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.

Review information on what not to do when you've been fired from your job, and what you should do instead.

Key Takeaways

  • Research company policy regarding severance packages and carefully evaluate the offer for severance, if you receive one.
  • If you are offered the opportunity to resign instead of being fired, consider the ramifications carefully before you decide.
  • Try to keep your departure from the company as positive as possible, even when the circumstances are negative.

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? Regardless of how you feel about the situation, and it can be very difficult, avoid doing or saying anything you might regret on your way out the door.

Instead, take it a step at a time to make sure that you've covered all the bases and can move on to the next step of your career.

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 or cut off access 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.

Assuming you're unable to hold off on making a decision on a severance package if you're offered one, consider what's been offered and whether it's worth negotiating to see if you can get a more inclusive package. The agreement may be set in stone, but it doesn't hurt to ask if there's room to negotiate.

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.

At the least, you will have made a good-faith effort to help your employer and that can help with getting a positive reference.

4. Don’t Dismiss the Chance to Resign

In some cases, there may be an option to resign instead of being fired. There are advantages and disadvantages to resigning instead of being fired. You may forfeit unemployment benefits if you resign, but save face in certain situations. For example, you won't have to discuss being fired during job interviews, which can be challenging.

However, if you were fired for cause, you may not be eligible for unemployment benefits. Eligibility for unemployment is generally based on losing your job through no fault of your own.

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.

Then, if it makes sense given your personal circumstances, speak to your manager or human resources department about whether there is an option to resign instead of getting fired.

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

It's important to keep your departure from the company as positive as possible. Future employers may 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 your state department of labor or 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.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are companies required to offer severance packages to terminated employees?

Severance pay is typically an agreement between an employer and an employee. You may be eligible if you're covered by an employment contract, bargaining agreement, or company policy that provides severance. Otherwise, there is no legal requirement for companies to offer severance to terminated employees.

Can I collect unemployment if I'm fired?

Depending on the reason you were fired and the state you worked in, you may be able to collect unemployment. Claimants who were fired for cause or misconduct aren't typically eligible for benefits, but there are other circumstances where you may be able to collect unemployment.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Conference of State Legislatures. “At-Will Employment Overview.”

  2. U.S. Department of Labor. "How Do I File for Unemployment Insurance?"

  3. U.S. Department of Labor. "Severance Pay."

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