Job Counteroffer Etiquette: How to Negotiate Before Leaving

Job Counteroffer Etiquette: How to Negotiate Before Leaving

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Talent retention has become indispensable for the success of modern businesses, especially as firms continue to compete vigorously for skilled manpower. However, while negotiating for your final contract, there are several need-to-knows, as I will discuss in this article. 

To properly negotiate before leaving a position, make sure to stay professional. If you intend to leave, inform your current and prospective employers about your decision. However, do not be shy about using prospective offers to ask for more favorable counteroffers from your current employer.

The rest of this article will discuss critical questions related to this topic, including how to ask for a counteroffer, whether or not you should inform prospective employers about counteroffers, etc. Read on to learn more.

What Is a Counteroffer?

A counteroffer can be defined as a response to an initial offer. It is essentially a rejection of the initial offer, which opens up opportunities for further negotiations. Once a counteroffer is given, there is an option to accept the counteroffer, reject it, or make a different offer. 

The Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School describes the final offer as serving the role of a rejection of the initial offer. Therefore, a counteroffer invites changes to the initial offer, ideally, so that common ground is reached. Because it is a rejection of the initial offer, a counteroffer voids its predecessor.

In a recruitment scenario, an employer can make a counteroffer to prevent an employee from leaving. Therefore, if the employee has received an employment offer from a competing firm, an employer can make a counteroffer to make the employee reconsider resigning. 

In most cases, this counteroffer comes in the form of promises of salary increases, promotions, and other perks. 

There are several reasons why employers issue counteroffers, including the following: 

  • To retain talent and experience.
  • To save on costs of recruiting and hiring new replacement staff.
  • To minimize loss of team morale due to the extra workload that falls on the remaining staff
  • To maintain team synergies.

How To Ask for a Counteroffer From Your Current Employer Before Leaving?

To ask for a counteroffer from your current employer before leaving, let them know about your intention to resign. Then, outline your reasoning behind your decision and state the fact that you’re open to negotiations. 

When asking for a counteroffer from your current employer, it is essential to inform them that you have received an offer from another company. Granted, if you are asking for a counteroffer, then the chances are that you don’t want to leave your current job but rather want to leverage the new offer to get additional perks or higher salaries. 

As the recruiting gurus at BrightHR, employers are keen to send a job counteroffer to your current employer before they resign. This is especially true given the negative implications of their departure on business continuity and team morale. 

As further reiterated by Harvard Business Review, your employer will surprise you with a counteroffer once you inform them that you intend to leave. Usually, your current employer will first ask you whether it is a matter of money or some of the factors behind your decision to depart. 

The above notwithstanding, once your current employer makes an offer in a bid to stop you from leaving, you can then reject the initial offer and make a counteroffer based on what your goals are. As previously mentioned, this can come in the form of negotiating for greater perks or a higher salary. 

While it is no guarantee that your current employer will accept your counteroffer, it does present a valuable opportunity for you to negotiate for better perks while levering competing offers. As the hiring experts at Change Recruitment Group also explain, accepting a counteroffer from your current employer also has its risks because it can potentially damage your relationship with the employer. 

The above is because it may become apparent that you are only staying with the company because of your added salary or perks. Your loyalty and dedication to the company may, thus, come into question.

Furthermore, after your current employer concludes that you are willing to leave the organization, you may be subject to greater scrutiny and higher expectations than before.

For more information on the matter, read this article on whether you should accept a counteroffer from your current employer or not

Should I Tell Prospective Employers About a Counteroffer From My Current Employer?

Whether or not you should tell prospective employers about a counteroffer from your current employer is often a factor of preference. However, unless the question comes up in your negotiations, it is best not to mention the counteroffer from your current employer. 

According to Foundation Recruitment, it is best practice to inform your potential employer about any counteroffers, whether you choose to accept them or not. According to this source, this may convey honesty, which is oftentimes viewed at a premium in modern organizations. 

However, there are different ways to look at this scenario. Remember, if you have accepted the new offer, it means that you have already negotiated with your potential employer and agreed to the terms. Unless you are leveraging the counteroffer as a bargaining chip against your current employer, there is no need to inform your prospective employer about the counteroffer. 

There is always a risk that your prospective employers can simply tell you to take your current employer up on their offer instead. Additionally, leveraging one employer against the other can be disastrous to your career.

