An Honest Letter to Hiring Managers & Candidates About Counteroffers

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December 23, 2021

By Erica Rothman

Dear Hiring Managers,

I’ll be frank: stop making counteroffers and getting people to stay after they resign! 

In today’s talent landscape, a counteroffer is similar to a significant other breaking up with you and begging them to stay. Not because you love them or really even want them to stay; the relationship has been stagnant for a while, the spark is gone, and you haven’t been motivated to take it to the next level. You don’t see marriage in the near future—but they are breaking up with you! Oh no! 

Fight or flight kicks in. Fear. You don’t want to be alone. You don’t want to have to “get back out there,” or date or (heaven forbid) go online, so you counteroffer! You beg them to stay.

You promise you’ll change. You will be more present. More committed. Date nights are back on! You say, “I’ll listen more, I’ll be more affectionate, HECK I’ll even marry you, or at least propose! Don’t leave…”

Now, anyone with their head on straight would see this ploy for what it is: 

“They don’t really want me to stay. They just don’t want to be alone and have to date and find another someone. It’s about THEM. If I stay and believe their words, I’ll be in the same boat 3-6 months later and be breaking up again.”

The same goes for the professional realm. I have seen it time and again. It goes a little something like this:

I talk to a candidate about a position I have. It’s a VP-level role with a great company and pays extremely well with a ton of room for growth. The candidate is excited; they have been putting their feelers out for some time now, looking for something new. 

“Why?” I ask. “Why are you looking?”

I usually get one of the following answers:

“I have hit a ceiling here. There is no opportunity for growth. Well, unless my boss retires, which I don’t see happening, there is nowhere for me to go.”

“I would like to take the next step in my career, professionally and financially. I would like to make more money and get promoted to the next level.”

“I have been doing the same thing for a long time. I am ready for a change.”

I will then ask the same questions I ask every candidate at this point:

“How do you know there is no opportunity for you?” 

“How do you know you can’t make more money at your current company?” 

“How do you know there isn’t an opportunity to do something different at your current company?”

And more times than not, the answer is usually something like this:

 “I just know.” 

I then ask:

“Have you asked for what you want?”

Occasionally they have, but most times, they haven’t. 

People are too scared to ask for what they want because they are too scared of being rejected. They are so scared of hearing no that they would rather try to leave (and go through the whole process of applying for a job, interviewing, etc.) and then negotiate a counteroffer when they resign. 

(Dear candidate:) This is the most backwards (and frankly) ridiculous way to get what you want. 

Even if it wasn’t your intention, you get the counteroffer and are begged by your boss to stay, and you actually consider it! It’s the same thing. Now you have to live with the question always lingering in your head of whether or not you earned what you got and are working for and with people who recognize your value, or if you got where you are because your company didn’t want to have to replace you. You got that promotion or raise by threatening to leave (congratulations on your success?).

In all relationships, personally or professionally, you need to advocate for yourself. If your needs are not being fulfilled, you need to communicate that to your partner or manager. 

If they deliver, then great! You are in a healthy, fulfilling relationship. 

If they don’t, well, then you know it’s time to move on, and when you accept that new job, the one that gives you that next step professionally and personally, you have accepted it, knowing that staying is actually a step backward. 

You know your worth. You defined it and went after it.

Counteroffers are a double-edged sword that pricks both parties involved in the long run. When a resignation letter comes in, trust it. It’s time to move on for both of you.  As we head into 2022 and such a tight labor market, it’s time we acknowledge this and all it implies. 


Erica Rothman, Managing Partner | The Remedy Group