How can I get an exit package?
May 8, 2021 10:23 AM   Subscribe

I've been an employee for 7 years. At work I'm one of the most experienced developers and the top contributor in various projects. However, for various reasons, I'm ready to move on.

Finding a new job and quitting with two weeks notice fells like I would be leaving my employer in a lurch and potentially leaving money on the table.

I've been thinking about negotiating an exit package. The problem is, I think they are somewhat screwed when I leave since they have lost most of their senior developers and many of the remaining developers are under-performers. It's hard to pitch the idea that my exit will fix any of their problems.

The only ideas I have are:
- sign a non-compete, non-disclosure or non-poaching agreement
- assist with the transition (write documentation, etc.)
- be available for consultation x weeks after I leave

Are there any other another angles I can take?
posted by kamelhoecker to Work & Money (16 answers total)
I don't think I understand this question. Given what you say, why would they pay you to leave?

They might possibly pay you to stay on in some capacity, but probably not in a way that is super attractive to you if you are really done with them. If you're ready to move on, find a new job and resign. They will manage. I think your best bet is the consultation offer. I don't think they will pay you extra to assist with the transition, either that will be your job while you work out your notice period, or they'll maybe take up on a short-term consulting offer.
posted by plonkee at 10:30 AM on May 8, 2021 [6 favorites]

Very bluntly, if an high-performing employee came to me, provided two weeks notice, and offered to act in a paid consulting role in the future, I would be very happy for them, and would probably take them up on their offer.

If the same employee came to me and asked to be paid (in any way) in order to leave the company, I would decline, start a termination process, and start to plan for replacement of the employee. Why would I do anything else? You're on the way out either way - I might as well do it for less money.

Any well-written NDA, non-compete, non-solicit, etc agreement will already persist past when you leave the company. If the company doesn't have such an agreement in place already, I strongly suspect they don't care (or are clueless). In that case, your leverage isn't applicable.
posted by saeculorum at 10:38 AM on May 8, 2021 [25 favorites]

Exit packages are generally for very-high-level executives and they're negotiated in contracts, or they're for employees being let go through no fault of their own (downsizing, directional shift, etc).

It is unlikely you're going to be able to negotiate them giving you an exit package when you're voluntarily leaving.

If you didn't sign a non-compete, an NDA, or a no-poaching agreement as part of your initial employment, it would not be a smart move on your part to sign one now, for any reason. I cannot emphasize this enough.

Assisting with transition is expected in my professional realm. When an employee gives me their notice, I immediately remove all their main duties and shift them to transition mode - wrapping or handing off their sprint items, writing documentation, pairing them with other people on the team to discuss code, projects, answer questions, etc.

Your best option would be your idea about being available for consultation -- but you're going to need to set a rate in advance. "I will be available for consultation for x months for $y/hr, with all time rounded to the end of the hour" and/or "I will be available for contract work for x months for $y/hr, with all time rounded to the end of the hour" Make the contract work number exponentially higher than the consultation work.
posted by erst at 10:51 AM on May 8, 2021 [13 favorites]

Exit packages are negotiated at the beginning of an employee’s tenure, usually as part of the job offer/acceptance, and it’s usually reserved for c-level and other high-level execs. Regardless, asking for an exit package as you’re leaving is liable to prompt a “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass” response.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:54 AM on May 8, 2021 [3 favorites]

I think you should look for money on the other end, i.e. negotiate a sign-on bonus with your new employers. They are the ones who are getting value from your transition, so they are the ones who're going to be willing to pay for it. Your employer isn't going to pay for the privilege of *losing* you!
posted by MiraK at 11:08 AM on May 8, 2021 [22 favorites]

Are you worried about leaving your employer (and coworkers) in the lurch, or are you worried about leaving money on the table? Those are two, basically opposite, concerns.

For the former, if you have the right relationship, it's easy to give longer notice, create a transition plan, and so on. I've done it. You'd need to be ready to give notice well before you have a new job, which makes sense if you're planning to take time off, travel, etc. Don't expect a raise in this situation; writing documentation is your new job function. If it's a long period enough you could de facto end up working part time by the end despite getting paid full time, but the main benefit is you feel your coworkers are in good shape. Follow on consulting, future referrals, etc. all get lined up.

If you're mostly thinking "they are screwed without me, so there is a mutually beneficial economic agreement that transfer money into my pocket and leaves them less screwed," I've never seen someone pull that off by asking for it. Your best shot is just to give two weeks notice and see they start making you counteroffers, which you can then use as a negotiating point.

