10 Common Mistakes Employees make when Getting Fired*
10 Common Mistakes Employees make when Getting Fired*

10 Common Mistakes Employees make when Getting Fired*

Being unemployed is not just about financial loss, it’s also about loss of self-esteem and identity.” – Unknown

Getting fired can be traumatic, especially for those who worked hard and invested time and energy in their careers. It can undermine one’s self-esteem and confidence, leading to feelings of shame, embarrassment, and worthlessness. The loss of income and financial stability can lead to anxiety, stress, and uncertainty. Being fired can mean losing a sense of purpose and direction in life.

Unfortunately, after learning the bad news, many fired employees make matters worse by behaving rashly. Here are 10 common mistakes employees make when getting fired:

  1. Assuming that the employer has “bad” motives
    Fired employees often assume that their employer had bad motives. That is a mistake—one that can lead to unnecessary resentment, bitterness, and negativity. While it’s true that some employers act with unlawful or discriminatory intent, termination decisions are often instead based on impersonal decisions such as performance or productivity issues, budget constraints, or other factors.

  2. Reacting emotionally and confrontationally
    It’s natural to feel upset and angry when you are fired, but reacting emotionally and confrontationally can hurt your chances of getting a positive reference or negotiating a severance package. Bottom line: Remain calm, and always take the high road.

  3. Failing to ask for a written explanation of the reason(s) for termination
    Fired employees should request a written explanation of why they were fired because a written explanation can: (A) help the employee understand the circumstances leading up to their termination, and potentially identify any areas for improvement in their work performance; (B) provide evidence in the event of a legal dispute or wrongful termination claim—for example, if the employer gives a false reason or later asserts a different one; and (C) help the employee provide needed information to unemployment insurance officials, which may be required to receive unemployment benefits.

  4. Taking or misusing confidential information
    Some fired employees take or copy confidential information. This is often illegal, and is usually a breach of the employee’s duty of loyalty to their employer, which includes protecting confidential information, trade secrets, and other proprietary information. Violating this duty can lead to legal action by the employer, and can harm the employee’s reputation.

  5. Badmouthing the employer/posting negative comments on social media
    Some fired employees vent their frustrations on social media or in text messages. The brief emotional satisfaction from doing so may come at a high price, including harming one’s reputation and one’s chances of finding a new job, and potentially weakening any legal claims the employee may have.

  6. Signing a severance agreement without seeking legal advice
    Employers may offer a severance package in exchange for the employee’s agreement to waive their rights to sue the employer. Employees should promptly seek legal advice before signing such an agreement. Besides waiving valuable rights, the severance agreement may contain unwarranted restrictions on future employment. Moreover, a skilled employment attorney may be able to negotiate a better deal than the one offered.

  7. Failing to ask for a reference
    Even if you were fired, you can still ask for a reference from your former employer. Failing to do so could limit your future job opportunities.

  8. Failing to seek legal advice when one suspects an unlawful firing
    While most fired employees do not have a basis to sue (even if the termination was unfair), some do. Thus, employees who believe that their firing was unlawful should seek legal advice.

  9. Failing to return company property
    Fired employees should make sure to promptly return any company property, such as laptops, phones, keys, credit cards, and documents.

  10. Failing to mitigate damages
    Fired employees with viable legal claims sometime sometimes assume that they can recover substantial lost wages in a lawsuit without having to look for work elsewhere. This is usually a mistake—one that can substantially weaken an otherwise strong case.


Fired employees need to remain calm and level-headed to avoid making a bad situation worse, and to ensure that whatever claims they may have are not needlessly compromised.

Scott A. Lucas

* This blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice. The information contained in this blog is provided only as general information and may not reflect the most current legal developments. No representations or warranties are made with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this blog, and the blog is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney. The information in this blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional legal counsel.