Should I stay or should I go now? (Counter-offer)

By | November 11, 2017

I am faced with a conundrum, and the Clash plays on repeat in my head…

I enjoy public accounting (I know, I’m a psycho). I’m a high-performer: summa cum laude/BAP president in college, had 3 internships and got 3 job offers before graduation, good social skills (peers, supervisors, and clients all like me), wonderful performance reviews across the board, got my CPA in under a year, and I’m overall an easy-going person.

After a long and difficult period of contemplation before graduation, I chose my current firm (2nd tier/large) over a big 4 offer (I had interned there and didn’t feel like I fit in with the phony Kool-Aid guzzlers).

I was fairly happy with life for a while. Then some management changes were made that upset a lot of people and we started hemorrhaging talent like a severed artery. Due to my experience level and general “CAN DO!” attitude, I was used as human caulking to fill the gaps, and ended up an “acting senior” running consecutive engagements and back-to-back busy seasons from year-end to fiscal-year-end clients, routinely getting shipped out to other states to clean up messes on a moment’s notice, and I haven’t had a break since January.

To make matters worse, my fiancé switched jobs in early summer and had to relocate to a city on the other side of the state, and we have been doing the long-distance thing (basically Skype because I’ve barely had Sundays) for the last several months while we searched for and bought a house 2 months ago in that city (stressful) and I waited for my office transfer request to be approved (finally switched to that office last month).

I figured all these extra hours and great performance reviews were worth something, until compensation adjustments/promotions were handed out and all I got was a 4% raise and a pat on the back while people with less seniority than me at my new office got promoted to senior with a higher pay bump (I’m about to head into my fourth spring busy season, but I don’t have 3 full years yet).

When I explained my dissatisfaction to my supervisor (still under the purview of the old office), he drove across the state, took me out to dinner, bought me drinks, and basically told me “life’s tough, and it sucks that you moved, but don’t worry, you’ll definitely make senior next year, and you’re a highly valued employee”.

Not happy with this answer, I emailed my resume to a recruiter at a larger 2nd tier firm, got a phone interview, in-person interview, and an offer in less than a couple weeks, and I even negotiated a higher salary (although for some reason they didn’t want to hire me on as senior because they’d still have to train me differently, I guess). So I signed the offer and marched in proudly this morning to give notice at my current firm, and apparently I threw my office into a panic because instead of just being allowed to give notice, my entire Friday was eaten up by meetings and phone calls with various managers and partners trying to figure out what it would take to make me stay. So I told them my new offer (stupidly, I know, I was honest about the number), and they just barely exceeded it.

However, their Kool-Aid rained down on me all day long and now I feel like I might have been contaminated because I’m actually feeling nostalgic and thinking of staying for one more year. After all, I did used to love my job, and at one point I chose them over 2 other offers. The staffing problems were mostly a side effect of the old office, and in another month and a half, I will no longer be under my old supervisor who denied my promotion.

Am I insane? How horrible would it be to go back to the other firm now and tell them that I’ve decided to stay where I am? Will my bridges be irreparably burned? Worse yet, if I stay, will my current firm always think of me as a traitor/flight risk? My new office wants to keep me, but do they only want to keep me because busy season is around the corner and I’m a good little soldier, or are they trying to correct what my old office did?

Is there EVER a good reason to accept a last-ditch counter-offer when you give notice? Have you ever accepted a counter-offer? If so, how did it turn out? Did people gossip about you? Did supervisors treat you differently?