You may sense that you are being forced to quit—see the signs below that it is happening to you. Or your superiors might already have told you they want your resignation. You probably are unhinged. The good news is that there are 8 things you can do right now to manage the situation. Those best practices will reduce or even prevent damage to your career and give you a competitive advantage in what you choose next.
Signs you are being forced out
The employer’s objective is to have you quit. Therefore, the signals that you should do that tend to be obvious. Here are the common ones:
• You are left out of the communications loop. For example, you don’t receive emails about the meetings in the conference room for the product launch. Colleagues don’t return your calls.
• If you are still attending meetings you are treated with disrespect. That can take any number of forms, ranging from ignoring your comments to showering you with hostility. The objective is public humiliation.
• Your work load is reduced or increased significantly. Sales representatives might be given impossible quotas.
• Your relationship with superiors changes. Instead of praise, you receive constant criticism. Likely they are documenting that alleged poor performance. That can be leveraged to nudge you out if you are reluctant to leave.
• Colleagues and subordinates distance themselves.
• Your superiors actually ask that you consider resigning or else they will fire you. As they wait for your answer, all your work may be taken away.
The 8 ways to manage the crisis
1) Find out your legal standing. As books such as “Fired, Laid-Off Or Forced Out! explain, there are many myths about employees’ rights. The reality is that in most states, the private sector can terminate employment at will. The exceptions are if you in a protected class such as disabled or aging, a member of a union or if the terms and conditions are covered by a formal agreement. When in doubt, consult with an employment lawyer. Do that before you say or do anything, especially if you are considering taking legal action.
2) Decide if you want to try to keep your job or even buy yourself more time. If so, initiate a conversation with superiors about the reasons they want you to leave. At the outset, state you are willing and eager to follow their recommendations on corrective action to align your performance with what is needed. This move may save your job. If not, it could extend the time you are collecting a salary and using benefits while you search for another job.
3) Avoid “craving closure” to end stress. Human dignity is important to most people. Employers recognize that. Therefore they know that subtle or obvious types of abuse can drive you to quit impulsively. However, financially, emotionally and in preparing yourself for a job search, you might not be ready to leave. Remain calm. Keep your finger off the trigger.
4) Negotiate. Every situation is unique. But there is always room for negotiation. That’s true even if your job performance has been subpar. Critical to negotiate is how the company officially classifies the resignation in your personnel file. Ideally, it should state that you resigned, without qualifying that with “in lieu of being fired.” Also you can request a letter of recommendation, severance, outplacement and use of office facilities.
5) Be pragmatic about finances. Investigate the possibility of collecting unemployment in your particular state. Your state may allow that even for those who quit jobs. An example might be that it recognizes stress as a valid reason for leaving employment. Therefore, you have to know beforehand how to frame your claim. If you are over-55, your odds of getting a comparable job are not ideal. Immediately consider downsizing expenses.
6) Prepare your cover story. The question you will be asked during interviews for the next job is why you quit. You must create an explanation that is diplomatic, positive and yet accurate. Of course, you speak well of the company and your superiors. You describe the negatives in a way advantageous to you. For example, you would say, “Our strategies weren’t aligned because I assessed that the company should put its computing operations in the cloud.” Those in the know recognize you had a valid point. “Given this disconnect I felt it was a disservice to the company and myself to remain.”
7) Comport yourself from a position of strength. If you feel in charge of this process, your body language, facial gestures and conversations will reflect that. Everyone in the company is observing you. In a sense this is the performance of a lifetime since they will remember how you handled yourself during this crisis. Those perceptions help create the platform on which you build the rest of your career.
8) Network. The way to search for that next good job is through other people. According to JobVite and other studies, less than 25 percent of hires are made through help-wanted ads and recruiters. The other 75 percent happen through the contacts you will make on social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. You will also need to be visible in-person. That means participating in conferences, trade association meetings and local business social hours. “Hiding” is not an option.
Gaining the edge from this setback
No reasonable person welcomes failure. However, in Silicon Valley it is celebrated as a rite of passage. That’s because the tech players know that more is learned – and more quickly - from setbacks than successes. In sophisticated organizations, failure is even hailed as a competitive advantage. If enough executives in those companies have a record for failure, there’s plenty of collective wisdom embedded.
It’s up to you how you position and package the experience of being forced to quit a job. Ideally, you treat it as a learning experience. Through it you acquired amazing insight into your professional self and where it fits – and doesn’t.
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