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According to a very highly upvoted post on Workplace.SE that says you should never accept a counteroffer:

80% of people who accept counter offers are gone from that company within 6 months, at the 12 month mark that goes up to 90%

I looked at the sources that the post cited:

  • Source 1 says “70-80% of people who accept either leave or are let go within a year”, but it gives no reference for those numbers.

  • Source 2 says “According to national surveys of employees that accept counteroffers, 50%-80% voluntarily leave their employer within six months of accepting the counteroffer because of promises not kept. The majority of the balance of employees that accept counteroffers leave their employers within twelve months of accepting their counteroffer (terminated, downsized, fired, laid off).” But it does not cite exactly what surveys those numbers come from.

  • Source 3 says “80% of all employees who accept a counter-offer are no longer with that employer after 1 year”, but it gives no reference for that number.

  • Source 4 says “statistics show that 80% of people who have accepted a counter offer will not be at their current employer in six months and 93% will not be there in eighteen months’ time”, but it gives no reference for those numbers.

Is there any reputable source that can back up the claim that about 90% of employees who accept a counteroffer from their current employer will be gone from that employer within a year?

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    After spending a few minutes looking into this, I can say that this is an excellent question to ask here. It brings xkcd.com/978 to mind – Rob Watts Apr 12 at 21:21
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    Nice one, sniffing out the fake cargo-culture stat. A lot of things in business become true only because business culture believes its true. Because managers read that 90% of employees leave, they inevitably make sure it comes true, and at the same time chide other managers for being naive. – Mark Rogers Apr 13 at 1:48
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    @RobWatts: That xkcd is actually kind of (really!) scary... – Make42 Apr 13 at 8:00
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    I can only speak for myself, but I got a counter offer a few years ago and still remain at the same workplace and I'm 100% me. – user1841243 Apr 13 at 8:07
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    @Make42 there's a list for that, too en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:List_of_citogenesis_incidents – llama Apr 13 at 17:25
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There is no recent study to back up that claim

As you (and others in the comments to that Workplace.SE answer) noticed, none of the articles cited have any citations themselves. While looking into this, I also found that it is easy to find other articles that are similar. They all mention a high percentage of people leaving within a short period after accepting a counteroffer, but none have an actual link to a source. The more honest ones don't use the hard numbers or acknowledge the lack of a source:

From https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB119431677016683480

... says Ken Stempson, director of administration and human resources for IntelePeer Inc., a communications company. He says about half of employees take counteroffers, but the majority start looking for new jobs within six months

From https://www.consultrecruitment.co.nz/blog/6-reasons-why-accepting-a-counter-offer-is-madness/

There’s an oft-quoted statistic in the recruitment world that 80% of job seekers who accept a counter offer go on to leave their job within six months anyway. Despite considerable ferreting around the internet, I can’t find the source of that fact anywhere. I suspect it might be the result of a snap poll around a recruitment office somewhere, circa 2001, and it’s become accepted lore.

I also found https://jobtipsforgeeks.com/2014/02/19/counteroffers/, which makes a very good point about secrecy:

Statistics about counteroffers are impossible to measure when you consider the interests and incentives of the parties involved. Companies that counteroffer departing employees are best served to keep that fact private, as employees may pursue offer letters just for the sake of a raise or improvement and outsiders may question if the company pays market rates.
Likewise, those who accept counteroffers may be concerned with the word getting out, as it may genuinely impact attitudes towards the employee. Employees who accept counteroffers are likely asked to keep quiet about what happened, and it’s usually in their best interest to do so.
Based on the secrecy incentives on both sides, one might assume that the prevalence of counteroffers is likely higher than reported, and success/failure rate of counteroffer is difficult to assess.

I did find two blog-post-like articles (here and here) skeptical about the numbers that say it likely came from a WSJ study from the 1960s or 1970s, but unfortunately neither of them gave a link to the study (if someone finds a link to it, I'll be happy to add it into my answer). In both cases, they came to the conclusion that everybody has just been hearing and saying the 80% and 93% numbers for long enough that it's become accepted fact.

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It appears to be an urban myth. This was brought up in the discussion on the answer where repeated requests for sources were made.

The blog post 6 Reasons Why Accepting A Counter Offer Is Madness (linked in that discussion) investigates the claim.

