Topic of the Week Leaving Your Job
Take a cautious approach when discussing termination with your employer. This also includes anything that your employer may put in writing about termination in the documents that you sign before leaving a position. These documents may have important implications for your future, so it requires your close examination before signing. If it was important enough for your employer to put in writing, it is important enough for you to review closely. Always ask questions and seek outside opinions if you do not fully understand what has been drawn out in agreement before signing.
Before you take your final leave be sure to obtain letters of reference, make certain you understand the reason for your termination, negotiate the best severance package possible, and make use of all outplacement services available. At this stage your goals are twofold: avoid burning bridges and keep lines of communication open while you still have one foot in the door!
1. Verify the reason for your termination
If you were fired, attempt to obtain a written statement of the reason(s) for your termination. In some states, your employer is required to give you, upon request, a statement in writing of the reason for your termination. This statement is called a "service letter." Some of the states currently requiring such a letter are: Arizona, California, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Illinois, Washington, and Texas.
If you cannot obtain a statement in writing ask your supervisor or manger to tell you the reason. Then write down for yourself the stated reason and include the date, time, and place (and any witnesses) that the statement was given. Read it to the supervisor and make a note of the date he or she confirmed its content.
2. Important differences between resigning and being terminated
When the end of your career with the company seems imminent, or if your working environment has become unbearable, you may be tempted to simply terminate the employment relationship voluntarily by tendering a resignation. Sometimes, a resignation can be helpful. When you apply for new jobs, you can honestly say that you quit the company voluntarily. Your employment record at your old company should reflect that you quit and not that you were fired. For some large companies with numerous affiliates or divisions, an employee who resigns from the job is eligible for rehire with the company at a later date, whereas an employee terminated for cause would not be.
However, the difference between being fired or discharged and voluntarily quitting is significant in a number of ways. Whether to resign or be fired is a matter of strategy and depends on the facts of your situation. Before you resign, consult an employment attorney if you can. An attorney will be able to give you specific information about how a resignation will affect your position. The information below gives some of the general reasons that resignation can be either helpful or harmful depending on the circumstances.
It may be that your employer wants to fire you and is making life at work difficult for you, hoping you will quit. The company may refrain from terminating you out of fear that the dismissal would be illegal. Under these circumstances, you may be better off not resigning. If you resign voluntarily, you may be unable to claim an illegal discharge. Assume your employer wants you out but doesn't want to take the possibly unlawful step of discharge. You then can increase your bargaining power with your employer by staying and refusing to resign. You can use the company's desire for your departure as leverage for obtaining a generous separation package in exchange for your resignation. In general, you should try to remain at the job as long as you can to increase your bargaining position. Finally, if your company has an internal grievance procedure, you can appeal the wrongful discharge. If you quit you may not have the right of appeal and your chances of regaining your job (if that is your objective) would be greatly diminished.