Evaluating a Counteroffer

You’ve been offered a position as an art director at a well-established design agency, a rival to your present firm. Your decision to leave was clear until your current boss extended a tempting counteroffer, something you didn’t anticipate. You should hardly be surprised, however: Sixty-three percent of advertising and marketing executives surveyed by The Creative Group said they would likely extend a counteroffer if a prized staff member quit to accept a more lucrative job.

If you’ve been fairly content in your current position, it could be especially difficult to evaluate the pros and cons of a counteroffer. Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether to stay or go:

More Potential—or Less? You may be attracted to the new position because you believe it will allow you to be more creative in your work. So, keep in mind that a new salary or title at your present job won’t compensate for a lack of interesting assignments. You’ll need assurance that you’ll be offered more challenge, not just more pay. You also might ask why you haven’t been given a pay increase or juicier assignments already, and whether you would have been if you hadn’t received another offer. Top employers are consistent in awarding raises and ensuring that their best employees are challenged in their work. Clarify your long-term potential and expectations at your present firm before accepting their offer.

The Loyalty Factor. Your manager may fight for you to stay at the company, but what happens once you say yes? It’s possible he or she will resent the fact that you considered leaving and worry that your decision to stay is simply a temporary reprieve. Make sure the main reason you were asked to stay has to do with the value you add—not because you’ll be departing at a critical juncture. If the counteroffer has anything to do with the latter, it’s best to move on. You could be the first to go if the company downsizes, and you may not be promoted in the future if the perception is that your stay is temporary.

Ruffled Feathers. If you decide to remain with your present company, be aware that any raise or promotion you’re rewarded as a result can cause resentment among colleagues. They may feel they were overlooked or are undervalued. On the flip side, there could be a positive outcome. Perhaps the other firm had flexible hours and telecommuting options, and this has prompted your company to test out these perks as well. Your coworkers may thank you in this case.

Your Reputation. Carefully weigh your options at both firms, but don’t wait too long to make a final decision. It can damage your credibility with both your current and prospective employers. Your current supervisor may wonder if you used the offer simply to obtain a raise or promotion. Likewise, backing out of a position you’ve already accepted could tarnish that firm’s opinion of you and reduce your chances of securing a job with them in the future.

Think Ahead. In an ideal world, you should weigh the pros and cons of a potential counteroffer before one is extended. This way, you can evaluate every factor when there is no pressure to make a fast decision.

As the demand for creative talent continues to rise, businesses will go out of their way to retain their best and brightest. So be prepared to receive a counteroffer if you pursue outside career opportunities, and carefully contemplate all the factors that prompted you to apply for another job. Chances are, it’s about more than just money: If the new position offers greater career growth it could be a better long-term move.

The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and Web professionals on a project basis with a variety of firms.