This is further corroborated by the recruitment experts at Indeed, who explain that you are not obliged to inform your current employer of any offers from prospective employers. However, if your prospective employer is a top firm in the industry in which your firm operates, then it can give you an advantage when negotiating for higher salaries.

What To Say When Accepting a Job Counteroffer

If you decide to accept the counteroffer, it’s vital to thank the prospective employers for their offer and let them know that you won’t be leaving your current position. Additionally, you also need to inform your current employer that you have accepted the counteroffer as soon as possible. 

Your decision to either accept or reject a counteroffer has significant implications for both your prospective employer and your current employer. Therefore, you should be keen to provide timely and professional communication to both of them,

Here are a few tips on how to handle both parties. 

To Prospective Employers

One of the first steps you should take once you decide to accept a counteroffer is to inform your potential employers that you are rejecting their offer. If you’re unsure when it comes to how to go about this, then follow the following steps: 

  • Thank your prospective employers and let them know that you appreciate their consideration. This could prove vital in the future when you want to make a career move.
  • Let your prospective employer(s) know that you appreciate the time that they have invested in the entire process. 
  • Provide a brief explanation of why you have decided not to accept the job offer while also expressing your willingness to work with the organization in the future. 
  • Submit your apologies for declining the job offer. Here, you may want to cite current circumstances as the major impediment but express your willingness to maintain strong professional ties. 

To Your Current Employer

If you elect to stay with your current employer instead by accepting their counteroffer, then tick the following checkboxes: 

  • Inform your employer as soon as possible that you have gone through the details of the counteroffer and have accepted them.
  • Express your gratitude to your employer for providing a counteroffer 
  • Let your employer know that you appreciate the fact that the counteroffer reflects just how valuable the company sees you as an employee.
  • Communicate your dedication to working hard to meet your goals or to fulfill your duties and responsibilities. Remember, as previously stated, your work may be subject to increased scrutiny once you accept a counteroffer.
  • Sign the contrast to make the agreement between you and your current employer official. 

How To Reject a Counteroffer Politely

If you have already made up your mind about resigning, here are a few tips you should keep in mind while declining the counteroffer so that it does not negatively impact your new offer: 

  • Maintain professionalism when declining the job offer. It is always essential to leave a good impression since there is a likelihood that you may work with the same organization in the future.
  • Be grateful to your current employer: Thank your current employer for the opportunity to work and grow. It is always recommended that you let them know that you appreciate the time and effort they have taken to advance your career growth.
  • Provide a brief and concise reason why you are leaving: It’s always recommended that you keep the rationale behind your departure as brief as possible. 
  • Send an exit email to your employer expressing your gratitude: Keeping future networking opportunities alive is always a plus in your professional journey. Therefore, send an exit email and be courteous. 

What Is a Reasonable Time To Respond to a Job Counteroffer?

The reasonable amount of time to respond to a counteroffer is within 24 to 48 hours. This will give your current employer ample time to make an informed decision about whether or not they want to retain the employee while also showing that they respect the employee’s time. 

It does not take too long for a current employer to evaluate the costs of losing a valuable employee. The negative impacts on business continuity and the added workload that has to be shifted, after all, provide issues of some urgency. 

Thus, your current employer should – within the first 24 or 48 hours, decide whether they want to retain you as a talent and give you a counteroffer or whether they deem you replaceable and as such, are willing to find a suitable replacement. 

In such instances, time is of the essence. For companies looking to retain talent, acting promptly could be the difference between keeping talented employees on board or losing them to the competition. A counteroffer should thus be issued as soon as possible, preferably within the first 24 or 48 hours. 

However, it is crucial to note that this may not always be the case. A company may take several days to present a counteroffer, especially if the updated salary or included perks require board approval. 

Nonetheless, a potential employer will still need to communicate with the employee that they are considering a counteroffer and will get back to them as soon as all the necessary approvals have been finalized. 

Final Thoughts

In closing, negotiating a counteroffer is a complex process with no guarantees. It’s important to remember that by negotiating for better deals and incentives, you’re advocating for yourself and leveraging your value to the company. 

Your success in this negotiation process will, however, largely depend on how skillful at communicating and how assertive you are. It is vital to provide timely communication, regardless of whether you decide to stay with your current employer or you choose to explore other options.

Keep in mind some of the tips provided in this article when navigating your next counteroffer negotiation process. 


About The Author

Nathan Brunner
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Nathan Brunner is a mathematician who cares about the job market.

He is the owner of Salarship, a job search engine where less-skilled candidates can find accessible employment opportunities.