I have to say if I were your boss and you came to me with the first idea (non-compete/non-disclosure/non-poaching) I'd think it was crass, borderline extortionary (speaking metaphorically, not criminally). It'd be the one thing I can think of that would get me to show you the door immediately and not want your consulting services under any circumstances.
posted by mark k at 11:23 AM on May 8, 2021 [6 favorites]

I have heard of situations in the past where a developer wants to work closer to home and is nearing retirement, and pitched the employer that they could work from home until retirement for them, or find a different employer closer to their home until retirement, which is different than your situation (and was pre-COVID). They were negotiating a special work arrangement, not an exit package. I have also heard of people who go to part time on the way to retirement (employer saves benefit costs, part of salary cost and yet retains the good worker and their knowledge, while employee delays Social Security thus increasing their eventual SSA check amount).
posted by forthright at 11:31 AM on May 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you should have asked for more pay some time ago. I don't think you can do any better than the consulting project to shore up documentation while you also do your new job.
posted by michaelh at 11:40 AM on May 8, 2021

If you offer to stay long enough to interview and then train your replacement, you may be able to negotiate up to a month of pay after leaving. But frankly I wouldn’t try this unless you have enough savings to carry you through a job search for a few months after that.

It's hard to pitch the idea that my exit will fix any of their problems.

Well, yeah. Because it sounds like it wouldn’t. Why would it?
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:48 AM on May 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

Yeah, this idea just seems... odd. Why would they pay you to leave?
posted by penguin pie at 12:12 PM on May 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

Do you have stock options? If you do, you'll have to negotiate there if you want to exercise now. I assume you're on a monthly vesting also.

You would have more leverage ironically if you were fired and they don't want you to sue, but sounds like not.
posted by pando11 at 1:03 PM on May 8, 2021

You’ve already said you’re leaving your employer in the lurch by going. So now you want to do that plus get them to pay you extra? Like a ‘thanks so much for screwing us over?!’ bonus? Put yourself in their shoes, they probably already won’t be looking kindly on you leaving, even though they understand that people get other opportunities. I mean, would YOU give money to someone like this, just because?
posted by Jubey at 2:13 PM on May 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

I think I get what you’re asking. To answer your question: my predecessor at my current job arranged to have my work cover her insurance for three months after she left, on the condition that she be available to answer questions.
posted by cakelite at 5:05 PM on May 8, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses. I agree, it does seem odd to pay someone to go away, but from various stories I've heard over the years, it certainly happens. It's not just CEOs. Granted, usually the context is that the company is doing the layoffs or the employee is not performing and it's easier to pay them to go away to avoid a potential lawsuit.

Thinking about this more, consulting after leaving sounds unrealistic. If I'm focused on a new gig, it would be a huge distraction to have to go back and do my old job - even if it was answering emails for a few hours.

The only flex I can see is that if I give two weeks notice and they want 6 weeks, then it seems fair to ask for some sort of compensation in return, since they are essentially asking me to delay starting a new, more lucrative job.
posted by kamelhoecker at 6:59 PM on May 8, 2021

"Granted, usually the context is that the company is doing the layoffs or the employee is not performing and it's easier to pay them to go away to avoid a potential lawsuit."

Those are severance packages (often something like one week's pay for every year at the company), initiated by the employer, as a courtesy, because the employee is unwillingly losing their job.

"The only flex I can see is that if I give two weeks notice and they want 6 weeks, then it seems fair to ask for some sort of compensation in return, since they are essentially asking me to delay starting a new, more lucrative job."

Maybe, but that also might not fly with your new employer. They may want someone to start sooner than that. And if the new job is more lucrative, and you don't like the old one, why put off moving to it? If you want to help them out, then of course you have some leverage. If they beg you to stay for a bit, then unless they're completely obtuse, they know that they'll have to give you something. But unless you have some compulsion to be altruistic with them, you don't owe them anything more than two weeks' notice (and technically, not even that — they certainly wouldn't give you two weeks notice if they fired you).
posted by jonathanhughes at 7:28 PM on May 8, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: if I give two weeks notice and they want 6 weeks, then it seems fair to ask for some sort of compensation in return, since they are essentially asking me to delay starting a new, more lucrative job.

If they deny this request, are you going to stay on for six weeks anyway? If not, then you are only looking for money, so why bother negotiating at all? Just give two weeks and start the new, more lucrative job, because you want the money. It seems like you want to both "make more money" but also "do your employer a favor" but those are actually two opposite things, you can't do both. The favor is taking less money.

As others have said, it's not in their interest to pay you extra for leaving. If it appears to you that there is some mutually agreeable resolution to be had with your current employer, consider the fact that you already entered into the mutually agreeable situation when you were hired. Your current company is already satisfied with that mutual agreement. Renegotiation is not usually something that happens when you leave, and whatever you have to offer in your absence it is probably worth much less than the value of the person they need to hire to replace you, so they would probably prefer to spend the money on the new hire.
posted by grog at 6:37 AM on May 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

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