Negotiating Severance

By Paula Santonocito

smw - negotiating severanceYour company has announced layoffs, and you know your job will be among those on the chopping block. Is it possible to negotiate a going-away deal?

Review Policy and Pay

Many large companies have severance policies, and typically these are written policies.

A severance policy describes the payout should you lose your job. Often based on years of service, it provides specific criteria, as in two weeks salary per year of employment.

Any additional income may also be mentioned in the policy, like payment for earned but unused vacation time.

With layoffs looming, now is the time to find out if your company has an official policy.

What if it doesn’t, and severance terms haven’t yet been disclosed?

Either way, you’ll want get out your calculator and project your possible packages, with two weeks’ pay for each year of service and one week for each year, as well as with and without any vacation time.

Knowing what your company will potentially offer is essential for several reasons. Unlike your married female coworkers, as a single woman, you are more apt to be your sole source of income.

From a financial standpoint, you need to figure out what the figures mean to fiscal wellbeing.

As important, before you can negotiate, it’s essential to know your starting point.

Assess Your Worth

Once you have an idea of what you’ll be offered, you can see how it compares to what you’ve contributed to the company.

For example, if the company intends to dismiss you with $4,000 and you’re a salesperson who recently brought in a deal worth $500,000, you have a valid point of discussion.

What if your company has a set policy? Or what if it has already put a severance package in writing in the form of a letter?

Experts say there is often opportunity to negotiate, regardless. However, it is key to keep your intent quiet, and to have your discussions behind closed doors.

What Matters

Several things will factor into your success: your reputation within the company, your relationship with your boss and other members of the management team, and the structure of the company.

In any conversation, your approach is also critical. Inquire in a friendly manner as to whether the company might be open to adding to your severance package. Explain why you think you are deserving of more.

Keep in mind there are other points of negotiation besides severance pay.

Even if your company won’t budge on the pay part of the package, it may offer professional outplacement services, which can consist of job search assistance, resume preparation, and/or career coaching. Some companies allow laid-off employees to continue to use office facilities while they look for employment.

Finally, another option may be available to you. Although your company terminates its relationship with you as an employee, it could very well be open to working with you on a contract basis.

Human resource consultants say the practice is more common than a lot of people realize.

Of course it will depend on the nature of your job responsibilities and your department and company’s structure. But if the work still has to get done, why not offer to be the one to do it?

If you think through your plan, and approach negotiations carefully, you could end up with a severance package and a freelance contract.

Now that’s a single-minded deal.

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