Voluntary redundancy: Here's what you need to know about it

What does voluntary redundancy involve, and how should you tackle it with the boss?

Sheryl Sandberg career advice
Sheryl Sandberg career advice
(Image credit: Rex Features)

What does voluntary redundancy involve, and how should you tackle it with the boss?

Everything you wanted to know about how to ask for voluntary redundancy...

Redundancy doesn’t always have to be a term that’s loaded with fear. For some, it’s a rare opportunity to start again if your job is no longer working for you. Here’s how to ask for voluntary redundancy and find out if it is the right option for you.

‘If you’re offered voluntary redundancy by your employer, you should think carefully before making a decision,’ advises Lynn Cahillane, spokesperson for employment agency, Reed. ‘There’s no obligation for you to accept the terms offered by your employer. However, they are usually more lucrative than those that come with a standard redundancy payment.’

Although the idea of a lump sum may seem attractive at first, there are a number of things you should consider before opting for redundancy. ‘Firstly, always ensure that you are in a financial position to do so by working out an appropriate budget,’ says Cahillane. ‘This will help show how feasible voluntary redundancy is for your situation and provide you with a timespan of how long you can financially go without working. After your redundancy, you may be eligible for certain state benefits including jobseeker’s allowance or income support. It may be useful to take these into account when working out your budget. However, there are a number of requirements to meet in order to qualify, so be sure to check online or with your local Jobcentre Plus first.’

It’s also advisable to speak to your bank manager or financial advisor before making a decision, to make sure you’re aware of all your financial options. ‘Ultimately, there’s no wrong or right answer when it comes to voluntary redundancy,’ adds Cahillane. ‘It’s a personal decision and it comes down to how confident you feel about making it. If you do decide that voluntary redundancy is definitely the right option for you, all that’s left to do is inform your employer that you have accepted their terms and get started looking for a new opportunity.’

how to ask for voluntary redundancy

When it comes to raising the subject with your boss, it’s all in the approach, according to Caroline Goyder, career coach, author of Gravitas: Communicate with Confidence, Influence and Authority and speaker at Penguin Living Careers 360 - but once you know how to ask for voluntary redundancy, it's straightforward enough.

‘The Romans said Gravitas gave people influence, weight, authority, dignity and seriousness,’ says Goyder. ‘And the quality that matters most when it comes to making a big ask such as voluntary redundancy is your influence. When you make the ask, you want to make sure you are going to be heard. We are most likely to be influenced by those we like, and who want to help. We generally like people like us, or people we want to be like. If you want to be heard when you approach your boss with a request such as voluntary redundancy you want to make sure that they are minded to help you.’

Here she shares her advice on how to ask for voluntary redundancy and get the result you’re after...

How to ask for voluntary redundancy

These are Caroline's top tips on how to ask for voluntary redundancy...

Build obligation: It helps if you have helped them in the past. If you are even considering asking you boss for voluntary redundancy make sure you build up some obligation before you have the conversation.

Find a common purpose: A fast strategy to build influence with someone - used by hostage negotiators, no less! - is to have a common enemy, or a common purpose [whether that’s to save on budget or improve the output of the business]. Consider what you both want - or what you both dislike about the current working scenario.

Get the timing right: Studies show we make better decisions when energy and blood sugar is high. Work out when is the best time of day to approach your boss. Look for a positive mood, and good energy. Make your pitch when the mood is right.

Express the why: Telling your boss why voluntary redundancy matters to you is a key technique to build influence. In a famous influence experiment, people jumped the queue to a photocopier. When the queue jumper asked, 'Excuse me, would you mind if I jump the queue?' only 32 per cent let them push in front. But when the same individual asked, 'Do you mind if I jump the queue because I’m in a hurry?' the positive response surged to 92 per cent. So, make sure you give a good reason why voluntary redundancy matters to you.

Listen: If you want to be heard, and taken seriously, listening is the superpower. Why does it matter? Because when we give others the full benefit of our attention, empathy and understanding, we are more likely to be heard ourselves - via the human instinct for reciprocity. Above all, when you listen you need to find out what is driving your boss in the business. Bosses, like all humans are motivated by what they want - team morale, boosted profits, a pay-rise and by what they fear - poor results, loss of team confidence, job losses, reduced profits, cuts in bonuses etc.

Ask questions, and listen to the answers. Find out what matters to your boss and then frame what you want using their language. If they talk about their need to boost the morale of the other workers, then acknowledge that, echoing their words ‘You've said it's important to you that the other members of the team feel secure about their roles, and that morale is boosted.’ This principle of "matching language" comes out of deep listening and is an authentic way to build influence. If you can highlight what they will gain from you taking redundancy, or lose by you not taking it - then they are likely to be influenced by you. Negotiation is at heart of making sure that both of you get what you want - so take time to find out what matters to your boss.

Don't say too much. Avoid the runaway train garbled speech that can afflict us all when nerves hit. If in doubt, pause, breathe, let someone else fill the silence. Silence is essential when it comes to the "dismissal meeting" where your severance package is discussed. Lawyers advise that you shouldn't agree, or disagree with the initial departure terms offered in the meeting itself, but rather request that proposals are put in writing - before you weigh up what you want. So, practise the simple principle of: finish sentence, close mouth, pause, breathe, wait for someone else to speak. Even if there is a long-ish pause you wait, breathe and ground yourself.

Be able to walk away. The most powerful negotiation tactic of all is to be able to walk away from the table if necessary. Greta Garbo, the iconic Swedish film actor was already a Hollywood star, with huge box-office success, when she entered negotiations on a new a contract to reflect her impact on her movies’ takings. She requested a weekly fee of $5,000 - a huge boost from the paltry $350 a week she'd previously been paid. Legendary Film producer Louis Mayer responded to Garbo's request with what was to her an unacceptable $2,500. Garbo replied simply ‘I think I go home..’ and she went back to her hotel and remained there for seven months, until Mayer agreed to give her exactly what she wanted... And while the rest of us don't get to play the diva, we all have the agency to walk away when decisions aren't right for us. And that's key to a strong negotiating position.

Tracy Ramsden