Handling a Job Termination

Leaving a job is never easy. Saying goodbye to coworkers who have become friends and facing the unknown can be a daunting task.

Quitting a job on your own terms is stressful enough, but, being terminated can make the process even worse. You may know the termination is coming, such as when company wide layoffs are expected, or it may come as a total shock to you. Either way, the steps you take immediately following your termination can have a dramatic impact on your ability to mentally and financially recover.

To sever ties with the company as painlessly as possible and find new work quickly, you must take careful steps to protect your interests. Even if you think your employer will always treat you fairly, your termination may not be entirely fair. However, by asking the right questions and avoiding quick decisions, you can make the best of a bad situation.

Avoid the Temptation to Vent Your Anger

If you are terminated, your first emotions are likely to be anger and fear. Both are powerful and valid, but they can cause you to act in an irrational manner. Venting your anger directly to your employer or to coworkers or clients will not be productive. Doing so will only make everyone feel more awkward about the situation. By staying calm and handling the situation with grace and dignity, you can potentially avoid losing friends and references, in addition to your job.

Avoiding the temptation to vent your anger is also necessary when you start applying for new jobs. Even if you think your termination was unfair, maintaining your temper when talking to potential, new employers is essential. Never say anything negative about your previous company or manager during job interviews. Doing so may only convince your interviewers you will say negative things about them at the first sign of problems. Therefore, they will be unlikely to hire you.

Schedule a Chat with Your Employer

If you think your termination was your fault, your first instinct may be to leave quickly, because you feel shame. Anger is a likelier emotion, if you feel you were terminated for reasons beyond your control. Being angry may also cause you to want to leave and never look back. However, you must fight all of those urges and take the time to sit down with your employer to discuss the situation before you go. It is important to know how he or she plans to handle your termination, so you can react accordingly. For instance, you must learn:

  • Why you were terminated.
  • Whether you will be provided with any benefits.
  • When to expect your final paycheck.
  • What type of reference he or she is willing to provide for you, if any.

It is best to speak to your employer about such issues as quickly as possible. However, you must also do so when you are calm and thinking clearly. Therefore, if you are too upset to have a meeting on the day you are terminated, you can ask to schedule one for a day or two later. Then, you will have time to collect your thoughts, calm your nerves and make a list of the questions you wish to ask.

Handle Severance and Unemployment Carefully

It is likely you will be offered a severance package when your employment is terminated, especially if you have worked for the company for a long period of time. However, the severance package may come with strings attached. For example, you may be required to sign an agreement preventing you from taking future legal action against the company. Signing such an agreement may cause difficulties if you wish to sue, due to the terms of your termination, or if the company contests your right to file for unemployment benefits.

The initial terms of the severance package may not provide you with the amount of compensation you desire. If this is the case, do not feel obligated to agree to those terms. The severance contract does not need to be signed on the day you are terminated. It is your right to take time to read the agreement carefully. If you decide to negotiate for a better severance deal, request the services of a lawyer familiar with termination cases to help you.

Applying for unemployment benefits is also a process you must handle carefully. You may qualify for unemployment benefits, even if you are terminated. Your state may allow you to collect benefits, as long as the actions resulting in you being fired were not intentional. If you think you are eligible, apply immediately. It will take time for your request to be processed, and you may also have to appeal if the decision of your state unemployment agency is not in your favor.

Keep Some Previous Contacts

When you are first terminated, the temptation may be to sever all ties with the company. However, losing your job does not have to cause you to lose valuable career contacts you made on the job. Keeping in touch with coworkers, vendors and clients with whom you formed friendships is a great way to keep your job prospects open. By sending out notes showing you have no hard feelings, you may make lasting impressions on those who will eventually be in positions to help you find new work.

When attempting to stay in touch with your former work contacts, remember the situation may be uncomfortable for them, at first. Particularly, if they do not know the circumstances of your termination, they may be reluctant to respond to you. They may fear losing their own jobs due to keeping in contact. Reach out slowly, at first, and wait to see how they respond before continuing your communications.

Maintain Delicate Honesty With New Job Applications

Applying for new jobs after termination is a process you must handle delicately. When filling out resumes or writing cover letters, there is no need to mention your job termination. Instead, describe your skills and qualifications. Filling out applications or responding to in-person interview questions may be a bit more difficult, because those processes will include answering questions about why you left your previous job. However, how the questions are phrased will impact the ways in which you can answer them. Examples of such questions include:

  • Were you fired?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • What were the circumstances surrounding the loss of your previous job?

The first of those questions is quite direct, and requires a direct answer. However, the other two leave some room to elaborate in ways that makes the situation sound as positive as possible. For instance, you can briefly explain you were terminated, and then discuss what you learned from the experience, and how you think the experience will make you a better employee.

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