I was commenting a post on LinkedIn, and the comment got away for me. In light of the recent tech layoffs, people were discussing times they had been laid off. Telling my story, became a bit of a saga add blew rught past LinkedIn's maximum comment length. So I decided to post it here. I link it in a comment on the original thread.
In my 30+ years in Tech, I've been laid off a time or three. My favorite was with a bank, since there are a few that I've worked for, I'm not saying which one. The bank merged with another bank there were redundant systems and after much back-and-forth my system not was the one to survive. Instead of just saying, there's a layoff, pack your things, and meet people in HR, they took my team out for a "team building exercise" which involved us all going to a movie theater and seeing a movie. After the film, a Senior VP got up on stage and announced that we were all laid off, our things have been packed and we should pick them up at security and have a meeting with HR.
I go to the meeting in the room is the HR representative and a member of the security team (who I had first assume is there in case I'm a threat). I'm presented with a stack of documents and then told I have to sign the separation agreement.
I replied that I can't right now and ask if I can take them home review them and set up a meeting for Monday for me to sign. I also tell them that I I need to speak to my wife. The security guy pips up with a snarl and, "what are you p***y whipped?” (Sorry for the language).
I now know that the security guy is there to play bad cop to the HR guy’s good cop. I
look at them and say this is the largest decision I've had to make since getting married and there's no way I'm doing it without my wife's counsel since this affects our family’s short and medium term future.
I also tell them that there's a bit in there about cobra and before I can do anything with that I need to better understand the coverage my wife gets through her employer, if she can add me to her plan, and do a gap analysis to understand what I'm giving up and what I'm getting. But I can do none of that sitting in a room without a phone. (It was the 90’s only Gordon Gecco had a cell phone). So I need the weekend to dope that out.
Plus there are things in the agreement that I fully understand, so it's worth it to me to give my attorney a buzz and get some clarification. The HR guy offers to help me with what I don't understand and I let them know that I'm not comfortable with that since our interests are no longer aligned. He then does the “I’m not sure I can guarantee that you'll get your severance if you don't sign now” routine.
I say, "sure but I don't think you will. In this agreement you want something from me beyond the normal confidentiality, you obligate me to provide immediate assistance and support in your transition from the system I built to the new one over the next year. So this severance isn't goodwill on the companies part, you want to secure my time in your migration and do it in a very inexpensive way. I'll lay my cards on the table, I'm sure I'll be glad to help you, but I need a cap on the number of hours and an understanding that I can't provide "immediate" support if I accept full-time employment. My new employer is my first responsibility, but I'd be glad to answer questions at night or over the weekend. ”
There's a little more back-and-forth but I leave with a meeting scheduled for Monday afternoon. Over the weekend, I speak to the wife, my attorney and a mentor who helped me come up with a plan. I call HR Monday morning and let them know that if they think they needed beyond 5 hours of help, I'd be glad to sign an independent contractor agreement with a monthly retainer and I had my first taste of contracting work.
Moral of the story: don’t sign agreements under pressure.