Severance Package Question

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aburntoutcase
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Severance Package Question

Post by aburntoutcase » Tue Jun 05, 2018 8:29 pm

The company I work for acquired by private equity firms last year and today I was laid off. Company size is ~$700M in revenue and my location was in the Northeast. I was at a Director level which is one level below VP (Business Unit Heads are SVPs). I worked for them for just shy of 3 years, performance reviews including most recent one in April have been excellent, my boss was a big supporter but my focus area overlapped with in-house capabilities of our new PE owners.

They are offering me 2 weeks of salary as immediate cash payout and will keep me on the payroll for another 16 weeks, so works out to about 18 weeks total, or ~6 weeks of severance per year worked. How do I judge if it is a fair offer?

I had some equity in the firm which presently has no value since it has not vested, but could have been worth 1-2 years salary depending upon profitability of the exit of the PE owners. I will be forfeiting this due to my termination. Normally I would also get a cash bonus worth ~10% of my base salary and ~15% in restricted stock that would vest over 5 years (we used to be a public company so estimating fair value was easy at time of award grant). Once we went private this bonus was eliminated due to profitability that missed targets by quite a bit, so I received nothing as an award this year for 2017, which was true company wide as well.

I would be negotiating with HR, the Head of HR knows me well (it is a small corporate office) but don't know how constrained he will be. The key PE executives who are managing their investment in our company know me somewhat as I have participated in and presented deals to the board. They generally should have a positive impression. My boss is going to me good references no matter what, but I also don't want to burn any bridges as it is a small world in the industry I work in and paths could easily cross in the future.

Not sure how to proceed and appreciate any insight based on experience. Generally I believe I have tended to be a pushover in terms of compensation (although not in seeking promotions) and have rarely negotiated anything significantly better than what was first offered.

Yossarian
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by Yossarian » Tue Jun 05, 2018 8:39 pm

Sorry for the loss of your job. Not ever having been at your level or in that kind of position, I have to ask why you think you can negotiate the offer? You have no leverage that I see from your post.

RickBoglehead
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by RickBoglehead » Tue Jun 05, 2018 8:42 pm

Right. Also get earned vacation and file for Unemployment.

JoeRetire
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by JoeRetire » Tue Jun 05, 2018 8:49 pm

aburntoutcase wrote:
Tue Jun 05, 2018 8:29 pm
They are offering me 2 weeks of salary as immediate cash payout and will keep me on the payroll for another 16 weeks, so works out to about 18 weeks total, or ~6 weeks of severance per year worked. How do I judge if it is a fair offer?
The last time I was laid off at the Director level, I got 10 weeks total after being there for 5 years. 2 weeks per year worked.

You can always ask for more and see where it goes. I asked for more but didn't get any more weeks. We compromised on the company reimbursing me for the remainder of my tuition in an unfinished MBA program.

123
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by 123 » Tue Jun 05, 2018 8:59 pm

From what I've heard severance payments typically average somewhere between one week and one month's salary for each year of service, typically topping out at 1 year of salary. But there are often minimums, like 3 months of earnings. There are some regulations, I don't know if they federal or vary by state, concerning plant shutdowns. A shutdown doesn't have to be complete, it can involve a certain number of employees. A plant can be an office or retail store or often pretty much any collection of employees.

In most cases to receive severance beyond any required by law the company has you sign an agreement not to proceed with other litigation against the company under EEO or any other statute.
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downshiftme
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by downshiftme » Tue Jun 05, 2018 9:15 pm

I think severance packages vary depending on circumstances of the layoff, level of the job, and norms in the field. In my field (tech) a common formula used to be 2 weeks salary for every year of service, up to some maximum like 26 weeks. Recently, this has migrated down to 1 week per year of service but if the layoff is not a large group, individuals will often try to negotiate up to 2 weeks per year of service. Large group layoffs are usually not negotiable.

Being offered 6 weeks per year is above anything I've ever seen except for executives with employment contracts or existing severance agreements.

Negotiating additional severance is somewhat difficult as you have very little leverage, except the desire of the company to avoid litigation or discrimination claims. If you have good relationships with the company officials who might negotiate, as long as you don't push to hard on legal fears, you might as well try to negotiate. It seems like you already have a generous package, so I'd try gently so as not to lose the existing offer.

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aburntoutcase
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by aburntoutcase » Tue Jun 05, 2018 9:29 pm

Yossarian wrote:
Tue Jun 05, 2018 8:39 pm
Sorry for the loss of your job. Not ever having been at your level or in that kind of position, I have to ask why you think you can negotiate the offer? You have no leverage that I see from your post.
Well part of accepting a severance package is that your agree not to file any employment related claims against your former employer. This legal indemnification is not a lot of leverage, but it is something. In any case, if you don't ask you definitely won't get. You might not get anything if you ask either, but it can't hurt if done respectfully.

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aburntoutcase
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by aburntoutcase » Tue Jun 05, 2018 9:32 pm

Based on what I am hearing it seems 1-2 weeks per year of service is pretty common, so getting 6 weeks per year seems like a fairly good offer. They are already offering to pay for accrued vacation of 2 weeks separately, so that is covered.

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Pajamas
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by Pajamas » Tue Jun 05, 2018 9:50 pm

aburntoutcase wrote:
Tue Jun 05, 2018 9:32 pm
Based on what I am hearing it seems 1-2 weeks per year of service is pretty common, so getting 6 weeks per year seems like a fairly good offer. They are already offering to pay for accrued vacation of 2 weeks separately, so that is covered.
6 weeks is fairly generous compared to what I've seen. You might try to bargain on the unvested equity and also on extending benefits such as health coverage.

