Let me share a story of how one company is trying to screw over a loyal employee. Companies nowadays don't offer job stability any longer. Therefore, if you are a loyal employee, start looking out for yourself more.
Your company really doesn't care for you as much as you think. I worked in finance for 13 years and it was a dog-eat-dog world.
How One Company Is Trying To Screw Over A Loyal Employee
For 10 years, Rachel dedicated her life to working for Up Yours Inc. She rose through the ranks from analyst to senior manager. But her path wasn’t smooth.
I told her to find another job many times before because they weren't treating her well. When it was time for her to get a promotion two years ago, she was passed over for another male colleague. The guy was qualified, but she was more qualified. Unfortunately, she had to wait another 6 months before being considered again.
The great kick in the pants is that the guy who got promoted quit six months later to take some other job. For managers out there, this is your worst nightmare because those employees who you didn't promote will not only secretly laugh at your poor managerial decision, they will also make you regret your choice as well.
Demanding A Raise
Two months after being passed over, Rachel walked into her manager’s office and demanded not only the promotion she should have gotten earlier, but an even higher raise than she should have received.
“If you don’t like my term, unfortunately it’s time for us to say good-bye,” she told her boss firmly.
Her boss was taken aback by quiet, little, loyal Rachel. He apologized about the situation and promised her a promotion during mid-year. Rachel not only got that promotion, but also a retroactive raise as well. It's unfortunate meritocracy doesn't work on its own.
A Little Too Little Too Late
Even though Rachel eventually got what she deserved, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she would eventually be screwed over again. As other people began leaving around her, Rachel would have to pick up the slack. At one point, her coverage responsibility expanded from five clients to nine clients. There was nothing she could do but work late and be miserable every single day.
I’ve known Rachel for many years and have been her friendly career coach whenever she’s asked me for help. Two years after she was initially passed over she reached out to me for advice. We went to Brenda’s Kitchen, our favorite soul food restaurant for brunch to commiserate.
“Sam, I know you’ve been telling me to find another job for the past few years and I stubbornly didn’t listen. But I’m at my wits end and I finally want to leave. Management has piled up enough work on me to fill three people’s jobs, and I can’t take it anymore!”
I empathized with Rachel, and told her she would be a perfect candidate to negotiate a severance package given her 10 year of service.
Doubts About Negotiating A Severance
“Oh no, I could never ask to get laid off,” she said. “It would feel too weird to ask them for money for me to leave. They need me!”
“Well, they sure didn’t need you when they passed you over for that promotion and raise,” I responded bluntly. “Everybody feels like they are special. The truth of the matter is that we are all expendable. Don’t ever forget it.”
I was much more forceful in my feedback than usual because I also had enough of her excuses for why she didn't want to leave her captors. It was as if she's suffering from Stockholm Syndrome or something. Perhaps this was the last chance for Rachel to finally break free and I didn't want her to blow it.
“OK, Sam! I’m going to go in there and tell them I’d like to leave after 10 years. They recently laid off people in another department who received 4 weeks of severance per year served. So hopefully, I will get something similar.”
See: Quitting Your Job Is Selfish, Negotiating A Severance Is The Morally Right Thing To Do
Loyal Employee Almost Got Bamboozled
Rachel called me a week later to tell me things were not working out as planned. They told her they didn’t want her to leave, but they also didn’t give her any concrete offer to stay. They said they'd get back to her with a proposal in a week, but three weeks went by and still nothing.
Rachel finally had enough of waiting and marched back into her manager’s office reiterating her desire to leave with a severance package. She wasn’t going to quit with nothing after 10 years of service.
Terrible Severance Offer
Yet another week passed until they finally got back to her with the following proposal: If she stayed until the end of the year (3 more months), they’d offer her two months worth of severance.
“Two months is better than nothing right? At least I'll be employed for three more months so I can aggressively look for another job.” Rachel told me.
I asked her what her normal year-end bonus range was and she said, “About two to three months base salary.”
“So you are telling me Rachel, that if you stay for a full year, management will give you potentially one less month of a typical bonus amount and ZERO severance? Or you are saying management will give you a lousy two months of severance after 10 years of work and ZERO bonus?!” I questioned.
“Oh shit, you are right! Those bastards!!” Rachel responded.
Rachel is currently in the process of negotiating for a better severance.
