Stop Press! Lifelong employment with one company is over. According to a recent survey from Workopolis, working-age Canadians can expect to have fifteen different jobs throughout their careers. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average American worker holds 10 different jobs before age 40. Unsurprisingly, not all job changes are voluntary.

Think you might get fired? I consulted with Toronto-based employment lawyer Marie-Helene Mayer on what to do before (and after) the axe:

“Regardless of whether or not you think you are about to be let go, the best thing you can do is to always have the prep done, have your paperwork in order, your résumé up-to-date and continuously network throughout your career. It’s a good analogy for life, ‘always be prepared’.”


Paper Chase

Keep copies of the following:

  • Your employment contract
  • Performance reviews
  • Plan documents related to compensation (bonus plans, stock options, employee share purchase plans)
  • Vacation days, sick days and benefits
  • Recent copies of successful work projects
  • Caution: Do not download files or information and email to yourself. Print everything.


Attitude Adjustment

  • Try not to check out.
  • Keep quiet and do not speak to anyone at work about what you are feeling, especially HR. Human Resources has no duty of confidentially to you, they work for the company. If you want to stay at your job, do not hide.
  • You can speak to your boss if you’re worried about your job. It will not change the outcome. If you plan to speak to your boss, keep it professional. Have the conversation in the office or over coffee, not in the evening over a drink.
  • Watch your social media behaviour. Do not complain about your job or write disparaging comments about your employer online.


Network System

  • Definitely start (or continue) to network but be discreet.
  • Go for lunches or for coffee with contacts versus adding a flurry of new contacts on LinkedIn.
  • Collect contact information for people you may want to reach out to afterwards.
  • Do not use your office computer for your job search.
  • Set up a separate gmail account for your employment search.


Special Situations

  • If you feel unwell— mentally or physically— opt to go on sick leave.
  • If you are worried about being terminated before your bonus is paid, consult a lawyer.


The Termination Meeting

  • During the meeting, you will receive a letter of termination and a package to review.
  • There is no termination unless you have been given something in writing. Beware of mutual termination where your employer asks you to resign.
  • Say as little as possible during the meeting and do not sign anything. Sit, listen and document as much as you can about what is being said. There is no value in arguing your case, the decision has already been made. Do ask what communication plan is in place about why you are leaving. Insist on having input on the phone protocol and appointing one point-person to answer your questions.
  • Do not be intimidated by your former employer’s deadline to sign the agreement.


After Effect

  • Be quiet, but don’t hide.
  • Do not email everyone at the office and definitely do not post your termination letter on social media.
  • Take a couple of days to think about things. Review your employment agreement and what you are entitled to by law. Each province in Canada has its own employment standards act governing notice of termination and payment in lieu of notice.
  • An initial consultation with an employment lawyer may be a good investment.
  • Find out what you can reasonably expect to get as severance and whether it makes sense to take things to the next level.
  • Be careful if the termination offer seeks to limit your future employment opportunities. Review the non-compete and non-solicitation clauses.
  • Negotiate the reference protocol in writing. Get permission to review the reference script and know who will be giving a reference on your behalf.


On a final note, Mayer advises, “Once the settlement is complete, keep it confidential. Leaving an employer on good terms is always in your best interest.”