The truth about counter offers

Uber / Eng n+1
Feb 15, 2018 131 Comments

I've noticed the accepted wisdom on blind is to never accept a counter offer from your current company under any circumstances. I highly disagree. Accepting a counter can be awesome. Being on both sides of the situation several times as a manager and ic, here are my thoughts on how it actually works. Disclaimer is that I'm speaking from the perspective of engineering orgs, and ones that are highly competitive for talent and can afford to be picky.

- If you receive a counter, you are valued. This may be because you have an important role or are clearly talented.
- Accepting a counter is awesome. It's great to get paid substantially more for the same exact job you were doing the day before.
- Counters are rare. If you don't receive a counter, it may just be because your company has a policy against them, or it's really hard to get one done.
- Your manager and company are not offended by you saying you have an outside offer. If you're valued, they'll often wonder what they did wrong for you to seek offers elsewhere. It's often a wake-up call for them to try harder to keep their best people happy.
- If you accept a counter, your manager is not looking for the first opportunity to replace you. A lot goes into a counter. If it's a decently sized organization, your manager has to use social capital to escalate. It's very hard to get all the gears turning at once out of cycle. Management chain, finance, comp team, execs...a combination of these often need to get involved just to approve a counter. Your manager doesn't want to go through all this if they don't value you. And they definitely don't want to replace you first chance they get if they expended all that energy in vouching for you up the chain.
- Definitely don't sign the outside offer before telling your manager about the numbers. They'll see this as a very low chance of keeping you, so are less likely to bother trying.
- Getting a counter offer often helps your perceived value. Getting a counter requires a lot of pitching and selling by others on your worth up the management chain. You will have an aura about you if you stay as someone who's important enough to warrant all that effort. People will remember the good things said about you.
- It's not awkward to stay. If you keep the situation private from your teammates, only your manager and above are aware of what happened. Even if it is awkward, managers come and go all the time, you will transfer to different teams or get re-orged, and you'll get a clean slate with your new comp.

Execs and senior leadership do this all the time. It's a common tactic for them in getting more comp. So they're not philosophically opposed to counter offers. Having all this knowledge is a way to level the playing field for ICs.

Obviously there's a lot of nuance in doing this right. You want to make sure your manager doesn't think you have one foot out the door, or they'll let you walk and assume it's a lost cause. Trashing the company, your teammates, or any institutional issues will not get you a counter. Saying how appealing the compensation and project of the new offer is a better way to get your manager to try to fix things and keep you. Stay positive, optimistic, and conflicted throughout the process, and you'll be surprised what happens.

comments

Want to comment? LOG IN or SIGN UP
TOP 131 Comments
  • Microsoft richardhea
    Major point missing - you have to live with the regret of not moving on. If the itch was there, it will come back.
    🍆
    Feb 15, 2018 12
    • Microsoft Gjhxejoub
      @noogler69 - nice one, but almost no one here would know who JMK was. 🤤
      Feb 15, 2018
    • Google s89
      Good point richard
      Feb 15, 2018
    • Google arbitdude2
      That depends, if you had an offer from Uber in 2016, and you accepted the counter, you would really happy. It depends on how your bet played out.
      Feb 15, 2018
    • Uber / Eng
      (💡)

      Uber Eng

      PRE
      Startup Shell
      (💡)more
      Happy leaving Uber in 2016, but for how long? The regret is gonna come soon my dear.
      Feb 16, 2018
    • Lyft sUPA43
      Kif, I'm feeling the Captain's itch. prepare to change course.
      Feb 16, 2018
  • Tableau Clapper
    Studies have shown that 2/3 of people who accept a counter-offer subsequently leave within a year.
    Feb 15, 2018 12
    • Google arbitdude2
      Fwiw Sundar pichai accepted a counter.
      Feb 15, 2018
    • Google / Eng
      eYiX63

      Google Eng

      PRE
      Airbnb
      eYiX63more
      Citation?
      Feb 16, 2018
    • Google UBdG56
      Yes, there are rumors he did, but it’s not the same when you’re an exec. Execs are the face of the company, and if anything the company will give them really good money to stay.
      Feb 16, 2018
    • Google arbitdude2
      He was not much of an exec when Twitter offered him 50 million. Larry did not hold that against him, not will you manger.
      Feb 18, 2018
    • Google UBdG56
      Wtf he was running Android and chrome at that point, both wild bets that did extremely well. He was at least a VP, if not SVP.