I'm sorry to hear that you are losing your job but it sounds like you are in a good position to find something even better.

Dottie57
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by Dottie57 » Tue Jun 05, 2018 10:00 pm

Yossarian wrote:
Tue Jun 05, 2018 8:39 pm
Sorry for the loss of your job. Not ever having been at your level or in that kind of position, I have to ask why you think you can negotiate the offer? You have no leverage that I see from your post.

+1

Prudence
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by Prudence » Tue Jun 05, 2018 10:07 pm

I think they are treating you fairly given number of years worked. Companies generally need to treat all employees the same to avoid discrimination claims. So, they would probably not negotiate a package that is better than the other directors at your level.

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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by CFOKevin » Tue Jun 05, 2018 10:08 pm

I'm a CFO at a PE backed company much smaller than yours. I'd say their flexibility will be inversely related to the number of individuals being laid off. If it is just you, lots of flexibility and if it is dozens or more, almost none.

My advice would be to be positive regarding the weeks of severance, it seems like they are being fair. Based on your level and the current job market, I'm assuming you won't have much trouble finding your next position. So, I'd deemphasize benefits. I'd go for a prorated bonus for the current year if you are eligible for one and the Company is performing. In addition, I would ask for a fair value on the equity you are not going to collect. Obviously, this is not being done for cause and you were counting on those funds. As an example, if the Company's performance is on a track that would have yielded 1x salary at the 4-5 year mark and you are getting laid off at year 2, either 2/4 or 2/5 of your annual salary is a logical ask.

Realistically, expect nothing more than what they've offered and make your best case for additional consideration. If you can get another couple of months pay I'd consider it a big win.

Good Luck,

Kevin

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aburntoutcase
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by aburntoutcase » Tue Jun 05, 2018 11:49 pm

CFOKevin wrote:
Tue Jun 05, 2018 10:08 pm
I'm a CFO at a PE backed company much smaller than yours. I'd say their flexibility will be inversely related to the number of individuals being laid off. If it is just you, lots of flexibility and if it is dozens or more, almost none.
Thank you for your insight and taking the time to respond in such detail. It is not a mass layoff, there were some layoffs early on, but now we are now 9 months past go-private. I believe today it was just me. Problem with asking for more some consideration for the equity is that the reason they decided no M&A in next year or two (my main role) is that we missed on 2017 EBITDA by ~20% relative to where they thought we would be when they bought us mid-year and now EBITDA leverage looks like 8x instead of the 6x they thought they would be at. So company had a terrible 2017 and while 2018 is expected to be better, it will still be below where original 2017 was supposed to be. In retrospect the PE firm way overpaid to take us public.

Sounds like overall they gave me a fair deal, and my best shot is to try to get a month or two more of severance based on claims that I got no bonus for last year despite a stellar individual rating and that I am losing my equity through no fault of my own,

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aburntoutcase
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by aburntoutcase » Tue Jun 05, 2018 11:53 pm

Pajamas wrote:
Tue Jun 05, 2018 9:50 pm
I'm sorry to hear that you are losing your job but it sounds like you are in a good position to find something even better.
Thank you. It is not my first layoff - I lost a junior investment banking job during the credit crisis and the 2009 job market was so bleak that it has sort of toughened me. The job market is so much stronger right now.

LFKB
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by LFKB » Wed Jun 06, 2018 12:04 am

I work in PE. Unfortunately, you have no leverage unless they think you may file a claim against them and they would rather just give you extra severance to make the issue go away. So you have to decide if that’s something you want to do or not. Personally, I wouldn’t but we’ve dealt with some pretty bogus claims in the past.

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aburntoutcase
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by aburntoutcase » Wed Jun 06, 2018 12:59 am

LFKB wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 12:04 am
I work in PE. Unfortunately, you have no leverage unless they think you may file a claim against them and they would rather just give you extra severance to make the issue go away. So you have to decide if that’s something you want to do or not. Personally, I wouldn’t but we’ve dealt with some pretty bogus claims in the past.
Other than the issue of the lack of a bonus this year and lost equity grant I don't really have any claim to make. My performance rating for 2017 was high enough that I would have been one of the few employees who would have received a bonus this year (for 2017 work) but they decided that anyone who had received a special bonus for work on the buyout transaction last year (and I had received such a bonus) would not qualify. Also normally we would have received a merit increase in April, but due to financial targets not being hit there was a company wide freeze. In October that merit freeze has a pretty good chance of being lifted on a retroactive basis. So I would also be foregoing that merit increase, since the last week I would be paid severance would be last week of September.

Sportswhiz00
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by Sportswhiz00 » Wed Jun 06, 2018 7:02 am

In the PE industry with experience with these types of layoffs and negotiations at the portfolio company level.

Unless you have a possible claim (such as age discrimination) AND are willing to play that card (and risk reputational damage) AND you think they will be willing to play ball or you are willing to take it to litigation, then you are stuck with what you’ve been offered. From what you’ve described above, I gather that none of those facts apply and so you should just sign and walk away. I don’t think there’s much of a chance that you would get any vesting of your equity and based on what you’ve said I don’t think asking for a prorated bonus makes sense either.

One thing you could consider asking for is outplacement services if you think you’ll need them. I wouldn’t try to “negotiate” for them - I would just ask politely in the form a question of whether they will be provided, because you don’t have any leverage. Often companies are happy to help their employees find new jobs.

Be sure to check if you have a noncompete, including in your equity documents. I’m not suggesting they’ll release you from it I’m advance if you finding a new job, but that’s another question you could ask now so that you know what to expect when looking for a new job.

Good luck in your next endeavor.

