One troubling consequence of the COVID-19 crisis has been a dramatic increase in the number of people who have been laid off or furloughed in 2020. In order to get ahead of the curve, some employees are taking matters into their own hands and choosing to resign or be fired. The choice they make can have long-term repercussions for the rest of their careers.
Leaving On Your Own Terms: Choosing the Best Way to Go
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to terminations. Every employee’s situation is different; the company may be downsizing, reorganizing, or slashing their budget. It’s also possible that the employee’s performance may be an issue, and—with the virus still surging and no vaccine in sight yet—some individuals may refuse to return to work out of fear they might be exposed. Some states are making exceptions and allowing employees who are fired for this reason to collect unemployment benefits, adding yet another wrinkle to the puzzle.
Most HR professionals believe the best strategy is to give an employee the option of resigning before they are fired. Resignations generally shift the balance of power to the employee, helping to offset any potential ill will, and often include severance payments or other compensation. But when an employee is fired, they are more likely to feel wronged and seek legal representation, especially if they feel they have been discriminated or retaliated against. In most cases, when an employee is given the option to choose between resigning and being terminated, it’s because they are either a poor fit or their performance does not meet expectations. Individuals in this situation should act professionally and leave on the best terms possible. It’s always easier to explain to a potential new employer your decision to leave a job versus being terminated. Regardless, it’s up to HR to outline all the employee’s options to help them make a sound decision.
Employers have decisions to make, as well. With the pandemic having a serious impact on business, many executives are being forced to adapt by reducing the size of their workforce in order to improve efficiency and reduce costs. The challenge here is to decide which jobs to cut, and how to ensure that those decisions are in line with the company’s policies. Communication is key in these situations; you’ll have to address the reasons behind your decision, whether they involved prior performance issues that were never addressed or whether the position is no longer needed due to a revamped business structure. Career professionals suggest offering a separation agreement in exchange for severance pay; this reduces the company’s risk and ensures the employee won’t later contest the decision.