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Not happy at your job? How about firing yourself


Well-Known TRIBEr
thought I would pass this along, came it across it today in The Globe, thought it was worth posting.

Not happy at your job? How about firing yourself
That may sound bizarre but a self-initiated 'termination,' negotiating your way out the door under your own terms, can be a smart career move, pros say

IAN HARVEY Special to The Globe and Mail
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
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Denise Mann grew to hate her job after the arrival of a new boss, whose penchant for nitpicking and micromanagement she felt was "poisoning the atmosphere."

Discussing her concerns with a senior executive, however, elicited little hope things would change quickly, if at all. Her options seemed to come down to two unpalatable choices: Suck it up or quit.

But Ms. Mann found a third option. She negotiated her way out the door under her own terms.

In effect, she fired herself.

That may sound bizarre to people who live in fear of getting a pink slip. But, for those who feel trapped at work, a planned and self-initiated termination can be a smart career move, experts say.

Until fairly recently, this was a choice usually afforded only top-floor executives or those in the sports and entertainment fields. But, more and more, it's becoming an option at all levels and across all industries, says human resources management consultant Gerlinde Herrmann, president of Toronto-based Herrmann Group Ltd.

Part of the change in attitude, she says, has come from the frequency of and speed at which companies downsize and lay off good employees for strategic or financial reasons. And partly it's because those mass terminations have removed much of the stigma associated with getting fired.

So how do you negotiate your way out on your own terms?

The key, experts say, is to make the move a win-win for both you and your boss -- carefully figuring out what you need for your happy departure while, at the same time, making it work for your employer.

Ms. Mann, for instance, knew that if she just up and quit, she'd be walking away with nothing: She wouldn't be entitled to any financial cushion nor could she claim employment insurance.

So, after a first unfruitful discussion with the senior executive, she arranged for another sit-down during which she indicated that, "since the change [in bosses], I wasn't happy, that things hadn't worked out; and that I wanted to leave and needed to talk about leaving."

At the meeting, she remained calm, collected and deliberate, careful not to say anything alienating or polarize the situation by allotting blame.

And, to make her decision more palatable to her employer, she offered up valuable contributions on her way to the exit door, suggesting she'd wrap up projects she had under way and stay on as long as it took for her manager to find a satisfactory replacement.

As modest as that sounds, it can be a deal maker, says Ms. Herrmann, who is president of the Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario. "It's very useful from the employer's viewpoint to have an experienced hand train the replacement to ensure a smooth transition."

Ms. Mann's strategy worked. "I'd only been there a year but they gave me about six weeks' severance [more than the law required] and I was also able to claim EI, which, in turn, allowed me more time with my twins, who were just three years old then, and eventually for me to go back to school."

There are many reasons why people may want out of a job: feeling boxed in; discontent with a boss; boredom; unhappiness with being passed over; dissatisfied after a restructuring; restlessness; or, just wanting a change. "I characterize it as a fulfilment crisis," says Karen Wright, president of Parachute Executive Coaching of Toronto.

Whatever it's based on, a strategy of getting out on good terms calls for some preparation, research about options and taking an honest approach with an employer that also factors in its needs, says Toronto labour lawyer Howard Markowitz of Du Markowitz LLP.

Before sitting down with your employer, there are many discussion points to consider, both Mr. Markowitz and Ms. Herrmann say. Among them:

How much severance pay can you get?

Are you owed vacation time or overtime?

Can you extend your benefits for a period after you leave?

Will you complete continuing projects; how else will you wrap up?

What would be a reasonable departure date?

Will you help hire your successor?

Would you be eligible for a bonus payment for remaining until an agreed departure date?

Would you be available for follow-up questions when you leave?

Will the company give you a letter of reference?

What pension fund issues are there?

Are there any non-compete clauses that may hamper your ability to find work in the same sector?

When you are ready, ask your boss formally for a meeting to discuss "personal development" issues, Mr. Markowitz suggests -- which is a softer entrée into the discussion than a harsh announcement that you want out.

You can initiate an "off the record" or "without prejudice" discussion, which can put your manager at ease that you won't be using the conversation to compile evidence to take the company to court for being unfairly fired, should the conversation go sour, he adds.

There are things you can do to maximize your chances of getting the outcome you want, he says.

Mr. Markowitz suggests a structured and non-confrontational approach, talking openly and frankly about your role in the company and future career goals, rather than taking an immediate hard line.

And it's best to expand the negotiating pie by focusing on both parties' mutual interests in an amicable exit package, he says.

Instead of simply tabling a list of monetary demands, he says, offer up carrots, such as what you're prepared to do to make your departure easier for your employer.

Throughout the discussion, keep your cool, so it's clear you are not making an emotionally charged decision but acting in a methodical, planned manner, he adds.

Knowing your legal rights is also critical, he says. While you always have the option of launching a lawsuit , keep in mind that legal remedies, such as suing for wrongful dismissal or a bigger severance package, can involve an expensive and protracted battle.

There are risks to broaching your desire to leave. A less enlightened employer might just opt to play hardball, offering to accept a resignation without compensation, Mr. Markowitz points out. Or companies may refuse to negotiate, leaving you in limbo -- employed but with a clouded future.

