If You're Fired, Don't Leave Your Company Kicking and Screaming
by William S. Frank, President/CEO of CareerLab®
The few hours surrounding your termination could be the most important moments of your career, because they help define your reputation. Your behavior will be carefully watched, and you’ll be remembered for years, either as a respected professional or as a troublemaker.
Keep in mind, you want this employer to serve as a good reference in the future, and your next job offer could hinge on what they say. You may be one of two finalists for your ideal job. If you leave “kicking and screaming,” reference-checking could ruin your candidacy.
If you’re layed off, don’t dispute the decision. (Consulting since 1978, I’ve never seen a termination decision reversed.) Arguing actually convinces managers they made the right decision. Instead of fighting, listen carefully, ask questions, and make mental notes. You’ll naturally wonder, “Why me?” and they may or may not give you a satisfactory answer. Don’t push for one right then.
Be co-operative. Ask for your severance package in writing. Make arrangements with your supervisor to come in after hours or on the weekend to collect the rest of your personal effects. Call your spouse, if married, and communicate the decision. But remember, your spouse will react to the news exactly as you communicate it. If you present it as a disaster, they may receive it as one. If you present it as an opportunity, they will tend to agree.
Return to your desk, take essential personal belongings like your briefcase or purse and coat, and leave the building quietly. Don’t leak the news on the way out. Don’t make a scene. If anyone asks, explain that you’re leaving for an appointment, and let it go at that. You’ll have plenty of time to talk later. (Don’t drive if you’re feeling upset.) Take the rest of the day off. Go to the park. Go to the health club—or wherever you feel comfortable. Whatever the circumstances, this is a time for self-love and self-care.
Let the dust settle for the next week or so. Avoid the temptation to vent on Twitter or Facebook. Stay off the telephone, except to reach counselors and close friends. Don’t let business associates and potential employers think of you as angry or unbalanced. If you’re given a legal release, have it reviewed by an employment lawyer. In general, it’s a good idea to sign the release and get on with your new and better life.