Resignation & The “Counter Offer”


You initially considered moving on because your present position no longer offers the growth potential to match your experience. But if your present company has helped you progress professionally you may feel uncomfortable, even a little guilty, about resigning. You will be leaving colleagues who have become friends, people who may have been instrumental in advancing your career.

These factors may make you feel uneasy, but you must not lose sight of the reasons why you considered the new opportunity in the first place.

The Resignation Letter

Ensure you address the letter to the correct person by checking your contact of employment. This will usually be your line manager and/or personnel manager.

There is no need to elaborate greatly remember, the purpose of the letter is to inform your employer of the date you wish to terminate your employment so keep it simple and to the point. If you are leaving on good terms, or are particularly sorry to be leaving behind valued colleagues and friends, you may want to add an extra sentence or two thanking your manager for the opportunities you have been given. A touch of sentiment, concisely phrased, can go a long way and costs nothing- and preserving goodwill as you progress through any industry is very good practice.

Tendering your Resignation 

Remain calm and professional when tendering your resignation and offer any help you may be able to provide to ensure a smooth transition before your departure.

Its essential that you are 100% committed to progressing your career with your new firm before having this conversation, or your boss will sense this. If s/he can see that your decision has been made and that there is nothing s/he can do to turn you, your decision will be more readily accepted and you will enjoy a much more comfortable notice period.

There is obviously potential for the situation to become emotional, so you must remain focused on your objective for the meeting.

The Counter Offer

No doubt you will have made a substantial contribution, and your company will be sorry to lose you. You’re probably involved in a number of projects that require your unique talents. In your boss’s shoes – what would you do?

In the company’s, your acceptance of a new job may well be considered a mistake. There is every chance that you will be offered a range of incentives to stay- a ‘counter offer’. But remember- as attractive as counter- offers may appear, they greatly decrease your chances of achieving your career potential. They can be made at any point, from initial resignation right through to a final subsequent “exit interview” – indeed, at any point until your last day.

Counter offers come in a range of disguises:

  • “This is confidential and I shouldn’t really be telling you this, but we were looking at promoting you in the next six months”.
  • “We will match your new offer and put it into effect next pay day.  I had meant to review your salary anyway”.
  • “Don’t make a decision now; have a think about it and we’ll sit down next week and discuss it”.
  • “I thought you were happy here.  I’m shocked that you would try to leave us before bringing any concerns you have about your promotion to me”.
  • “We’ve been planning some things for you, but they have been confidential up to now.  You should at least talk to the Managing/Senior Partner about them before making up your mind”.

Implications of the Counter Offer

You’re a human!  You will obviously be flattered that your firm is concerned about your leaving and that you are the lynch pin responsible for its success!  And being a human your emotions may obscure the reasons behind your decision to leave.  REMEMBER – it is natural to be apprehensive about leaving, and to let that one final nagging doubt about doing the right thing grow out of proportion the more your boss tries to convince you.  So make sure you step back and calmly ask yourself these questions:

  • “I made the decision to leave because I felt the new position offered me the best environment to fulfil my career needs.  If I stay will the situation here really improve just because I said I was leaving?”
  • “If I stay, will my loyalty be suspect and effect my chance for advancement once the dust has settled?”
  • “The pay rise I’ve been offered to stay makes me very expensive for the position I’m in with this firm…  How will that affect any future rises?”
  • “I got this counter offer because I resigned – will I have to do that again the next time I’m ready for a rise or promotion?”

Consider the answers to these questions very carefully – invariably, you will decide that you are doing the right thing.

How to Respond

Thank the manager for the offer but let him know that your decision has already been made.  Tell them politely that you are only interested in agreeing on ways for you both to make a smooth transition.

If the conversation starts heading back toward a counter offer, take command.  Politely interrupt with a statement such as “The last thing I want to be inferred from my resignation is that I am trying to blackmail the company into keeping me.  I’ve simply found a situation that I can’t pass up.  I hope that you respect that”.  You should reiterate your offer to help in ensuring a smooth transition before your departure.

You are leaving an organisation, not ending a relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend.  Don’t even consider guilt as an option.

The Professional Attitude

As a professional you should make a career decision objectively, and it should be free of the emotional pressures one is likely to feel when being urged to reconsider.  Advice will be offered by well-meaning friends, relatives and business associates.  Depend primarily upon your own judgement – you are the only one who can fully understand the implications.

By extending a counter offer, your employer may simply be buying more time.  They may resent you threatening to leave, or may be concerned that since you tried to leave once, you may do so again.  They may then decide to look for your replacement.  Naturally, they will want to do this on their own terms – by accepting a counter offer, you are giving your employer time to identify a replacement without the disruption that would have occurred had you actually left.

Remember – the counter offer is only a belated recognition of the contribution you have made to your company’s success.  If it had come unprompted, wouldn’t that be a lot more flattering?  Move ahead with the goal of making yourself as valuable to your new employer as you know how you were with your old one.

Your new employer will be keen for you to join them and your goal now should be reducing your notice period.  You should do all you can to ensure the smooth transition of your current projects for your current employer and try not to take on any new projects if at all possible.


An interesting fact about counter offers – of those who accept them, the large majority leave their employer within six to twelve months of accepting them – either voluntarily because of promises not kept, or by being made redundant.