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Bill Healy never saw it coming. The head of a successful division of a major financial institution, he'd just been interviewed for his company's newsletter when he got the call.
When layoffs are ahead, you need to watch your behind.
He was to be one of the 103 employees let go as part of a corporate restructuring.
Healy felt blind-sided and betrayed. "I had over 15 years of service and even sat on a restructuring task force," he relates. "I had no idea I was vulnerable."
When layoffs are ahead, you need to watch your behind. Here are six ways to prepare and protect yourself:
1. Get Organized
Print and take home personal files on your computer and locate copies of your performance appraisals and other personnel records. Review your status reports and project files to help you update your resume so that it reflects all of your recent accomplishments and newly acquired skills. Think about what you might want to do next and whom you might want to use as a reference.
2. Get what's coming to you
Take advantage of any perks and benefits to which you are entitled. Schedule your checkups and tend to any dental or medical issues while you're still insured -- especially if you've already met your deductibles.
If you've got a flexible spending account, turn in all outstanding claims to avoid forfeiting any balances. In addition, know exactly how much vacation and floating holiday time you've used and make sure you've taken credit for your holidays. (Most companies will not honor unused holidays, but will pay you for any remaining vacation.)
3. Get connected
Spend at least one to two hours a day networking. Call your friends, former co-workers and clients. Attend your professional association meetings. Talk to headhunters and corporate recruiters. This is a good time to help others who may be helpful to you in the future.
4. Get searching
In addition to networking with colleagues and recruiters, visit the Web sites of any relevant trade and professional associations as well as companies where you'd like to work. Check print and online job postings to see what the requirements of your desired next job are and note any gaps in your experience or skill base.
5. Get an exit strategy
The HR folks will be working from a script when they give you the news. Make sure you know what you should say, too. If no information about severance pay has been communicated, check the company policy manual to find out what is standard practice. Do not agree to sign anything then and there; say that you need to review the proposed agreement with your legal and financial advisors.
The National Employee Rights Institute (NERI) contends that employees have more bargaining power than they realize. And it's not only the amount of severance pay that is negotiable. Thoroughly assess your situation, so that you can negotiate aspects of the termination that will have the most value for you.
For example, if the layoff occurs shortly before a bonus will be paid or before a service anniversary that would increase your vesting rights in any company-sponsored retirement or profit-sharing plans, prepare a case that you should be entitled to receive that payment or additional vesting.
Also think about receiving your severance payment as salary continuation rather than a lump sum agreement. Salary continuation often allows for a continuation of disability benefits and also lets you answer "yes" when asked if you're still employed.
6. Get fired up!
When layoffs are looming, the best course of action is to stay positive and place yourself in a position of strength. Remember, change is an accelerating mechanism. It can bring about hardship and anxiety if you try to avoid it, but tremendous opportunity if you accept and welcome it. E-mail to a friend
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