Severance: It Ain’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

Posted November 9, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Career Moves

If you’ve never been in a situation where you’ve been given a severance package, good for you! That means you’ve never been fired or laid off and you’ve probably never had a bad experience giving notice. Count your lucky stars, because any of these situations can be described as some of the most emotionally taxing, physically exhausting, and mentally killer career situations out there.

No matter the reason you’re leaving or being asked to leave, what’s often very hard about these situations is that in this time of emotional difficulty, you’re expected to agree to or negotiate a severance package. And if you’ve never been a party to a severance package, you’re probably only partially familiar with what they are. And chances are, you have some misconceptions about what severance agreements are and are not.

Blogging4Jobs published “3 Myths About Severance Pay” and they’re right — we all buy into a number of myths about severance. First, severance isn’t a given, and second, it isn’t guaranteed to get you as much money as you think you are worth. From my own experience and the experience of a few others, here are some other tips to think through before, during, and after negotiating severance packages.

  • Think Long Term. Severance pay is immediate. It’s all about getting you out the door quickly and without a lot of fuss. For that reason, it’s easy to get caught up in the 1-3-6 months of pay they’re offering you and not take into consideration what the package they’re offering means long term. Read the fine print, and read it closely. You could be signing your life away to get a month’s pay that you’ll be able to recover when you get the next job.
  • Consult an Attorney. You have the absolute right to consult an attorney before you sign or do anything related to a severance agreement. Take that right and use it! Don’t let your desire to get the hell out of there cloud your judgement.
  • Hold it together. When I left my last job to start Career Girl Network, I did the right thing and offered an appropriate amount of notice. Unfortunately, the company had another idea: I was presented with a severance agreement and said goodbye just the day after I gave my notice. Here I was, making this decision myself, and feeling somehow like I was the one being fired, even though I’d made the decision. I’m embarrassed to say I cried and really couldn’t hold myself together, and it’s one of my greatest regrets. Take a deep breath, don’t say anything in the moment, and walk away knowing you’ll consult an attorney and come back with an answer or negotiation feeling stronger and less emotional in the moment.

I hope you’ll never find yourself in the severance situation, but if you do, keep these things in mind. It might help you somewhere down the road.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."