If you recently received a severance offer, your first instinct might be to take it and walk away without asking questions. On a certain level, this is a safe course of action — after all, you get to pursue some other position with some money in your pocket to ease the transition.
However, whether it is in business or other areas of life, accepting the first offer is often not the best option. In order to get the most out of your severance offer, it is important to first understand why your employer offered it to you in the first place. Once you understand the motivations behind the offer, you are in a better position to either accept or decline, or negotiate specific aspects of it.
Regardless of how good your relationship with your employer is, it is not likely that you're receiving a severance offer that does not also benefit the employer in some way or help them avoid further complications. If your employer is offering you a severance package out of the goodness of their hearts, so to speak, they are certainly a rarity in the business world.
Does your contract stipulate a severance package?
The most common reason you might receive a severance offer is because your employment contract states that you must receive it under certain circumstances. If your employer is simply offering you severance to comply with the contract, you may have some room to negotiate.
First, it is wise to personally review your contract to understand the terms under which the severance is offered. If you have any misgivings about fully understanding the nuances of the contract, don't hesitate to enlist the assistance of an experienced attorney who can help you make sure you don't pass up an opportunity.
Once you understand the terms of your contract, you may find areas where your employer is offering you less than you deserve. Like any offer, it is usually possible to negotiate some aspect of the package.
Is your employer attempting to buy your compliance?
On the other end of the spectrum, it is possible that your employer made you the severance offer because you posed a threat and they want you to leave and be quiet about it. If your employer terminated you in some way that seems related to any complaints you've made, such as discrimination claims or blowing the whistle on questionable practices, you should absolutely speak with an attorney.
When you fight for fair treatment in the workplace, you are not only fighting for yourself, but for many, many others who do not stand up and fight for themselves.