Being fired is one of the most stressful things than can happen to a person.
So it’s completely natural for anyone going through the dreaded process to feel a range of emotions — including intense anger and shock — which can prompt them to say or do things they will later regret, says Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of “The Humour Advantage.”
“It’s important to remember that being unprofessional in any way could do long-term damage to your personal brand and reputation,” he says.
“You need to keep in mind that most successful people have been fired at some point in their life. It’s a temporary setback that won’t ruin your entire life, and it isn’t necessarily personal.”
Remaining polite and leaving with your head held high will help the transition immensely, he adds. “Do you want to leave in such a way that it will only reinforce the impression that they made the right choice in firing you? Or would you rather leave in such a classy way that your boss remains as supportive as possible during a very difficult time and remembers you in a more positive, professional light?”
As difficult as it is at the time, the best course of action is to try and keep a level head and not burn any bridges. “Take a deep breath and err on the side of saying nothing if you feel you can’t keep control of your emotions.”
Here are 12 things you should always try to say to the person firing you if you want to leave on a high note:
'OK ... mmm hmm ... yes ... I understand'
The first thing to do is to take in all the information and, as hard as it is in the moment, just listen and acknowledge what the person is saying, Kerr suggests.
'Can I have a moment to process this?'
If you think you're going to say or do something you might later regret, ask for a moment to process what's happening and to compose yourself.
'Take a deep breath and even ask for a few moments if you need to collect your thoughts and rein in your emotions,' Kerr says. 'The key is to remain professional and not burn any bridges.'
'Would you be able to explain why I am being let go?'
Without getting defensive, ask for specific details as to why you are being fired.
'As hard is this might be, hearing the specifics will help you come to terms with the dismissal, and help you be aware of future landmines when you go to work in another company.' It will also help you determine if your termination is justified.
'Would you reconsider?' or 'Could I have a second chance?'
If you still feel committed to the company and the job, ask if there is the possibility of a second chance, says Kerr. 'Take ownership and offer specific details as to what you will commit to. Your employer's mind may very well be made up, but it is worth exploring options before permanently shutting the door.'
'What will you tell other employees?'
Ask how the news will be communicated to your colleagues. This is a fair question to ask, keeping in mind that you want to leave with your professional image intact and would like to know that the details of your departure will be communicated as professionally as possible, he says.
'Is there is any support in place to help with my transition out?'
Depending on the circumstances and the company, they may offer outplacement support services to help you find new employment or get new training, Kerr says.
'Do you offer a severance package? Can you tell me about it?'
Ask for specific details about the severance package and ask to get it in writing.
'Just as with hearing devastating news from a doctor, you're likely to be in a bit of a fog during the conversation, so asking for any details to be written down can help make sure nothing is overlooked or forgotten,' says Kerr.
'Could I list you/my colleagues here as references when I begin applying for new jobs?'
Obviously you wouldn't want to list anyone who doesn't like you or who wanted to fire you as a reference -- but if you had a good relationship with anyone at the company, they might be a good option.
'Ask what you can expect in terms of a job reference so you know what to expect when you begin searching for new work,' says Kerr. 'Depending on the situation, your employer may still be able to offer some words of praise about certain aspects of your job and you'll want to have a realistic sense of what to expect.'
'I may have some questions after I have a chance to digest this news. Can we chat again (this afternoon/tomorrow/later this week)?'
Ask if you can arrange a time for follow up questions, Kerr suggests. 'Explain that you'll need some time to digest everything, and that after sharing the news with your family you may have further questions that you haven't thought of yet.'
'Is there anything I can do to help with the transition?'
If you want to be classy and leave with your head held high then take the highest road possible by asking what it is you can do to help make the transition as smooth as possible, he says. 'Any employer will remember for this for a long time, and will be far more willing to be supportive and cooperative during your departure.'
'Is there anything I can or should do differently in the future to ensure I am more successful in my next role?'
Ask for feedback. If you're ever going to get someone to be 100% honest with you, now will probably be the time.
Since final impressions last, thank your boss for the opportunity to work in the company and for the experience you gained.
It might be tough to do when you're feeling angry or hurt. But you'll be so glad you did it later on.
'No one expects to be thanked when they are in the process of firing someone, so this will leave an incredibly positive image in your boss's mind and help them stay on your side -- as much as is possible given the circumstances -- during the transition,' Kerr explains.
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