“How do I write a letter asking for more severance based on ‘humanitarian’ reasons?”

Question: I need help. Please. I have been laid off, my contract won’t be renewed as from the end of next month. I have been advised by highly ranked staff – who could influence a favourable decision in my case – to write a letter to the boss asking for a longer notice period, or for two more months of salary, on a humanitarian basis. 

I have been offered a very meager package that will give me “oxygen” – about a month of salary – to support my family, comply with school debts, and meet other commitments. I am in a very difficult situation. The current job situation is indeed quite poor.   

I don’t know where to start with this letter. Any ideas will be appreciated. 

London, England

Answer: Dear Marcel: Sorry to hear of your difficult news. Unfortunately, many people, worldwide, are in the same difficult straits that you find yourself in.     

1. Your own words, thoughts and concerns are the best – and easiest – place to start a “humanitarian” request for greater severance assistance. People sometimes think there are “magic” words to say, “magic” sentences to write, or “magic” phrases to use, when asking for additional severance. That is simply not the case. Instead, your own words, thoughts and concerns are the ones you should use, and will be the most influential and advantageous for you. Honestly, Marcel, I thought your email to me laid out your case pretty well, or was at least a pretty good start. With a little “clean up” and addressed to your boss, I think it would do as well for you as any other words, thoughts or concerns would do. 

My law practice and the entire SkloverWorkingWisdom blog are devoted to helping people help themselves. I always encourage people to “look to themselves, first, and not to so-called specialists” when it comes to important problems and opportunities in their lives. I really mean that.  

And I try to emphasize that, always, because I believe it is healthy, natural and just plain old right to take care of yourself, and your loved ones, to the extent you can.  

2. When writing, consider your audience: here, probably both (a) your boss, but also (b) your “highly ranked” staff person. Surely, you would not tell a joke in the same way if you were speaking with friends in a bar as you would with elders in your Church on Sunday. Your letter to your boss should be written with him or her in mind: Does he or she have children? If so, stress your need to care for your own children. Is he or she someone who worked their way through school, as you seem to have? If so, stress your need and burden to pay off education debts. Is your boss someone who prides himself or herself as self-reliant? If so, stress your own efforts to be self-reliant, but the dire situation you now face. 

Don’t forget, though, that your letter should also be written with your “highly ranked” staff person in mind, too, for he or she may be an excellent “messenger” for you, and if pleased with the honesty, integrity and respect of your letter, he or she will be that much more likely to do the best thing possible on your behalf. 

3. Bear in mind, too, that if a “humanitarian” request for greater assistance is not successful, we suggest five other bases for such a request, each explained in my videos and written materials. Over the 30+ years I have helped people who have lost their jobs, I have come upon six different categories of what I call “leverage” in a severance situation, one of which is “extreme need,” which is the equivalent to your “humanitarian” reasons. The other five are explained for you in my videos and articles on severance, which you can find in the Resource Center and Video Archives of my blogsite. 

To view my free YouTube video entitled “The Six Sources of Leverage in Severance,” just [click here.] 

To read my newsletter with the same name, just [click here.] 

It is my suggestion that you first follow the advice given to you by the “highly ranked” staff person, and see if it works. You can always use any other kind of leverage you may have available to you after that, but only if you need to. 

4. “Family Need” (or “humanitarian” concerns) is not usually a strong motivator of better severance. I would surely agree with you that your circumstances are compelling, including the need to care for your family, the burden of debts, and the poor job picture at this time. However, though “family need” is one of our six sources of leverage, you need to bear in mind that almost every departing employee faces similar circumstances, and makes similar requests, on this same basis, and so over time employers tend to become almost immune to such requests. This is why I suggest you review our videos and articles to see if other sources of leverage are present in your facts, events and circumstances.   

5. As you may know, for those who feel they don’t know “what to say or how to say it,” we offer Model Memos and Letters for adaptation and use. There are many different situations in which people need to communicate important information and requests to their employers, but don’t have much experience to look back on to guide them, or feel they don’t have the right words to express what they need to communicate. For this reason, we offer a wide array of such memos and letters, pre-written with model language, for a rather modest fee, especially considering the cost of legal services.

If you would like to obtain a Model Letter requesting additional severance – with language for using all six kinds of leverage in severance situations – just [click here.]

Marcel, I hope you will take the time to take advantage of all of the many different sources of information and insight on requesting severance we offer on our blog, which is designed and constructed to be the best resource available anywhere in the world on severance, and so many other employment situations in which employees often find themselves these days. 

My Best to You,
Al Sklover

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