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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by jharkin » Wed Jun 06, 2018 7:30 am

Ok, so I just left my last company and can talk about this a bit more freely now :) FWIW this was a $10B market cap public software firm.

I was at the director level. I was never laid off, but once we went through a voluntary and the packages where public knowledge internally:

- Everybody got a base of 6 or 8 weeks (WARN act requirement i think???)
- Then on top of the 6 weeks, employees would get a certain # of weeks per year based on title. I think it was 1week/year for junior engineers, 2 weeks/year for manager/director, up to 3 or 4weeks/year for VPs
- Severance pool was capped at a max of something like 40 weeks
- If you had unused PTO, that was paid out on top of severance
- Health insurance ran as normal for the first 2 months post separation (company paid, i think also tied to the WARN act period). After that managers and up got paid COBRA... from a couple months up to 6 months for very senior VPs. Anyone over 50 got 6 months of paid COBRA regardless of title I believe.
- Everyone got access to Right Management outplacement counseling. Junior engineers might just get phone sessions and a resume class, middle managers got a couple months of access, up to VPs might get 6 months of 1on1 coaching.

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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by CFOKevin » Wed Jun 06, 2018 1:00 pm

Thanks for the additional info. It sounds like the equity is under water right now so asking for value there seems to be a non-starter. If 2018 is far enough below plan that it is already looking like a zero bonus year, then don't ask for a pro-rated amount. However, if you are tracking toward half or full bonus for this year, I'd still advocate for asking for a pro-rated amount. I would not bring up the 2017 bonus as that has already been decided.

My new suggested approach would be to set up a 15 minute meeting with the HR guy to review your separation. At that meeting, keep it positive and get clarity on exactly when your health insurance and other benefits expire. Ask about anything else they may be willing to do for you that you want (keep your laptop, etc.)? Then, mention that their severance offer seems reasonable but that you were completely surprised given your job performance and you have not yet had your attorney review the separation agreement. Mention that the severance is for four months and you think six months is fair based on your circumstances. Then, don't say another word and wait for a response.

In my read, the current offer is your worst outcome and is already fair (and you know that, too). If you can get an extra month or two from them you'll have a successful negotiation under your belt going into your job search.

Good Luck,

Kevin

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aburntoutcase
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by aburntoutcase » Wed Jun 06, 2018 1:19 pm

CFOKevin wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 1:00 pm
My new suggested approach would be to set up a 15 minute meeting with the HR guy to review your separation. At that meeting, keep it positive and get clarity on exactly when your health insurance and other benefits expire. Ask about anything else they may be willing to do for you that you want (keep your laptop, etc.)? Then, mention that their severance offer seems reasonable but that you were completely surprised given your job performance and you have not yet had your attorney review the separation agreement. Mention that the severance is for four months and you think six months is fair based on your circumstances. Then, don't say another word and wait for a response.
Thank you for the excellent negotiating tips. I was going to negotiate via email asking for a couple of more months of payroll and call it a day, but I think over phone makes more sense as it would allow me to gain other cues and context.

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aburntoutcase
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by aburntoutcase » Wed Jun 06, 2018 1:21 pm

jharkin wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 7:30 am
I was at the director level. I was never laid off, but once we went through a voluntary and the packages where public knowledge internally:

- Everybody got a base of 6 or 8 weeks (WARN act requirement i think???)
- Then on top of the 6 weeks, employees would get a certain # of weeks per year based on title. I think it was 1week/year for junior engineers, 2 weeks/year for manager/director, up to 3 or 4weeks/year for VPs
- Severance pool was capped at a max of something like 40 weeks
- If you had unused PTO, that was paid out on top of severance
- Health insurance ran as normal for the first 2 months post separation (company paid, i think also tied to the WARN act period). After that managers and up got paid COBRA... from a couple months up to 6 months for very senior VPs. Anyone over 50 got 6 months of paid COBRA regardless of title I believe.
- Everyone got access to Right Management outplacement counseling. Junior engineers might just get phone sessions and a resume class, middle managers got a couple months of access, up to VPs might get 6 months of 1on1 coaching.
Thank you. Even though I was not part of a mass layoff, the above is pretty much inline with what I was offered, severance is maybe slightly more.

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aburntoutcase
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by aburntoutcase » Wed Jun 06, 2018 1:24 pm

Sportswhiz00 wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 7:02 am
One thing you could consider asking for is outplacement services if you think you’ll need them. I wouldn’t try to “negotiate” for them - I would just ask politely in the form a question of whether they will be provided, because you don’t have any leverage. Often companies are happy to help their employees find new jobs.

Be sure to check if you have a noncompete, including in your equity documents. I’m not suggesting they’ll release you from it I’m advance if you finding a new job, but that’s another question you could ask now so that you know what to expect when looking for a new job.

Good luck in your next endeavor.
Thank you for the tips. They are already offering me 3 months of outplacement assistance with a firm they use, which is nice. I will check the relevant documents on any non-compete. My preferred employment would be in the same industry as I have acquired a fair bit of knowledge and it is a space that is consolidating with lots of M&A deals to work on if you work for a consolidator, so important I not be barred from seeking employment at such places for any period of time.

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aburntoutcase
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by aburntoutcase » Wed Jun 06, 2018 1:54 pm

aburntoutcase wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 1:19 pm
CFOKevin wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 1:00 pm
My new suggested approach would be to set up a 15 minute meeting with the HR guy to review your separation. At that meeting, keep it positive and get clarity on exactly when your health insurance and other benefits expire. Ask about anything else they may be willing to do for you that you want (keep your laptop, etc.)? Then, mention that their severance offer seems reasonable but that you were completely surprised given your job performance and you have not yet had your attorney review the separation agreement. Mention that the severance is for four months and you think six months is fair based on your circumstances. Then, don't say another word and wait for a response.
Thank you for the excellent negotiating tips. I was going to negotiate via email asking for a couple of more months of payroll and call it a day, but I think over phone makes more sense as it would allow me to gain other cues and context.
I emailed the HR Senior Director whose name was on my severance package (I actually know him in person) to setup a call and he is asking for questions in advance. I don't really want to send them in advance as I believe then it will just lead to a scripted response but not sure how to get away from sending in some questions.

