“Can I really negotiate for better severance?”

Question: I am a 28 year old African American female, who was recently laid off due to an integration of my department with another department located in another state. I work for a large insurance company that I am sure you have heard of.

I have worked for this company for 3.5 years. Out of the whole department of five employees, I was the only one not given a replacement position elsewhere in the company, and instead offered a severance package. I have until May 27th to find something different in the company. I was never given a bad review in prior years, and was always led to believe that I was fulfilling my job to full capacity.

Since the news has broken that I am the only one who will be losing her job, I have been made to feel bad about the situation. Other colleagues will make comments and giggle how they are happy to still have a job. At this point, it feels hostile. I am, though, fully keeping my dignity.

My question to you is this: Once my employer has offered me a severance package, which has not yet been given to me, and I have not yet signed anything, can that severance package be negotiated?  During my three years here they have treated me unfairly in different ways, including sending me on an assignment where the duties were totally out of my job description. I went from a desk job to lifting heavy boxes. It was not until I complained about the work environment that they sent me back to my original department.

At this point, I am very frustrated, and feel I have been treated very wrongly. I feel like I am being fired, but they are being nice about it by calling it a “position elimination.”

Alan, do you think I have any recourse in the matter? I have just ordered your book, and am excited about reading it.
 

Distressed Woman
Hartford, Connecticut

Answer: For going on three decades I have helped people negotiate their severance packages. I am a true believer in the notion that (a) everyone ought to try to gain the best severance possible, and that (b) almost every terminated employee (or soon-to-be-terminated employee) has facts, events and circumstances in their employment history to justify and support a request for better severance. From what you have written, you do, too, and so I do believe you have recourse.

The “big secret” about severance is this: it is HIGHLY negotiable, no matter what you are being told. If you have not already accepted your severance package, or even if you have but you are still on the job, you have a great opportunity to insist on better “terms of transition,” and little, if anything to lose by doing so, so long as you are polite, respectful, and mention that you are not rejecting anything, just raising important issues.

Please review the information in our Blog’s Newsletter / Q&A Library, and in our Videos, about severance. You will see that there are six (6) separate kinds of “leverage” which employees can use to give good arguments for better severance. In the facts, events and circumstances of their work histories, some people have two, some have three, some have five, but almost everyone has at least one of these “sources of severance leverage.” They are:

1. “Pipeline Value” Leverage, that is, that your employer may need your assistance or services in the future, to close a deal, to transition your duties, or otherwise;

2. “Contractual” Leverage, that is, that your employer did not honor some promise – oral or written – to give you something, or do something for you;

3. “Statutory” Leverage, that is, that your employer may have violated some statute (a law passed by our U.S. Congress or our State Legislatures), such as the anti-discrimination statutes, failure to treat different groups equally, or the employer’s obligation to provide a non-hostile workplace;

4. “Tortious” Leverage, that is, any harm or injury an employee may have suffered, including harm or injury to health, reputation or career;

5. “Retaliatory” Leverage, that is, if your termination (or any poor treatment you may have suffered) was in retaliation for your objecting to an illegal or improper action previously taken by your employer; or

6. “Extreme Need” Leverage, that is, extreme personal or family need, such as a being a sole family breadwinner, having a family member ill or needing special help, or being ill or disabled, yourself.

From what you’ve written, you may have valid claims for (a) discrimination, regarding you being the only person not offered a different job, (b) hostile work environment, (c) retaliation, if you think your objecting to your “reassignment” may have made someone feel a grudge against you, and, possibly, (d) extreme personal or family need, if that is the case.

Don’t let your deadline to sign your severance agreement expire. To help you ask for more time, we offer our Model Request for More Time to Review/Sign Your Agreement. It shows you “What to Say and How to Say It.”™  To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly! 

As you will learn from both our Blog Library, or from my book (Fired, Downsized, or Laid Off ), you should send a letter – not to HR – to a senior executive respectfully, but with determination, advising that these issues are important to you, and you don’t think your severance package addresses them. What you told me – that you see this as a disguised firing – you should tell them. In fact, I’d love to see you insist on them finding you a replacement job, or at the least promising you that you will be called the very first time a job opens up!

Almost everyone wants more severance. To request more, obtain a copy of one of our most popular model letters: Model Letter Requesting Additional Severance.  It shows you “What to Say and How to Say It.”™ To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly! 

Our Blog Library, my Book, and even the “Model Letters” we offer on our “Private Library”, show you that you CAN and you SHOULD negotiate for more severance. We offer all the help you need; the rest is up to you.

You have my very best wishes. And I’d love to hear back regarding how you did. Chances are you will (a) be pleased with the results, (b) feel empowered by the experience, and (c) after this “first try,” be more effective than ever before in negotiating for yourself at work. 

Thanks for writing in.     
          

Best, Al Sklover

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