To Stay or To Go: What to Do When You Receive a Counteroffer

Should you stay with your old job on new terms?

Should you stay with your old job on new terms?
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These days and in this economy, having just one job offer is a luxury. Two job offers can seem like good fortune to the extreme.

If you've received a job offer with a new company when you're currently slogging away with a different employer, this scenario might happen: Your current company presents you with a counteroffer. But should you take it?

The answer is almost always no. The devil you don't know is a much safer bet than the devil you do. "In 25 years in this industry I can count on one hand the situations where someone took a counteroffer and it worked out," says Nick Corcodilos, a professional headhunter and author of a series of PDF books called "Fearless Job Hunting."

With any job offer, whether it's the brand new one with the brand new company or the reheated one with your existing company, you're allowed to ask for some time – from a few hours to a few days – to think. Here's a checklist of four things to weigh to determine whether you should keep your old job or accept a new one.

[Take This Quiz: Should You Ask These Questions Before or After Your Job Offer?]

1. Recognize why you're trying to leave. First off – are you really trying to leave? Or are you dangling a new job offer over your employer to bluff for more money and better privileges? If it's the latter, you're a bad poker player and a lousy negotiator. Before sending out the first résumé, and consequently, proffering a resignation, make sure that your reasons for wanting to leave are legit, not just capricious whims (like a disagreement with a co-worker) or negotiating one-offs (like a salary increase) that you might possibly work through with your boss. "Step back and ask yourself why you're pursuing a new job with a new company," Corcodilos says. "If the reason is opportunity, then that's one thing. But if the reason is unhappiness, then be careful and ask yourself, 'How will this offer, either the new offer or the counteroffer, solve the problems I'm having?'"

There had to have been something that made the idea of leaving your old gig attractive in the first place, adds Elene Cafasso, president and head coach at Enerpace, Inc., an executive coaching firm located outside Chicago. "Unless a counteroffer completely addresses those issues and completely flips your perspective, there's no reason to stay."

[Read: 8 Ways to Graciously Quit Your Job.]

2. Recognize why your company wants you to stay. If your old company has extended overtures to entice you to stay, keep in mind those overtures have little to do with your value to the company and more to do with the employer's most-present need: It's just a good business policy to prevent an immediate vacancy and stave off the immediate need to find your replacement. "Your job is to protect your interests, and likewise, your employer has the same motive, to protect their interests," says Corcodilos, whose books are available on his website, AskTheHeadhunter.com. "It's not that they're trying to be slimy about it, they just don't want you to leave."

Ask yourself whether the terms of this counteroffer appease both short- and long-term concerns for both you and your original company. If the offer isn't an all-around salve, then you'll end up unhappy in your old position once more. Which leads to No. 3.

3. Recognize what might happen if you do decide to stay. You've now exposed yourself to your company and your co-workers as a flight risk. As mentioned, that counteroffer you just accepted might just be your boss's effort to buy time to conduct a full-fledged search for your replacement before unceremoniously giving you the boot. Even if it's not, "You're a marked person," Corcodilos says. "You've basically told your employer that you're going to bail, so if you accept a counteroffer, they're going to keep an eye on you. And even if they don't try to replace you, you've still shown yourself to be undependable."

"You may no longer get the choicest assignments. You may no longer be the heir apparent to the next big position in the company. You will have lost all or most of your political power with the company from here on," Cafasso says.