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celia
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by celia » Wed Jun 06, 2018 2:00 pm

aburntoutcase wrote:
Tue Jun 05, 2018 11:49 pm
...It is not a mass layoff, there were some layoffs early on, but now we are now 9 months past go-private. I believe today it was just me. Problem with asking for more some consideration for the equity is that the reason they decided no M&A in next year or two (my main role) is that we missed on 2017 EBITDA by ~20% relative to where they thought we would be when they bought us mid-year and now EBITDA leverage looks like 8x instead of the 6x they thought they would be at. So company had a terrible 2017 and while 2018 is expected to be better, it will still be below where original 2017 was supposed to be. In retrospect the PE firm way overpaid to take us public.
The original PE company plan may have been to do layoffs soon after taking over. Although you "survived" that, you may now be the "sacrificial lamb" due to the unexpected loss they had. Had the company met their targets, you might not have been laid off.

If this is true, they may want you back after they gain the expected profits. (After all, if your job truly overlapped with their folks' experience, you would have been laid off at the start.) With that in mind, I don't think I'd push too hard on anything that will cost them money. That could hurt your future chances of going back.

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aburntoutcase
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by aburntoutcase » Wed Jun 06, 2018 2:18 pm

celia wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 2:00 pm
If this is true, they may want you back after they gain the expected profits. (After all, if your job truly overlapped with their folks' experience, you would have been laid off at the start.) With that in mind, I don't think I'd push too hard on anything that will cost them money. That could hurt your future chances of going back.
My boss did tell me that he thought it was a wrong decision and the PE guys should have been more patient to wait for a time when we could do acquisitions again, and a relative also asked me if it was possible they might want me back in a year or so, but I am skeptical. Not sure I would want to go back anyway as who knows what would happen when it was time for PE owners to exit in a few years. But yes, I am not going to push very hard at all, more of a soft conversation.

123
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by 123 » Wed Jun 06, 2018 2:20 pm

If you raise the point of your excellent performance an HR person can easily turn that around (or any other positive aspect) and rationalize that you should have no difficulty readily finding and adjusting to employment elsewhere, you're a superstar. HR people don't mind fighting back with compliments when it advances their purpose.
The closest helping hand is at the end of your own arm.

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aburntoutcase
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by aburntoutcase » Wed Jun 06, 2018 2:57 pm

123 wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 2:20 pm
If you raise the point of your excellent performance an HR person can easily turn that around (or any other positive aspect) and rationalize that you should have no difficulty readily finding and adjusting to employment elsewhere, you're a superstar. HR people don't mind fighting back with compliments when it advances their purpose.
Oh I have no doubt that my chances of getting anything extra beyond the current offer are pretty close to 0%. However I have observed a pattern in my 20 year career in the corporate world that I am very shy and reticent when it comes to asking for more compensation. I am not at all shy when it comes to asking for a promotion. To me this is simply practice in learning to ask for more money and putting myself in a situation where I know I am uncomfortable so that I can improve in the future. I used to think it was unseemly and crass to ask and negotiate compensation but I realized belatedly that in Corporate America no one is surprised or holds it against you if you negotiate respectfully. If you don't ask, you don't get.

JD2775
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by JD2775 » Wed Jun 06, 2018 5:23 pm

wait a minute....you can negotiate your severance pay? That's news to me. Good to know should I ever need it :)

Sorry about your situation OP

tibbitts
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by tibbitts » Wed Jun 06, 2018 5:24 pm

aburntoutcase wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 2:57 pm
123 wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 2:20 pm
If you raise the point of your excellent performance an HR person can easily turn that around (or any other positive aspect) and rationalize that you should have no difficulty readily finding and adjusting to employment elsewhere, you're a superstar. HR people don't mind fighting back with compliments when it advances their purpose.
Oh I have no doubt that my chances of getting anything extra beyond the current offer are pretty close to 0%. However I have observed a pattern in my 20 year career in the corporate world that I am very shy and reticent when it comes to asking for more compensation. I am not at all shy when it comes to asking for a promotion. To me this is simply practice in learning to ask for more money and putting myself in a situation where I know I am uncomfortable so that I can improve in the future. I used to think it was unseemly and crass to ask and negotiate compensation but I realized belatedly that in Corporate America no one is surprised or holds it against you if you negotiate respectfully. If you don't ask, you don't get.
Sometimes you just lose your job if you ask for too much - no chance for a do-over. I've seen it happen, though only in the case of salary while you haven't (yet) been let go. So here on Bogleheads you've got a non-random selection of people, a disproportionate number of whom have negotiated and won. The ones who lost and never recovered... well they're not in the market for $5000 watches so probably not frequenting this forum.

It sounds like you're not getting much anyway, so not really anything to lose by trying.

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aburntoutcase
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by aburntoutcase » Wed Jun 06, 2018 5:27 pm

tibbitts wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 5:24 pm
Sometimes you just lose your job if you ask for too much - no chance for a do-over. I've seen it happen. So here on Bogleheads you've got a non-random selection of people, a disproportionate number of whom have negotiated and won. The ones who lost and never recovered... well they're not in the market for $5000 watches so probably not frequenting this forum.
I think if one does some research into what the market compensation is and adjusts for personal situation and asks in a respectful way, it is not harmful. I have been reluctant to do it in the past, because I like most have been uncomfortable discussing money. However in our capitalist system if you will be a wallflower on getting what you deserve you are leaving $ on the table.

