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.