Getting Fired: What Happens and How To Handle It

Ben Allen
Getting Fired
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Getting fired

is an unpleasant, stressful, and frustrating experience. It’s basically somebody telling you that you failed at being a good employee.

Yet, just because you got fired doesn’t mean you should shut down or explode in rage. Even after that hurtful meeting with your boss, there is work to do, and you need to remain professional while doing it. Believe it or not, before the day or week is done, you’re likely going to have a lot of contact with your former employer getting everything squared away.

What Happens When You Get Fired

The first warning sign that you’re getting fired is being asked to come into somebody’s office unexpectedly after being on thin ice (especially while on a performance plan or some other form of probation) with the company. This might be your direct manager or somebody higher up on the managerial food chain. Usually, they’ll talk about your work with the company and how they are sorry, but they need to move forward without you, or some similar line to try and lessen the sting of losing your job.


Obviously, after you get fired, you are now unemployed. What that means is everything you should be doing and thinking about is to get you a new job and having enough money this time between jobs. Make sure you understand why you are getting fired so that you can collect unemployment. Unless it’s because of harassment or breaking the law, you’ll be eligible for unemployment, and possibly termination benefits if your company offers them.

Getting Stories Straight

Your employer has to have an official reason behind firing you, and they need to tell you that reason. Whether you agree with that reason or not, it’s important to understand their reasoning. When you go to apply for unemployment, they’ll need a reason why you lost your job, and it needs to align to what your ex-employer said. Similarly, if you feel you were fired unfairly or it was discriminatory, you need to know the reason to prepare for the lawsuit.

If you want to transform getting fired into a growing experience, you could even ask them how you could improve in the future, advice for your next job, and even possibly a job reference. Maybe your old job didn’t match your skills, but they know of something that would better match you.

Severance and Termination Agreements

Getting fired is filled with paperwork, and you need to pay very close attention to what you are signing. The company is interested in protecting itself, not you. Before signing anything, look it over and consider having an attorney study it if you are considering suing your old employer.

You might be asked to sign a form waiving your right to sue the company in exchange for severance pay or just in general. Make sure everything you sign is in your best interest and aligns with what you want to do. You don’t have to sign anything.

Non-Compete Agreements

Many businesses have their employees sign a non-compete agreement when hiring them on. Typically, this is designed to prevent employees from learning the business, then leaving to make their own company and stealing their old employer’s customers. Many businesses even put timelines on non-compete agreements, saying the employee can’t work in their specific industry for a year after they leave the company.

If you did sign a non-compete agreement, have a lawyer look it over. Many companies overstep their bounds when drafting them and place ridiculous restrictions on employees. A realistic non-compete is to prevent ex-employees from stealing customers, not using their skills or experience to continue working. In most cases, you can start or join a competing business, or one in the same/a similar industry, you just can’t go after their current customers.

If the non-complete is valid, you will need to consider it as you look for a new job. That might mean finding a company that works in a different market or industry.

What To Do When You Get Fired

The above are the common things that will likely happen if you get fired. You’ll lose your job, be asked to sign some forms, and be told why you are losing your job. What happens next is your responsibility. Here’s what you should do after you get fired.

Talk to Human Resources

Take a minute after getting fired to compose yourself, and then walk directly over to your human resources department (or your company’s equivalent.) Find out if the reason on the record for your firing is the same your manager gave you, and get a physical report of it.

With HR, it might be possible to also contest the termination if your managers didn’t follow protocol. For example, some companies require several formal warnings about job behavior or performance before somebody can be fired, and if they don’t follow it, you either get to keep your job or they open themselves up to a lawsuit.

Clean Up Your Workspace

You should be given an opportunity to collect your personal belongings before having to leave the premise. This includes decorations, food stuffs, and personal files stored on the company computer. Be sure to get everything, you might not be given a second chance to come back and get it.

Check When Compensation is Due

You should have at least one more paycheck coming your way, and if your company has a termination compensation policy, there will be more. Check with your company’s payroll to make sure they have your current address or up to date bank account for direct deposit. Also know exactly how much money you are owed and when to expect it.

Contact Your State’s Unemployment Office

You need to apply for unemployment right away. Depending on where you live, it might take a week to several months for your unemployment application to go through, so the sooner you get that started, the better.

Get Your Finances in Order

Start planning right away about how you are going to spend your money and how long you can survive without a job. If you have insurance benefits with your old employer, find out how long it will last and decide when you need to get new insurance.

You need to plan out how long you can survive on your own money, how much money you will get from a severance package, how much help you can expect from unemployment, and when you’ll absolutely need an income. This will include living frugally for awhile and sticking closely to a budget.

Start Your Job Search

It might seem odd for this to be so low on the list of things to do, but after getting fired, there is quite a few tasks required of you. If you power through, you can get them all done in a day or two, and then you can fully focus on searching for a new job. That way, you aren’t splitting your time looking for a new job and cleaning up after the old one. Get a fresh start and look towards the future. You might find an even better job.

What Not To Do If You Get Fired

It’s a very hard time getting fired, and likely your emotions are very raw. You’re feeling embarrassed, angry, depressed, and more. But you need to swallow those emotions and try to remain professional until you are safely away from the company.

Don’t Vent Your Feelings at Work

It’s likely you want to just explode in a mess of emotions right away. You want to yell at your boss, complain to your coworkers, start a fight, and let it all out.


By leaving the company in a dignified manner, you leave one final positive impression on those you worked with and for. They’ll feel comfortable providing references for you, network to help you find a new job, and it might even lead to something better.

Wait until you are home to explode.

Don’t Vent on Social Media

Once you get home, you might be tempted to scream your frustrations into the void of social media. Again, don’t. Anytime you post anything online, it’s there forever, even if you later delete it. If you make a big enough fuss about it, others might screencap it and post it other places.

Venting on social media could also drive away people with potential leads for new jobs. Stay professional. Instead of complaining about losing your job, put it out there to friends and followers you are looking for a new job and that any help is appreciated.

Don’t Disappear

It can be easy to detach from the world and allow sadness and depression to take over. Take time to work through your emotions, but be sure to move on. Take the defeat, focus on improving, and get back out into the job market. Update social media, especially LinkedIn, and let people know you are looking for a new career.

Avoid Lying or Gossipping

Understandably, your ex-employer hurt you by firing you, and you want payback. It’s tempting to spread rumors or bad-mouth them, but don’t. That information could get back to old bosses, and transform a glowing recommendation to a negative review.

Instead of focusing on how bad your old employer is, focus on the future. If you keep attacking them, it really only hurts you.

Don’t Give Up

Nearly everybody is fired at some point in their life, or at least goes through a similar level of failure. You aren’t alone. Others have gotten through it, and so can you.

Harness your frustration and transform it into action. Push to get an even better job. Don’t let getting fired be the end, just a new beginning. Get a new job that’s a better match for you and crush it!

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