Even if you saw it coming, the call from Human Resources telling you you’ve been let go is a shock. In the moment, it’s hard to know what to do, or even think, but a misstep now can cost you down the line. Here are 9 critical steps to take right away when you’ve been let go.
1. Keep quiet
You have nothing to gain, and plenty to lose from arguing your case, asking why, or engaging in any discussion when they’re handing you your pink slip. “Everyone is already uncomfortable,” says Tracy Burns, Executive Director, Northeast Human Resources Association. “If you’ve been fired for cause, hopefully, there’s already a documented list of reasons why, and there have been discussions about it. If it’s downsizing, it’s just that.” If you talk before taking time to digest the news, you may say something you’ll regret.
2. Be as poised as possible
If you’ve been downsized, rather than fired, the people in the room may end up being vital contacts for you as you move forward, so you don’t want to burn any bridges. But now’s not the time for networking, according to Burns. You can contact them later, but while you’re still in the office, be polite and respectful, in as few words as possible. “It will likely be an emotional situation, so a simple ‘thank you for the opportunity to work here or to work for you’ would be all that I would suggest,” she says.
3. Sign nothing on the spot
If you get a severance agreement, put it straight in your bag, and don’t look at it until you’re home and decompressing with a glass of wine. “Ask how long you can take to sign the agreement,” says Burns. “Even if you read it in front of the person, you won’t comprehend it. I’ve seen people reading them glassy-eyed.”