Tech HR Departments Are on a Firing Rampage. Here’s How to Respond When the Cross-hairs of Termination Fall on You!
When the axe falls unexpectedly …
You show up for work a few minutes early, just like you have for the last five years.
After pouring a cup of coffee, you head for your desk. And then you see it . . . a hand-written message, saying your boss needs to meet with you as soon as you arrive.
It’s a bit out of the ordinary, but you grab your notepad and head for her office. You’re surprised when she stands to greet you, especially when she shakes your hand — you just saw her yesterday. You notice she seems unsettled, more businesslike than usual.
And then she begins:
“You’ve been a real asset to the company, and the years you’ve spent here have been good years. But with the reorganization, we’ve had to make some changes, and unfortunately, your position is being eliminated. I’m sorry to see this happen, but I know someone with your talent won’t be out of the game for long. Take the rest of the day to tie up loose ends and check with the HR department to make arrangements for your severance, the transfer of your health insurance, your 401K . . . .”
The rest of it hits you as a dull roar, a blur of words you can’t process.
The phrase, “your position is being eliminated,” keeps repeating inside your head.
You suddenly realize the boss has finished speaking, and she’s waiting for your response. You feel like you’ve been attacked. Blindsided!
You’re filled with questions . . . Why me? Why now? Why wasn’t I a part of the discussion before they made the decision? Can’t we talk about this?
You feel the anger building. This is not only unfair, but it’s also illegal — or it should be. You want to lash out, tell the boss exactly how you feel.
But DON’T do it.
Even though your brain is reeling, you must respond as a professional. Here’s why: The first words out of your mouth — your initial reaction after receiving the news of your termination — are the ones that will be remembered. Yes, you’re ready to explode, but you must temper your reaction with perspective.
If you’re on the verge of losing it, simply say, “I understand.” Then add, “I appreciate it coming from you. We’ve had a good relationship, and I know it’s never easy for a supervisor to terminate someone.”
Like it or not, you must do everything you can to preserve your relationship with your boss.
She is a vital source of recommendation. And although you want to vent your anger and frustration, you’ll gain nothing and end up hurting yourself professionally.
At the time, it may be difficult to evaluate her potential influence on your future career — especially through a cloud of disappointment and anger — but her recommendation is one of the few remaining assets the company can provide. So don’t blow it.
Your post-employment relationship with your employer must be about you.
If selected for termination, you must continue to present yourself as a professional during the exit phase and beyond.
And that means no flipping off the boss as you turn in your company car keys, or including a letter of dissent and accusation with your exit documents. Any negative input from you will become ammunition that management and HR can use to torpedo your future career, especially if you stay in the same industry.
Your next move? Remember, management often does the wrong things to the wrong people.
Whether you were caught in a widely-cast net of layoffs and downsizing or singled out for termination because of a comment you made to the VP’s wife at the Christmas party, your stellar past performance won’t buy you another minute behind your desk. The die is cast. You’re leaving, and even though you didn’t see it coming, it’s time to concentrate on your professional future.
If you find yourself in this situation, make two personal commitments: First, mentally leave your old job behind. Yes, you’re moving on, and you’re taking plenty of valuable assets with you — your experience, your professional and personal contacts, and the knowledge you gained from your employer. And you’re going to put those to good use.
Next, use every advantage in the time you have left to make your transition to a new employer as financially and emotionally stable as possible.
Unfortunately, you may not be allowed to exploit the second suggestion. It’s not unusual for a dismissed employee to be required to leave the premises immediately. For reasons having to do with preventing intellectual property thief, preservation of the workplace atmosphere, rumor control, and reducing wrongful termination lawsuits, the immediate removal of a terminated employee has become common.
Overcoming the “Damaged Goods” stigma. While the actual impact on your future job prospects will depend on your previous accomplishments, specialization, and the level of supply versus demand for talent within your industry, being terminated without notice generally damages your negotiating strength in seeking a new position. It means you’ll have to present yourself to potential new employers as someone who is out of work — someone who needs a job.
Losing the leverage of being currently employed means there’s no need to match your current salary because you don’t have one. And asking a potential employer to sweeten the benefits package is off the table because you don’t have an existing one as a comparison. From the perspective of a new employer, you’re talent at large, on the street, needing a job.
If you find yourself in this situation, try to buy some consideration in the form of “non-resident” employment status. Tell your supervisor you understand the need to maintain the uniform enforcement of company policy. However, you would like the company to consider moving your official date of termination thirty to sixty days into the future.
This will allow you to seek other employment under the guise of being currently employed. Assure the HR department that granting your request will not affect your severance or the need for any additional compensation, and in fact, would be extremely beneficial in mitigating the negative personal impact of their decision to terminate you. (Translation? You won’t sue for wrongful termination.)
Your chances of being granted those extra thirty to sixty days? It’s a long shot. I would guess less than one in twenty, with the odds slightly improved if you were working at an executive management position. HR can be a heartless bastard when dealing with exiting employees, but if you’re leaving with a clean, productive record, and you’ve got some friends in management, you might be the exception.
Here’s the Takeaway . . .
Our economic forecast is changing by the day. Many companies — including giants like Netflix and Amazon — are already reducing or eliminating expansion plans while cutting back on new hires.
And after a outstanding year for tech, layoffs are here. Whether due to over hiring during the recent periods of growth, or in anticipation of a recession, the once super-safe tech industry is on the chopping block.
Your position as an employee is never as safe and secure as the company wants you to believe. It’s all about the money. And sooner or later, the bottom line will dictate your longevity. Regardless of how long you’ve worked for your employer, or how valued you were in the past, no one is immune to layoffs, downsizing, and reorganizations.
Author’s note: I went through what some consider to be one of the worst implemented company merger/acquisitions in corporate history (Eaton Corp’s purchase of Cutler-Hammer). The buyout was quickly followed by company-wide divisionalization, then reorganization, then an exodus of some of the best people in the electrical manufacturing industry.
If you’re worried about your job or facing similar circumstances with your employer, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to offer a few suggestions that may help.
Thank you for reading this article adopted from my book, Better Mondays — The New Rules for Creating Financial Success and Personal Freedom While Working for the Man.
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Roger A. Reid, Ph.D. is a certified NLP trainer with degrees in engineering and business. Roger is the author of Better Mondays and Speak Up, and host of Success Point 360 Podcast, offering tips and strategies for achieving higher levels of career success and personal fulfillment in the real world.
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