You’re called into a meeting with your boss. You’re asked to either resign or be fired. Holy smokes! How did you get into this pickle in the first place? The question now is, “What do you do? Ask for a day or two before answering so you can talk with your spouse (and maybe an attorney).
Our assumption is that you have not violated a company policy or done anything illegal. If you have, then the company is being nice by allowing you to resign instead of being fired. They probably don’t want the publicity or legal drama. If so, the issue is about references and severance. Don’t expect either.
Next, there must be a reason for the termination. Ask yourself:
- Is there a paper trail? Is the termination for performance? Have you received progressive warnings with a detailed performance improvement plan and the time for you to improve?
- Are there others whose performance is worse than yours?
- Is the cause of separation based on reorganization or downsizing? Not much you can do unless others are being treated differently or better than you.
- Did you keep a file copy of your reviews or meetings with your boss? Do you have a copy of your personnel file? If not, ask for one.
RESIGNATION: If you resign you’ll want the longest severance period possible. It may be negotiable. You’ll need a plausible explanation for when you interview for another job. Ask for a great reference, in writing, before you resign. Can you get outplacement assistance or a coach paid for by the company? You won’t know until you ask. Can you get extended benefits, especially health insurance?
TERMINATION: See if you can negotiate a plausible reason for a termination that can help you get another job: Reorganization, merger, declining business, layoffs are all good reasons. Termination for cause is not. A termination without severance is difficult to communicate when applying for another job. The believability for a termination is almost always on the side of the company that let you go. And bashing your boss or the company is never a good idea.
OTHER THOUGHTS: If you’re required to do an exit interview, do it in writing from written questions and be very careful how you respond. If you’re asked to sign a non-disclosure/non-compete agreement, then talk with an attorney as a quid-pro-quo for other considerations. You’ll need a coach to work through your exit strategy and to prepare you for an intensive job search.
Being asked to resign is never pleasant. Being terminated is worse. Be careful what you do and how you do it. Engage a professional to help you through the transition.
Contact Bill Kaufmann as a coach. Send comments, questions or your resume
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