Restless workers have to accept those risks but, Mr. Markowitz says, they can take heart that, in today's legal climate, it's an even riskier strategy for an employer to unwittingly find itself buttressing a court case for constructive dismissal.

If you want some clues about what kind of reception you will face, you might try to find out what you can about the treatment of previously departed employees, including whether your employer has been quick to litigate first and negotiate settlements second. Sometimes, the outcome may not be a termination but another solution, such as a work-from-home arrangement, a lateral transfer or a reassignment within the organization in a new role, Ms. Herrmann says.

After all, Mr. Markowitz says, "it costs a lot to hire and retain good employees. If your employer discovers you are thinking of leaving, it may initiate a conversation about what it would take to make you stay." But if you do end up leaving, Ms. Herrmann says, discussions may lead to the employee becoming a contract worker, free to add other clients to provide similar services, with the original employer as the core client.

For Ms. Mann, now 41 and working as an editor at a Markham, Ont.-based database company, that decision 10 years ago is one she's never regretted.

"It worked out great for me," she says, "and never became an issue when I was looking for work."

Termination tactics

How do you get yourself fired? Carefully.

Decide whether you really want to leave. Note the pros and cons of your job, where you would like your career to go and whether there are options within the company to reach your career goals.

Get ready to go. Update your résumé, do some research to see whether your skills are in demand or consider what retraining or career change you might ponder.

List points for negotiation. Include both parties' interests for an amicable exit package. Points range from how much severance you'd be entitled to and whether you'll get a letter of reference to whether you would help in hiring your successor and be available for follow-up questions after you're gone.

Ask for a formal meeting. Seek to discuss "personal development" issues rather than be blunt about an exit. Reassure your superior the discussion will be off the record. Outline the terms for the meeting in a written memo as protection for both sides.

Keep your cool. Remain calm and non-confrontational and show your decision to be methodical, not emotionally charged.

Know your legal rights. Also consider your fallback position if the discussion goes badly. Make sure you have compiled a list of ways the terms of your employment have changed in unfair or unreasonable ways, in case you need legal ammunition later. If stakes and emotions are high, consult with a lawyer before starting a negotiated exit conversation.

Remain open to alternatives. You might be able to come to more satisfactory terms for staying on the job, such as working from home or a transfer in the organization. Or you may be able to maintain connections, such as moving to contract work, and keeping your employer as a client.

Special to The Globe and Mail
© The Globe and Mail. Republished with permission. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or republished or redistributed without the prior written consent of the copyright holder.
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Ditto Much

TRIBE Member
I requested to be eliminated during a restructuring of my department and they obliged it. I was clear that with the decrease in quality expectations I felt highly uncomfortable continuing to have my name associated with them. They agreed and arranged to have me removed 2 days later with an exit package.


TRIBE Member
She's been there a year and she got 6 weeks severance???? That nuts.

I believe the law is only like 1 week per year so they were being really generous. When I left my last job, my company gave me 2 weeks per year (and of course acted like they were being soooo generous).
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TRIBE Member
I’ve done this before... but it wasn’t co-ordinated with the company. I simply got fed up and stopped doing anything until they fired me. No two weeks notice, training replacements, wrapping up projects blah blah blah. Just got to go home early and never look back. :) Oh, and they gave me two weeks severance too I think


TRIBE Member
In an environment where you play key roles in projects or have a lot of responsibilities this works.

As mentioned in the article, if you say to your employer "Listen, I want to leave, but I don't want to fuck you guys. I will stay 8 more weeks, provide knowledge transfer to my replacement and make sure we wrap up project y succecsfully in trade for some severence and official termination" it starts to make sense. You are implicitly saying "lets work something out, or I am gone in two weeks".

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TRIBE Member
yeah i think therunningboard is right. its all about whether you have any leverage in the company.
if they're going to be screwed if you just up and leave, they may be willing to work with you to ensure a smoother transition. obviously that wouldn't apply to most peons, or people who have a lot of enemies in the company.


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TRIBE Member
I_bRAD said:
I simply got fed up and stopped doing anything until they fired me. No two weeks notice, training replacements, wrapping up projects blah blah blah. Just got to go home early and never look back.
However, that tactic basically eliminates using that employer as a reference when looking for future employment.
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TRIBE Member
salad said:
However, that tactic basically eliminates using that employer as a reference when looking for future employment.

True, but if it was a company where I felt like what I was doing was improving my experience or doing worthwhile work then I probably would have stayed.

I don’t need a reference from a poorly managed company from which I gained no useful experience.


TRIBE Member
i fired myself just last week!

in the end, it wasn't that glamourous afterall.

(actually, i think the term they used was "layed off")



TRIBE Member
I've been contemplating this for about a year! I've been a bit of a trouble maker at work and management for sure doesn't like me but they can't fire me cuz no one else can do my job.


TRIBE Member
I definitely think this would work, if you're a valued member of your company. All of the companies I have worked for would probably go for something like that. Not necessarily for my position (Sales) but would work in one of the assisting roles. They probably wouldn't do it for sales unless you were retiring because they would be too afraid of you transferring information.
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dstarr said:
She's been there a year and she got 6 weeks severance???? That nuts.

It should also be noted that she happily collected EI, and that the stated reason for her desire to leave was that her boss "nitpicked".

I could imagine an entirely different spin that could be put on this story.