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Negotiating a severance package

Inject emotion only if it advances your cause

by on
in HR Management,Human Resources

When fast-rising executives get laid off, they don’t sulk. They get even.

There’s an art to negotiating a generous severance package. If you let your rage rule, you’ll blow it. But by planning for that all-important meeting, you can come away a winner. Here’s how:

Provide an escape hatch. Most HR executives hate to hash out a severance package with a well-liked person who’s been let go. They may want to get it over with quickly and give you whatever you want—within reason—while still being able to brag to their boss that they didn’t overpay you.

So, make it easy for the exec to approve your requests. Example: A marketing manager extracted an extra $3,000 by mentioning that she was offered that amount six months ago as a relocation bonus to move to a branch office. She had accepted, but the company changed its plans and never paid her.

“By asking for that $3,000 now, I let the HR guy feel like it was money I should’ve already received,” she says. “He could tell his boss, ‘We owed her that.’ ”

Use emotion sparingly. If you’re angry or weepy in the meeting, you may not think clearly and spot openings to negotiate. Stay calm and businesslike— until you can land an emotional blow.

Example: The head of HR asked a laidoff, female manager, “Will you go back to New York?” She replied with watery eyes, “I left New York three years ago for this job. My four-year-old daughter is just starting to like it here and do well in school, and I want her to have stability. So I don’t want to leave, but now I may have to.” Her maternal concern moved the HR exec, and he added two months to her severance.

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