The movies often make getting fired look funny, like it’s no big deal, even ultimately uplifting, as everything works out Jerry Maguire-style in the end. Getting fired in real life; however, looks and feels very different. When it happens to you, all you really want to do is survive with your dignity intact and minimize the damage to your future career prospects.
Layoffs can happen out of the blue and take you totally by surprise. If you’re fired for cause; however, it’s less likely that you won’t see it coming. Signs that you’re on your way out can be evident weeks and even months before the axe falls. If you have an inkling it’s coming, it’s to your advantage to take steps to prepare yourself to respond as professionally and positively as possible.
GetFive’s career coaches offer some guidance for getting fired gracefully:
- Step back from your emotions.
Whether it’s done nicely and discretely or occurs in a conflagration in front of all your co-workers, getting fired is sure to stir up emotions—both yours and those of the person who does the dismissing. When it happens, you won’t be thinking clearly, so avoid making decisions or signing anything until you’ve had time to calm down.
- Be as non-confrontational as possible.
Outrage is a common and totally understandable response to being fired. Rare indeed is the dismissed employee who thinks he or she deserved to get the boot. But there’s usually nothing to be gained by arguing with your employer over the decision. What’s more, minimizing confrontation can help control the strain of the situation and ensure you don’t burn bridges unnecessarily. Which leads us to our next point….
- Go gracefully.
Believe it or not, most employers want to make your exit as graceful and painless as possible for everyone. Doing so reduces stress for everyone concerned and helps protect the organization’s reputation. It’s best to accept that you’re not going to agree on whether you deserve to be fired, and instead focus on negotiating as calmly and politely as possible.
- Polish your acting skills.
You’re going to need to be on your game when you begin looking for another job, and your game face can also help you as you exit your current job. You’ll need to look confident, calm and collected in order to negotiate the best possible severance package. Build your case for what you need and deserve, reiterating the mantra “You’re a fair company, I’m a fair person. We can reach agreement.”
- Ask to be fired.
Whether a pending merger means massive layoffs are ahead, you’re just not able to meet goals, or you no longer fit into the company culture, sometimes you know the end is coming. Being proactive and asking for the separation may help make the transition easier for everyone. You might sit down with your supervisor or HR manager and try one of these possible scripts: “You know this isn’t working, I know it isn’t working. Why don’t we work something out?” Or “I’d like to work something out that makes sense for both of us.”
- Think long and hard before you sue.
If you feel you’ve been wronged, it can be natural to jump at the idea of suing. Before you make that leap, though, think it through. Labor lawsuits can be costly to fight and hard to win. What’s more, it can divert you from your job search and ultimately delay your ability to move on with your career. Prospective employers may hesitate to consider a candidate embroiled in a lawsuit with a past employer, whether you’re in the right or not.
- Push for outplacement assistance.
Career coaching provided by an employer that’s terminating you is known as outplacement. Some offer it, others don’t, but it’s valuable for everyone. Most companies want to make your exit smooth, so if your company doesn’t automatically offer it, try requesting outplacement. People who receive job-search coaching generally land good jobs quickly.