Don't Let Your Company Screw You
Many companies will offer you a “two month severance,” which is not a severance at all. Large companies are required by state law to provide for two or three months of WARN Act pay during a round of layoffs depending on the state of incorporation. Any compensation after the WARN pay is considered severance.
Please don’t be fooled by your company’s chicanery. Rachel's company is insulting her intelligence by offering a 35% LESS bonus and ZERO severance if she stays during the critical holiday period.
It's amazing how poorly some companies treat their employees. Don't they know that employees can now fight back over social media and with negative reviews on GlassDoor?
Further, the value of a severance package has gone way up thanks to increased government benefits.
Know Your Worth As An Employee
Rachel is a valuable employee to the firm. If Rachel goes, I am absolutely sure several clients will fire her company, resulting in at least a million dollars in lost revenue. Furthermore, Rachel has been the one picking up the slack of her departed colleagues.
If Rachel leaves, it will cause a cascade of other employees to quit. Finally, once everybody at the firm and the clients find out how poorly her company treated her after 10 years of service, the company’s reputation will be tarnished.
Dear management, please treat your employees right, especially if they’ve been with you for over a decade. To not do so shows your short-sightedness. To not provide for a smooth transition will ultimately come back to bite you many fold.
As for employees, please know your rights. You have more than you think! Speak to a friend during this stressful process to gain more clarity.
Related: How To Negotiate Your Severance As A High-Performing Employee (my wife's story)
Recommendation For Leaving A Job
If you want to leave a job you no longer enjoy, negotiate a severance instead of quitting. If you negotiate a severance like I did back in 2012, you not only get a severance check, but potentially subsidized healthcare, deferred compensation, and worker training.
Since you got laid off, you're also eligible for up to 27 weeks of unemployment benefits. Having a financial runway is huge during your transition period. Conversely, if you quit your job you get nothing.
Check out my ebook, How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye, on how to negotiate a severance.
I first published the book in 2012 and have since expanded it to 200 pages from 100 pages in the latest edition thanks to tremendous reader feedback and successful case studies. If you are a loyal employee, you really need to start looking after yourself more!
45 thoughts on “How One Company Is Trying To Screw Over A Loyal Employee”
Sam- I love reading your posts. I am a 30 something running my own business but unfortunately my wife is stuck in corporate America (at least for now) I’ve read your “how to negotiate a severance” posts and I don’t get it? At my wife’s company they fire you on the spot if you ask for severance and say you are thinking of leaving. Another friend of mine had a manager say I’ll take that as your resignation and fired him on the spot! Help, please? I’d love it if I could help my wife give her company the big ***. Sorry its just been exactly Rachel’s story above … promotion, nope, interview…pass, promotion pass. A carrot and a Pinocchio nose for them…
Great reminder that you need to fight for what you deserve. Don’t just politely say OK and take it even though you don’t think it’s fair. I’ve had a few experiences asking for higher raises with my work. I’ll probably do the same thing again this year and I’m currently brainstorming how to approach the request. Was thinking along the line like…
“I’ve taken on more responsibilities this past year and I’d like to get compensated for doing so…”
Not sure if I should give a % number for the raise or leave it open. What do you think Sam?
I do have to leave a comment from the supervisor’s perspective. More than once, I have been put in a position where I could fit the bill of dangling a carrot or breaking a promise. In my defense, this is often because the prior supervisor left out any mention of such discussions when we transitioned. I now make sure that I ask both the employee and past supervisor not only what they want–forward looking–but also how their last career move worked out. Both parties are generally reluctant to talk about “what if’s” and promises made: I suspect for different reasons.
So, let me just say: please, everyone, speak up! Do not assume that some perfect process makes the actors at your workplace know everything they need to know. Transitions are often hurried and under duress. You can hold a boss accountable for what they say, but I can’t count the number of times I have had to defuse a situation that was begun by someone I only met briefly, or never even knew. Like so many things, communication is key.
No manager is required to be nice, or to believe that they should develop their staff, for their own fulfillment or for best results. But some have come to that conclusion on their own.
Great post and even though still early in my career (3.25 years), I feel this way all of the time. It’s great that you were there to support her as well. It’s funny it’s a two edged sword: They are happy to continue to pay their employees less who perform the highest – because if you don’t say anything and you’re still there working – why would they care? Then, on the other hand, if an employee finally stands up for themselves – they have no choice but to show their hand and do what it takes to keep you. I’ve had a similar story in my career when I could have left my firm and gone elsewhere with my talents/abilities. They did something to maintain me – but here I am, again in the same boat – similar to your friend Rachel – picking up slack and getting buried at work. Thanks for posting this, as it helps me think about what I’m currently doing. Hope you have a great weekend, talk soon.