      Here’s an experiment. Find out how many VPs goog (not just goog just about any large blue chip company) has hired from outside, the number will definitely be greater than the number that were promoted from within. Heck, some people left goog, and came back as an exec.
      Feb 18, 2018
  • I think OP is a recruiter preventing people from Uber jumping the ship
    Feb 15, 2018 11
    • Facebook Yggdrasil
      Interesting, except for the fact that I have MORE than 1 like, dumbass 😂
      Feb 15, 2018
    • Uber / Eng n+1
      OP
      Liking all your own comments 😕
      Feb 15, 2018
    • Amazon / Eng ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ
      FE$&, those staffing firms should be called out, it’s against the law and bad for all of us.
      Feb 16, 2018
    • Uber Pir4te
      Honestly who cares about staffing firms? They are a dying breed. Everyone is moving internal. Anyhow, we don’t have retention incentives at Uber- at least on the recruiting side. We just consider retention in our hiring goals to try and get ahead of it.
      Feb 16, 2018
    • Oath / Eng FE$$
      I don’t think it’s against the law. It make sense too. Years ago it was common practice for staffing firms to place a candidate at company A then turns around to poach the exact same candidate to fill another position at company B. I think all staffing firm nowadays to entire contract to not poach from their client.
      Feb 16, 2018
  • Autodesk lcrR70
    I accepted a counter, got a better internal post as a result. That elevated my public position which attracted new offers that were way better than the first. I took a new offer after a year and it al turned out great.
    Feb 15, 2018 3
    • L3 Technologies LatinaSW
      Nice
      Feb 15, 2018
    • Apple Grilllzzz
      I did an identical move 2 jobs ago. Leveraged an outside offer into a 30% raise at then current job. Because I was fundamentally dissatisfied with the job, then used my new base salary from accepted counter offer to negotiate a great offer from tech company and haven’t looked back since. In span of 4 years I have multiplied my base salary by a factor of 3.5x. All good in this hood.
      Feb 16, 2018
    • Oracle SquareRoot
      Holly crap! Awesome
      Feb 17, 2018
  • All the conventional wisdom around counter offers stems from recruiters and their propaganda
    Feb 15, 2018 3
    • L3 Technologies LatinaSW
      this
      Feb 15, 2018
    • Intel TotalComp
      This guy fucks
      Feb 15, 2018
    • L3 Technologies LatinaSW
      He is da maaan
      Feb 16, 2018
  • Oath / Eng FE$$
    Can I use the counter to negotiate better outside offer?
    Feb 15, 2018 6
    • Apple Prlitbamni
      Actually the Paris conference of 1994 prohibits this. Consult with your lawyer.
      Feb 15, 2018
    • Oracle gep
      If you google it up, it actually came into law in 1995.
      Feb 15, 2018
    • Uber / Eng bag
      It is the law, but I believe breaking it will only get you up to 3 months of jail, so it’s okay.
      Feb 15, 2018
    • Zendesk Buddhys👻
      Nice try, my lawyer!
      Feb 15, 2018
    • Tableau Hw2fx
      Don't mislead confused people. We can be fired at any point and you can renegotiate any contract. The other side might laugh, the other side could be the biggest fool ever like the president or smart like almost anyone other than trump.
      Feb 15, 2018
  • Microsoft IBTingey
    A counter offer shows you are needed but not necessarily valued. There was a reason you interviewed elsewhere and a reason you weren’t already paid more before the counter offer. Accepting an counter only results in you missing the new opportunity and staying in a place where you’ll have to wonder if they will harbor ill feelings. You forced them against the wall to pay you more than they were willing. Your future employer was willing to pay you higher without any leverage applied so what does that tell you about who values you more really?
    Feb 15, 2018 2
    • L3 Technologies LatinaSW
      BS. In some cases you have to accept a low paid job - if you are laid off. Why not renegotiate via another job offer?? If they truly value your work there; they have to counter offer. If not you move on. Win win situation for you
      Feb 15, 2018
    • Intel TotalComp
      Once your project is done and you lose your leverage, you are going at the top of the layoffs list.
      Feb 15, 2018
  • Amazon FlatTV
    Dude, there are several studies that prove that it’s worse, but hey, you as the center of the universe must be right
    Feb 15, 2018 5
    • Uber / Eng n+1
      OP
      Thanks. Link?
      Feb 15, 2018
    • Amazon FlatTV
      Try google.com
      Feb 15, 2018
    • Uber / Eng n+1
      OP
      Thought so.
      Feb 15, 2018
    • Amazon FlatTV
      Good for you
      Feb 15, 2018
    • Amazon / Mktg
      SupAmigo?

