The end of the year is not just for stressful mandatory fun or closing out and prepping for the next year. The end of the year is still a common time for companies to conduct layoffs. Here are a few steps to follow if you are faced with a layoff at year-end.

Get the house in order

For most of us, addressing finances is the most pressing issue when unexpectedly facing unemployment. Tackle this stressor head on, right away.

First, get clarity on the severance agreement: if offered one, negotiate it. If no severance is offered, ask for one and wait patiently for an answer. It is important to note that even if the reason provided for the separation is financial, usually that decision is based on the numbers for the coming year; your salary from now through the end of the year is normally not part of the issue.

Ask to be paid at least through the end of the year and if you are a longer-term employee, ask for some recognition of your tenure (e.g. a week of pay for every year). Most of these amounts are pretty small when compared to the overall salary bucket and the risk of asking far outweighs not asking.

Similarly, if you were due a year-end bonus, ask for it. While it is sneaky, it is not unprecedented for companies to let people go prior to having to pay bonuses to save even more money. If you think this is the case, ask for it and then consider contacting an attorney that specializes in employment law. In many cases, the courts side with employees on such issues; but before going that route, just ask.

In addition, ask if the company will be contesting your unemployment claim as well as any information that will help you file for unemployment. In many states, employers are required to give you information to help with your claim.

Finally, confirm how long your benefits will be covered and ask for longer. Confirm the steps for receiving COBRA information and again, ask if the company can provide any offset. While this may seem like a lot of asks, remember: they are asking you to leave, what is the harm in asking for assistance?


Let’s be honest: even if you did not love the job, being asked to leave is awful. After addressing the financial issues, it is just as important to address professional items like references and confirming what the company will say when your new employer calls. In addition, ask if there will be any outplacement services, whether the company can provide a letter of recommendation and make sure you have a clear reason for why you are being let go.

Next, as hard as it may be, save goodbyes for later as it is super difficult to remain professional and even when being let go, as tough as it seems, the best thing to do is leave on as high a note as you can. Ask if you can clear your desk after hours (or have your stuff mailed). Take a minute to let close colleagues know you will be in touch.

Finally, and perhaps most difficult and most important, remember that most people go through the same phases after a traumatic situation like this and come through the situation fine (and in some cases better than before).

The bottom line is that you will get through this and asking questions and remaining professional will help.