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The Right Way To Be Fired

What to do when your company gives you the boot.

· career success,fired,Job Hunt

Dear People Ops:

I have strong reason to believe that I'm getting sacked tomorrow. Honestly it's not a huge loss as I hate working there.

Anything I should be aware of? I'm not sure what to expect as this is my first time being fired. Also, I'm new to the US, so not sure what's normal here, but I'm guessing this is an "employers country" - leaving me with very little rights.

Regardless of what we call it - terminated, laid off, dismissed - being fired is a seriously stressful experience. Below are some simple suggestions on how to navigate the process.

Breath: You're sitting in your bosses office being told "you're no longer needed". This is horrible. We know. Take a deep breath, and then another. This is going to be ok. I promise. Plenty of super successful people have been fired and gone on to greatness.

Focus on getting the answers you need to move forward. While your boss should be able to answer logistics questions like how long benefits (like healthcare) will last and the date of your last paycheck, your biggest question will probably go unanswered - why. Unfortunately, for fear of legal repercussions, most companies avoid giving reasons for termination. Don't take it personally if you don't get a straight answer.

Company Property: Never store anything personal on company property that you don't have copies backed up elsewhere. Your employer will most likely ask for your computer, work phone, etc back during the termination meeting. If you do have personal items on company property, ask if you may have a few minutes to save them to a thumb drive. But its not guaranteed as your company may be concerned about intellectual property being stolen.

Your Coworkers: Make a graceful exit by emailing your former coworkers a day or two after with a simple message looking forward. Being fired doesn't mean you have to lose important networking connections in coworkers.

Dear Coworker,

I’ve enjoyed working with you and getting to know you over the past ____ months/years. Even though I will no longer be working at _____, I’d like to keep in touch with you! I can be contacted at my personal email address: _______________.


Your Name

COBRA & Unemployment: Fortunately in the United States there are several programs to support the unemployed. COBRA gives you the option to extend your healthcare coverage, paying the full monthly premium. You should receive the paperwork in the mail soon after being fired. The coverage is retroactive, so even if the paperwork arrives after your coverage ends through your employer, once you elect coverage through COBRA you'll be covered for any gaps. You can also look for insurance through your state exchange or, as losing insurance through your employer due to termination is a qualifying life event and allows you to sign up for new insurance outside the regular enrollment period.

Unemployment pays you a portion of your former income while you look for new employment. File for unemployment as soon as possible after being terminated as it can take a week or two to process. You are eligible for unemployment if you're terminated under almost every circumstance except gross negligence on your part.

Reflect & Digest: Take time to process what happened. Be upset, be angry, be sad. Then dust yourself off and explore what you've learned from the experience. There is a reason many people say being fired was the best thing that ever happened to them. But you'll only get to that point of clarity through reflection.

Frame Being Fired: During future interviews you're going to have to explain why you left your former job. The cliff notes on how to frame being fired: without hesitating, explain succulently what happened, discuss what you learned and then get back on track. More advice can be found on The Muse.

Wrongful Termination: If you feel you were terminated because you are a member of a protected class (age, race, color, religion, sex, ethnic/national origin, disability, and veteran status) or in retaliation due to being a whistleblower or involved in a complaint filed under one of the laws enforced by the Department of Labor there may be legal options available to you. There are also legal options available if you were terminated in violation of an employment contract with your employer. But wrongful termination is historically very hard to prove. You'll want to consult an employment or labor lawyer to explore your options or learn more here about how to file a claim on your own.

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