What to Do When You’re Fired as a Remote Worker

Our jobs take up a huge portion of our energy from the moment we start looking for openings through our first day of work and well into our careers. We craft our routines around our working hours, organize our family lives, hobbies and commitments to ensure we can attend to job-related matters. We rely on our jobs or our employers for financial security. And even with remote work, the jobs can often serve as a source of community–offering opportunities to connect with others, whether that’s through video or voice, chat, or the occasional in-person meeting or conference.

It’s no surprise, then, that the idea of being let go as a remote worker can feel so devastating. With so much hinging on your job, how could you ever be expected to handle something as severe as being fired or laid off?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way around it: Being fired from a remote job is tough. But it’s manageable. And just like there are right ways and wrong ways to part ways with a remote worker, there are things you can do (and things you should not do) to set yourself up for future success if you’re let go from a remote job. If you find yourself caught in that unfortunate conversation, take a deep breath, repeat to yourself that you are not your job, and remember these tips so you can navigate this situation with poise and purpose.

What NOT to Do:

Unfortunately, depending on the nature of your relationship with your employer and the circumstances surrounding your termination, you may not know the nature of your impending conversation. As such, it can be difficult to meaningfully prepare for being fired from a remote job–and even more difficult to contain any emotions that may arise during the conversation. If you do wind up in a difficult conversation with your manager, you’ll want to avoid:

  • Losing your temper. Whether it’s due to layoffs or job performance, being told you’re being let go is painful. But now is not the time to resort to screaming, swearing, or pleading. If you feel your head start swimming during the conversation, feel empowered to ask for a moment to collect your emotions. Then, put your phone or computer on mute (or step out of the room if you’re in person), take a beat, grab a glass of water and allow yourself a minute to process. But whatever you do, don’t let your emotions lead you to cause a scene with your employer.
  • Getting overly defensive. It’s only fair that you’ll want to defend yourself as your manager walks through their rationale for this decision. Rather than using this as an opportunity to argue, take good notes. It’ll be important to raise questions with your manager and with your human resources representative, but you’ll want to do that after the heat of the moment has passed.
  • Signing anything, or agreeing to sign anything (just yet). In an article for The Muse, Lea Mcleod, M.A., puts it best:

“You’re going to come up with more questions over time. Let your manager know you’ll review all the information that’s provided. Let her know you’ll revert with any questions or clarification you need. [But] until all the details are hashed out, don’t sign anything. Most employers want you to sign a general release that says you’ll bring no legal action against them. Your final payouts are contingent upon you signing the documents. If there was ever a good time to have an attorney read over a document before you sign it, this is it!”

What to Do: 

With all that in mind, how do you handle being let go from a remote job with dignity? While there’s no one answer, and much will depend on the decorum of your employer and the details of your specific situation, these key tips will help.

  • Ask future-oriented questions. Now is the time to start looking out for yourself. Ask questions to help set yourself up for the future. For example:
      • What information will your company give potential future employers during reference checks?
      • What opportunities, if any, are available for assistance in finding new employment? (This could be useful if your role has been affected by company layoffs.)
      • When would your health insurance end?
      • What about severance pay and unemployment benefits?
  • Take thoughtful notes. Make sure you leave the conversation feeling like you have a thorough understanding of what your manager has said. After you’ve discussed the situation, it may be worth setting aside some time to speak with your HR representative. Regardless, you’ll want this information on hand as you review the documentation the company would like you to sign.
  • Reach out to any coworkers, vendors, or other meaningful connections you’d like to maintain. Now is a good opportunity to start leaving on a positive note. Tell these people how much you’ve appreciated your time working together, and how they positively impacted your career, and provide them with the best information for keeping in touch. Building a tight network will be valuable for your future as you look ahead toward your next career move–and it will likely be useful for your colleagues as well!

Being let go from a remote job–or, really, any job–is shocking and incredibly painful, and it’s something that happens more often than any of us think. Though it’s easy to forget, what matters most in situations like these is how we build on them. By staying cool in the moment, being thorough and resourceful, and maintaining the positive connections you’ve built in your time at a company, you’ll be sure to set yourself up for an even more successful future with your next remote position.