Thanks for stopping by. It real is hard to feel like you’re ever getting the better deal as an employee. I only felt that way when I first got my job cause I was thankful, during the crazy bull market when comp was huge, and then towards the end when I got a nice severance.
Gotta keep them on their toes and keep searching for the ideal spot.
I normally negotiate everything! I even negotiated a severance package when the company I worked for was sold. I think I probably left some money on the table because I didn’t understand how valuable I was at the time. I helped sell the company and it was not much more than an empty box. Lesson learned!
Have you worked with Rachel personally or know of others who can vouch for her work ethic, intelligence, integrity, whether she works well with others, etc. It’s okay for her to share her work issues with you, but she should be addressing it with her corporate HR and her direct management if she has issues that truly bother her that much. She can speak with a lawyer if she feel she has a legit discrimination case.
Companies are not obligated to pay severance for people who leave voluntarily nor even during a massive layoff other than what’s required by the WARN act. Most companies offer severance in order to avoid being sued and to avoid bad publicity.
Good luck to Rachel, but it sounds as though her management doesn’t have any intention to offer her much of a severance. If she’s lucky maybe there will be a layoff, or they’ll put her on some voluntary performance issues crap and offer her a better severance offer to leave.
The one thing you want at this job is respect. It isn’t happening. You have to leave, or detach. More money won’t fix it, nor will a lighter workload. As long as you are at this job, the company doesn’t have a problem. They are not (nor should they) pay you to create a problem for them by leaving. There isn’t anything in it for them to give you a severance. The arguments of longevity, loyalty, profitability, etc. are only valid if you stay. Of course you have been evaluating your options for a long time, but if you had another good offer you would have already taken it. The company knows this. Don’t stop trying to find another good position, but it seems you have two choices: 1) you need to leave, even if it means taking a lower position and/or salary; or 2) you need to make peace with the situation and treatment, and develop a healthy detachment.
You want to punish the company/your boss. You want to scare them, show you respect, show you the money, and take back some of the power the company/your boss has slowly taken from you. A severance package would do that, but to get it you would have to make it in the company’s interest for you to exit. If this is not possible, acknowledge and move on. This is not about what is right or fair, but what the company can get away with for money, workload, and respect. My last thought is to urge you to avoid any displays of emotion or anger. You do not want to become a ‘running joke’ or the story that keeps being repeated years after you are gone. Keeping good thoughts for you, and hope you resolve this soon.
It really does help to talk to a friend who is removed from your specific field of work. We live and breathe our chosen field sometimes it’s hard to imagine a world outside of it. Getting smart and objective advice can make all the difference in the world.
I’ve had very limited experience in the workforce, but even a mid-size company I worked for, who got consistently ranked for treating their employees well, paid WAY less than they should’ve and gave bonuses that could cover about two pairs of inexpensive shoes. They touted their four weeks of vacation, but employees could rarely actually take all their vacation day because of black out days/ other team members planning vacation first. Didn’t stick around there.
I’ve never had a good enough job to get screwed like that, but my father-in-law was laid off because his new boss wanted to hire a buddy instead. One of my FIL’s duties was to write memos for the company’s CEO. When he refused to write a memo announcing his and a bunch of other employees’ layoffs, they threatened to take away his severance entirely. 6 months later his new boss who laid him off was canned along with the guy he hired to replace my FIL.
You whine about speeding tickets.
You whine about poor MPG on your new leased car.
You whine about having to replace a part on your new leased car at no cost to you.
You whine about bad handymen.
You whine about a mortgage refi process.
And now… you’re whining about someone ELSE’S first world problems.
Not very interesting or compelling.
You’re capable of better.
Out of curiosity how much should she get? (In your opinion)
On a glance, after 10 years seems like 8-12 months makes more sense.
The precedence was set for 4 weeks for every year served to the employees who got laid off in her other department. I think at least 1 week a year, if not 2 weeks a year of service is a fair trade off given she is asking to get laid off.
