There are few things more heart-warming than to have your boss try to prevent you leaving by improving your terms of employment. But should you find yourself on the receiving end of a counter offer (which is considerably unlikely) you need to look past the boost to your ego and really consider the implications for your career.
A word of warning…
Before we get into the ‘should-you-shouldn't-you’ of counter offers, a word of warning: don’t ever, ever use the threat of moving to another company as part of a strategy to get a pay rise. Chances are your bluff will get called, but even if they do offer you better terms, they won't forget the ultimatum you gave them. It's a move you can't take back and one that can cause serious damage to your relationship with your boss.
It’s not (all) about the money
Rarely does the desire to move jobs come solely from wanting a bump in salary. It is likely that there are other factors influencing you, from lack of recognition or wanting a fresh challenge, to difficulties with colleagues or the simple pressure of work. So before you accept a counter offer ask yourself whether any of these factors are going to change and if not whether the increase in salary is enough for you not to mind. Remember that a large proportion of your average week is spent at work, so it’s very important that you’re happy in your job beyond just earning a higher salary.
Beware awkward moments
Even if the only change stemming from the counter offer is an enhanced pay packet, you won't be going back to the same job. Your relationship with your employer (and potentially your colleagues) will have changed fundamentally. Your dedication to the company will inevitably be called into question and you could well find yourself taken into fewer confidences by the management team.
Getting a reputation
Changing your mind about a job at the last minute, having been through a full selection procedure, is going to alienate everyone involved. Having wasted their time and money, you'll have to cross the company you rejected off the list of potential future employers. If you went through a recruitment agency, you will not only have embarrassed the consultant involved, you will actually have cost them money. Your digital card will have been marked (and databases have awfully long memories).
Two can play that game
Having accepted a counter offer, the worst of all possible outcomes is to discover that it was offered as a panicked and temporary measure while a suitable replacement for you was found. This sounds very callous and scheming, but it really can happen.
All in all...
By now the message has hopefully sunk in that accepting a counter offer is potentially a very hazardous option for your career. Of course there are circumstances where it can work out, but make sure you look long and hard at the possible consequences before making any rash decisions.