PALO ALTO, CA (July 14, 2022)—With fears of recession looming, many companies, particularly high-growth tech firms, are beginning layoffs. In recent years, women in the workforce have been far more likely to lose their jobs than men, so it’s never too early to begin preparing for the worst.
“Losing a job is unfortunate, but by doing your homework and understanding your leverage you can navigate your severance skillfully, which can make the difference between a massive setback and a stepping stone to success,” said Ben Cook, CEO of Riva HQ, a mission-driven startup working to close the pay gap by ending the “negotiation gap” and helping people of all backgrounds earn what’s fair.
Riva’s team of negotiation experts offer these 5 tips for negotiating severance effectively:
- Don’t sign anything. When you’re sitting in that room with HR and your boss, it’s hard to think about strategy. But it’s absolutely critical to remember that you still have leverage, and a severance package is a business deal just like any other. Take your time. In fact, in many locales employers are legally required to give you several weeks to consider their offer. If HR is pressuring you to sign today, that may be a massive red flag: what are they so afraid of? You may have far more leverage than you think.
- Understand their interests. Employers don’t offer severance out of the goodness of their hearts. Most of the time, your employer will offer severance in exchange for you waiving your right to work for a competitor, disparage them online or sue over workplace-related claims. While you shouldn’t make idle threats without being prepared to back them up, these rights are your leverage – and you should only give them up when they pay up in exchange.
- Play to their humanity. The human impact of layoffs can damage a company, and this can play a major role in convincing employers to increase their offer. Point to your quantifiable contributions throughout your tenure as well as how an inadequate package will create hardship for you and your loved ones. Negotiate with the right person, in the right tone and with the right message, and you will have the best chance at success. Remember, your boss may not have a say in severance – but if you can find someone well-placed to advocate on your behalf internally (a friendly department head, HR representative or anyone else with influence), you’ll have a much better chance at increasing your outcome. Women may also want to seek out a female colleague, senior leader or mentor for company-specific advice.
- Put everything on the table. Don’t miss the forest for the trees. Instead of trying to squeeze more money out of your company in a layoff, think about what’s going to set you up for success in the next phase of your career. Common asks include continued healthcare coverage, career coaching and placement services, guaranteed positive references, and even ongoing consulting opportunities. If you have equity, consider seeking an accelerated vesting schedule.
- Talk to an expert. Many women aren’t even aware that they may have grounds for an employment-related lawsuit. Employers are unlikely to tell you that you’re being discriminated against when they’re letting you go, so an attorney or negotiation coach can help you see past the pretense they’re using and figure out if you have a legal claim against the company.
Riva is a salary coaching platform founded by the world’s top negotiation experts out of Harvard Business School. Using proven approaches to building leverage and a validated, data-driven coaching methodology, Riva is working to end the “Negotiation Gap” by giving people of all backgrounds the tools and support they need to earn what they are truly worth.
Katherine Dvorkin for Riva