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Outsourced? Don’t Fall Into Severance Trap

Outsourcing has been much in the news lately. Along with this trend, another more disturbing one has emerged: Companies asking employees to train their own replacements.

In the professional equivalent of “digging your own grave,” some companies are threatening to withhold severance pay or eligibility for unemployment benefits unless their current -- and soon to be former -- employees transfer their knowledge.

This has to be one of the most repugnant policies I have ever seen.

Any company that would do this to their employees deserves to go as bankrupt financially as they are morally. Those workers faced with outsourcing need to make plans today to avoid being abused in the future.

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One of the most important tasks high-tech workers should pursue is to remove their company’s ability to control them with money. If they do not have the financial ability to walk away from their jobs at any time, they are vulnerable to manipulation.

Workers need to keep their debt as low as possible. Once that is done, they should start a savings account that will allow them to walk away from an intolerant company. They must be in control financially or their company will control them. Once a company has informed a worker that his or her position will be outsourced, I believe the worker has no further responsibility to that company. Managers may try to cajole them into “doing what is right” by staying on during the transition. They may try to entice workers or browbeat them by offering or withholding severance pay.

Workers should not allow themselves to be controlled in this way. Outsourcing positions shows that the company no longer has any respect for their workers or their work. Companies can quote financial statistics ad infinitum, but it comes down to respect for the human beings who have been working for the companies.

Once that respect is lost, workers need to move on as quickly as possible. Instead of wallowing along for another two to four weeks of unpleasant, demeaning work, workers should spend that time looking for their next job. Working on a job search will be worth more than any severance pay a company can offer. Remaining at a company after learning about outsourcing is crushing to self-esteem, damaging to the psyche and slows the process of finding a new job dramatically. Instead of spending time transferring knowledge to someone else, workers should take that knowledge to their next job.

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One of the great absurdities of asking employees to train their replacements is this: If having that knowledge is important enough to transfer to someone else, it should be important enough to keep the original worker on the payroll. Workers should remember this and not allow themselves to fall into the trap of self-doubt.

Outsourced workers can only move on quickly, painlessly and effectively when their finances are in order. They shouldn’t fall victim to the severance pay trap. Start preparing today. Outsourcing might be just around the corner.

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Douglas E. Welch is a computer consultant in Van Nuys.

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