The Counter-Offer: Its impact on your career

Every business and media channel is currently discussing the ‘Great Resignation’ – a term coined by Forbes to highlight how, in the last year, and in no small part down to Covid-19, employees are taking the bull by the horns, and deciding to either pivot in their careers or move on to a new employer. The ‘Big Quit’, as it’s also often referred to, is a modern phenomenon undoubtedly brought on by a once-in-a-century reshuffling of societal values.   

The events of the last two years have afforded a lot of people with somewhat of an epiphany. Now, more than ever, the notion of ‘life’s too short to not take risks’ is a sentiment we hear more and more often from our friends, family and colleagues.  

In light of this (especially in the digital, eCommerce and innovation sectors), there is huge demand for talented candidates and this has naturally led to a counter-offer culture. Understandable, given how difficult it is to retain great talent and given how agile talented individuals are within the job market.  

If we roll back slightly to the 2008 recession, most professionals were relieved they simply had a job. Times were, to put it mildly, tough! People you knew were either being made redundant or took off to Australia in search of better career prospects. If you were lucky enough to have a job, you certainly made sure you kept it. 

The years went on and the job market steadily improved in Ireland. With the recruitment market growing alongside the economy, peoples’ perspectives began to change. 

In addition, the flurry of new tech companies setting up shop in Dublin provided professionals with the added incentive of embarking on a fresh and exciting adventure, the ability to upskill and the possibility of reviving one’s interest in their career. However, as new job offers began pouring into the Irish job market, so too did the frequency of counter-offers by employers. This counter-offer culture has only emboldened in the aftermath of the pandemic.   

But it’s not all smooth sailing for the lucky candidate who just got a career upgrade. They’ve been with a certain company for a while, and once word gets out they intend to leave, their current employers aren’t going to let the company’s time, money and stability just walk out the door.

From the current employer’s perspective, it makes perfect sense. After investing their valuable resources on an employee, they’re not going to let them go without a fight. 

The Offer 

Now, to the candidate who’s just secured their new job, leaving just got a whole lot tougher. Suddenly, often after years of lacklustre employer engagement, insufficient pay and limited career advancement prospects, they’re suddenly inundated with as much as possible to keep them on-board. Be it more money, benefits, a fancy new job title or better conditions. In short, the employer cannot afford to lose an employee. So herein lies the dilemma. 

The counter-offer scenario can be quite an uncomfortable situation for the employee and employer. In addition to this, it is further complicated and has a ripple effect beyond these parties as it inherently involves the new employers and the recruiters working on their behalf as well.  

Here’s the counter-offer journey:  

  • The employee has verbally accepted an offer from another business and hands in their notice to resign. 
  • After having accepted this resignation and listened to the employee’s motivations for wanting to leave, the current employer subsequently makes a counter-offer against the prospective new employer.  
  • The employee must now decide.  

Someone is bound to get disappointed along this process and too often it is the employee who loses the most. 

Trick or Treat? 

It’s true that having accepted another position puts one in a strong bargaining position with their current employer and may yield them some worthy rewards should they decide to stay. However, these rewards usually only exist in the short run. 

Initially the employee will enjoy more pay, the sudden “recognition” of their value, and the attention of management. Perhaps a few interesting projects, too. This, combined with the added peace of mind of not starting over in a new workplace and a change in routine can be enough to satisfy most. 

In the long run, however, the employee who chooses to stay often lives to regret that decision. In most cases, the negotiated package doesn’t satisfy the original issue which led the employee to look at other prospects in the first place. 

Keep it Real

As enticing as counter-offers may appear to be, it is vital for the employee to take a step back. They must consider the options available to them carefully. And most importantly, the consequences of any action taken.  

Before accepting any offer it’s important to take time to think objectively. From the basics, such as the finances, benefits, and commuting, to considering the company culture and social fit. The employee should also consider which organisation they can add most value to and which position will be best for their overall career.  

Above all else, it is crucial to ask yourself why you are looking to changing jobs or indeed career. New challenges can be scary, and change is often difficult but if the last two years have taught us anything it’s how adaptable we all are to change.

To Conclude:

To help you decide whether to accept the counter-offer or the new job, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • What are your career objectives, and which job meets your personal ambitions to achieve them? 
  • Why do you want to leave your current job? Is it just about the money? 
  • Are you simply looking for a change of scenery? and if so, why? 
  • Why are you interested in this specific job you’ve accepted? 
  • How committed are you to taking up a new position in a new company, with all that entails? 
  • If you truly intend on staying at your current job, what might be some better, more effective ways to gain recognition and compensation for your work? 

Pre-empting the counter-offer will help the candidate manage their reaction and their decision-making process. Often it is the unexpected nature of a counter-offer that creates an emotional reaction when a candidate thought they were simply handing in their notice.

As with all things in life, preparation is key and candidates should always anticipate a counter-offer so that they are emotionally and intellectually ready to handle it with clarity, common sense and having already weighed up the pros and cons of leaving vs staying. 


Ellie Doyle,
Founder at TalentHub
Declan Whelan,
Resourcer at TalentHub

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