Watch this very informative TEDxNewYork talk where social psychologist Adam Galinsky teaches you the tools for gaining negotiating power in asserting yourself and navigating tricky social situations.
This is how a divorce negotiation went…
I got a frantic call from a client the other day who was calling as he was driving out of his work’s parking garage. He was just laid off from his job of 19 years. The young girl from the HR department kept pressing him to sign off on the termination papers right there, but luckily Harold (not his real name) declined. He realised he was much too emotional to focus on what he was signing and he was right. I could hear the tremble of shock in his voices as Harold explained that he needed some help to formulate a termination package negotiation strategy.
I’m glad Harold had the presence of mind to call me before signing the company’s initial offer. Most companies only offer the very minimum compensation required by law, yet in Ontario, courts often award a much higher amount for terminating an employment. According to case law such as Bardal v. Globe & Mail Ltd.,  O.W.N. 253 (H.C.) the courts have identified four key tests to determine reasonable notice periods for each particular case:
- character of the employment,
- length of employee’s service to the company,
- employee age, and
- availability of alternative employment given employee’s training and qualifications.
Employees should note a generally accepted rule-of-thumb of one month’s pay/benefits/bonuses per year of service. This number may be adjusted upwards based on other individual circumstances such as age of the employee, workplace responsibilities, unduly stressful or inappropriate method of termination, etc. (see Wallace v. United Grain Growers,  3 S.C.R. 701 and similar decisions.)
Take a Breath
If you were laid off you should not sign anything right away. So much emotion is involved in losing one’s job that it’s hard to keep focused in that moment. It’s perfectly acceptable to say that you need some time to think things through before signing any document. There is no law which requires you to sign anything right away.
After giving yourself some time to get over the initial shock, and if you decide not to accept your employer’s typically deficient first offer, formulate a strategy to enable yourself to negotiate a maximum and fair severance package. Review all current employment agreements you may have with your employer (including any online/intranet policies) to find out if those agreements restrict any of your rights, such as your ability to negotiate a settlement.
Don’t forget that the more rights you give away, the better you should be compensated. In addition you may wish to include non-cash items such as:
- If you are bound by any Non-Compete/Non-Solicitation agreement, have them void that so that you are free to seek employment anywhere (if they refuse, your severance should reflect your inability to market your services for the duration of such Non-Compete/Non-Solicitation)
- Additional cash value of benefits like outplacement services, career counselling, and resume-writing consultants. (Yes, Negotiate Life services may be covered.)
- Accrued vacation pay up to the date of termination
- Vacation pay for the duration of the severance period
- Health insurance for the duration of severance period
- Recommendation letter
How to Respond to the Initial Offer
I always recommend that you keep or build a relationship with the person that you are negotiating with. After all, it’s a person on the other end of that phone or computer screen. that every communication follow this layout:
Kiss – Thank them for their initial offer (they didn’t have to give you one) and be gracious for their effort so far.
Kill – Make the request. Let them know you are willing to work with them for an easy and positive transition from the company. State how much you enjoyed working at the company, wish them the best and hope they can work with you to find a fair solution.
Kiss – Thank them again for their help and support and ask when you can expect to hear back.
Conversation (formerly known as “Negotiation”) Tools.
A negotiation is really a conversation. It is a conversation where each party wants to persuade the other to see things their way. My clients always ask me to teach them some simple tools that they can use for smooth and stress-free negotiations. The best tool is your perspective. People naturally become more relaxed when they are having a conversation versus while they are in a “negotiation”. But just as a reminder, here are the top five tools you can use right away to help with your conversation:
- Listen. In order to have good listening skills, you need stop talking and be silent. Allow the other person to fully explain their thoughts. Your silence signifies confidence and control. The longer you stay silent, the more people are compelled to talk. The more they are compelled to talk, the more information they will disclose. I’ve been in negotiations where the other person talked themselves into agreeing to all my points. They just wanted to be heard.
- Relationships First: One of the biggest mistakes individuals make in negotiations is not getting to know their opponent. Slow down and make connections with people and you’ll learn useful information that can be used to identify what they value in life, what motivates them, and what annoys them.
- Be Yourself: Share some of the rationale in having them revise the offer. You can also appeal to their human and emotional side. It’s OK to tell them you’re not a professional negotiator. Here are some phrases that you can use in your conversation:
“I was disappointed….”
“I was a bit surprised the offer only (or did not) include…”
“I would like to take a more serious look at…”
“I am sure you would agree that…”
“If you were in my shoes, I am sure you would think this to be a reasonable request.”
There is a lot of information around today to help you determine what is fair and reasonable in a termination. In fact, there is so much information it’s hard to know what works and what needs to be avoided. Contact us for a free 30-minute consultation to see how we can maximise your chances of getting a fair severance package. We’re here to help.
Sometimes, when negotiating (or during regular day-to-day life), we tend to lose focus on our goals. We start out with a certain goal in mind and then, for one reason or another, we shift our conversation to a different topic and end up far from the point we wanted to make.
Please contact us to discuss your negotiation strategy and to practice focusing on your goals.