I have always considered accepting a counteroffer to be utter madness. I am not going to bore you with a long post regurgitating statistics that by now, anyone who has ever read one of several articles in Forbes, HR Magazine, Business Insider, Bloomberg or LinkedIn know by heart. (and for the 1% of you that may have somehow missed this, such stats include headlines like 80% of those who accept one still leave within 6 months, 93% still leave within 18 months etc)

Let’s be honest for a moment – how many of us have ever quit a job because we were paid what we felt we were worth, given the promotion we felt we earned or were generally provided with the opportunities and treated with the respect we feel our performance deserved? The answer of course is very few of us!

For me, the whole reason to reject a counteroffer is about integrity and mutual respect. It’s a matter of principal – so much so that I once turned down a counteroffer that was actually better than the external offer I had.

At a previous firm I had discovered I was underpaid by 20% compared to my peers. This was even though I received the highest performance rating within the team, had more responsibility than them and made more money for the company. 

I absolutely loved working for that company, I had no desire to leave, so I took the reasonable steps of speaking with my boss. I was told that there was nothing they could do until next salary review. This came and they offered me a 6% increase and no promotion or title change despite my performance and responsibilities compared to my peers – I found this insulting and so I made the decision to go elsewhere.

Within a short period of time, I had an offer to join a competitor that included a 40% increase on my total package, and a title that reflected the full set of responsibilities I had actually been doing. I spoke with my boss, explained that I loved the company, but I did not feel valued and so I was leaving. His response stunned me, he offered to match the offer right there on the spot. He told me, I was the top performer in the team, that he did not want to lose me and of course they would match the offer.

I was furious. He had the chance to make the same offer just a month earlier, but instead offered me 6%. It was basically an acknowledgement that the company had been taking advantage of me. They knew what I was worth, but unless someone else offered it to me, were happy to try and keep me on the cheap. It spoke volumes about the values of the organisation and how they viewed their employees. That was not the type of leadership team or company I wanted to work for. So I declined the counter offer.

They came back to me 2 weeks later with a new offer of a 50% increment and a bigger title and I turned that down too. If I was worth that now, why wasn’t I worth it before. What was to stop them doing the same thing to me again in a couple of years? I was not trying to be greedy, all I wanted was an employer that would pay me what I was worth and treat me on par with the contribution I make to the organisation.

My principles would not be bought for a little extra cash. You shouldn’t let yours be bought either. So, if you are ever in a situation where you receive a counter offer my advice is simple. Smile, shake their hand and simply reply “If I am worth that, you should have given it to me before”.

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