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aburntoutcase
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by aburntoutcase » Wed Jun 06, 2018 5:30 pm

JD2775 wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 5:23 pm
wait a minute....you can negotiate your severance pay? That's news to me. Good to know should I ever need it :)

Sorry about your situation OP
I think it depends on the situation, but it never hurts to ask even if you think chances are slim to none. For me it is more of an attempt to come out of my comfort zone and venture into territory where I normally wouldn't.

willyd123
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by willyd123 » Thu Jun 07, 2018 10:22 am

I actually handle severance situations for the company I work for and have been in this field for 25 years. The "standard" severance policy for companies of this size is 2 weeks of base salary per year of service but typically there is a minimum number of weeks, say 4 week or so. Many companies will provide "enhanced" severance benefits for senior management under the theory that the higher the compensation, the longer it takes to find new employment. Generally I don't think a Director level would be considered senior management.

Regarding negotiating severance benefits, it would be uncommon to get a higher multiple of weeks versus what the plan provides since companies do not want to violate their plan policy as this can create legal issues. But, they can and do provide flexibility in terms of "working severance" (e.g., you can negotiate a longer period to stay on payroll before you are terminated). Regarding treatment of stock, etc. companies are typically extremely reluctant to make policy exceptions in that area as it would likely open the flood gates of exceptions going forward. I have never seen an exception in the stock area be made in fact. However, you could ask for some additional cash to offset this loss or other losses and in my experience, if they like you or are concerned about you suing them, they might be open.

My general guidance is the following: 1. continue to be professional, helpful, positive, etc. throughout the process and 2. if you want to negotiate, pick one or no more than two things to ask for, be reasonable and have a solid basis and rationale for asking. And if they do not treat you the same way, contact an employment lawyer.

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aburntoutcase
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by aburntoutcase » Thu Jun 07, 2018 10:37 am

willyd123 wrote:
Thu Jun 07, 2018 10:22 am
Regarding negotiating severance benefits, it would be uncommon to get a higher multiple of weeks versus what the plan provides since companies do not want to violate their plan policy as this can create legal issues. But, they can and do provide flexibility in terms of "working severance" (e.g., you can negotiate a longer period to stay on payroll before you are terminated). Regarding treatment of stock, etc. companies are typically extremely reluctant to make policy exceptions in that area as it would likely open the flood gates of exceptions going forward. I have never seen an exception in the stock area be made in fact. However, you could ask for some additional cash to offset this loss or other losses and in my experience, if they like you or are concerned about you suing them, they might be open.
"Working severance" is actually what is being offered. If I sign the severance agreement I will be put back on payroll and be paid biweekly till end of September, and also be made whole for any missed periods between termination and when I signed the form and was put back on payroll. I am speaking to an HR person tomorrow and my only ask will be to ask for an additional 2 months of being on the payroll. Not asking for anything on foregone equity award or benefits (I am on my spouse's employer's benefits).

My strategy is to ask a few innocuous questions about the placement counseling, non-compete restrictions if any and then segue into how the severance settlement proposal (their official language) was determined. After hearing them out, I will put forward that I am requesting two additional months as partial compensation for foregone 2018 bonus, retroactive merit pay increases that would have kicked in from April (decision to be made in October), and foregone equity award.

CurlyDave
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by CurlyDave » Thu Jun 07, 2018 10:51 am

aburntoutcase wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 1:24 pm
... They are already offering me 3 months of outplacement assistance with a firm they use, which is nice...
This is an extremely valuable benefit. I was laid off 30+ years ago, in a very difficult job market. The outplacement assistance led to a much better job in an industry I would not have considered without it. This ultimately led to FI and a much nicer retirement than I would have accomplished without the assistance.

Go into the outplacement sessions with a positive attitude and go above and beyond whatever they want you to do, no matter how hard it is or how little sense it makes at the time.

6 weeks per year of severance is very generous.

TIP: Try to meet in person 1 on 1 with the highest level person you can, in person, not by phone. Start by thanking him for the very generous severance package. Then ask for something additional.

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aburntoutcase
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by aburntoutcase » Thu Jun 07, 2018 11:01 am

CurlyDave wrote:
Thu Jun 07, 2018 10:51 am
TIP: Try to meet in person 1 on 1 with the highest level person you can, in person, not by phone. Start by thanking him for the very generous severance package. Then ask for something additional.
Thank for the recommendation on taking the outplacement services seriously. My last layoff in late 2008 I did not bother as I thought it would be a cookie cutter service with staff who wouldn't have a good understanding of my skill set and options. Will take it seriously. Unfortunately a 1:1 meeting is not really an option as the HR staff is located more than a 3 hour drive away. Not very hopeful about getting additional severance pay anyway as consensus seems to be I got a generous package.

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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by GreenGrowTheDollars » Thu Jun 07, 2018 12:41 pm

So, if you have working severance I think that also implies continued healthcare coverage -- which would have been the key request I'd have made.

Other than taking a good hard look at your no-compete agreement and trying to negotiate a relaxation of restrictions in that, the financial package looks very sweet.

I hope that your next job is even better than this one.

(Was the acquirer possibly Thoma Bravo? We had another local tech company acquired by them last week and I'm waiting to hear about layoffs there in the next couple of weeks. Seems to be a common experience with that firm.)

