5 ways to make sure you don't burn bridges when accepting a counter offer

by Rebecca Brown

So you’ve been having a ‘look around’ at new opportunities, as you were perhaps feeling undervalued or just a little stagnant in your current job. You’ve been fortunate enough to land an offer of employment for a new role – Great news!

However, after hearing your plans to move on, your boss has re-evaluated your situation and given you a really great offer to stay. You’ll be getting that promotion you wanted, and maybe even a little extra money – this is also great news!

Then comes the lump in your throat. You’ve been told so many times never to accept a counter offer, but this time it does sound like a promising step in the right direction. A pay rise? Fantastic! Option to work from home? Wonderful! But how are you going to break the news to your potential new employer (and your recruiter too) that you’ll be staying with your current firm?


Whatever you do in this vital part of the process, do NOT bury your head in the sand and disappear into a black hole. Whomever it is that has kindly offered you a place within their business is not stupid, and neither is your recruiter. If you just vanish off the face of the earth at this point, if/when you need their help in the future, you can be assured that they won’t trust you 100%. Also, communicating does not mean emailing or texting to let them know, get on the phone and have a good honest chat about what’s happened and why you are unable to accept their offer at this time. This way you will have earned respect for the future and shown a high level of professionalism.


By going back and forth between your potential new employer and your current employer, you will seem to both of them that you are just trying to continue negotiating to leverage yourself the best deal – and therefore using them. Make an informed decision on your counter offer BEFORE accepting or declining a job offer. The worst thing you can do is accept an offer to then decide you do actually want to stay in your current job. Don’t, however, leave both the potential employer and your employer (and your recruiter) waiting weeks. If you do, even the offer which you do accept will not start off on solid terms. After all, if someone left you hanging you’d be pretty annoyed, right?


Whilst not burning bridges, you will also want to keep doors open for future opportunities. Not only may you consider a job with this potential employer again in the future, you may come across them as a client, customer or business contact – you don’t want to make things awkward by messing this up. Make sure you are grateful for the offer, their time and their interest in your application and let them know you are keen to keep a channel of communication open. This is not only a sure fire way to stay ‘friends’ with this person, but just a nice touch too!


Make sure you have first of all, made your decision for the right reasons (though that’s another story) and also ensure you explain your reasons thoroughly to the hiring manager. If you don’t, you run the risk of sounding like you had plans to stay at your company from the start and were just using this company to leverage more money out of your current employer and therefore wasting their time. If you explain your thoughts and reasons, the potential employer should empathise with you and understand completely the decision you have made.


Throughout this entire process, which can be stressful for everybody involved, make sure you are honest with everybody. This will earn you a high level of respect from everyone you deal with, and make you more susceptible to doors being left open. You don’t want to come across as sly or manipulative, so stay honest with not only the potential employer but your current employer and your recruiter. Everyone is drawn to trustworthy and transparent people and you can be certain they will help you again if and when you need it in the future as long as you remain honest throughout.


It’s never easy telling someone bad news and feel like you’re letting people down – especially if you are aware of your recruiters thoughts on counter offers and feel like they’re going to try and change your mind. Here at RED, we do things differently and trust you as a professional to make an informed decision on your future.

By following these steps, you can make this process as stress free as possible for you and every other party involved. It will also make your life easier in future. If you decide 6 months down the line that you do indeed want to make a move, your recruiter will find it easier to trust you knowing that you dealt with the process previously so well. It may even leave the door open at the company who offered you a role! To avoid getting in this situation, it is a good idea to really think about your options after a first stage interview with a company, to avoid getting to second or third interviews and having to turn down an offer.

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