I Received a Severance Agreement - Now What?

So you just received a severance agreement.  What should you do next?

  1. The first thing you should after you have received a severance agreement is play it cool.  The worst is over, your employment has been terminated. So relax, don’t do anything to harm your goodwill/relationships at work on your way out.  These are important not only for your severance, but also for referrals, references and relationships down the line.  Stay classy.
  2. Next, you should review your severance agreement closely (hiring an attorney may be a good idea at this point - but it's not rocket science). Try to understand your entire severance agreement. Generally, a severance agreement is payment to you (severance) in exchange for a promise not to sue the company (release), but every agreement is different, so make sure you read it and do your best to understand it. You should also be aware of how much time you have to consider your severance, rescind it, etc.  Timing matters.
  3. Third, consider what you hope to accomplish. This is the most important step in the process, so don’t get lazy. A lot of people will simply say, “I want more money,” and stop there – do not do this. Think about the long term. Yes, you want money, but other matters like possible re-employment, a letter of reference, benefit continuation, or COBRA may also be important to you. Think about where you are and where you want to be, and prioritize what you want.  Severance is about your future, so make sure you think about yours when you consider your severance.
  4. Finally, consider negotiating for a better severance.  Get your courage up and fight for yourself, your family and your future.  Consider hiring an attorney.  But, no matter what, come up with a strategy for your negotiations - a failure to plan is a surefire plan for failure.