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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by downshiftme » Thu Jun 07, 2018 1:52 pm

wait a minute....you can negotiate your severance pay? That's news to me.
I'm not sure there is much leverage available when negotiating severance. What can you do, continue to come to work and refuse to be laid off?

new2bogle
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by new2bogle » Thu Jun 07, 2018 2:08 pm

In my mega-corp (>$25 billion/year revenue) the typical laid-off employee gets 2 months (WARN act) + 2 weeks/year of service. they get their vacation cashed out but lose all unvested RSUs.

While on payroll for 16 weeks - do you get health benefits too? That would be huge.

I think all in all you what you got is not bad at all, especially if health ins is included (then it's a steal!). Most people I knew who were laid off came into work to use resources to get their next job.

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aburntoutcase
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by aburntoutcase » Thu Jun 07, 2018 2:16 pm

new2bogle wrote:
Thu Jun 07, 2018 2:08 pm
In my mega-corp (>$25 billion/year revenue) the typical laid-off employee gets 2 months (WARN act) + 2 weeks/year of service. they get their vacation cashed out but lose all unvested RSUs.

While on payroll for 16 weeks - do you get health benefits too? That would be huge.

I think all in all you what you got is not bad at all, especially if health ins is included (then it's a steal!). Most people I knew who were laid off came into work to use resources to get their next job.
I was already on my wife's health/dental/vision as they were superior to what my former employer offered me. Not sure my layoff would qualify under WARN Act, as the site I work on is a small corporate office with only 20 employees (basically CEO, CFO, COO, a couple of business unit heads, and a a few random Directors). There were others let go on the same day at other sites, but all together I don't think scale was WARN act type (which I believe is 100 or more employees). Although if I use your formula, it is pretty close to what I ended up getting.

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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by iamlucky13 » Thu Jun 07, 2018 2:35 pm

RickBoglehead wrote:
Tue Jun 05, 2018 8:42 pm
Right. Also get earned vacation and file for Unemployment.
While this is tangential to the main question, be aware that state-specific unemployment rules may be important in this case.

In my state (Washington), the 2 week lump-sum severance payment and the accrued vacation payout would not count as post-termination employment income, so the OP's unemployment benefits would not be affected by it.

However, the 16 weeks remaining on the payroll do normally count as post-termination employment income, and the applicant for benefits would have their benefits reduced partially or completely (depending on size of their paycheck) for each of those weeks as a result.

I can't speak to management level severance payments. In my professional career, the three companies I've worked for have each had a different level of severance benefits: 0 (contractor status), 1, and 2 weeks per year of service. 6 weeks per year sounds really good to me.

You should probably also find out if the 16 weeks additional payroll are contingent on you not finding another job in that time. My understanding is that is a typical condition for such payments. Obviously, you'd take a good job offer even if there are payments still outstanding that would be forfeited, but I'd at least not want to be surprised by such a condition.

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aburntoutcase
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by aburntoutcase » Thu Jun 07, 2018 7:42 pm

iamlucky13 wrote:
Thu Jun 07, 2018 2:35 pm
However, the 16 weeks remaining on the payroll do normally count as post-termination employment income, and the applicant for benefits would have their benefits reduced partially or completely (depending on size of their paycheck) for each of those weeks as a result.

I can't speak to management level severance payments. In my professional career, the three companies I've worked for have each had a different level of severance benefits: 0 (contractor status), 1, and 2 weeks per year of service. 6 weeks per year sounds really good to me.

You should probably also find out if the 16 weeks additional payroll are contingent on you not finding another job in that time. My understanding is that is a typical condition for such payments. Obviously, you'd take a good job offer even if there are payments still outstanding that would be forfeited, but I'd at least not want to be surprised by such a condition.
Great points. I believe that as long as I get a paycheck I probably would not qualify for unemployment benefits, but I will check NJ's eligibility criteria. Good point on the severance pay. I bet it is setup so that the payments stop if I find a job.

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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by LFKB » Thu Jun 07, 2018 9:32 pm

aburntoutcase wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 12:59 am
LFKB wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 12:04 am
I work in PE. Unfortunately, you have no leverage unless they think you may file a claim against them and they would rather just give you extra severance to make the issue go away. So you have to decide if that’s something you want to do or not. Personally, I wouldn’t but we’ve dealt with some pretty bogus claims in the past.
Other than the issue of the lack of a bonus this year and lost equity grant I don't really have any claim to make. My performance rating for 2017 was high enough that I would have been one of the few employees who would have received a bonus this year (for 2017 work) but they decided that anyone who had received a special bonus for work on the buyout transaction last year (and I had received such a bonus) would not qualify. Also normally we would have received a merit increase in April, but due to financial targets not being hit there was a company wide freeze. In October that merit freeze has a pretty good chance of being lifted on a retroactive basis. So I would also be foregoing that merit increase, since the last week I would be paid severance would be last week of September.
Might as well give it a shot. Sit down with them and be reasonable, tell them you want your pro rata bonus and your equity vested. See what they say. If you really want to push it, tell them you have a claim or claims you’ll bring against them if they don’t agree to that. They’re likely going to want to avoid the litigation/headache of it all.

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aburntoutcase
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by aburntoutcase » Thu Jun 07, 2018 9:45 pm

LFKB wrote:
Thu Jun 07, 2018 9:32 pm
Might as well give it a shot. Sit down with them and be reasonable, tell them you want your pro rata bonus and your equity vested. See what they say. If you really want to push it, tell them you have a claim or claims you’ll bring against them if they don’t agree to that. They’re likely going to want to avoid the litigation/headache of it all.
That is too scorched earth a tactic for me (even though it is likely to yield something), especially as it seems the offer is more generous than what is usually provided to someone at my level. I am just going to try to use the foregone 2018 pro rata bonus, foregone retroactive 2018 merit pay increase (company will decide in October), and lost equity award give post go-private as a rationale to ask for an "incremental" increase of severance pay by 2 months recognizing the complexity and likely timeline of my job search (specialized corp dev/M&A role that I want to continue to pursue in current industry). If they bite, great, if not, I got to practice and sharpen my negotiating skills in an area where I have historically been reluctant to do so.

