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I am working as a software developer in 200 people company. My team consists of seven developers, including me. Most of the time, I enjoy working with them.

The company didn't handle situations well after this covid-19 started. They fired some critical people, cut down all of the budgets for everything, and began changing priorities for every sprint. Sometime later, my team's responsibilities extended to cover maintaining a legacy system written in another language that I don't have any experience; I don't want to gain any experience in that language. After this started, I discussed it with my team lead about this. My team lead told me that there is nothing we can do about it, and it is enforced by upper management.

I started searching the market for a more suitable job. I got an offer which has a 15% salary increase with more fringe benefits. This week I talked with my team lead. As he told me, he doesn't have any authority over these topics and needs to escalate to his manager. I had a meeting with his manager and talked about my problems. Later the same day, this manager made a counter offer. In this counter offer, the manager told me that I could switch to one of three different teams. This manager said that they can also increase the salary to the offer level, but I have to wait until March 2021. They will start performance reviews in December and finalize in March, and they told me that they wouldn't make any exceptions for me.

I am a little confused because I am tired of starting a new adventure. I don't think I should trust vague promises without any assurance. How should I proceed and handle this situation? Is there any benefit in pressing the current company for some confirmation or better terms?

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    Your existing leverage will be gone by March 2021. That manager may not follow up with his promise because of that. – IDDQD Nov 6 '20 at 13:24
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    One point - the headline says "counter-offer". There IS NO counter-offer. They have literally told you "we don't care and are offering you nothing". They have explicitly and literally told you you will be getting no raise. Please enjoy your great new job! – Fattie Nov 6 '20 at 13:53
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    I was thinking the same. Thank you for confirming me. – Rustumir Stormbraid Nov 6 '20 at 14:04
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    They are telling you that 6 months from now they may match your new salary unless they change their mind or "forget". The new job has better benefits. Are you willing to wait 5 months to see if they actually do match the offer you have right now? – spuck Nov 6 '20 at 16:16
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TLDR: NEVER ACCEPT A COUNTER OFFER:

More nuanced answer:

While there are exceptions, they are very very rare, and the odds are you won't be one of them.

80% of people who accept counter offers are gone from that company within 6 months, at the 12 month mark that goes up to 90%

also cited here, and here, and by US News and world report here as well as Linked in and FORBES here

BUT WHY IS ACCEPTING A COUNTER OFFER A BAD IDEA?

Counter offers are usually about money, but money is actually Very low on the list of why people leave companies.

Even if you get more money, you're still going to be left with the same circumstances that get you thinking "God, I'm not paid enough to put up with this".

Even that isn't about the money, it's what you're putting up with.

So, here are all the things that a counter offer will not fix

  • Lack of faith in the company
  • Relationships with managers
  • Relationships with coworkers
  • Boredom with the job
  • Lack of respect for your time
  • Work-life balance
  • Feeling unappreciated
  • Stress
  • Feeling disrespected in general
  • Lack of growth and responsibilities
  • Having no chance to expand your skills
  • Being micromanaged.....

and the list goes on.

This is why, even after accepting a counter offer, many people move on....

Then, there are the more serious reasons.

Politics is the art of saying "nice doggy" while looking for a rock

The counter offer is the "nice doggy" part. Your old company will never trust you again. You have already stated that you are unhappy and want to leave. If they are smart, they make a counter offer to give themselves the breathing room to get a replacement for you, and then get rid of you when your new coworker is up to speed.

There are too many things in the "downsides" column to make the risk worth the reward.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Nov 9 '20 at 12:48
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The moment you told your current employer you had another offer, you got marked. You need to move now. They now know (or perceive) you as a non-loyal employee.

I have to wait until March 2021.

Huge red flag. They know that by then the other offer will be gone. If they wanted to pay you this much, if they thought you were worth it, they'd have done it before you start job seeking. At the very minimum a counter offer has to be immediate. But anyway most people won't even consider counter offers.

There's no advantage to pressing on with current employer. Thank them, but continue on. Also keep in mind that making a counter offer is just normal process. It is someone's job. It doesn't mean they think highly of you. They could still not go on with the raise, and your offer would be gone.

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    'The moment you told your current employer you had another offer, you got marked.' That's exactly what the other answers aren't covering. The damage is done, with or without accepting the counter-offer since any reasonable employer will now have to react in the companies best interest - and we all know what that means .. – iLuvLogix Nov 7 '20 at 10:11
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    "a counter offer has to be immediate" Exactly. Or they are literally saying "we will not counter". – Fattie Nov 7 '20 at 13:05
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    Plus waiting until March gives them several months to find his replacement – Richard Nov 7 '20 at 23:09
  • I am in academia as a postdoc. Can Somebody explain me why the company-employee relation sounds like a love story? I do not understand the loyal-employee part? Would the boss itself stayed in the company if they had a better opportunity? Why would anyone be loyal to a company? You are getting paid in return for your service while making someone else richer. What incentives are there for loyalty and why would anyone care? It is not as if they are raising children as a couple or as if they are in an intense love relation like a newly-married couple! Even in marriage law protects rather loyalty! – MOON Dec 3 '20 at 16:45
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The only hard rule in business is that there are no hard rules. My suggestion is that you consider the new job and the counteroffer, and do what you think is best for you.

