7 Tips on Negotiating Severance

If you suspect or are completely aware that you are about to be presented with a separation agreement at work, you might want to start thinking about your severance package. What’s important to you? What do you expect? What can you accept? What can you NOT accept? If you have no idea where to start when attempting to outline a basic needs and wants list for your soon to be presented severance package, take a few minutes to figure it out before you are asked for a decision on the matter.

Here are 7 Things to Consider in Relation to Any Severance:

  1. Know both sides of the agreement: Don’t just know what you’re getting from the company; know what the company is getting from you. And vice versa. You separation agreement signature is worth money since it limits the number legal issues you, the “terminated employee”, can bring against the company.
  2. The range of potential financial outcomes is “wide”: Top executives can usually expect to see their severance terms spelled out in their contract of employment. For others, from corporate ranks to upper-level management, things are more unclear. Informal guidelines and the rule of thumb come into play. The rough average is two weeks of pay for every year of employment (it can range from 1-4 weeks depending upon the circumstances at hand).
  3. What you get depends on specific factors: Tenure on the job, performance records, reason for the termination, etc. can all come into play when the numbers are being discussed.
  4. Work History: The first thing you probably want to examine with an employment lawyer in relation to severance negotiations are any documents that are available that chart your history at the company and how well you performed for them on the job. Documentation could determine whether you have a discrimination case to pursue or not. At the very least, hints of untoward behavior could lead to increased leverage for you during negotiations.
  5. Your knowledge of company flexibility: It’s useful if you have some knowledge regarding what is off limits and what you can openly ask for when negotiating your severance. Some things are simply outside of your boss’s control. For instance, your boss can’t make exceptions to laws in place. There’s also not a lot of leeway regarding employee benefits. But many employers have funds earmarked for outplacement services.
  6. Tap into relationships: If it’s useful, call relationships you have with bosses, human resource directors, etc. into play during negotiations. It can make a difference. If you have a close relationship with the boss or someone who will be on the other side of the severance negotiation table use it. And make sure to let you employment lawyer know that the relationship exists, too.
  7. Look to the future: It’s not all about money. This agreement could affect your long-term career. You want to consider future job references and work history, etc. before you sign off on the severance.

Remember, at that first meeting when you are presented with your severance, you’ll be in shock. Even if it’s not a complete surprise, don’t sign anything. Try to politely request a meeting at a later date to wrap things up and get in touch with an employment law attorney at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik to handle your severance negotiation