WHEN WORK IS HELL
Unfortunately finding yourself in a difficult situation at work is more common than people like to admit. Whether it is a result of recent changes (restructuring, merger or split) or getting caught in a fatal political conflict, you may start considering just walking away. Stop! Quitting will not bring you the desired stress relief. On the contrary, you will not be eligible for unemployment benefits or severance pay, therefore the pressure of finding a new job will only bring you more anxiety. Additionally, there is no “nice” way to explain “leaving” to the perspective employers (see: When Your New Gig Sucks), and this always raises a red flag. So what seems to be an easy way out is only a beginning of a nightmare.
HOW IT WORKS
If separation from your employer is inevitable, the best way to part ways is getting laid off. Besides providing a solid story to tell in your interviews, it would also allow you to secure unemployment benefits and maybe even some severance pay! Getting laid off is not to be confused with getting fired which would put you at a similar (if not more) unfavorable position as leaving voluntarily without securing alternative employment.
Employers always want productive if not overachieving employees, whose enthusiasm is contagious. They want to eliminate uninterested poor performers, not only because they don’t get as much for their buck, but so that others don’t start following their example. If you decided that your career at this place is over – be that person!
1). Carefully read employee handbook and make sure your new behavior never results in breaking your company policy. For example, you no longer need to come in early or stay late, but you must follow official office hours. Following the rules must become your new priority. Avoid doing anything “wrong”, stick with the dress code, be cordial, and don’t drink at lunch. Sure, you could get away with some naughty behavior when you were a strong performer – not anymore!
2). Projects still need to be done within timelines (request extensions in writing if needed). However, the quality of your work is no longer important. Your new strategy is – less is more! Poor performance will encourage them to push you out the door, but without a “bad” reason for termination that leaves you without unemployment benefits.
3). Now that your work load is lighter, it frees up some time for your job search. Be smart and careful about it. While building your LinkedIn profile, asking for recommendations and joining professional groups is perfectly fine, do stay away from using a company computer to visit job boards. Use your personal email account or even a smart phone to send out your resume. Request time off for your interviews in writing and save approvals (via hard copy or forwarded to personal email)
MAKE YOUR MOVE
Doing the bare minimum and focusing on your job search may simply help you land another opportunity. If not, after a few months of poor performance and lack of enthusiasm, you are likely to be placed on a so-called “performance plan”, at which point negotiations may begin. You may offer your employer to skip the formalities and leave sooner, if you can agree that you are being “laid off” (for future references) and receive some severance pay. Eager to remove the slacker out of their environment they are likely to come to an agreement with you. Most employers would be relieved knowing that 6-8 weeks of severance pay will buy them a peace of mind that comes with your immediate departure. Therefore, you are likely to walk away with a small financial buffer, well-positioned to get your career back on track. Here is more about negotiating severance from Susan Adams at Forbes.
Best of luck and feel free call me for more specific advice!