Should I persist in asking WHY I was terminated?

Question: First, thanks so much for your fantastic website. I just watched your “Pinkslipped” video and while I did do the first two things you advised, I did not ask why my position was terminated. Four of us were laid off – all women, 3 over 40, 2 African American. My co-worker’s lawyer guessed that we were laid off because we had high salaries. I intend to negotiate my severance while others are just accepting theirs.

Do you think I should still ask “Why?” I don’t know how I would obtain this information at this point.

Atlanta, Georgia

Answer: First, you’re welcome. I’m glad you find our blogsite helpful, and hope you’ll tell your friends about it. Step by step, we aim to make the world a fairer, better place.

Every time an employee is chosen to be laid off, the selection is made by one or more people. As I always say, “Your name was not just pulled out of a hat.” Someone made a decision, and that decision was based on one or more reasons. I believe that you should always persist in asking “Why me?” for several reasons:

a. If the reason you were chosen for termination is a valid, legal one, your employer should have no reason sharing it with you;

b. If you believe the reason may have been an improper or illegal one (such as illegal discrimination, or retaliation for reporting wrongdoing) you should not be afraid to raise that;

c. People often don’t really know why they make certain decisions. For example, often women are laid off before men because of a view that, “Well, they have husbands to support them.” Or, older people are often chosen for layoff because of the view that “Oh, well, they were probably going to retire soon, anyway.” If you believe these kinds of views may have been at play in your termination, by all means you should challenge your termination and ask for more severance;

d. Last, I believe that, so long as you don’t miss your deadline to accept (you should be able to get an extension if you need one), you act with respect, ask for a reasonable improvement in your severance, and give a good reason for your belief that you have not been treated properly, there is rarely, if ever, any downside in trying.

So, persist in asking “Why?” And, come back soon.

Best, Al Sklover

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© 2009 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

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