I once accepted a counteroffer, and I do not regret having done so. My employer didn't start looking for replacements, there was no discussion about my loyalty, and I was pretty happy with my job. I eventually left three years later; my previous employer is now my client, and we still have a good relationship. And guess what: the counteroffer didn't even include a pay raise.

In my case, I was dissatisfied with a reorganization which affected me negatively. I knew it was not personal, but I saw no path to going back to the team I wanted to be in. I found an offer with a greatly increased salary, but at a company which would give me less professional and personal satisfaction.

I gave my notice, which led me to a meeting with a C level executive (this is at a company with around 5000 employees), to whom I explained the situation. They told me I could go to whatever team I wanted, whenever I wanted from now on. That showed me enough goodwill, so I moved to the team I wanted, which gave me some very solid experience, which eventually led me to my current job, where I'm paid even more, and with a lot of upward mobility.

Recruiters will be furious, because they lost a lead, and they don't want that to happen, so they come up with the reasons you will find on almost any website, including that commonly unfounded statistic of 80%, 90%, 76%, or whatever.

But guess what, I didn't even "burn the bridge" with my potential new company, nor with the recruiter. In fact, it was the same recruiter who helped me land my current job several years later. The moral of the story is that you shouldn't believe every horror story that you hear.

A job is a business exchange. You do a job in exchange for money. Nobody is doing favors to anybody here, so that talk of loyalty is nonsense. Especially in IT, and other specialized fields, finding somebody who is good is very expensive and time consuming, so it makes sense for a company to want to retain their talent. But it is true that if you want to quit because of cultural issues, it is likely that the problem won't change by accepting the counteroffer.

I'm not saying that you should stay, or that the same that happened to me will happen to you. Instead, I suggest you carefully consider the pros and cons of taking the new job or the counteroffer, and decide based on what you think is best for you. Not what's best for the company, not what's best for the recruiter. What's important here is you and your future. If you make you decision with your best interests in mind, you won't regret that decision.

I'll leave you with a refreshingly honest article about reasons why you may want to accept a counteroffer.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/yes-sometimes-you-can-accept-counter-offer-adam-karpiak

Good luck with your decision!

Appendix

"x% of employees leave after y months anyways"

Since I initially wrote this answer, I've searched quite a bit for some primary sources of this quote, and so far I've found none. There are hundreds of sites attributing similar quotes to some unnamed "research" or "data", and almost all of them have different numbers for it. It almost seems as this is a typical case of a logical fallacy called "argument from authority", or even "proof by repeated assertion".

Interestingly, I found a recruiter who has dedicated some time finding this mythical data, and is offering 250 British pounds to a charity of your choice, if you can find some serious research, with statistically significant data on counteroffers, regardless of the actual numbers.

Before you read one of those millions of sites asserting that you should never accept counteroffers, keep these points in mind:

  • Look at who's writing the article. Chances are that it is written by a recruiter or a recruiting firm. Counteroffers are definitely negative for recruiters, since accepted counteroffers mean no bonus, and that the time spent on working on a particular lead is "wasted". If you choose to consider the recruiter's feelings and finances when making a decision, make sure it is a conscious choice, and not just that you're being manipulated.
  • Without knowing the exact methodology used to arrive to these numbers, it's difficult to know what's behind them. For example, online surveys are often susceptible to self-selection and confirmation biases, which means that people who had a bad experience with a counteroffer are more likely to participate in an online poll about counteroffers, and that can seriously skew the results.

On loyalty

One of the commonly mentioned reasons to reject counteroffers is that "when you put your notice, they know you are not loyal, and will start finding your replacement, and try to fire you as soon as possible".

