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How to deal with "You're fired!"
5 Tips: Dealing with losing your job

By Gerri Willis, CNN/Money contributing columnist


Now, while layoffs have actually been declining, nobody should be unprepared in the event they hear those unfortunate words, "you're fired!" Here are today's five tips:

1. Be prepared for the worst.

The reality of getting fired is that workers often have some inkling that layoffs or job cuts are coming. Or you may just sense that your relationship with the corner office isn't what it used to be.

CNNfn's Gerri Willis shares five tips on what to do if you and your employer come to odds.

Either way, if you think heads are about to roll and you're worried yours might be one, be preemptive.

Steven Mitchell Sack, employment attorney and author of the book "Getting Fired," suggests reviewing your contract (if you have one) or the employee handbook to see what it says about termination. Take the time to save and gather copies of your work and important documents, especially letters of recommendations, special notices of awards or promotions. Don't forget your personal list of contacts and phone numbers.

Once you are fired, you may have trouble taking certain things from the office. These can act as evidence in the event you are fired and you want to stand your ground. Consider keeping a diary. Jot down everything from events that occurred in your favor to promises of job security from your employer.

Next, start looking for new employment. The best time to seek a new job is when you are already working and have a steady paycheck coming in. Finally, even if you feel as if your employer is getting ready to show you the axe -- don't resign. If you quit, you may end up walking away from your claim to unemployment benefits and severance.

2. Avoid the urge to be argumentative.

The good news is that most of the experts we spoke to say you are not likely to get fired the way Donald Trump does it. Most employers will try to be diplomatic and avoid outwardly saying "you're fired!"

Rather, you may hear "we are restructuring" or "downsizing" and need to let you go. While hearing it this way doesn't do much to ease the pain (and you may still want to jump across the desk and strangle your employer), you want to try to keep your cool.

Emotional outbursts or arguing with your employer serve no purpose. For whatever reason, your employer has made a decision to fire you and chances are that decision is not going to change.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas says arguing can harden the company's stance against you as far as severance and references. And trying to "get even" by suing an employer can hurt your career. A lawsuit may turn other prospective employers away from wanting to hire you. You could become branded a "litigious" person. If you are asked to leave the premises, do so quietly. In fact, you may not want to say anything at all. You also don't want to sign anything that day.

If you want to negotiate, ask to schedule a follow-up meeting.

3. Get ready to negotiate.

Sack says the last thing you want to do is bow your head and shuffle your feet out of your employer's office. You have leverage. Companies do not want to be sued or end up in bitter fights with employees. That could ultimately cost them in the end.

Sack says never accept the company's first offer. Ask for a negotiating session. You are allowed to take some time to think over the offer and speak to an advisor or attorney.

Once the negotiating begins, get the terms in writing. Career counseling company, The Five O'Clock Club says deal with each issue separately, whether it is the cash settlement, medical benefits, stock options, or vacation that has yet to be taken.

Richard Bayer, Ph.D., of the Five O'Clock Club says to check the HR manual of your company and see what is customary as far as severance. And, if possible, speak to others who have lost jobs in that company.

Sack recommends appealing to decency and fair play. For example, instead of saying, "if you don't give me more money, I'll sue you for everything you got!" you should explain to your employer, "I've done a great job here for the past 10 years, I have two kids in college, my wife is ill and can't work and this firing is a real surprise. By not offering me more money, I'm going to be in a real bind."

In other words, show your employers what you have done for them and they may just be more sympathetic to this approach.

You may also have leverage in other areas. Consider the timing of the firing. It may be suspect. For example, did it come just three weeks shy of a big bonus? This may strengthen your argument during the negotiations.

If you were truly happy at the company, it can't hurt to ask your employer if there is the potential for you to change positions within it. Your current position may be terminated, but there may be another opportunity just down the hall.

4. Reassess your current situation.

Bayer says don't let a layoff lower your self-esteem. Lots of good people get laid off and wind up with positions at or more of their previous pay.

Take a cooling off period from the job search for a few days to get your head together.
Rob Stearns, author of "Winning Smart After Losing Big," says getting fired can sometimes be liberating. It is a time to reassess if you are truly doing what you want to do.

Next, establish a daily routine. Your would-be regular business hours should be used interviewing and moving forward. Challenger, Gray & Christmas says you also want to keep up your normal social contacts. There is absolutely no shame in being unemployed and your socializing may lead to some job contacts.

Finally, economize immediately -- no matter how big your severance package is. Chances are that money is not going to last forever. And if you are fired it is important to be honest with your spouse or significant other. You can't avoid the situation. By being honest it will give you some solace and won't create tension in the relationship.

5. Don't be like Trump.

If you are the one doing the firing, try to have a bit more tact than simply saying "you're fired!" However, be sure to be brief with the employee -- a long discussion about why the worker is being canned could land you in court.

You also want to be direct and honest. Not brutal, but honest. The best day to lay an employee off is on a Friday. This way he/she has the weekend to regroup and be with family and friends.

As an employer you also want to make sure you eventually stick to whatever severance package you work out. That is the best way to avoid getting served with a summons.