Negotiating the terms of your severance package might not be the most enjoyable experience, but the potential payoff makes it worth it. By negotiating for a higher compensation you’ll buy yourself more time to pay all the bills and remain on an even keel while you search for a new job. Of course, negotiation is an art and getting it right requires some good advice and a thoughtful approach to the situation. To help you negotiate the best severance package you should keep the following information in mind.

Can You Leverage Any Potential Claims?

One way to increase your severance package is to present any evidence that you have which may look favorable in court, should you make a claim against your employer. This may be evidence of a wrongful dismissal based on race, age or sex. Or any other evidence which shows that you were dismissed for an illegal reason. If you feel like there’s a chance that your dismissal happened under illegal circumstances, you should consult a lawyer to learn more about your options.

However, it’s also important to regulate how you present this information. If you’re too demanding and upfront it may come across as threatening, which is not the effect that you want to achieve in every situation. The idea is to show your employer what you know and what the results would be in a court case, not blackmail them. Again, you may want to talk to a lawyer to find out what the best approach is to present the information clearly without coming off as overly threatening.

What Have You Done for the Company?

Do you have any notable achievements for the company which would justify receiving a larger severance package? Successful projects that you were a leader of, initiatives that you spearheaded, or deals that you closed? Reminding your employer of these accomplishments will take their mind off the fact that they’re letting you go and help them to focus on all the good that you’ve done for the company. This is a quick and easy way to negotiate a higher severance pay package, especially if you’ve worked for a company for several years.

Do You Have Any Special Needs?

Sometimes mentioning any special needs that you have can convince an employer to increase the size of your severance package. Are you a single parent who is struggling to make ends meet? Did someone just die and the death is proving difficult to cope with? Can you think of any other special life situations that may pluck at the heartstrings of your employer? While employers may not have heartstrings, people do. Attaining empathy from people in an authority position is a valuable negotiation tool and one that shouldn’t be overlooked.

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Talk About Your Employer’s Reputation

If you work in an industry that’s small circle and most people know about the other guys and who does what, you might want to mention to your employer that there’s value in you not having negative things to say about them. Finding qualified employees is difficult for many businesses, and if you believe your dismissal was unfair, you’ll probably have better things to say about the company if you receive a larger severance package.

Of course, this is general advice and everyone has a unique situation. Depending on your relationship with your employer, how long you’ve been working with them, and what kind of existing severance pay package you have, you’re likely to have varying results. However, if one approach doesn’t work you may want to try another. Also, it’s most likely worth consulting a lawyer about your case. Employment law can be difficult to understand and often doesn’t make intuitive sense.

Negotiating Non-Monetary Benefits

Non-monetary benefits are nice because they may be easier to negotiate for, and both you and the employer receive something of value. The employer doesn’t have to feel like they’re buying you off, and you don’t have to feel like everything is about money and you’re squeezing your former employer for everything that you can get.

Some common examples of non-monetary benefits include neutral references in the future, a positive reference letter, and possibly even removal of items from the employment file. All of these benefit you because they’ll ensure that you have the best possible chance of securing employment in the future. Also, since they cost the company nothing, they are easily negotiated for in most circumstances. An employer would rather give you a neutral review versus increase the size of your severance package.

You may also want to negotiate for other non-monetary benefits like permission to keep some company property. That might include office supplies, or even a laptop that you use regularly and has all your personal information. If something is valuable to you, consider negotiating for it in your severance package. Even though company property does have a monetary value, you might deem it worth a lot more than the dollar amount your employer puts on it, and you might be more likely to get it.

When is the Best Time to Negotiate the Terms?

When you start a new job, you should have an idea what the severance package is and what you’ll receive if you’re dismissed. This is a good time to bring up any potential concerns that you have with the severance package because nobody is thinking about you being dismissed just as you’re getting hired. The topic will be less emotionally charged and it may be easier to secure better terms. You might also want to bring up the terms of your severance package then because you may feel like bringing up the package later, when the relationship with your employer is already rocky, will prompt them to dismiss you.

Of course, if you do wait until your dismissal to negotiate new terms that’s fine as well. You can use the information above to secure more pay and other non-monetary benefits that will ensure a smooth transition from your old job to your new one.

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