Yes, there was a reason you were looking to begin with (unless you were headhunted). And yes, once you reveal that you are even considering leaving your job, your "team-player" status will be in jeopardy. But truth be told, everyone considers leaving their employer at some point, and sometimes, another job offer is the ultimate bargaining chip.
A wake-up call. Your experience is often what gets you hired, but the day after you start, the focus shifts to what you are going to do for the organization today. This means that your previous work accomplishments are forgotten--and that's the very thing that helps employers formulate your worth. Receiving another job offer can remind an organization what you are worth. It also shows that you are wanted, and for anyone who has ever been in a relationship, that's not usually a bad thing. There might be more subtle ways to remind an employer that you’re worth more than what you are being paid, but another job offer is usually the quickest and most direct. Here are a few reasons why accepting a counter offer to stay with your current employer can make sense.
1. Is it all about the money? Those HotMonsterBuilder sites are always telling us that choosing a job for the money is a recipe for trouble. I'm not disagreeing, but you're the one paying the bills, so only you can truly answer the question. Depending on where you are in life, sometimes a job is all about the money. If this is the case, it never hurts to play ball with both sides in an attempt to increase your salary. And if that was the only reason you were looking for a new job, a counteroffer might be a good enough reason to stay.
2. Loyalty is dead anyway. Those who think otherwise are in denial. The days of a "stick" job, where you remain for several years, are over. Employees know that they can and will be dropped without notice from an employer at any time, so loyalty can't truly exist. As an employee, you should remain loyal while you work for a firm (work hard, represent the brand well, etc.), but loyalty, as far as "we're in this together no matter what," is dead--if it ever existed to begin with. Do not feel guilty that you have received another job offer. Be loyal to yourself and try to create the best situation possible, even if that means asking your current employer for more money or a promotion.
3. They will likely not squeeze you out. Telling your current employer that you have received another job offer is never easy. It's nerve-wracking because your boss's reaction is unpredictable. But unless you work for a one-man shop or have an emotionally charged boss, very few organizations will go out of their way to squeeze you from the fold just because you received another offer. Anything is possible, and it's up to you to read the situation and determine if it's worth the risk. In my experience, someone getting fired or shafted for receiving another job offer is the exception, not the rule.
4. Your eyes were opened. Sometimes it is smart to accept your current employer's counter offer. For instance, maybe the new job offer forces you to spend time reflecting on your current situation. Perhaps it's not as bad as it seems. Look at the pros and cons of both positions and you might be surprised which way you lean. We often don’t know what we’ve got until it’s gone, so close your eyes and pretend that your current job is gone. How does it feel? If you decide to accept a counteroffer and stay put, you should be prepared for a post-promotion punishment.
A lot of articles that warn against accepting a counter offer are written by staffing pros and hiring agents who, simply put, are more concerned about the company's wellbeing than your happiness. That’s what they are paid to do! If you were job hunting because you hate your boss or find the work unsatisfying, no counteroffer should do. But since there are so many factors that go into work happiness, a decision to accept a counter offer is a personal affair--one that sometimes makes a whole lot of sense.