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I just read through a few career articles, all saying that once you apply elsewhere it's better to stick to it. And that in general, accepting an offer to stay is a bad idea (over 80% of those who do, end up out within 9 months anyway).

But what are the exceptions to this? On this article titled Why You Shouldn't Take a Counteroffer, it says :

Now, are there times where accepting a counteroffer makes sense and works out? Sure, there are always exceptions.

What would be these exceptions? I'm guessing it's a wildly huge increase in pay, like 100% or so. But it would seem that's going to cause issues with coworkers.

Wouldn't the resentment that you started looking around linger?

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    All the counter offer acceptances that I know about didn't last long. The people ended up leaving anyway. – Kilisi Sep 20 '15 at 20:51
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    I accepted a counter offer early on in my career. I'd been with my employer for a bit over a year and had a job offer from another company that had a 17% higher salary. My employer at the time offered to match the increased salary, pay for my Internet connection and give me additional vacation time. I ended up staying there for another 15 years. – Benny Hill Sep 21 '15 at 2:12
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    @BennyHill At that time when you decided to take the counteroffer, were there any particular "signs" that helped you know it was a good move? Or would you say it was like a gamble that ultimately paid off? – Brandin Sep 21 '15 at 10:17
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    I took a counteroffer three years ago, and haven't seen any fallout from it. What I think made a difference was that I didn't tell my boss, "Look, I'm being offered $x more dollars, you got anything to top that?" I'm sure that would have been bad mojo, because it would have appeared that I was merely leveraging the external offer for more money intentionally. Instead I went to my boss and said, "Here's my 2-weeks' notice. It's been REALLY great working here, but I just got an offer I can't refuse" He quickly counteroffered, and since doing so was HIS idea, I don't think he held it against me. – loneboat Sep 21 '15 at 16:23
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    @DA., Another requirement is your bosses need to be professional enough not to hold it against you that you looked for another job. They should realize that it's just business for an employee to be looking to improve their situation; but unfortunately human nature doesn't always let people be that dispassionate about their relationship with their employees. – The Photon Sep 22 '15 at 22:32
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It only makes sense to accept a counter offer if it addresses all of your reasons for looking elsewhere (pay, responsibilities, frustrations, growth opportunities, etc.). These "if" and "all" criteria are nearly impossible to meet, which means you will likely still be dissatisfied, and is why most counter offer situations end up with the person leaving anyway.

If you like your current job and are only looking elsewhere because there are things you believe your company is not able to provide to you, and then you find out the company can indeed provide those to you (and it's not just empty, desperate promises), then you might be fine choosing to stay. But you would need to find out and be comfortable with the reasons why these things were not available to you until now.

Often, the company is assuming that if you're not complaining out loud, you're happy. A resignation letter from a valued team member should be a huge wake-up call to your manager. If it is not, seek better opportunities and be glad for the experience you have gained.

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    +1 for "all of your reasons". I accepted a counter offer in a job and stayed there for another 3 years. I found out that I was making way less than I should be and another job offer found its way to me. I really liked the company I worked for, so money really was the only reason I wanted to leave. I ended up getting a very large raise, and I was happy. I should also note that I asked them for the offer since I really wanted to stay. – JPhi1618 Sep 21 '15 at 13:17
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    To add to this (Kent covered the key points), your company might now see you as a "flight risk" who may leave in the future if a better offer comes up again. Even if your demands were fair, it's your employer's job to get the most out of you for as little pay as possible. Accepting a counteroffer often means you are "unpromotable", and your current position and paygrade is likely where you'll peak with your current employer. – DevNull Sep 21 '15 at 13:34
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    Whether you're a "flight risk" depends on the reason you were looking in the first place. The one time I accepted a counter-offer was when it upgraded my 1 year contract to a permanent position. The original contract wasn't bad in itself, it just was expiring. That obviously was a reason for me to look around, as I would need a new contract from someone. When my employer realized that they had caused the acute flight risk themselves, it was fairly soon resolved, but only after I had received an offer from another company. – MSalters Sep 21 '15 at 14:40
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    +1 for "all of your reasons" too. I'll add that I have accepted a counter offer one time in my career. In that case I was leaving due to the city I was living in, nothing related to the job itself. So when they offered to let me work remote, I jumped at the chance. It worked out well. I actually worked remote from my RV (and 7 kids) while we travelled the country for 5 months. I settled down in a new town (not the one I originally was targeting) and kept that job for a little over a year after getting the extension. I then left for a better opportunity and benefits. – Bill Leeper Sep 21 '15 at 14:47
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    I think that a resignation letter straight from nowhere is not a good move, if shows you were willing to definitely move and were acting on it. Asking for salary reevaluation might be a better move: you show awareness about your own value without touching the subject of having participated in interviews. – Spidey Oct 2 '15 at 10:53
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In the cases I know of, coworkers didn't know each others salaries, so causing issues with coworkers wasn't on the table. The salary increase also wasn't a ridiculous 100% which would either mean the company can't afford to pay you long term, or they undervalued you so much for so long that you should run, now.

