Bargaining a good-bye

Negotiate your parting payout

The ax has fallen. Your boss has just told you that you’ve been downsized, and you’re still reeling from the news. Without time to fully process your emotions, you head over to human resources to work out a severance deal that you hope will at least help you to feel like all your labor hasn’t been in vain. By the time you reach the department, you’ve bounced alternately between anger, sadness, and panic4not exactly the best frame of mind to be in during this important discussion.

“The best time to negotiate a generous departure deal is before accepting a job,” advises Tony Lee, editor in chief of CareerJournal.com, a career Website for executives and professionals. You’ll know up front what you will be walking away with in the event that your job is terminated for reasons other than misconduct. And you won’t have to worry about emotions getting in the way of the negotiation process.

If you didn’t establish a parting payout in advance, you can still take steps to ensure a fair farewell. Here’s how:
Prepare mentally. You’re going to have to put your emotions on hold so you can think clearly. New York-based career counseling organization the Five O’Clock Club suggests “developing a mantra”4such as “I just want to be treated fairly”–that will help you stay focused on your negotiations objectives.

  • Know what you want. This will help you to avoid jumping at the first offer handed to you. Sit down before the meeting and draw up a list of desirables (money, outplacement assistance, continuation of your medical benefits, etc.). Number them in order of priority to you.
  • Be firm, but flexible. Present the items on your wish list without apology. But if your soon-to-be-former employer can’t, for example, offer you more money (No. 1 on your list) but is willing to offer you career counseling until you find another job, be open to considering the offer4and even accepting it.
  • Know when to quit. You may feel that the least the company can do after laying you off is to grant your requests. Still, maintain your professionalism and don’t get outrageous. The last thing you want to do is come across as greedy or unreasonable.

For more on layoffs, read:
Firing Back: Power Strategies for Cutting the Best Deal When You’re About to Lose Your Job by Jodie-Beth Galos and Sandy McIntosh, Ph.D. (John Wiley & Sons, $15.95)

Getting Fired: What to Do If You’re Fired, Downsized, Laid Off, Restructured, Discharged, Terminated or Forced to Resign by Steven Mitchell Sack (Warner Books, $7.99)

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