Negotiating a Great Severance Package

For those of you who are staring a layoff in the face, or if you want to be prepared for a possible separation of employment in your next position, I’d like to add my advice on negotiating a severance package. And yes, this is something you can negotiate. As career strategist and job search coach, and I’ve helped dozens of clients successfully negotiate severance packages.  

 I advise my clients to use many of the same tactics as you would in a salary negotiation.

First of all, you need to have clear in your mind what you want, and what’s important to you. For example, if paid health insurance is a must, make that your priority.

Secondly, throughout the process, you want to be genuine and sincere in discussing severance agreements, not cold and calculating. You will get a lot further that way. I understand you most likely angry – ok, furious – and hurt, but don’t let that get in the way of making the best out of a decidedly awful situation.

Next, use vulnerability to your advantage; it can be very powerful. Describe your financial situation to the employer, and the personal difficulties this separation will cause. You will find that when you use this strategy, it plays to your employer’s desire to make you happy - and dare I say - their guilt over letting you go. For instance, “I do have some impending financial needs… Perhaps the company could approve a slightly higher package. Is there any way we can pursue this together?” Or, “Can you see your way clear to adding 3 more months to the severance agreement? That would easy my family situation immensely.”

Also, in negotiating, it’s a great rule of thumb to use questioning, rather than demanding, in your discussions. You will find the most persuasive negotiators use questions. It will allow you to gain control of the situation by getting valuable information from the employer. For example, you wouldn’t say, “That severance wouldn’t be any good for me.” Instead, you might say, “Robert, could you tell me how you think this can work for me?” Or, “Is there a chance you could extend the length of the severance (or the health benefits) a little longer?”

In both of these examples, see how there are only questions – no demands. By inviting your soon-to-be-former employer to explore the situation, you are giving them the freedom to reach their own conclusions on whether or not their separation offer is unreasonable. With this approach, you come across as sincere, realistic, and slightly vulnerable; never as cold or calculating, or as an employee who is “forcing their hand.”

And there’s one last piece of advice I’d like to offer: When you do find a new job, by all means negotiate your “exit strategy” before signing an employment contract. I advise negotiating for at least 6 month’s severance (and 12 months for six figure professionals), including benefits. It’s much easier to get a fair separation agreement when the employer is excited about hiring you than it is when things go south and they’re put in a position where they have to let you go. And make that separation clause be effective due to any change in your job, and not just a lessening of responsibilities or a lay off. In other words, there might be a company reorganization, and yes, you can still have your same position, but you’ll have to do it in Detroit. If you don’t want to move, you should be able to receive the severance you negotiated at the start of your employment.

 In my experience, I have found my clients have been able to easily negotiate 1 to 3 months more in compensation, or a 10-15% higher increase during the severance term using these techniques. I’ve also found that my higher paid clients and those in higher positions in the company have an easier time negotiating the terms of their severance packages.However, I’ve seen these techniques work successfully at all career levels.

With whatever position you’re leaving, it is always best to gain as much control of your situation as possible. It will not only serve you financially, but emotionally as well. Most people don’t know they have any influence in a severance package once they’re laid off, especially when feeling devastated about the loss of their job. However, you may find a few brief conversations with your employer will pay off great dividends.  

How to perfectly roast a Thanksgiving turkey?

Whether you are dining in at home with family and friends, or going out for a meal for Thanksgiving, roast turkey is certainly the staple of the day. So how can you make the perfect roast turkey that would be the envy of all your dinner guests?

If you are going out for a meal, then it would no doubt be cooked by a professional chef, decked out in his or her fancy chef coat and apron (chefs prefer to wear hardy denim aprons for tasks such as these!), but how can you get the same taste and effect at home? Here are some tips from professional chefs on how to perfectly roast your Thanksgiving turkey.

The perfect turkey should be both well roasted, flavorsome and juicy as well, as well as being extremely aromatic., after all, it is the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving dinner table, right?

One piece of advice given by professional chefs is to plan out your cooking process early on, because you don’t want to overcook your bird as that would dry it out. Don’t forget to let it sufficiently thaw before you start your preparations, and this thawing time will need to be added to your timing for roasting the turkey.

A frozen store-bought turkey does not need brining, as it would simply be a waste of time, all you need to do is take it out of the packaging and dry it with some paper towels. Never wash a turkey or chicken because it causes contamination. Once your turkey is dry, rub seasoning and herb-butter all over it, so that the skin becomes nice and brown. Don’t forget that you should never cook the stuffing inside the turkey, but make it separately and then stuff the bird.

