Employees often do not understand when it is okay to say “NO” to an employer and when it is not. Sometimes, you just have to do things that you do not want to do, and other times you do not. For example, sometimes you will have to perform job duties that you would rather not do because someone else called in sick or extra help is needed. I would suggest that you don’t say “no” in those situations because you might get fired for insubordination. Likewise, if you have to move to a different cubicle or office that you don’t like as much, you should not say “no.” Other times, you can and should say “No.” Prospective clients tell me all the time that “my employer made me do it.” Hogwash! Did they hold a gun to your head and insist that you do something? I highly doubt it! So, lets go through a list of when it is okay to say “no.”
1) You have just been terminated and HR/your boss is insisting you sign paperwork before you go: You have just been terminated! Why would you sign anything the company is asking you to sign? You no longer have any responsibility to these people. Often times this “paperwork” will include waivers, releases of claims, acknowledgment that you did something wrong, etc. So what should you say? After you have been terminated, politely ask if you may collect your things and leave and if they give you paperwork, tell them you will take it home with you and have your attorney review it and be back in touch. If they demand you sign it that very day before leaving, politely say that you will not sign anything without reviewing it with your attorney first and if that is not permissible, then you simply will not be signing the paperwork–period. You would be shocked at how many times prospective clients call me after having signed all kinds of things waiving their rights, accepting insufficient severance, and sometimes admitting to things that they did not even do! Don’t let that be you.
2) You have been offered a severance package but only if you sign TODAY! This goes along somewhat with Number 1. If you have been offered a severance package, you should ALWAYS have an attorney review it before you accept it. Even if they tell you it will be off the table tomorrow–it will still be available if they want rid of you (and your potential claims). You will do more harm to yourself by signing now.
3) Your boss is FORCING you to quit. Again, hogwash! Did they hold a gun to your head and demand you resign? No one can make you quit. Your employer, however, would love it if you did because then you probably cannot collect unemployment against them. Never let someone “force” you to quit—make them fire you! Continue to go into work as scheduled until you are informed you have been terminated. If they tell you that you will be terminated if you do not voluntarily resign, then you should tell them that you have no intentions of resigning and they will have to fire you if they no longer want you to work there. Do not quit!
4) You are offered a “promotion” but no longer entitled to overtime so your “promotion” is actually a demotion. Again, this happens all of the time. You do NOT have to accept a “promotion.” Sometimes, promotions also demand way more hours for which you are NOT entitled to overtime. This often happens when folks are promoted to management positions that are exempt from overtime. Say “no” to the promotion if you do not want the long hours or think you will make less in the long run.
5) Admission of a performance problem. Often times, employers will attempt to document alleged performance deficiencies by having you sign a document that is sometimes called a “Personal Action Plan”/”Performance Action Plan”/”Corrective Action Plan.” These documents are nothing more than an attempt to lay the groundwork for your forthcoming termination. Employers love these because they come in handy for them in contesting your application for unemployment benefits or if you later file a lawsuit. Employers love to tout these documents as evidence that you were not doing your job well before they terminated you. So what should do if you are asked to sign one of these? In every instance, you should tell them that you are going to have to review it with your attorney before signing. Do not say “no” automatically, but ask to review it with your attorney first. Also know, it is time for you to start documenting EVERYTHING that happens at work because more often than not, that termination is right around the corner.