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You sit down with your boss to tell her you’ve been offered a job elsewhere and that you’ll be leaving the company in a few weeks. It will probably be an awkward conversation—and it will become even more uncomfortable when she asks you to stay. She might offer you better incentives, like more money or a job promotion. But as enticing as the counteroffer may be, career experts say there are a few things you’ll need to think about before you accept.
Should I share details of the new job with my current employer?
You probably won’t want to disclose the salary you’re being offered by the other company. “If you decide to tell your boss the new salary, he or she may realize that [money is what’s] pulling you away from the company,” says Tina Nicolai, an executive career coach and résumé writer. In response, the boss may counteroffer with more money, a bonus, a promotion, or better work schedule to get you to stay.
Why did I start looking for a new job in the first place?
Was it only about money? Was it because you weren’t satisfied with the work you were doing? Perhaps you’re looking for a new challenge, new colleagues, a new corporate culture, or flexibility at work? Maybe you are switching industries to follow a passion or interest? If you are presented with a counteroffer, know that accepting it typically prevents you from accomplishing these goals, says Miriam Salpeter, job search coach, owner of Keppie Careers and author of Social Networking for Career Success and 100 Conversations for Career Success.
However, if money was the only motivating factor in looking for a new job, the counteroffer may be something to consider—but know that you’d potentially burn two bridges at once if you were to accept.
Will my job be on the line if I decide to stay?
Jim Stroud, director of sourcing and social strategy at Bernard Hodes Group and author of Resume Forensics: How To Find Free Resumes and Passive Candidates on Google, says your employer may counteroffer because they want you to stick around long enough to find a replacement, “and paying a little extra now is worth it in terms of keeping the train moving, versus the potential delays and issues that would arise from an empty cubicle seat.” But this could be dangerous for you, he says. “I suspect that most companies do not see this as a long-term expense, as you have already ‘outted’ yourself as a flight risk. Most likely, they will let you go once they have someone else to replace you. Forgive me if that sounds cynical, but I have spoken with people that have experienced that first hand.”
How will I be treated if I accept the counteroffer and stay?
If you accept a counteroffer, you may be scrutinized within your organization, Salpeter says. “Now, everyone knows you were looking for a new job. If they are paying you more, or offering you the terms you requested, your employer is going to expect something significant in return. It may be hard for some people to deliver on those expectations while in the same work environment. How motivated will you be to deliver?”
Do they really value me as an employee?
Nicolai says if you have tried to resolve issues in the workplace–whether it’s more money, a new title, a better work schedule, or time off–and the situation was not resolved prior to putting in your two weeks’ notice, then know that the proposed counteroffer is likely only being offered to benefit the employer. “If the employer were sincere, the proposed offer would have been made when you originally approached your boss with your concerns.”
How can I turn down the job offer without burning bridges?
Ideally, you’d only engage in a counteroffer conversation before you officially accepted the job (after you receive an offer in writing and before responding). “In this case, I think it is best to simply state that you appreciate the offer and the organization’s time, effort, and energy in the interviewing and hiring process, but that you have decided not to accept the job. Be prepared for a conversation with the recruiter or hiring manager, who may be very upset or shocked,” Salpeter says.
Another option: “At this time, I have decided to stay with my current employer. I cannot thank you enough for your time and interest surrounding my interview process. I have truly enjoyed meeting everyone at your company. I would like to keep our communication and relationship ongoing,” Nicolai’s suggests.
Stroud says he would offer his apologies and provide a list of referrals that the other company may want to contact in his place.
How can I turn down the counteroffer without burning bridges?
If you determine that accepting the counteroffer isn’t in your best interest, you should decline politely to avoid burning bridges. “You never know. You may have to work with that person again in a new capacity. Maybe they will become a customer. Maybe they will be pals with an executive you are trying to partner with. It’s a very small world,” Stroud says.
First, thank your boss for the counteroffer and say, “I am truly flattered, but wheels have been set in motion and I cannot renege on my word. I realize that my leaving may put you at a disadvantage which is why I have put my work in order, made notes on all the projects I am currently working on and giving you a list of potential hires that I have already vetted.”
A week after leaving the company, send a thank you note for the lessons learned while working at the past employer, Stroud suggests.