Over the last 3 weeks, I've been preparing myself to leave my current job. I've already done my interviews and I'm on the verge of accepting an offer to become technical lead at my new employer.

My boss realized that I could be planning to resign and extended an offer that included a promotion and a small pay increase - roughly $400 extra. I told her I'll sleep over it during the weekend and get back to her on the following week - which is today. I want to turn down the offer from my boss and give my resignation notice.

What are the proper steps? Should I serve my resignation notice first or to have a conversation with her first to explain my true feelings?

  • 29
    Usual wisdom here in Workplace SE is not accepting counter-offer :D And the way to do it is "Thank you for your kind offer, but I decided to ...blah blah ..."
    – rs.29
    Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 8:19
  • 31
    Question: "the verge of accepting an offer" does that mean the other company has already sent the offer and you haven't accepted or that you have interviewed and haven't gotten an offer yet - and you expect THAT today? Because without an offer on the table, you have nothing to resign over yet...
    – WernerCD
    Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 14:16
  • 7
    Is there a reason you had to think about it? Why not accept the pay increase. Then IF you receive an external offer you can make a decision to leave at that point. Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 16:53
  • 16
    Not that the details matter in the grand scheme of things, but can you edit your question to clarify whether this is $400 per week, per pay period, per month, per year?
    – shoover
    Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 17:15
  • 6
    Please clarify if you have an actual offer from the other company. Until that happens, you should not leave your current position. Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 20:10

8 Answers 8


Since you mention:

"I told her I'll sleep over it during the weekend and get back to her on the following week - which is today".

First, talk to your boss. You should not getting into any discussion about "true feeling" or stuff, keep the conversation limited to informing about your decision. Have a meeting, inform about your decision to not to accept the offer extended by them and to provide the notice.

Then, follow this up with a formal email to your boss and HR.

Note: As mentioned in the comments, only have discussion/ meeting with your boss about the decision after you have an offer from the new employer, signed and sealed.

  • 30
    I would only do this though after having accepted a signed offer from the new employer Commented Jun 8, 2021 at 7:57

When resigning, it's always common courtesy to notify your boss in person (or at least video conference/phone call), and then send the formal e-mail afterwards for HR records.

Note that if you have already decided to take the other job, then there's no need for a "conversation". You can simply thank her for the offer, tell her you've accepted another offer, and wish her well:

Thank you for the offer last week, I really appreciated it. However, after long and careful consideration, I've decided to take the other opportunity. My last day will be X.

There's nothing to be gained by getting drawn into a debate, and you also don't need to discuss your motivations or "true feelings" in detail.

  • 4
    +1, nice note that covers all the elements and gives a positive impression (which is always useful, you never know the odds)
    – WoJ
    Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 14:52
  • In the US, as I understand it, the responsibility for telling HR that you have quit lies with the manager, who is responsible for telling HR that they should tell Payroll to stop paying you. That said, it is courteous to let HR know, and it is very unusual for being courteous to bring blowback.
    – Badger
    Commented Jun 9, 2021 at 3:52
  • @Badger Yes, the mail should be sent to the manager, who is responsible for forwarding it. Commented Jun 9, 2021 at 4:50

IF YOUR "COUNTER-OFFER" IS NOT IN WRITING, THEN YOU DON'T HAVE A COUNTER-OFFER! All this stuff about thinking about it over the weekend is probably a waste of time. If the second employer provides a written offer and your current employer has not, then take the new offer.

I believe every HR department knows about the value of producing a concrete writing over this kind of thing, and if that hasn't happened, they may be stringing you along until a replacement can be found or there's no gossip going around about you leaving. It's unfortunate that companies sometimes prey on people who don't understand protocol, but they do.

  • 5
    This isn't really answering the question? The OP has no intention of taking the counter-offer. Commented Jun 8, 2021 at 11:08

Do not talk to your boss in any way that may indicate you could possibly leave soon, because you don't yet know if you'll leave soon. The usual advice is not to resign until you've signed your new contract. In your case this might fall through, so it's in your best interest to accept your current employer's offer (or ask for a bit more), exactly because you may well be stuck there for a little while longer. Good luck!

  • This assumes that the counter-offer doesn't add time in a commitment way. Most places in the U.S. are usually 'at will' meaning either party can end the employment agreement at any time. There are, of course, exceptions, even in the U.S. and I am not aware of what the legalities are elsewhere. Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 20:09

Always remember your boss is not your friend. That doesn't mean they are your enemy, just not your friend. Your relationship, like most relationships in business, is partly cooperative and partly adversarial. During everyday work it is easy to focus on the cooperative bits and forget about the adversarial ones, but pay and conditions are intrinsically adversarial.

The conventions for navigating this mix of cooperative and adversarial stuff are known as "professional behaviour":

  • You owe your boss (and by extension your employer) your best efforts during working hours. Full stop.

  • Your "true feelings" are irrelevant to the business relationship you have with your boss. Leave them at the door.

  • Having an employee leave is a routine hassle for your boss. They won't welcome the news, but it's their job to deal with it. It is not your problem.

The professional way to deal with this is to provide your boss with maximum warning of your departure consistent with safeguarding your own interests. Therefore you should get a signed contract with your new employer first. Until then you are still negotiating.

