How to Manage Counter Offers

You have worked hard to create and maintain a cohesive team of successful, strong, and smart employees with a company culture to match. Each team member is a valuable asset and the last thing you want is to lose top talent. If one of your valued employees approaches you to let you know they have received a job offer from another company with higher pay, you may find yourself confronting the tricky process of counter offering. How can you manage counter offers to keep your employees happy and retain top talent?

Read further for tips on managing and presenting counter offers:

1: When you should – or shouldn’t – counter offer.

Losing a valued employee is not only costly and time consuming, it can impact the morale of other employees in several ways. Team members will certainly question why someone is leaving the company, they may be saddled with extra work to make up for the loss, and they may become envious of an employee who accepted a counter offer. Thoroughly evaluate the situation before making the decision to counter offer. Take into consideration the time and money spent hiring and onboarding the employee. If they truly are a key component to the success of your company, then it might be worth the effort and expense of counter offering. If you are successful and your employee decides to accept your counter offer, be sure their loyalty is authentic and it’s unlikely they will jump ship in the near future. If they truly weren’t satisfied with their role, even with the bells and whistles your counter offer gave them, they will inevitable leave your company. Thoroughly vetting your employee’s motives behind seeking employment elsewhere is the best way to avoid losing them after they have accepted your counter offer.

2: Negotiating a counter offer.

First and foremost, you will want to speak with your employee to understand what made them seek employment elsewhere. Is it because they felt underpaid, or is it because of other factors such as their job responsibilities, opportunity for growth, or benefits? These answers will help you understand their underlying motivation and help you counter offer with what matters most to them. Revisit the reasons that made the employee want to work at your company in the first place and emphasize the positives your company has to offer. Present any non-financially based benefits first, such as a more flexible schedule, the ability to work remote once a week, or employee mentoring. Then offer other benefits such as additional vacation time or an education allowance where you will subsidize the cost of skills improvement training. Leave salary as the last thing to negotiate, especially if you are a smaller company with a limited budget, or if matching the offer would push that employee well outside of your tenured employee’s salary levels.

3: Mistakes to avoid when counter offering.

    • Keep the process confidential. Keep your counter offer as discrete as possible. Employees will talk and the last thing you want is resentment and tension because ‘so and so gets more of x, y, and z if they stay.’
    • Do not low ball. Presenting a low ball offer more often than not ends in losing your employee. Do your market research and offer what is reasonable and feasible for your company.
    • Do not make it all about money. Most employees seek more than monetary compensation from their employer, they look for a well-rounded package with benefits and work-life balance.
    • Don’t take it personally. Everyone has their own path to walk and as long as you have offered the best you can, within reason, to your employees, you should rest easy. If your employee doesn’t accept your counter offer, or you decide not to counter at all, thank them for their time and wish them the best of luck in their next endeavor.  Always take the high road because you never know when you may work with departing employees again!


In the grand scheme of things, nothing is permanent. Employees will come and go, however, you can be prepared to counter offer when a crucial member of your team inevitably receives an offer from a competitor. Thoroughly evaluating each situation, understanding employee motives, and offering what makes the most sense for your employee and company will set you up to manage the best and worst case scenarios appropriately. While counter offers may be tricky to navigate, following these guidelines can help you take the best route.