle your part of the resignation meeting in a courteous and professional manner. The kind of character reference the company will give you in the future will be strongly influenced by the impression you left behind when you resigned.

Watch It

Your employer may delve into the awkward question of why you're leaving. As satisfying as it may be to "unload" about your manager's failings or the company's problems, it is never a good idea. No company has ever changed as the result of a "disgruntled quitter" generously informing them of their misdeeds. Nothing is accomplished except leaving behind a bad impression about your lack of professionalism. Remember, nothing is wrong. You simply have made a commitment to join another business.

Remember also that your colleagues will be curious about why you are leaving. Whether they corner you at work or call you at home, tell them exactly what you told the company. Anything you say will get back, and ‘sour-grapes’ comments can be used to make your colleagues look loyal whilst making you look like a liar.

Graft It

Finally, do not underestimate the importance of your performance during your last two weeks. Don’t allow yourself to become ‘mentally unemployed’ and de-motivated whilst working out your notice. Give it your very best effort right up until the last minute you're there. You will never be sorry you did, and you can be sure of a good reference to take with you.

By using the strategies and techniques outlined above, you will resign with a high degree of professionalism without burning any bridges behind you. Your plan is to remain calm, courteous and in control at all times…

Good luck!