“Can I See You for a Minute?”

I have always told people that when a manager is asked, “Can I see you for a minute,” on Friday afternoon, they know that the person is about to quit and quickly start to calculate whether or not to seek authorization to make a counteroffer.

When a manager approaches an employee late in the day and asks the same question, often it is the signal that you are about to be laid off.

Most people are shocked when it happens, even when they thought they were mentally prepared for it to happen.

It’s like a scene from the Godfather when Clemenza is going to take Michael to a meeting with his rival in the other gang and Michael suddenly pulls away. Clemenza is left surrounded by thugs and the consigliere.

Generally, you will walk into an office where your manager, someone from human resources, and perhaps one or two others are present. Like Clemenza in the movie, you have arrived at your execution with everyone participating.

“As you know, the firm has been experiencing some problems financially and we’ve decided to layoff several hundred (or several thousand) people.”

And with that incantation, you will soon hear that you are among the ones who are going to be fired. Laid off. Participating in a RIF. A reduction in workforce.

Whatever the language is, that is the ultimate outcome. You have been canned.

Sometimes, companies give you 90 days’ notice to find a job. Sometimes, you are told that there is no reason for you to stay. They will pay you for the next two weeks. Thank you for your service.

A friend of mine was called into his manager’s office, fired, asked for the keys to his company car, put in a car room a car service, and driven home

However, it is told to you, they are telling you that they don’t want you anymore.

Severance consists of several elements:


  1. A cash award, commission, bonus, and deferred compensation due to

you. Rights under your pension, profit-sharing plan, and 401K.

  1. Accrued vacation and sick time payout due
  2. Reimbursed business expenses
  3. Stock option statement and exercise schedule


  1. Health, dental and life insurance, as well as disability insurance
  2. Information about COBRA coverage (how long are you eligible to remain on your current insurance plan and at what cost)

Post-Employment Services

  1. Are you eligible for outplacement? For how long? What will outplacement offer you
  2. References
  3. Letters of recommendation
  4. Access to your office voice mail (having office voice mail gives people the impression that you are still working for the company and that can improve your bargaining position for a new job

Return of Company Property:

  1. Return of the company car, credit cards, keys, mobile phone, laptop, and other equipment
  2. Return customer lists and proprietary information

Your post-termination commitments

  1. What does your non-compete require of you? Have you signed a non-disclosure (NDA) agreement? How will you be allowed to speak of your work?
  2. Are there additional obligations you have under a non-disparagement agreement or confidentiality agreement?

It is a horrible thing to do but it is not unusual for a piece of paper to be slid in front of you to sign while you are there. You may be told that you won’t be paid until the release is signed, all the while people are speaking, making it impossible to concentrate on what you are reading (as though they didn’t know that).

Imagine for a moment that you were someone who resigned a year before and was pleaded with to stay with your company and did. Accepting a counteroffer happens with all levels of staff from most junior to the executive suite.

At the senior level, you are probably an older worker where the notion of age discrimination raises the possibility of a lawsuit. Persistence can often result in an increase in your severance.

Asking for more often results in better deals being constructed for one worker and not another.

As the old saying goings, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Present yourself differently than the average worker that the employee handbook was constructed for.

After all, you were:

  1. A long-tenured employee
  2. Someone who took a counteroffer from the company who stayed
  3. Someone who was a higher achiever than the average who shouldn’t be lumped in with all the others.
  4. Someone who needs the termination changed to be on the insurance plan another month

So try to separate yourself from your colleagues who were also laid off and be politely persistent.

You may improve your package and walk away a bigger winner than anyone else.

Oh, yes. Do not tell off your boss.

Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2008, 2010, 2016,  2020 



JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter
JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2000 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

Are you interested in 1:1 coaching, interview coaching, advice about networking more effectively, how to negotiate your offer or leadership coaching? Schedule a free Discovery call.

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Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter


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