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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by HornedToad » Thu Jun 07, 2018 9:48 pm

aburntoutcase wrote:
Thu Jun 07, 2018 9:45 pm
LFKB wrote:
Thu Jun 07, 2018 9:32 pm
Might as well give it a shot. Sit down with them and be reasonable, tell them you want your pro rata bonus and your equity vested. See what they say. If you really want to push it, tell them you have a claim or claims you’ll bring against them if they don’t agree to that. They’re likely going to want to avoid the litigation/headache of it all.
That is too scorched earth a tactic for me (even though it is likely to yield something), especially as it seems the offer is more generous than what is usually provided to someone at my level. I am just going to try to use the foregone 2018 pro rata bonus, foregone retroactive 2018 merit pay increase (company will decide in October), and lost equity award give post go-private as a rationale to ask for an "incremental" increase of severance pay by 2 months recognizing the complexity and likely timeline of my job search (specialized corp dev/M&A role that I want to continue to pursue in current industry). If they bite, great, if not, I got to practice and sharpen my negotiating skills in an area where I have historically been reluctant to do so.
I would cut out the retroactive merit pay from your argument. To me it doesn't make sense and you want to focus on areas that are clear and defendable - bonus and equity.

How are you forgoing merit pay increase when you'll be gone by the time you would have received it..... pro-rated bonus and equity are more valid approach to try for.

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aburntoutcase
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by aburntoutcase » Thu Jun 07, 2018 9:57 pm

HornedToad wrote:
Thu Jun 07, 2018 9:48 pm
I would cut out the retroactive merit pay from your argument. To me it doesn't make sense and you want to focus on areas that are clear and defendable - bonus and equity.

How are you forgoing merit pay increase when you'll be gone by the time you would have received it..... pro-rated bonus and equity are more valid approach to try for.
I agree it is weakest of three but to me it makes sense. We were supposed to receive annual merit pay increases in April. Given financial situation for company CEO decided to freeze that company wide. He said it would be made retroactive to beginning of April and he expects to make a decision in October. I was employed during April and May, so same logic as pro rate bonus. Anyway in a negotiation you include both strong and weak arguments to stack the case you are making, I am not going to dwell on any of them. It is not like he is going to agree with any of my claims anyway. E.g. It said in the equity award agreement I signed that a condition of receiving them was continued employment with the company.

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aburntoutcase
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by aburntoutcase » Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:07 am

Since I was fortunate to receive a lot of great advice from people who took the time to help me out, here is a recap of how my discussion with HR went down. Hopefully it will be of some help to those who might find themselves in a similar situation.

I started off by going through some basic questions about the placement assistance, a few expenses I have yet to turn it, where I was subject to any non-compete (thankfully no) etc. After this cordial warm-up we switched to the more sensitive part of the conversation. I asked the HR person how my severance pay offer was determined. He gave me the party line answer I expected about there being a "standard policy" based on title and length of service (he contradicted himself later). I then said that I would like to request an additional 2 months of severance pay and I would appreciate it if he could listen to my rationale for this request.

Things turned hostile on his side at this point. He told me that he was going to save me the time of going through that and that there were not flexible on this issue and the sooner I turned in my severance pay agreement the quicker I could get start getting paid. This is a HR person I have met at a couple of company events and had fairly long conversations with. I didn't appreciate the rudeness and curtness of the tone and what was said. So I decided to push back as well.

I told him that he had mentioned that this was not part of a large-scale WARN Act layoff. Had it been something like that I would completely understand that it wouldn't make sense to negotiate individually and that might expose them to legal liability. I said that since I was the only one in my corporate office let go as part of this round of layoffs, I didn't understand why they were not open to a negotiation. I said that the severance agreement had a clause about keeping any negotiations on the terms confidential, so obviously they were expecting people to negotiate. I further said that I was under no obligation to accept and sign the severance pay agreement under the terms offered and could consult an attorney and file an alternative claim for severance. So I didn't understand why he couldn't take 2 minutes to hear out my rationale for my request, which was a relatively modest 2 additional months.

At this point his tone noticeabley softened and he said sure, let us hear it. I went through the pitch about the missed 2018 pro rata bonus and the forfeiting of the equity award (I skipped the part about the retroactive pay increases as it was the least convincing of my three reasons and the tone had already turned hostile, so I didn't want to further provoke him). I also said that I had worked in a significant role on a number of seminal M&A transactions for the company that had contributed to the present day form of the company including the go-private. I said that I had a very specialized role and since I intended to see a similar M&A role at a senior level in our industry it was not something I anticipated falling into my lap very soon. As such I saw an incremental 2 weeks as a very reasonable ask.

As expected, he said that he "heard me" and would take it back to management and get back to me, but he wasn't very hopeful. I don't expect to get anything given his hard-core pushback, but I am proud of myself of going through what has historically been a difficult thing for me to do (ask for more money) and adjusting my pitch to address an unexpectedly hostile reception. If they come back with no change, my plan is to tell them I need to evaluate my options and I am not prepared to return the severance agreement at present. I will leave things there for a week and if I don't hear from them I will sign and send it back. BTW one nice thing about the severance pay is that I am entitled to it even if I find a new job before it runs out.

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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by iamlucky13 » Fri Jun 08, 2018 1:33 pm

The follow up is appreciated. It's always good to hear how things work out, and it might be helpful to others in the future.