Despite considerable ferreting around the internet, I can’t find the source of that fact anywhere. I suspect it might be the result of a snap poll around a recruitment office somewhere, circa 2001, and it’s become accepted lore.

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    Please see my comment to Rob Watts's answer. – Spencer Apr 13 at 13:25
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It appears the obvious reason for this claim is being missed. The fact is that job recruiters get paid based on the salary of the job they manage to help you get. If you take a counter offer to stay at your current position or a new one in your current company they get nothing.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/dailymuse/2017/05/22/4-truths-about-working-with-recruiters-that-theyll-never-tell-you/?sh=2e9d4d652705

Most recruiters in staffing agencies are paid on commission, earning a fee based on your first year’s salary when you get hired. (It doesn’t come out of your pay. It’s just an added expense for the company who hires you.)

If you think about it from that perspective chances are any counter offer an employee is getting from their current employer is due to the offer they got from a potential new employer and that is likely due to the efforts of a recruiter. If you are a recruiter in that position how are you going to feel if you lose out on a commision for all the hard work you do? In the end recruiters don't really work for the job seeker but for the employer themselves.

Job seekers often refer to themselves as the “clients,” and recruiters are trained not to correct them. The truth is: The companies who hire headhunters are the people who foot the bills.

Sometimes, we’re asked to look for things that have nothing to do with your professional qualifications. I’ve been told that a certain team has too many males, and they need to hire two women before we show them any more men. We don’t like it, but it happens (and we can’t tell you when it does).

If you look at the facts that they get paid when they fill a job and they are paid by the people filling the jobs not the ones seeking one should it be surprising that there are claims that counter offers are bad?

Looking closer at that post and the reasons listed that accepting a counter offer are bad can it really be said how often those reasons are true for someone who is seeking a new job? I would argue that those are not true as often as people would want you to believe and there are many reasons to be job hunting than problems at the current job.

All of this is of course ignoring the fact that an employee who accepts a counter offer and still ends up leaving in 6-12 months could end up in a better position than if they had taken the initial job. There is nothing discussing what job situation they end up in after taking a counter offer and if it ended being similar or worse off than the declined position I am certain it would be used as a way to argue against counter offers.

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  • It is also worth noting that restrictive immigration policies in the us keep tech companies from recruiting enough foreign talent. This makes it so that us tech talent are competed for real hard. This is a big reason why job hopping is prevalent in the us. – Neil Meyer Apr 13 at 15:04
  • Something ridiculous like 40 percent of the phd graduates that the us produces are forced to leave the country when they graduate, but don't worry us loss is Canada, uk, Australia and Germany gain – Neil Meyer Apr 13 at 15:06
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    @NeilMeyer While that is true I am guessing that most people in that situation are not getting counter offers as the employer is no longer able to employ them in the first place. – Joe W Apr 13 at 16:08
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    @NeilMeyer That claim appears to be very outdated (and also not quite accurate.) As of 2001, around 40% of foreign Ph.D. students in the U.S. did leave the U.S. within 5 years after graduation, though presumably not all of these were forced to do so. Many people come to the U.S. for graduate education with the intent to return after graduation. However, by 2018, this had decreased to 30%. And, again, this is only among the foreign students, not the ones who were from the U.S. to begin with. – reirab Apr 15 at 15:49
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    @NeilMeyer According to this data on NSF's website, as of 2015, about 25% of foreign Ph.D. students intended to leave the U.S. after graduation anyway (which is a historic low.) This seems to suggest that ineligibility to remain isn't actually having much effect, given that 25% intended to leave and only 30% had done so within 5 years. – reirab Apr 15 at 16:06
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I went looking for this before due to another workplace post.

The statistics quoted are claimed to come from the “National Employment Association” (NEA), but the actual statistic itself varies wildly in how many and when it happens.

Searching for NEA I found a reference to them dating back to the 1960’s (Reference). They describe themselves as a recruitment agency.

They later merged with another organization to become NAPS. Checking that site for any references shows up nothing for the statistic, but does go into details on how to handle losing clients to counter offers.

The source statistic if it ever existed would have been around the 1960-1970’s. Also there could be bias in the survey based on who presented it.

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    If it is a recruitment agency that would fit what my answer suggested which is that they are incentivized to get to to take a job offer and disincentivized for you taking a counter offer since they make nothing off of that. – Joe W Apr 13 at 18:59

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