Men's Life Today: Expert Q+A
There’s a high probability I’m about to be laid off. Is there anything I can do to maximize my severance package?
There are as many answers to this question as there are individual situations.
First off, let’s back up a second: Unless your company has a severance policy or plan, or you have rights under an employment contract, the company has no legal obligation to provide severance pay. If you are getting severance, keep the following in mind:
If you’re part of a large layoff, your ability to negotiate will be limited, since your employer may fear that it will have to match any extra dollar it gives you to everybody else in the layoff.
Still, whether we’re talking mass layoffs or just you, ask yourself what leverage you have. Do you have a plausible claim for breach of contract or discrimination? Will the company need to call upon your expertise after you have left?
Loyalty and guilt can be sources of leverage too. If possible, approach senior management as opposed to human resources, because the former is more likely to have the authority and discretion to find additional money for you. Remind them of your accomplishments, the sacrifices you’ve made and the outside opportunities you’ve passed up in the name of company loyalty. Of course, do this in a dignified, polite and responsible way: Unless you’re in a very strong negotiating position, putting your finger in someone’s chest (even figuratively) will likely do more harm than good.
In the challenging emotional climate of the moment, avoid the temptation to do anything foolish, like removing electronic files. A year or two from now, you’ll be flourishing at another company, and you’ll want your former co-workers to say: “Look how well Joe is doing. That’s what’s wrong with this company -- we can’t keep classy people like Joe.”