Hair Band Help for Dealing with Counter Offers….

“Don’t know what you’ve got (till it’s gone)” – perhaps a not so classic tune from the band Cinderella, but a classic statement.  Is Kathy digging back into 80’s rock for inspiration you ask?  No, but week after week I’m reminded of this tune by candidates, friends and colleagues who are faced with the dreaded COUNTER OFFER.

The scenario – you’ve given notice and decided to leave for an incredible new role, challenge in a different industry, a better commute or let’s be honest – more money.  You are the ultimate professional and give 3, even a 4 week notice, make sure the transition is smooth and perhaps even offer to interview replacement candidates.  Then, it happens.  It could be on the 2nd day of notice or your last day…you get the call from the BIG boss with a counter offer.  What now?  Are you flattered?  Are you pissed?  Most certainly, you are confused.

Seriously, how are you supposed to feel about a counter offer? I admit, I’m biased.  I never liked extending them while I was in corporate HR and I certainly don’t appreciate them in my current role; however, bias aside, how are you going to respond given a counter offer situation?

On one hand, it’s extremely flattering.  You obviously are in high demand, you have a skill set the organization knows it can’t easily replace and you’re liked.  On the other hand, why did it take you giving notice for these things to be recognized and/or rewarded?

Some thoughts as you’re making the pro/con list:

  • Am I running from my current company or am I truly excited about the new company?
  • Do I feel undervalued and/or underpaid in my current company?
  • Have I done and learned all I can in my current role?
  • What is the growth potential for me here vs. there?
  • Is my new boss someone I can visualize as a mentor?
  • Will this role give me exposure to a new industry, technology, functional skill set or anything else that will help build my career?
  • Will the new role give me more flexibility?
  • Will I be able to expand beyond my current role quickly?
  • Do I believe I will be a strong cultural fit in the new company?  Does it share my value set?
  • Will the new role push me?  Am I excited or afraid by that?
  • How do I ensure I don’t burn any bridges as I exit?

Again, my biased opinion is once you’ve made the decision to go on the final interview and have a strong offer in hand, it doesn’t bode well if you back out or play one company against the other.  You most certainly will have burned a bridge with the new company and likely the internal or external recruiter (ok – you’ve for sure flamed this bridge).

Tough spot, I know, I’ve been there.  So before you decide to test the waters, be sure you’re really ready to get wet.  Then you hand your ex-boss your old Cinderella CD so he/she is more proactive about keeping rock stars like you engaged!

FOT Background Check

Kathy Rapp
Kathy Rapp is the President of hrQ, where she helps companies find groovy HR Talent or HR Consultants to drive business results.  Prior to joining hrQ, Kathy booked more than 15 years of human resources leadership experience working for such companies as Morgan Stanley and First Data Corporation.  A connoisseur of the intersection between pop culture and business, Kathy believes many talent issues can be addressed via the succession planning lessons experienced by Van Halen  (David Lee/Sammy and sadly, Gary Cherone).


  1. Frannyo says:

    Couldn’t agree more. You’ve most likely burned a bridge with future employer, and, by getting your manager to expend considerable political capital to get you to stay, and by showing that you were going to leave, you’ve basically burned your bridges at current company, too.
    They’ll be nice to you, but they’ll never, EVER forget. And I hope you like the job you’re staying with a lot, because you can kiss that management development track or Hi Potential list Good.Bye. It’s basically assigning yourself to career purgatory. Until you do actually get up the gumption to leave, which most people who take counter-offers do, within 18 months or so.
    Counter offers: don’t offer them, and don’t take them. Just say no, as they said in another 80’s refrain.

  2. Kathy Rapp says:

    Thanks, Franny! All wonderful additional points and especially appreciate the additional 80’s reference! -K

  3. Chris Walker says:

    ‘Don’t it always seem to go / That you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone’
    Joni Mitchell ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ 1970

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