Question: Hello, Alan. I received my severance package today, and was given 10 days to sign it. I plan to send to the company a letter seeking to negotiate my severance. I was offered three weeks pay as severance (less deductions and taxes, of course).
The way my employer did the Reduction In Force (“RIF”) was very unethical. Also, I am part of a protected class, and do not believe I was treated fairly.
Have you heard of any times when someone negotiated for more, as much as 20 weeks, and actually got it?
When I send my employer my letter requesting more severance (I plan on using one of your templates), should I also ask them to give me more time to negotiate?
Answer: Hello, to you, Sarah. Thanks for writing in.
First, I am pleased to hear that you are considering negotiating your severance. No matter what any employer or HR person tells you, severance is highly negotiable. I’ve been negotiating severance for over 27 years, and if severance was not negotiable, I’d have been out of business long ago.
I hope you will read some of my newsletters and Q & A’s on severance on our Blog’s Library. If you do, you will learn that severance is not paid to employees out of love, or as a gift, or because they have “earned” it. Instead, severance is paid to departing employees to eliminate “risk.”
What kind of risk? In our Library articles, you’ll see that there are six kinds of “risk,” or leverage, in severance negotiation. Your belief that there was unethical conduct in the RIF, and unfair treatment of members of a protected class suggest that you have at least two of six kinds of leverage.
Now it’s time to put those things into a respectful, but resolute, letter to be sent by email.
We offer a Model Letter to assist you in Negotiating Severance. If you’d like to purchase a Model Letter you can do so by [clicking here.]
Now, for your two questions:
A. Should I ask for More Time to Review?: You should immediately ask for more time to consider your severance. The best argument to make – and it should ALWAYS be in an email – is that you are not a lawyer, and you have not yet found one to counsel you.
Thus, you don’t understand the meaning and implications of what is in the severance agreement.
Deadlines are important; don’t let your severance deadline expire. To help you ask for more time, we offer our Model Request for More Time to Review/Sign Your Severance Agreement. It shows you “What to Say and How to Say It.”™ To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!
B. Is 20 Weeks Possible?: Have I heard of someone getting 20 weeks? Sure, many times, and I’ve seen people get years of severance, too. While I can’t guarantee that you will be successful in gaining 20 weeks of severance, I can tell you that it is likely you will be at least somewhat successful, even if you don’t get all you hope to.
I think you should be respectful, but resolute, and bring to the attention of a senior person at your company (not HR) that what happened to you is not right, not legal, and that 3 weeks’ pay, less taxes, is not enough to address it. Colin Powell says that in any endeavor, whether it is war or negotiation, “Confidence is a force multiplier.” Remember that as you go forward.
Hope that helps. Really do.
P.S.: You might be interested in our Master 94-Point Severance Negotiation Checklist, to give you the peace of mind and freedom from worry that you forgot to raise or entertain certain points of discussion and negotiation. To obtain copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!
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