Should you ever accept a counteroffer when you resign?

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It’s a scenario that we recruitment professionals hear about a lot. You go to your boss’s office to let them know you’ve accepted another job, and you’re tendering your resignation, and then they go and offer you a higher salary and improved benefits if you agree to stay.

Even if you think this is a situation you’d never find yourself in, it’s best to plan ahead and to have a plan for how you’ll handle it. That’s because when it comes to EAs and PAs, such “buy back” offers are common, as bosses will often, at the first hint of your leaving, panic about how they’ll possibly manage without you.

Many recruiters will always say “no way!” Of course, they would — they’re not paid if you choose to stay. The thing is, it actually comes down to individual circumstances; most times it’s wrong to accept a counteroffer (after all, you wouldn’t have sought out a new job if you were happy to stay), but sometimes it can be the right thing to do.

Be professional, positive, and diplomatic when you resign

Handing in your notice is always a difficult conversation, especially when you’ve worked closely with a boss for a long period of time. Tempting as it may be to slip in a note on a Friday afternoon, simply, that approach risks burning bridges and coming across as unprofessional.

It’s always better, but especially if you think a counteroffer might be on the table, to be positive: state how much you’ve enjoyed your work and are positive about the company, but simply looking for different challenges. Be diplomatic, too: arrange reasonable length of time to talk through your decision and offer to work a reasonable transition period.

Of course, this careful and considered approach (which is vital for a good reference and future relationships), is more likely to encourage a counteroffer. So, should your boss ask to stay, should you accept?

Listen carefully to their reasons for asking you to stay

If you’re offered a new deal to stay, listen carefully to how your boss pitches it to you: the reasons they give should guide your thinking.

Are they, for example, a little selfish and focused on the trouble your boss will face when you leave. Often, bosses are worried about the time and expense of finding a replacement, the time it will take to get a new employee up to speed, or the annoyance of losing someone who has come to understand their idiosyncrasies.

On the other hand, they may focus more on you. Some employers will emphasise that there are new and exciting opportunities opening up at the company, more training and skill development in the pipeline, promotions or leadership options on the cards.

If all you hear is the former, then it is time to leave. If on the other hand, your boss focusses on the benefits to you if you stay, then it may be worth hearing them out.

Consider what you’d want from a counteroffer

You should be prepared for a counteroffer to be made by considering in advance what you’d like to get out of it. This requires taking a few moments to really think about what factors were motivating you to want to leave in the first place.

Often, people are looking for something new, more interesting, and perhaps more challenging. If this is you, consider whether the counteroffer provides anything that will change your daily routine or open up new doors.

Other times, people are looking for a salary boost or enhanced working conditions. Given the negative consequences of staying after you’ve resigned, you’ll want to think carefully about whether the increase in remuneration is worth it overall.

Finally, some people are looking for a more flexible working arrangement, a slower pace, and a less hectic work day. You may find that you’re offered these, especially if your boss a huge fan of yours. However, consider the reasons you didn’t feel comfortable simply asking about these changes before looking for a new job. Are they really that likely to materialise?

Weigh up the pros and cons

Let’s not pretend that, in most cases, the cons will outweigh the pros when it comes to counteroffers.

In the negative column, you need to consider the fact that something made you unhappy enough at work to want to leave (has that been addressed? Can it be?). Further, now you’ve resigned your loyalty will always be in question, no matter how positively you spun your initial decision.

That said, there are possible positives: you could get that raise you’ve been after. You may also get some of the core issues that were making you unhappy resolved. The thing is, though, if you weren’t comfortable asking for these before you considered resigning, how long-term and genuine do you believe the change will be?

The bottom line is that, if you accept a counteroffer, you’re going to have to work hard to win back your employer’s trust. You might also have to work to prove your loyalty to colleagues and, perhaps work harder than before, to prove your commitment to the company. It may be worth it if the offer is right, but it may not necessarily be easy.

Are you looking for a new PA, HR, or business support challenge? Executive Partnerships can help. We’re a specialist recruitment consultancy working with big name clients across London. Check us out at

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