Top 10 Things Not to Say or Do If You're Fired

Woman who has just been fired sitting with her head in her hands.
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Getting fired can be traumatic, even if you’re expecting it. You may experience shock, anger, sadness, worry, and fear about the future. In the midst of this turmoil, it can be hard to stay professional and calm.

But for the sake of your career, it’s important not to say or do certain things after you’re fired. Your actions right now can help set you up for bigger and better opportunities—or make your transition to new employment much more difficult than it needs to be.

Most U.S. workers are employed at will, which means that they can be fired at any time, for almost any reason—or no reason at all.

10 Things Not to Say or Do If You're Fired

Have you recently been fired or think that you may be terminated from employment sometime soon? Avoid doing or saying anything you might regret on your way out the door.

1. Don’t Storm off Without Saving Important Documents

You never know when you might lose your job. So, it’s a good idea to save documents of personal or professional interest from your work computer on a regular basis. Some employers will escort terminated staff from the work site immediately. You need to make sure you don’t leave any important information behind.

2. Don’t Discuss Severance Without Taking Some Time to Process

Time really does heal, and you'll be calmer if you can wait before speaking with management. So, ask if you can meet in a day or two to have that conversation. In the meantime, research company policies and practices so that you are prepared to negotiate a reasonable severance package if possible.

3. Don’t Refuse to Help With the Transition

By facilitating a smooth transition, you’ll be remembered as a better employee and may benefit by receiving positive recommendations and referrals. Being nice, even when you’re in a bad situation, will help you in the long run.

4. Don’t Dismiss the Chance to Resign

There are advantages and disadvantages to resigning instead of being fired. For instance, you may forfeit unemployment benefits if you resign, but save face in certain situations. No one but you can say what’s the best choice in your situation. But it’s smart to review your options before you decide. Start by checking with your state unemployment office to explore the impact on unemployment benefits.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For a Recommendation 

If you have supportive colleagues, ask if they might furnish a recommendation while you are still in close contact. Their endorsement can help you when you’re looking for your next job.

6. Don’t Disparage Your Supervisor or Co-Workers

Future employers will conduct thorough background checks and seek input from former colleagues at all levels. Any enemies that you’ve made with your departing comments will be more likely to share damaging information. Parting impressions can be lasting and might influence staff to view you as a negative person.

7. Don’t Miss the Chance to Ask Why

If your employer has not followed due process according to company policy, you may be able to petition human resources to give you time to improve your shortcomings. You might also have some protection through an employment contract, union agreement, or anti-discrimination law.

Consult a labor lawyer prior to finalizing your separation if you think you might have a case.

8. Don’t Leave Without Exploring Other Jobs at the Company

If your superiors see you as an employee with a positive attitude and a strong work ethic, there might be other opportunities at the organization. Your employer might consider you for other jobs that are a better fit for your skills if they learn you’re open to other roles.

9. Don’t Broadcast Your Firing Right Away

Before you tell the world you’ve lost your job, take the time to think through your message and how you’d like to be perceived by colleagues and other professional contacts. Frame your story around a theme such as the job not being the right fit for you. But don’t be overly critical of your employer or the company in general. Save your venting for a limited group of trusted friends or family members.

10. Most Importantly, Don’t Lose Faith in Yourself

A firing can be demoralizing but remember it is only one employer's decision. There will be other, more suitable options for you. Take the time to regroup and find a job that is a better fit for you and your interests. It may be that this wasn’t the right job for you, and a push to find a new one is just what you needed.