Negotiation Skills

What to Do When You Get Fired

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Getting fired is something people choose not to think about as much as possible. But when the moment comes, people are generally unprepared and don’t know how to react.

Unsurprisingly, people don’t want to get fired – unless they’re in some awful environment that absolutely drives them up the walls. So if you find yourself in hot seat, what are you supposed to do?

If it has reached the point that your boss is ready to fire you, chances are high that they have weighed the decision for some time and have drawn the conclusion that firing you is the only option. In which case, their is admittedly little you can do to change the situation.

So what should you do?

Don’t Lose Your Cool

Part of you might be thinking: “This is that golden chance I’ve been dreaming of! I’ll shout ‘You can’t fire me; I quit!'” Well, this isn’t the time to storm off and kick over the water cooler. Your reputation and any opportunity to salvage something from the situation depends on your ability to keep a level head. Side note – if you choose the “I quit” route, you may be ruling yourself out for receiving unemployment. So skip the drama – no matter how good movies and TV make it look.

Discuss the Reasons Why You Are Being Fired

Now that you are calm and collected, it’s time to understand the reasoning. Tell your boss that you would appreciate a thorough explanation of the reasons. After all, you’ve been a (hopefully) loyal employee for some time, the least your boss could do is give you feedback to help you grow and improve moving forward.

Once you have established every reason (and you might need to ask “why?” multiple times to get to the bottom of the reasons), you can draw a few conclusions:

  • You are being fired due to poor performance, or;
  • You are being fired due to fit within the organization, or;
  • You said or did something inappropriate

There are many possible reasons, but generally it is one of the above three. Fit within the organization can include anything from work ethic, to how you get work with other employees, or how you affect the culture. Saying or doing something inappropriate could involve constantly showing up late, sleeping on the job, being abusive to other employees, etc.

If the reason involves fit or inappropriate actions, your goal is to do your best to make the firing as painless as possible, and preserve any positive relation you have with your boss and the company. Never burn bridges, and never lose your cool!

Request a Probationary Period

If you are being fired for performance based reasons, you may be able to make a case for having your boss keep you on for a probationary period to improve. And if they seem like they are warm to the idea, you need to agree on specifics. How long would the probationary period last? What would you need to improve? By what percentage would you need to improve? Would you be able to hold regular check ins? Would you have full access to the same resources or budget you currently have?

Discuss The Terms of Your Departure

In the event that your termination is in the form of a lay off, there may be a severance package in the works for you. If you are fired, their is also a chance the company may offer some form of severance in exchange for signing a release. You may be in a position to negotiate certain elements of the package in both financial and non-financial terms.

Again, this is why not losing your cool is important! Nobody wants to negotiate with an irate person, and if they are forced to, they will negotiate with equal furor.

According to salary.com, common agreements include:

  1. Your severance pay terms
  2. Your vacation pay terms
  3. Cobra (Benefits) Information
  4. Return of Property
  5. Non Compete
  6. Confidentiality Agreement
  7. Unemployment Information
  8. A General Release of Claims and Covenant Not To Sue

So if there is a severance package offered, take the proper time to review it and negotiate the package before you sign. You may cause more trouble for yourself by signing on the spot if you don’t work out your non-compete!

Additionally, you may wish to discuss how your termination is conveyed to the company, or your team. You may request the opportunity to craft a letter to your fellow employees discussing your departure, and provide contact information to keep in touch – a great opportunity to ensure your network remains intact and bridges are not burned.

Last but not least, hold your head up high, and don’t allow yourself to dwell on the situation. Get back out there!

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