I find this assertion to be complete rubbish, and it looks much more as an urban legend, than a real issue. Let's take a closer look:

  • "They know you are not loyal": A work contract is not like marriage. I don't think many companies are expecting that you will work with them from graduation to retirement. Most likely this is not the first company for you, your manager, or at least somebody in the entire company. If this assertion were true, why would a different company hire you, since doing so would mean that you were already "unloyal" to a previous company?
  • "they will start hiring somebody else": Hiring rarely works like this. Teams usually have open headcount or they don't. Especially for IT and specialized fields, hiring is extremely difficult, so even if headcount opens, it doesn't necessarily mean that they will find somebody right away.
  • "They will fire you when they can": This is in my opinion the most ridiculous part. If a company gives you a counteroffer, it means that they want you to stay. Firing somebody who is bringing enough value to give a counteroffer, just because they looked somewhere else sometime in the past, is not a very good reason to do so. Furthermore, firing somebody is way more expensive than having them quit voluntarily (depending on the jurisdiction), so make sure you keep all of this into account when making your decision.
  • You are not the first person to ever put a notice, and you won't be the last. Even if considering a new job is a big change in your life, it is a relatively insignificant event for the company. You either stay or leave, but in either way, business continues, and the company continues. In fact, only a handful of people (manager, some at HR, etc.) will ever know about this, and for them, this is part of what they do every day, so don't overthink it.

Salary

"If they increase your salary now, why didn't they did so before?", the saying goes. And the answer is "because you weren't threatening to leave back then!". That's how leverage works, and it would be unwise to threaten to leave a company unless you get a raise, if you don't have a solid offer in your other hand.

Remember that companies are meant to spend the least, while making the most. When you put your notice, a rational company will consider what the cost of losing you is, and offer you no more than that. That's perfectly fine, and that's part of what doing business is all about.

Regret

In my opinion, the most important aspect of making a decision is not regretting it. You may accept the counteroffer, only to get fired later; and you may go to the new company, only to find it didn't work out. You only get to choose one path, and you don't know how it will turn out.

When making decisions, what works for me, is analyzing the pros and cons of each path, and if I make the decision that makes the most sense, I know I won't regret it, even if it doesn't turn out how I expected in the long run.

My suggestion to OP is the same. Analyze the situation, and make what makes the most rational sense.

  • I have an indefinite contract which makes it very hard to fire an employee. I need to receive several official warnings and after that, they have to negotiate with me for compensation. If we can't agree on the terms it will be resolved at the court which isn't good for both sides. – Rustumir Stormbraid Nov 9 '20 at 12:02
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    Very detailed and good answer. Just one thing: There has not been such a thing as a "Counter Offer". What OP describes as the "counter offer" is quite literally a "love it or leave it". – Fildor Nov 9 '20 at 14:22
  • I have also accepted a counter-offer. It was 100% the right thing to do. I did end up leaving 6months later, but for an even higher salary and better job than either of the initial two jobs. IT was a way of getting two job switching pay-rises, but only switching jobs once. – UEFI Nov 9 '20 at 14:25
  • @Fildor: I think the situation is much more complex, or OP wouldn't have asked here. Regardless, I think my suggestion still applies: if after carefully considering the pros and cons of staying or leaving, they find that it is better to leave, then they should leave. – Panda Pajama Nov 10 '20 at 0:36
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    A belated welcome to the site Panda Pajama and thanks for the very detailed answer. It's very useful to have a bit of a counterpoint to the commonly accepted wisdom around not accepting counter offers. As this question was closed, I'd strongly encourage you to post this answer on this related question, either as-is or with minimal changes to reflect the different context. – Lilienthal Nov 17 '20 at 20:10
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Simple Rule of Counter Offers:

Does it protect you from the following situation?

  • The company raises your pay/benefits/whatever to stop you leaving today

  • They immediately start training/hiring someone to replace you

  • In 2 months, once they've mitigated any damage from you leaving and got someone to replace you, they let you go

The answer is almost always "It doesn't", which is why you should almost always reject a Counter Offer.

In your case they're not even offering to pay you more money in the interim, so no, you shouldn't take it.

  • OP is working as a software developer. Software developers are not that easy to replace. Finding a suitable candidate can take several months (though maybe the market has changed with Covid) and building up company-specific and product-specific domain knowledge will also take several months. – Jan Nov 8 '20 at 13:16
  • @jan You’d like to think so, and I might even agree with you in some cases, but even where it’s true it’s a rare company that actually recognises that. And the ones that do tend to not underpay their people in the first place. All of which to say, it doesn’t matter if they’re screwing themselves because you’ll still be laid off. – Kaz Nov 8 '20 at 15:14
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but I have to wait until....

Forget it, walk away, get out of there as soon as you possibly can, and start at the new job the first day possible.

How should I proceed ...

As always when quitting a company, simply be extremely polite and direct.

(There are literally 100s of questions on this site with copy-and-paste "how to resign" emails.)


So to summarize,

You face one single-minded task. Get out of there as soon as you possibly can.

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    Without explanation why this is just a random Internet opinion. – mxyzplk Nov 6 '20 at 16:53
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    This really isn't an answer – Old_Lamplighter Nov 7 '20 at 15:43
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    It's also unnecessarily over-dramatic – Asteroids With Wings Nov 8 '20 at 4:25

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