One of the most common questions we get is: How do I improve my severance agreement? There is no simple answer, but below, we outline the five-step process we undertake in every severance negotiation. While every situation is different and there are many considerations that go into every negotiation, the list below should apply to almost any situation.
How do I improve my severance – step one: Figure out what you want.
This often overlooked step is probably the most important. First of all, if you do not know what you hope to accomplish, how can you possibly hope to have success? You need to know what you want so that you can go out and try to get it. This will help you to create a strategy and to keep your eye on the ball during negotiations. A lot of people think that the answer to this in the context of severance is simply “more money,” but it is not. Money, frankly, is the easy part. Obviously more money is good. But this is a pretty narrow view. Think about other things you may hope to accomplish like: extension of benefits, positive reference, outplacement, stock options, and peace of mind, just to name a few.
How do I improve my severance – step two: Get your story straight.
You need to gather all of the facts related to your employment situation before you begin your severance negotiations. Think through your employment history including all accomplishments and failures. Think about your performance during the course of your employment. You should also think about what you have documented and what the company does (and does not) have documented. Create a timeline of events. Include dates, names, titles and anything you can think of that is relevant to your employment.
How do I improve my severance – step three: Find your leverage points.
Negotiation is all about leverage. Leverage is defined as “influence or power used to achieve a desired result.” You need to find your sources of influence and power. Your leverage (e.g., you may have a viable lawsuit you can bring) may be personal (e.g., if you have been with the company for long time, you may have good relationships with people), policy related (what did other people get?), or from a host of other sources. Once you (a) know what you want to accomplish and (b), know the facts underlying your employment, you can (c) find your leverage points and figure out how to use them to achieve your goals.
How do I improve my severance – step four: Plan your work.
The saying goes, “plan your work and then work your plan.” Come up with a plan of attack for negotiating your severance. There are several factors that go into making a plan. You need to consider, among other factors: who you should reach out to, how should you reach out (letter, call, in-person), what you should say when you reach out, the tone of negotiations, what your negotiating partner (note that we do not use the term “adversary”) hopes to accomplish by way of severance, what your negotiating partner’s goals, motivations and leverage points are, etc.
How do I improve my severance – step five: Go for it!
If you have thought through what you hope to accomplish, gathered your facts, and thought through your strategy, all that is left to do is go for it. Good fortune favors the bold, so ball up your fist and fight back. Look at it this way, you have already lost your job, what’s the worst that can happen?
(Optional) How do I improve my severance – step six: Call an employment lawyer.
The dedicated attorneys at Granovsky & Sundaresh PLLC specialize in severance. We negotiate severance agreements every day. You will receive a response from a severance attorney within 24 hours. More often than not, you will be contacted within the hour.