Do make sure you are aware when your response is due to avoid forfeiting the opportunity to accept the severance offer. They could decide not to make concessions but also not inform you of that, assuming you'll make a timely decision without further prompting from them. Hopefully they have a specific date planned as opposed to reserving the right to rescind the offer at any point if it has not yet been accepted.

As to your experience with your acquaintance in HR, it might help to try to understand his position. I have a personal anecdote about that.

I was laid off in January (and have since found new work). We knew it was coming, and I was called to meet with HR on the 2nd day of the layoffs, so I had time to think about my response if I was on the list.

I had met the person in charge of layoffs a couple times, and had even talked to him before about his experience having to handle the firings of a couple coworkers for clearly compelling reasons, but who did not handle the news well at all. I was aware how carefully considered the decision was and steps the company took to protect itself, but also how frustrating it was for him carrying out that duty and dealing with their negative responses.

In my own case, I did not expect to have any significant leverage or cause to dispute my layoff, so my main concern going into the meeting was to avoid having to make any decisions about terms on the spot. Fortunately, they did not press for immediate decisions.

The other decision I made before the meeting was to say at the end of it (unless things went very differently than I expected) in as personal of a tone as I could, "I'm sorry you have to handle this task, but I want to thank you for your courtesy during the process."

I think he just about melted when I said that - his shoulders dropped as a huge pile of stress fell off, his face relaxed, and he said, "I really appreciate hearing that. This has been rough week." Knowing he's an understated person and having seen his body language, his response is a good memory for me on a really negative day.

Part of his response was certainly due to the strong camaraderie at that company, and never having had to handle a large layoff before, but I really expect most people having to inform about and negotiate terminations have some level of pent up frustration and anxiety similar to what the HR person in my case seemed to have been holding back, even if they're really good at maintaining a stone cold demeanor.

The person you spoke to probably had no authority to change any terms. Or worse, he might have been stuck with the authority to do what was necessary to get the severance agreements signed, but would have to justify to management any concessions he gave. He was likely anxious about what your response could be, frustrated that he might not know how to respond to whatever you said, and perhaps even concerned it would amount to a guilt-inducing, non-actionable, "this isn't fair!" or an accusation about his role in the layoff decision. It can be instinctive to try to shut down any sign that the conversation might turn a bad direction, and that can come across as hostile even if the real nature is defensive.

The fact that you instead calmly gave him a concise set of reasons for better terms that he could report to those with actual authority or compare to policy to make a justifiable decision himself was likely a relief to him because he didn't have defuse tensions, was not being pressured to make decisions based on ambiguous arguments, and instead was involved in respectful dialogue.

Whether the response is a concession in your favor or not, I think it's a win at least holding the discussion ably and respectfully.

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aburntoutcase
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by aburntoutcase » Fri Jun 08, 2018 5:03 pm

iamlucky13 wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 1:33 pm
The other decision I made before the meeting was to say at the end of it (unless things went very differently than I expected) in as personal of a tone as I could, "I'm sorry you have to handle this task, but I want to thank you for your courtesy during the process."

I think he just about melted when I said that - his shoulders dropped as a huge pile of stress fell off, his face relaxed, and he said, "I really appreciate hearing that. This has been rough week." Knowing he's an understated person and having seen his body language, his response is a good memory for me on a really negative day.
Thank you for sharing that story. The person who gave me my news of layoff was my direct boss (a new hire after they fired my old boss 8 months ago with the go-private). Ironically, my new boss who I was initially wary of working for since I had a good relationship with the old one, turned out to be a great change for me. He delivered some asks that the previous boss had not delivered such as attending key industry conferences, changed my job title to make my position sound more broad and less threatening (people clam up when they see your job title is "Director of M&A") at conferences, and showed me a few areas where I could improve and add more value by personal example. He told me that he disagreed with the decision, had fought for the PE owners to be more patient and though it was a loss for my company to not have me. He said he would introduce me to the Head of M&A at his prior company and also to his Executive Recruiter. So I really had nothing but good vibes in the actual layoff meeting. I think my boss was surprised at the calm way in which I took it. I mainly focused on the positives of my experience, what I would miss and our personal working relationship.

In this case with the HR person I think it was respectful till the point where he said "let me save you the trouble of explaining why you think you should get more severance". To me that was like raising a red flag to a bull. Even if he has no power and no authority it wouldn't have killed him to listen to my pitch for 1-2 minutes and then come up with why it wouldn't work. That is why I spoke so bluntly and said that I always had the option to file a legal claim for what I thought was a fair severance. I have 45 days to make up my mind, I am pretty sure he is going to email me on Monday and say take it or leave it.

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aburntoutcase
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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by aburntoutcase » Mon Jun 11, 2018 12:12 pm

Final update. As expected HR got back to me and said that my request to extend severance pay by an additional two months had been reviewed by the leadership team and they had denied it. I have to give them some props, they twisted the screws by mentioning that there had also been an additional "legal review" by my former boss. They know that we had an excellent working relationship and left on good terms. They are basically signalling that if I were to file a legal claim, it would be my former boss defending it on the other side, and do I really want that kind of conflict? Well played by my former employer and my spouse advised me to fold like a cheap suit, and I have decided to heed her advice :happy

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Re: Severance Package Question

Post by Darth Xanadu » Mon Jun 11, 2018 1:46 pm

Very interesting thread. Thanks for the continued updates. Sounds like you made a well-thought out pitch with minimal expectations, and you were denied. No harm in asking as you did, and I wouldn't consider it a fold on your part at all. Good luck with your next chapter!
"A courageous teacher, failure is."

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