The bird should be kept on a low heat in the oven for approximately 5 hours, and you can keep checking it with a thermometer to see if it is cooked through. Once completely done, let it rest before serving.

Negotiation Skills – Winning As a Seller

Just as a buyer can employ certain tactics to strengthen her negotiation position and results, a seller can do certain things to benefit his position and results. It is learned negotiation skills that give a seller advantage and the consistent application of them will pay off over time.

In a previous article, I noted how the buyer in a negotiation usually has the upper hand, because there are more things a buyer can do to successfully conclude a deal. The reason for this is fairly obvious: a seller has a product or service they need to sell to make money, and in almost every market on the planet, there is substantial competition for that product or service. Buyers can always go elsewhere and try to get a better deal if they don’t like the one they are engaged in. It’s what makes selling anything a tough, tough job.

But, there are things a seller can do to help his position. Here we will discuss a few.

1. Make it clear you have the buyer’s best interest at heart.

This means be sincere and prove it. Using over-baked, cliche ridden lines about how much the you care for the buyer and will suffer a loss just to make her a great deal – does not cut it. Buyers see through this and it has the reverse affect of what most cheesy sellers are hoping for when they use this method. Buyers want to know the seller is there for something more than simply making money. Buyer’s understand why the seller is selling (to make money), so good sellers reveal to buyers there is more to it than just that. Communicating to the buyer that you love what you do, and giving them specific reasons why, will go a long way toward lessening the buyer’s concern that she will only be sold the most expensive product at the highest margin.

Make it personal. Tell the buyer you sincerely hope she will be coming back to see you on her next purchase because you hope to establish a strong, ongoing relationship. Few people are so hard nosed they will not react positively to a sincere offer of friendship. As a seller, you can make use of the natural human tendency to want more friendships. And if a buyer sees you as a friend instead of a huckster, she will benefit you with a sale and more to come.

2. Take a “Low Key” approach.

A low key approach is self-explanatory. It means “not high key”. A high key approach is talking a mile a minute, asking insincere questions, laughing inappropriately and too often, showing the buyer twice as much product as she needs to see and telling her twice as much information as she needs to know until she buys something… just to get rid of you. Interestingly, most people who go into sales naturally take this approach with buyers. And it usually does not work.

A low key approach is vital for a seller seeking to use negotiation skills to ensure a profitable outcome. This seller reminds the buyer he is there to assist her – not push her. He suggests products or services that may meet her needs and if they don’t, he will gladly refer her elsewhere. He reminds her he wants her to be happy, but not so that he makes a fat commission or profit, but so that she considers him a consultant, someone to whom she will come back to for counsel, or advice.

3. Apply the lever of time.

A buyer can negotiate like a bulldog. Usually a seller cannot. Again, this is because a buyer can usually walk if they are unhappy, whereas a seller must find another buyer if there is no sale. However, a seller does have the issue of time to his advantage.

Everyone has a limited amount of time. Nothing could be more obvious. Well, for a buyer, this has a cost, because if a buyer cannot make a deal work, she must go on to the next seller, and try again. And if that seller cannot make a deal or does not have what she needs, she must move on again. And again.

For most buyers, this a nightmare. Unless they are simply having fun with the buying process (and some people actually do), there is a strong likelihood the buyer simply wants to find the right product or service at the right price and get it done. Negotiating can be tiring and take away from other productive uses of one’s time.

A clever seller keeps this truth in mind at all times. He will engage with the buyer in every way possible, giving her total focus and attention and immersing her in the process of buying as much as he possibly can, for as long as he can, so that she will not be inclined to end the process and go somewhere else and start the whole thing over. As a seller, you remind the buyer how much she has learned about your product or service, how much you have devoted yourself to working through the deal, and how much more you are willing to do to see a beneficial result for both parties.

Now some sellers push this concept by claiming deadlines, such as a sale ending in 10 hours, or competition, such as another buyer who is waiting to make an offer on the same product, but often these are disingenuous methods of pushing buyers to buy before considering further. These methods may work, but if they are false, and a buyer learns of it, you may lose a customer for life. It is better to be straightforward, and tell the buyer about something imminent if it is true, but never use it to push buyer to a decision.

Just as a buyer can make productive use of negotiating skills, a seller can employ methods to give him a greater likelihood of success. Negotiating is a crucial element of buying and selling almost anything, and those who know the principles are most often the ones who realize the profitable deals.