I took over a higher paid coworker’s full time duties anticipating (and being told verbally) that it would garner me a promotion and that I would transition from my current duties. Long story short they kept me on the hook doing both jobs at my old salary for two years, dangling the carrot of promotion until, when I got agressive in pushing the issue, finally telling me I would have to go above and beyond in both positions to get the promotion. I started looking and landed a promotion elsewhere in another division within the following year. Part of the reason I took so long in pushing hard is I thought the management team were friends. We went out to lunch, occasionally hung out outside work, had a good time when we traveled, etc.. So I bought all the excuses as to why they couldn’t get the promotion in “just yet” or that it would be “soon”. After I left they eventually backfilled with two people, each at a promoted salary since their first attempts at my old salary failed. So they ended up with one person doing my original job and one doing my coworker’s duties at the promoted salaries they’d originally promised me. I never burned a bridge but at one point I thought maybe it was just me, but they made a point of letting me know when the promotions were announced and asking if I was interested in coming back since they finally got the salary right. Truth is the trust was gone and I didn’t want to working for the same folks again.
With respect to Rachel, I wouldn’t have lasted as long as Rachel has, and especially knowing what I know now I would have left sooner. They will use her until they can’t anymore. The fact that they called the two months and no bonus a severance is frankly just adding insult to injury. This is the reason more and more companies make employees sign “non-competative” agreements to screw them if they try to leave as they dump more and more work on them. Essentially it makes it even harder to get a job unless you move geographically as well as leave them.
Consider the management’s point of view. They are getting the same amount of work done with far less people. Their numbers are looking fantastic so they look fantastic. What incentive do they have to change? Sure, she’s grumbling a bit, but they’ll placate her and you can bet they’ve already figured out who will be doing the work come end of year.
You, sir, get it. And that is because you have been screwed over before.
I can’t fault folks for not knowing what they don’t know.
Thanks for the great comment!
I don’t quite understand severence packages. Are they only offered if you work for a private firm? Maybe a law office, doctor’s office, or wall street/investment firm? What if you work for a non-profit hospital? It seems to me rather than paying me a severence package they would just hire someone new. Why pay out so much money?
Everything is a delicate negotiation, especially after years of loyal service.
This is just my observation, and it only holds up in the sense of involuntary layoff, not in the case as described in this article…
Severance is common in for large companies. Why? Because people who are laid off may have common traits that, even if only coincidence may cause the company legal headaches. Most common of these are age: senior employees generally cost more, so if you are looking to get the most money for the fewest heads, then senior people have to go. This also works if you are “flattening” and organization, targeting middle management vs. worker bees. (and says nothing about net knowledge leaving–just the paychecks) But it is illegal to discriminate by age, including making employment (and unemployment) decisions.
Now, this is very hard to prove. It would take a dumb perpetrator to do such a thing, and make sure there are published meeting minutes about it. But an employee who is laid off could roll the dice on a juicy payoff by hiring a lawyer on contingency. And contingency-based lawyers see a potential for class actions against big targets. Even if they got nothing in court, the years of litigation would cost a company a lot. Instead, along with a severance comes a waiver of liability–so for a fixed price, the company gets certainty that the issue is settled.
If a company is letting you go, then I understand getting severance, but if you’re leaving out of your own accord, as it sounds the case for Rachel, I can’t understand the obligation of the company to give you anything. Normal practice from everything I’ve seen is if you quit, you don’t get severance. I’d love to understand more about why the expectation here is different.
Yes, I’m not quite sure how this conversation would go…
“Look, we both know that I’m super valuable to this company, and you can’t afford to lose me. So let’s get down to business. How much will you pay me to quit?”
I haven’t read Sam’s book, so maybe he’s got some secret trick for making that conversation go better than I’m imagining.
This is why it’s so easy to get ahead in America and also take advantage of employees!
I’ve got a post coming up! Stay tuned.
Maybe she is less valuable to her boss than it first appears? This is typical corporate America. Better to be your own boss; but unfortunately, not always possible for most people.
I wish her luck.
This is one reason why my best friend quit his $100k + corporate management job to join my real estate team. He was tired of being jerked around in the corporate world.
As for grammar, if you have ever written a blog you will understand there will be errors. The point is to get information out to the public, not have perfect grammar all the time.
Hope he’s making more with you and has more freedom to boot!
ctownBOS – really? What about a grammar check for people who don’t use apostrophes in “don’t”, and can’t spell nitpick or nit-pick (either variant acceptable)!!
Sam – do let us know the outcome in due course please.
haha touche sam!
I never use apostrophes in comments to save time, dont really care about spelling in website comments (although I should have if im commenting on someone else’s spelling!) nor do i care about my grammar in website comments in general as they are usually done on small mobile keyboards.
