Tuesday November 12, 2013 | 07:00 AM
Posted by Barbara Babkirk

“Give a person a bad experience and they’ll tell twelve people about it.”

Spinning a layoff or job termination into a positive experience is not an easy task.

As an outplacement consultant who works with individuals who’ve lost their jobs, I’ve heard hundreds of termination stories--many that seem unimaginable for their lack of compassion on one hand, and risk management on the other. Here are just a couple of real-life examples:
•    I remember the well-liked and valued employee of 28 years who fell victim to a management shift, hearing not so much as a “thank you for your contribution” by management as he packed up his belongings and left feeling invisible and unappreciated.
•    Then there was the senior executive (ousted due to redundancy in an acquisition) who was escorted to the door by a guard in full view of her subordinates as though she was a criminal. (She later won a legal suit against her employer.)

There have been times when I’ll ask a client who is having difficulty letting go of their termination experience, “How would you like to have been treated?”
Consistently, they tell me that they would like to have been acknowledged for the work they did and the contributions they made.

In addition to recommendations made by their legal counsel, employers might consider the following ideas from clients who wished they’d have been treated differently when they were terminated:

•    Acknowledge the specific contributions s/he made to the organization.
•    Let them know if you will support their eligibility for unemployment compensation.
•    Offer a severance that includes outplacement/transition counseling and suggest a possible vendor that would customize services to specific needs.
•    If they stay on to complete some work, treat them as a contributor, not as someone who is no longer needed.
•    Offer to give them a reference and/or connect them with appropriate contacts outside the organization.

It’s in every employer’s best interest to curb possible negative repercussions through careful planning that includes empathy, generosity, and kindness along with attention to risk management.

About this Blog

Barbara Babkirk is a Master Career Counselor and founder of Heart At Work Associates, a career counseling and outplacement firm in Portland.

With a focused and intuitive approach, Barbara makes a difference in people’s lives by helping them design a new life chapter. She has a successful record guiding career transitions for professionals ranging from executives and artists to attorneys and entrepreneurs.

An expert in her field, Barbara is a public speaker on work-related topics writes a solutions-oriented column about work for the Portland Sunday Telegram.


Scott Woodard is a career coach with Heart At Work Associates, a career counseling and outplacement business in Portland, Maine.

Scott works with clients to identify and articulate their value and their personal brand. He helps clients develop clear, concise and crisp messaging to convey their particular difference, their achievements and their approach.

Scott coaches clients to market their brand through social media platforms, especially LinkedIn. He offers monthly workshops on how to make the most of LinkedIn for businesses or job seekers.

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