Exits & Severance: Top Ten Negotiating Blunders (August 2015)
I am not recommending a Do It Yourself approach to exit packages and severance negotiations, but I am hardly suggesting that the reader isn’t smart and savvy enough to represent themselves adequately, perhaps superbly. But, even the best negotiator may suffer from a lack of direct experience in this unique event, (and a third party perspective as an exiting employee), jumping into their own severance negotiations.
If you are going to negotiate for your exit and your package, here is a discussion of what I think are the most common negotiating dysfunctions current & former employees suffer in getting their desired deal from their employer:
1. Demanding Immediacy: Pushing for too much too soon is a huge mistake. Some try to do it in the exit interview or the day of their separation. And, they demand immediate answers. Well, they often get one and the answer is no. This is a process; anything done quickly, without pre-thought or preparation, invites the quick answer.
2. Verbal Negotiation: This informal mode of communicating your negotiating position invites thoughtless responses, and ones that are off the record. If you do achieve progress there is no record of promises made. It often results in disappointing outcomes after you think you had the deal made.
3. Polarizing Anger: Passion is positive, and so is emotion. But if it spills into a dialogue filled with anger the parties are more likely to engage in fight or flight behaviors. Game over.
4. Collateral Issues: Sure, there is a lot you could talk about, but to the extent your arguments and justification stray from matter at hand so will the response. The fact that there have been a variety of bad behaviors you’ve witnessed during your employment relationship does not normally justify what you are asking for now.
5. Out Of Bounds: Asking for too much, or something employers just don’t give, undermines your credibility and causes the company to simply walk away. You need to be credible and your proposals need to have business practicality.
6. Revenge & Justice: Expecting to change people, the company, or who’s allowed to stay in charge, is a waste of your energy and runs into the problems discussed above.
7. Litigating Your History: You are not trying to win an argument, you are working toward a negotiated resolution. They are never going to agree to your version of past events, keep the focus on present and future.
8. Legal Threats: Threatening legal action will move your negotiating forum to legal counsel’s office, and that will likely be the end of any effort to arrive at a good faith business resolution.
9. Tunnel Vision: Severance pay might be the light at the end of the tunnel, but your package has a dozen other features – some of which have serious monetary or reputation value. You are trying to negotiate a package with several moving parts, not one benefit.
10. “God is in the details”: As the architect pointed out, things might look good from afar, but you need to be rigorous and detailed oriented in reviewing all the components. There is a reason these separation and release agreements are 4, 8, 15 pages. What are they promising, and what aren’t they promising, and how will it affect your behaviors and afterglow in the future?
Final thought: Don’t start proposing your ideas too soon and while mentally and/or emotionally unbalanced. It is my experience that there is good reason to pull back and clear yourself of the debris of the employment relationship. You have to go through the change in your identity from disaffected employee to advocate for the favorable business resolution. Your state of mind and emotional balance will influence everything.