In these cases, the counter offer was a decent raise, usually combined with a different position i.e. a promotion. Other perks such as a 6 month sabbatical can be part of the deal too.

One other version of the counteroffer which is a bit different is if they offer a time-limited contract. E.g. "Joe we really need you, we want to hire you for twice what you made before - as contractor for the next 6 months to finish this important project".

I can't think of any case where the counteroffer involved keeping the exact same job and people stayed on for more than a year after that.

10

If you just handed in your resignation, without first trying (hard enough) to resolve the problems that resulted in you deciding to leave, then it's entirely possible (although not particularly likely) that accepting a counter-offer would work out.

Just make sure that you find permanent solutions to your problems, and these aren't promises of things that will happen down the line (which are easy to neglect tending to) but have immediate impact. For example:

  • If it's a problem with someone you're working with, the preferred solution would be not working with them at all any more - if they try to improve, it could take quite some time, and it's likely that they'd fall back into old habits. Although I'd say if you have a problem with someone severe enough to resign over, the real problem may lie with you, or the company (for allowing the behaviour, meaning you may actually have a problem with the company culture, see below).

  • If it's environmental (too much or little sunlight, too many cats, etc.), a permanent solution could very well be found, although if you don't see eye-to-eye with your coworkers on this issue, you may find yourself fighting this same battle over and over again (even if the solution may seem permanent at the time) - it's also entirely possible that your coworkers are also severely unhappy with these issues, which could make your actions have the benefit of making them happy as well.

  • If it's about the culture, politics or whatever, these things are usually ingrained into the company and you shouldn't expect it to change, regardless of any promises. You could find a solution that limits your exposure to this, but this is probably temporary - if you want to move up in the company, you'll likely run into the same things.

  • If it's about money, it's probably best to just move on - this "give me more money or I'll leave" idea will likely stick around and that will be good for neither you nor the company.

It should go without saying that you should find solutions to all or an acceptable amount of your problems. All problems should either be fixed or you should be willing to deal with them for at least a few years. If you decide to stay, they could ignore any remaining problems given that there's no immediate threat of you leaving any more.

Note that accepting a counter-offer is not the preferred way of doing things. They may very well end up thinking that you'll probably leave soon anyway (given that this is what usually happens), so you end up not getting any exciting or impactful projects to work on, less or no promotions or raises and may even find yourself worked out of the company all together (fired) down the line.

Thus, I'd say it's always a better option to first discuss the reasons you'd consider leaving with your manager. Be sure to make it clear how severe these issues are (or they may go ignored), however, try to avoid explicitly mentioning that you're considering resigning (although it's fine if it's implied) - that could easily sound like a threat to get what you want, which is not good (I think statements along the line of "I'm not sure I could go on like this any more" or "This is severely impacting my personal life", obviously with a lot of details pertaining to your specific situation added, could portray just the right amount of seriousness without being over the line, but experiences may vary).

Given that money is often the reason for moving, I thought I'd explicitly point this out - don't discard the idea of asking your manager for a raise if you otherwise like your job (although perhaps not if you need a massive percentage to catch up to the industry standard). It's a perfectly acceptable thing to do. Be sure to look up tips online for doing this efficiently.

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    No such thing as too many cats! – Gaius Sep 21 '15 at 7:12
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Once one of my friend was working as a second-in-charge developer and paid €550 per month. After 2 years, I convince him to apply for another job, and he got an offer of €800 at the end. When went his company to quit, his company counter-offered with €1900 + benefits immediately.

Beside this moron, I don't remember other case which a counter-offer is acceptable.

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