You, on the other hand are a professional blogger so you should prob turn spell check on which would have caught that. (commenting isnt my profession). Also, may want to think twice about using annoying clichés like “really?”
Listen, I know Im being annoying, but I do read your posts religiously. Keep up the good work.
Then quit being annoying.
Confusing me with Mike?
As a pro blogger, how much of a refund do I owe you?
It’s OK to be the grammar police bc it is easy to miss things. But hopefully the conversation can be more about the subject of the article.
In fact, would you mind if I send some posts your way for you to edit and check before publishing? That would help me and you a lot as right now I’m pretty much a one man production machine.
Thank you for the consistent, excellent content. You post more often, with more varied and interesting topics than any other blogger I follow. I’ll take a few misspellings along the way.
It’s a risk you take by having the convenience of working for someone else. You’re disposable. If Rachel really wants to be treated = to her work, she should become self-employed.
Indeed. And that is what she plans to do.
Just be forewarned all those who want to be entrepreneurs, it is brutal to make money out of nothing with your own two hands.
May want to use spell check on these articles though. You spelled decade wrong. Dont want to be that guy that knit picks but curious how ‘deacde” made it though.
Regardless, great points here I will have to consider.
Thanks for the catch. Corrected. Not bad to find only one spelling error typed free hand in a 1,200 word post actually! There is no spell checker installed on WordPress curiously enough. But let me check a plugin.
Keep the edits and corrections coming. One day FS will be like the NY Times with 100% smaller the budget!
Actually, the expression is “nitpick.”
Excellent piece and sadly reminds of my former days in the corporate world. Great advice on the need to manage your career. Also a great argument for the need to do financial planning so you are always prepared to take advantage of whatever path your career takes.
It’s a good reminder that working is all about the game of Business. The concept of being rewarded for loyalty is becoming increasingly rare.
I’m lucky, I have a great job with a boss that looks out for me and who genuinely cares about me. But I also am cognizant that she may not always be my boss. It’s important to push for what you deserve even (or especially!) when things are good.
I don’t envy Rachel’s position. While it seems like she has some leverage over her employer, the fact that she is indispensable would appear to make it harder for her to negotiate severance.
Being indispensable is the great irony that I talk about in my book. But everybody is dispensable. Management just doesn’t want to set precedent, otherwise all the workers may flee!
Make sure your bosses boss knows you and will be an advocate of your work if your boss leaves. I was in a similar position and then my boss left and I lost my value on the team because I didn’t have a strong relationship with my bosses boss, he just never knew how much I was contributing.
Been with the same company 11 years been with the same company 11 years even when there was licensing issues I allowed the company for months of working out of my house. Looking for a contact who can help with hostile work environment
One thing my parents instilled in me growing up was loyalty. It helped that I worked with both my parents at each of their jobs so I had examples to follow. I used to be very proud of this characteristic. But loyalty doesn’t seem to matter much in the work place these days. People who flit from job to lateral job year after year (in our same company) are the ones who are making more money each time (in a 4-8% raise), and we recently just learned that no one in our department is being promoted these past few years (which is also a lie and kept hush-hush) or given much of raises/bonuses. I worked my tail off for a promotion and apparently only got 9/10s of the way there at my last review in early Spring..so the carrot was dangled in front of my face still – and no, apparently we don’t do mid-year re-assessments. I’ve been looking for a job in the company as a next step up (instead of the lateral moves like everyone else) since then and it has so far been unsuccessful and getting downright depressing. I’ve only been here 3 years and I feel like everything I was taught about how to work by my parents and mentors has been torn down because employers want to cater to the job hoppers to be more “flexible”. Which I get, I do. But for those of us who would like to work here for the next 10 years, maybe there needs to be a different sort of track we can follow that management needs to adopt alongside the job-hopping-benefits. As for Rachel, if she can negotiate a severance package, that would be awesome to hear about, and I wish her the best of luck!
Ahh, the dangling carrot to keep employees in line.
The best is during the first half of the year when managers will say “the year is looking great and profitability is strong!” To keep employees incentivized.
Then the inevitable “we must watch our costs and XYZ department isn’t doing too good” to manage our year end bonus expectations.
Corporate America……It’s fantastic!
Thats actually really funny – we had our CEO on a webcast say we are performing better than budget, more funds being allocated to the bonus pool and we will see where we end up for our year end (3/31). Haha.. it ends up being the same cat and mouse game.