Written by Karen Chopra (Washington Post)
I've been feeling a bit stagnant at my current job, and have just gotten a very good offer from another company. But my current employer has made a counter-offer that is slightly better. Any advice for how to think my way through this?
The standard advice is that you should not accept a counter-offer. The reason for this is that you are considered tainted goods--in it for the money, but not really committed, which puts you at risk for being sidelined or even let go once the company has a succession plan in place. That may seem crazy--why would they make an attractive counter-offer only to waste the resource? But counter-offers are often done reflexively--the company is surprised, so they make a counter, but later think better of it.
There are exceptions to every rule, and the exception would be if the company isn't just throwing money at you, but offering to address the underlying cause of your malaise. Some companies have just gotten complacent, and once they realize you are a retention risk, they really do want to change your job to keep you happy.
One way to tell what you are dealing with is to review how the company has handled previous requests for raises, increased responsibilities, schedule flexibility. If they have responded generously to all of those, then their counter-offer may also be in good faith. But if the company has given you a hard time on any of these issues in the past, then I would question their sincerity in making these changes now.
You can, however, use the counter-offer to go back to the new employer. I wouldn't be too coy in playing one off against the other--you do want the new job, after all. So just tell the new company that your old company has made an attractive counter-offer, and although you don't want to take it, you hope your new company will match it. Often, they will.