Number 1 Career Mistake: Accepting a counter offer after you resign

Regardless of your motivation, you've made the decision to resign from your current employer. Whether it was salary, stress or something else, you made the decision to leave. Andthe number 1 career mistake you can make is accepting a counter offer after you resign. 

You were originally hired for the role because you were the best candidate available. The company spent time training you and allocating work to you so you could use your skills to succeed. Because of this, you might receive a counter offer after you submit your letter of resignation. 

A counter offer is a salary hike or a promotion given to you by your current employer as a means to keep you on the team. If they know what your motivations for leaving are, they can offer up a pretty enticing package to encourage you to reconsider.

Counter offers can be financially or emotionally based.


You submit your resignation to your employer and your employer delivers a counter offer with an increase in your current salary, comission structure and/or bonus packages. If they are privy to the details of the first offer you've received, your current employer will most likely match or even beat the compensation. 


An emotionally-driven counter offer is delivered in a reiteration of your value to the company with suggestions for improvement and promises of better things to come in the future. If your decision to leave was not due to monetary reasons, and you feel a sense of loyalty to the company, it can be tempting to stick it out. 


Receiving a counter offer is quite common in most industries. It takes lot of time and money for a company to find and replace valuable staff, so unless the decision is mutual, the company will want to do what it can to retain the employee. 


Despite enticing counter offers and feelings of guilt you may feel, you should decline  a counter offer for the sake of your career. 

Counters are for the company's benefit, not yours. Even though it can certainly be a sign that you're a valued member of the team, the truth is, it's cheaper and better for the company to keep your role filled until they are ready to replace it. 

Yes, you are an asset, but only because it will cost more to replace you than keep you, especially if your resignation has come as a surprise or at a time when your company cannot be without resources. Boosting your salary or promoting you is a means to keep you at the organization until you become more disposable.

Why is accepting a counter offer the number one career mistake you can make?

A counter offer is a short-term solution. It's unlikely that the organizational factors will be resolved quickly or that you will see another raise anytime soon.  It is probable that you will no longer be with the company within 6-12 months of accepting an appealing counter offer. Your initial reasons for leaving will pop up again (or never go away!) and you will resign, you will be terminated by the company that convinced you not to leave in the first place, or any number of other things can happen in that time frame.

You've compromised the most important part of your professional relationship: trust

Telling your employer that you have accepted a new offer indicates you are unhappy and are looking for a change. If you've looked once, you'll probably look again. Your employer can't trust that you plan on sticking around. 

You won't feel any financial gain in the long run

A better pay package may make you happy in the short term, but these financial gains are unlikely to last. The extra money to keep you on board came from somewhere. It could have been money allocated toward a bonus or future raise that doesn't exist anymore. This diminishes the true value of the counter offer for you in the long run.

You are burning bridges

Think about the offer you've already accepted. By declining a previously accepted offer, you're burning a bridge with that company and any hiring authority you met with. Not only will you be less likely to get a job at that company in the future, you will have made a bad impression on the employees who may go on to work at a variety of organizations, meaning no jobs at those either. 

You tarnish your reputation

Accepting a counter offer after you’ve made the decision to leave makes you look indecisive, flaky and unauthoritative. You undoubtedly shift your relationships with colleagues and superiors in a backward direction. Your team members will speculate what kind of special deal you received while your superiors will wonder how long you'll be around before you decide to leave again.

While a counter offer seems exciting on the surface, it's far from a testament of your value. A counter offer is the career Kiss of Death.