      Amazon Mktg

      BIO
      Webinar/Event Program Manager. 8 years experience of web streaming, production, and marketing.
      SupAmigo?more
      Great discussion, 10/10 would read again.
      Feb 16, 2018
  • Workday POcw856
    As a fairly senior manager, if I were counter an offer it’s because I don’t have a good plan for that person leaving. I make the counter, get them to accept, and then have my team plan for the person to quit again in the next 6-12 months. We use that time to cross train or to hire.

    Money only keeps someone so long, they were leaving for a reason, and that reason wasn’t changed with more money...they will most likely quit again.

    Ps. If you think you’re underpaid, have a good honest conversation with your boss or your director/VP. In my org, you’re more likely to get a off-cycle raise talking openly and honestly about the value you bring, your contributions and why you feel underpaid. Don’t hold your boss hostage with a threat to quit.
    Feb 16, 2018 4
    • Amazon dditys
      Ain't nobody holding you fucking hostage. There's information and power asymmetry and the only power an employee actually has is the ability to leave.

      We ain't a fucking family or friends. We show up to work to get paid so show me the money bitch!
      Feb 16, 2018
    • Fiserv LMIN38
      Unfortunately sometimes it takes action to show you're serious. You can have honest conversations all day long, but like it was said earlier off cycle promotions are really a pain to push through. You really have to pull a lot of strings to make that happen. Like I personally talked to my boss and his boss that I'm underpaid and all I heard is we don't have budget for a raise, but maybe we'll give you 5% next cycle.
      But when I put in my resignation letter, within a week they found a discretionary fund and offered me 30% more. They called it market adjustment and it was 5 years ago.
      Feb 16, 2018
    • Facebook Mpk()
      Your Ps is bullshit. How do you find out you’re underpaid? You interview and find someone willing to pay you more. Not some wishy washy I feel like I should be paid more or I read X in Blind.

      I still Interview around when I know I’m being paid fairly. It’s nothing personal. Trust but verify.
      Feb 16, 2018
    • Salesforce RQ753T
      I’m thinking you may be delusional in your assessment of how things work. Show me an example where what you are saying actually happened and I’ll show you 100 where it didn’t. Don’t drink the coolaid, be honest with yourself.
      Feb 16, 2018
  • Uber Sr staff
    I am not sure, I should have accept LinkedIn's counter offer
    Feb 15, 2018 2
    • Zendesk Buddhys👻
      What are you saying?
      Feb 15, 2018
    • Google / Eng tropicthun
      @Uber I thought you enjoyed working on Voldemort tho
      Feb 15, 2018
  • Square OXYe80
    I can’t recall a single time in my entire career as a manager where an employee ended up staying past the 1 year mark after accepting a counter offer. If you are looking elsewhere to the point of interviewing, it’s usually for a good reason and that reason doesn’t go away with more money or an increased title.
    Feb 15, 2018 2
    • TuneIn ibelieve
      what are the common reasons you've seen?
      Feb 15, 2018
    • Oracle / Eng Y64hjf8
      It does if the reason is "to get more money and an increased title."
      Feb 15, 2018
  • Amazon spiddyocky
    Statistically speaking, people that accept counter offers are gone within six months. It’s highly unlikely that underlying issues really change. HR teams know this and it makes the acceptee a target in the event of layoffs, etc. there are exceptions, of course, I’m talking about run of the mill companies.
    Feb 15, 2018 7
    • Amazon spiddyocky
      @kmuD53 that might happen, or might not. Conventional wisdom says the person who accepts the counteroffer gets demoted in the eyes of their manager and HR. So it may not be a layoff, but instead given shittier projects, lower preference for transfers, etc., once you’ve completed the thing they want to keep you on for. Essentially you’ve marked yourself as “not worth investment”. Of course, things might work excellently as in your hypothetical. This is just a rule of thumb.
      Feb 15, 2018
    • eBay M4bxz3n
      Why do you assume a counter is only given in the middle of a project? If comp is too low and a counter corrects the low comp, why is that person now "demoted in the eyes of HR"?
      Feb 16, 2018
    • Microsoft kmuD53
      I think there is two different types of counters:

      1) management goes fuck this guy is involved in too much key projects / no one else really knows how to do his stuff / we won’t be able to KT or back fill in time.

