just found out that my job, along with those of several other people in
my department, is being eliminated soon. This is really discouraging,
since it will be my second layoff in four years. (I lost my last job at
the end of 2001.) Also, I just turned 50 and I think job hunting will
be tough this time around. Do you have any sense of how much severance
pay would be reasonable to expect? So far, the HR people have told us
nothing specific, but is it usually still based on years of service, or
Yes, companies' standard
severance policies are still based largely on years of service, with
about half of employers offering two weeks' salary for each year you've
worked there. Slightly more than one in three pay one week's salary per
year of service; and fewer than 20% offer less than a year's pay per
year of service. Outplacement giant Lee Hecht Harrison (http://www.lhh.com)
recently polled human-resources folks at 1,030 U.S. companies and found
that, overall, severance pay has held fairly steady since
2001 -- coincidentally, the last time the firm did this survey and the
last year you had to worry about this. "Despite the recession in the
intervening four years, most organizations didn't cut these benefits
significantly," says Bernadette Kenny, a Lee Hecht Harrison executive
vice president. "Regardless of economic circumstances, employers seem
to recognize the importance of having severance benefits that are
competitive -- not only to provide sufficient resources for those in
transition, but also to preserve their good standing with remaining and
So, for example, the survey found that
only 33% of companies made any changes at all in their severance
policies during the economic slowdown -- and, of those, 52% actually
became more generous. One interesting change: 49% now offer severance
benefits to part-time employees, up from 39% who did so in 2001. A tiny
2% of companies say that temporary or contract workers are eligible to
get severance, but that's still double the 1% of companies that said so
But now let's talk about your situation specifically.
Your age is significant here, because federal law provides particular
protections for employees over 40 who lose their jobs. For one thing,
you're legally entitled to take 21 days to think over a severance offer
before you sign a severance agreement -- and even after you sign, the law
gives you seven days to change your mind. So don't be rushed into
anything. There are usually several components to a severance package
besides cash, and some of them may be more negotiable than you think.
For a few ideas you may find helpful, take a look at a column that
appeared in this space in May, "How to Get a Better Severance Package". Best of luck.
company where I work was just acquired, and I've discovered that the
company that bought us is headed by a boss who previously fired me. I
made some mistakes back then, but I've made some changes and been very
successful ever since. I don't even know yet if I'll have a position
with the new company, but I wonder how I should proceed. Should I
approach her? If so, what should I say?
-- Older & Wiser
Dear O & W:
By all means,
make an appointment to stop by her office for a quick hello. If you
don't, and she finds out you're working for her again (as of course she
will, sooner or later), it will look as if you're hiding out and hoping
she won't notice you. Talk about awkward! Go in there with a confident,
friendly air about you, and briefly tell her what you just told me,
i.e., you're well aware there were serious problems between the two of
you in the past, but you've changed your ways, and you hope she will
give you the opportunity to prove it. If you get along well with your
current boss, it wouldn't hurt to ask him or her to put in a good word
for you, too. Of course, as with any merger, there may not be a place
for you in the new organization -- but it would be nice to know that it
isn't because your old nemesis is still holding a grudge.
an MBA who was laid off last June when my former employer closed down.
I went through a three-month series of interviews at a company more
than 2,000 miles away. Then the company deliberated for three weeks,
during which I heard nothing from them. Finally, someone called and
made me a job offer. I was pleased, but -- partly because of the
long-distance move my family and I would have to make -- I asked for one
day to think it over. Five hours later, they called me back and
rescinded the offer, because I was "taking too long to decide." Is this
normal? When companies make job offers, do they expect an answer
immediately, or was I just dealing with a jerky company?
-- Stone Mountain Sam
heard some strange stories lately -- including one from a guy who was
fired because he wouldn't stay out carousing with his boss until 3 a.m.
while the two of them were on a business trip (has anyone else on earth
ever been fired for not drinking enough?) -- but this one takes the cake.
Any company that would put you through a three-month interview ordeal,
leave you dangling for three weeks, and then refuse to give you a
measly 24 hours to decide is most definitely a jerky company. If this
is how they treat job candidates, just imagine how delightful these
people would be to work for. Good riddance to 'em.
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