The Departure Lounge – How to Exit Gracefully

The worst has happened – for whatever reason you’ve just been terminated.   Face to face with this difficult reality there is the first rush of emotions – fear, embarrassment, confusion - which may then quickly morph to indignation and anger - then to concern about how you will tell your family - and for those tortured few who felt it coming for a while, there may  also be a sense of welcome relief. 

And then the inevitable question – what do I do now?!?

To start with, you need to leave well.  The overall employment experience may not have been the best, so even more important to make sure the last impression is positive.  Be a class act no matter how hard it is.   You might as well.   Since the only control you have in this situation is over yourself, do yourself proud.

1.    Don’t argue – if you’re being terminated it’s pointless to try to engage in debate.  Even if the reasons given seem bogus this is not the time.  I can assure you your arguments, no matter how well considered and valid, won’t make one bit of difference.

2.    Take solace in the fact that the person or persons on the other side of the table are just as tense and uncomfortable as you are.  Yes, they ultimately hold the control in the situation but that doesn’t mean they aren’t feeling just as nauseous as you are.

3.    If you`re offered a taxi home don`t just dismiss the offer out of hand because you`re vexed.  Think about how upset you really are and if you`re facing a long drive or transit ride it may be in your best interest to accept so you can decompress a little on the way home.

4.    Take a couple of days to let it sink in before saying anything or taking any action you may regret.  If you’ve legitimately been wronged then seeking legal counsel or filing a complaint with Human Rights may be in your best interest.  But think it through logically, not emotionally.

5.    Don`t play games – if part of exiting means you need to return files, hand-off information, or return company property that you may have in your possession at an off-site location, then handle it quickly and efficiently.  Delaying and bantering just makes you look unprofessional.  Remember the first rule - be a class act.

6.    If your former employer has an Employee Assistance Program, take advantage of it now.  Job loss is a form of grief and some counselling and emotional support may make all the difference in helping you move forward.

7.    If your former employer offers you outplacement or career counselling, take advantage of it.  I work with a lot of people in this area and while they are sometimes sceptical going in they all see the benefit further down the line.  

8.    Review the terms of your termination with a lawyer  before signing the release– a small investment in due diligence on your part.  But please, pick a lawyer who specializes in employment law.  They are in the best position to determine if what you’ve been offered is reasonable and that’s really what you need to know.  Based on standard termination practices and case law, are you being treated appropriately.  Would there really be anything worthwhile to be gained by taking legal action.  Choosing a lawyer who is a real bulldog just because you’re PO’d may actually work against you.  

9.    Once you`ve signed off on the termination – move on!  Time to focus on what will be not what has been.  With the exception of learning from your experience, let it go.  Harsh as this may sound, nobody owes you a job.   This is an especially hard pill to swallow when you’ve been with an employer for years.  There is a sense, some may say it`s a sense of entitlement, that somehow you’re family, and after all you’ve done and all the opportunities you've given up they just can’t do this to you.  But they just did. 

10.  As you consider new employment, go into it with a healthier understanding of the employer-employee relationship – and it's that word "relationship" that gets in the way of reality.  The employer is paying you to perform a job in a way that is beneficial to them.  You are receiving a benefit in the form of wages and possibly other perks for your time and skill.  In my book, that's not a familial relationship.  Unless you marry the boss's son or daughther, they are not now nor will they ever be your family.  So don't give them that role.  In the future, treat it like a mutually beneficial business transaction and not a relationship.  It`s a much healthier perspective.



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