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How to bargain for a better severance deal

Fare well at farewell
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Whether it's called right-sizing, downsizing or simply a layoff, in today's economy many careers end not with a retirement banquet but, rather, a request to stop by human resources, where you find out retirement will be starting early.

To borrow from Dylan Thomas, you don't have to go gentle into that good night. Just as you bargain for perks before you take a job, you must put your negotiating skills to the test when you lose one. True, companies work hard to make severance packages equal. But it's also true that some are more equal than others.

"Here's what's important: If you say nothing, that's exactly what you'll get," says Frederick T. Golder, a Boston labor relations attorney who authored "Uncivil Rights: A Guide to Workers' Rights" and teaches at the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. "There are occasions when the employer will fatten the package or provide nonmonetary benefits."

Here's how to optimize a separation agreement.




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