      This scenario you can get screwed cause management will realize they have too many dependencies on you and try to balance them out to make you more expendable. Once all the dependencies are removed you are the same as any other employee (but viewed as flight risk)

      2) you are overall good employee and add value to the org regardless of what projects you are working on. You output 2x or 3x your co workers / potential replacement. You show high growth potential. In this case a counter can be mutual beneficial as you are getting paid closer to your value but management is still getting a good deal (suppose pay you 150% other employees for 250% the output of other employees). They have no reason to chase you away
      Feb 16, 2018
    • eBay M4bxz3n
      #1 is the result of bad management, this is called "a low bus factor". If management is good yet engineer is intentionally hoarding knowledge then that employee needs to be let go ASAP before they ruin the company.
      Feb 16, 2018
    • Amazon spiddyocky
      @M4, I think it’s reasonable to assume the employee has something in flight at all times, right? That thing would be jeopardized if the manager loses the employee. As to why the demotion, it’s for the reason I mentioned. Why invest in someone who is a flight risk? As a manager, would you give that person the next key assignment that comes up? There are no hard rules, so it’s possible, but it’s one consideration that goes against the retained employee. That all said, what the OP said about mobility is true, at least in tech companies I’ve seen. It’s quite possible to accept the counter, bide your time and find a better team/boss. Some companies are good for this and some aren’t. My point is: if you accept the counter, ask yourself what will be your standing on in that situation after, assuming that I’m right about the demotion. Some people will still come out ahead and it all depends on situation.
      Feb 16, 2018
  • Amazon sudoyum
    People are forgetting the best example of a counter offer working out and the person making it big in the same company - Sundar pichai
    Feb 15, 2018 4
  • Oracle cakie
    Quick question: do you share the offer with your employer, or just tell them the number?
    Feb 15, 2018 5
    • Uber / Eng n+1
      OP
      Try not to forward your manager the actual letter. But let your manager know the numbers: base, bonus, sign-on, stock, etc. The comp structures won't always be apples to apples, so give your manager enough info to come back with something compelling.
      Feb 15, 2018
    • Google / Eng
      eYiX63

      Google Eng

      PRE
      Airbnb
      eYiX63more
      I suppose that the letter could make its way back to the issuing company. Besides, the letter contains other confidential information about the other company.
      Feb 16, 2018
    • Apple falcon123
      Well what if I just make up some fake numbers? Don’t they actually wanna see the offer
      Feb 16, 2018
    • Oracle cakie
      I guess if they need to see the paper to realize how much you worth to them, they kinda suck. If it would be me you can ask double what the offer is... for what I care, I either think it's right to pay it or I replace you.
      Feb 16, 2018
    • Uber / Eng n+1
      OP
      It's weird and unprofessional for them to ask. It's intrusive and basically calling your bluff. And any experienced manager knows that. But sometimes it's the only thing that would make Finance approve a counter.
      Feb 16, 2018
  • Salesforce UWyv73
    Matches my experience with one caveat: by getting an outside offer, I was able to get the attention of my level up where I was able to give feedback about the fact that my line-manager wasn't doing a good job. I was a top performer so, got a counter offer almost instantly and stayed on for many years after. The funny thing is, the company that I had the outside offer with wound up failing, so accepting the counter was the best move I made in my career
    Feb 15, 2018 0
  • L3 Technologies LatinaSW
    I agree with the op
    Feb 15, 2018 0
  • IXIA / Eng u1123
    Turned down offer from Facebook for counter / promotion at current employer.
    Feb 17, 2018 2
    • Oath / Eng FE$$
      Was the counter able to match TC?
      Feb 17, 2018
    • IXIA / Eng u1123
      Counter beat FB TC, doubling prior comp.
      Feb 17, 2018
  • Google quan
    This! Most of online data that advice to never accept counter is written by recruiters who do not make money when counter accepted.
    Feb 15, 2018 0
  • Twitter zUwB37
    Glad to see someone write this, closely matches my experience. Surely this is not the case for everyone and many folks may be better off moving on if they'll just grow unhappy again soon anyway. But in the right situation, I really do think it can work out as you described.
    Feb 15, 2018 0
  • Uber gUkG68
    Is it better to try to get a counter offer before the perf cycle or after it?
    Feb 16, 2018 3
    • Uber / Eng n+1
      OP
      I don't know the right answer to that. During perf season is when there's the most flexibility for increasing someone's comp obviously, but perf season takes a long time to complete. For example the perf cycle ends in December, and you don't find out your raise and bonus until the following March. If you bring an outside offer to your manager in November or December, you'd have to wait several months to see if they "take care of you." And your outside offer would long be expired.
      Feb 16, 2018
    • Uber gUkG68
      Posting reply in the right place: Yeah but these counters at Uber would be in discretionary equity, right? So that can be pushed through anytime. The promo and bonus process has become tightly controlled AFAIK
      Feb 16, 2018
    • Uber FACTS YO
      You should be able to get an honest read on your manager. This is possible without flat out asking “will you actually give me a raise during perf?” by evaluating your relationship with them. Do they trust you? How is communication between you two? If you’re confident, then letting perf do what it is meant to do should be fine. If you don’t feel confident, bring it up sooner.
      Feb 16, 2018