Once you have the signed contract, write a short letter to your boss, CC the HR department. State that you will be leaving the company and give the date you plan to leave (obviously, after your notice period expires). Thank them for the improved offer but say that you have decided to leave because you feel that your new post is better in line with your longer-term career aspirations. Say you have enjoyed working there and wish them well for the future.

(The last bit is standard fluff/politeness; part of those "professional behaviour" conventions I mentioned).

Ask the boss for a meeting. Tell them the key points and hand the letter over. Keep it short and impersonal. If your boss is behaving professionally they will accept this, say how sorry they are to lose you, wish you well, and end the meeting.

If the boss starts to probe for reasons or suggesting a pay rise, shut the conversation down by making it clear that your departure is non-negotiable. You have already signed a contract with your new employer, so increased offers don't matter. If the boss asks personal questions about happiness or stuff, stick to the line about your career ambitions. Keep it generic, even if that sounds awkward. Remember that if your boss really valued you that much they would have made an improved offer before it got to this point. If it really gets sticky then end the meeting yourself; "I'm sorry, I don't think this is getting us anywhere, so if you don't mind I'd like to end this."

After the meeting, send a copy of your resignation letter to HR.

  • Great suggestion although I disagree with one point in your email suggestion where you state "...because you feel that your new post is better in line with your longer-term career aspirations". Like you mentioned earlier, his feelings are irrelevant. Stick to the facts in the resignation email and leave the feelings out of it. Keep it simple where you thank them for the improved offer but have accepted a position with another company. That's all they need to know.
    – rhoonah
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 3:32
  • @rhoonah Its pretty meh either way. The nice thing about statements starting "I feel" is that they can't be argued with. If you said "because they pay more" then you've opened up an avenue of attack. If you say nothing then it just invites questions. Saying "I feel...." shuts down those questions before they start. Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 22:38
  • I don't think that is always true. When you say "I feel..." that can be an avenue for the person to say "well WHY do you feel that way?" or start to tell you reality, how they see it, versus your subjective feelings. My point was simply to agree with your initial comment of leaving feelings out of it altogether.
    – rhoonah
    Commented Dec 2, 2022 at 12:38

I don't think it is necessary to talk about your personal feeling. Or you could write one or two sentence like "I appreciate your offer but I consider that would be a better chance" it would be OK.

Be professional, no more delay. Just direct send a mail ASAP, first let boss know, then send mail to HR after boss confirm he received.


Accept the offer

Unless: it comes with a minimum time to work at the current company and/or changes the resignation period.

Reason: you have not mentioned that the offer from the new company is in writing or (what you should wait for) accepted, signed and done.

Reason2: it's not a counter offer -> unless they know you've got a written offer in hand.

Why accept the (counter-) offer before the new offer is signed and done?

Because they will be paying you somewhat more for the period of time you have left there until you leave for the new job.

There is no reason to turn it down, unless the points above come into play.

Another thing it might do is camouflage any rumours about you leaving.

When you've later accepted your new offer / contract, then you talk to your boss again and hand in your resignation. It may not come across as the most tidy / comfortable / easiest or honest thing to, but that's how the literal black & white of contracts work. On their part they'll simply be hoping that it plays on your guilt, along the lines of "(s)he just accepted a new contract, they won't be leaving soon or they would've declined". But that's where a termination period comes.

The most important thing to always remember: unless you've signed a new contract, it's only an offer, which may be withdrawn at any time. So quit only after ensuring your new position.

  • 1
    This is a really good point that hadn't occurred to me. The offer from Current Company can only be declined if accepting offer from New Company at the same time. If there is ANY lag time between the decision point re offer from Current Company and the arrival of signed employment contract from New Company, then graciously accepting the new pay rate (assuming it's not attached to a commitment in length of employment) is the only correct move... even though it will be awkward to resign shortly after accepting a pay raise.
    – Alex M
    Commented Jun 8, 2021 at 20:30
  • 2
    You'll have to weigh the pros (a likely very short term of marginally higher compensation) against the cons (you're cashing in whatever goodwill you have with your soon-to-be-ex employer for that money).
    – obscurans
    Commented Jun 8, 2021 at 22:52
  • @obscurans to be fair: what are the chances anyone goes back to a former boss? Not saying burning bridges is smart, but following agreements should not equal burning bridges. If it does, you wouldn't want to go back there anyway, right?
    – rkeet
    Commented Jun 9, 2021 at 9:34
  • @rkeet It truly depends on the circumstances. For example, Google is famous as a revolving door: people leave to try startups, come back to the mothership when/if that doesn't pan out - sometimes promoted from where they left. Burning a bridge there (should you be attempting this) would be rather unwise. There's legal, and then there's clearly annoying.
    – obscurans
    Commented Jun 9, 2021 at 14:42

It's kind of strange that the promotion and money are offered at the moment you are about to leave. Why wasn't this offered before? The more reason to leave. I'm sorry to say, but I would tell my boss to %$^^%$!

Likewise, I was offered a price reduction for my communication and tv packet, when I decided to change company. Naturally, I declined.

  • 3
    This is actually very common. Commented Jun 8, 2021 at 9:44

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