Negotiate the terms of a voluntary departure with your employer

Negotiate the terms of a voluntary departure with your employer


The vast majority of employees leaving their company voluntarily (on their own decision) think that their only option is to resign. It’s a mistake or at least the ignorance of alternate options among which the French Mutually Agreed Contract Break (MACB).

Further, the fact that you want to leave your current employer does not exonerate you from:

  • Choose the right time
  • Find the good reasons related to your interest as well as the companies’ interests
  • Set your own targets that can guideline your departure.

In other words, leaving is not just about saying “I leave”. It is also about negotiating how you leave.

What are the main steps?

  • Clarify your objectives before entering any negotiation
  • Define your strategy
  • Prepare your meetings
  • Finalize

These steps have already been covered in other articles on this site.


Let’s overlook a couple of points for the purpose of this article.

Set out your objectives

First of all, what do you want to obtain?

Of course, many things are possible. They may be:

  • An increase in the notice period for more security;
  • A weaver of the obligation to work during that notice period
  • An MACB per the French law in order ensure unemployment allowances
  • Liftoff of a noncompetitive clause

Bring your employer to the negotiation table is about establishing a ratio of power (which is different from a conflict) to encourage him to move towards the reach of your objectives and protecting the company’s interests at the same time. This negotiation will be about creating and exchanging perceived benefits. For example:

  • Inform of your departure and keep the company’s interest in mind by agreeing to finish off an important project and /or training your replacement, in exchange of an MACB.
  • Inform of your departure and show respect for your current employer and your desire to protect their reputation in exchange of positive endorsements.

Choose the right time

Of course, the timing of your announcement is context-dependent but let’s set out some useful rules: Anticipated negotiating windows are the most efficient, provoked negotiating windows are efficient and endured negotiating windows are the least efficient.

Yet, in this case, you’ve got a rare advantage which is to decide when to engage the negotiation. However, negotiating is not a God-given (believing this would be a big mistake), this is up to you to generate the window of negotiation even if you leaving out of your own will.

Practical case

Peter’s case: “I’m well appreciated in my company but I want to leave quickly and by myself to create my own business”.

Peter’s career has been until now, as Operations Director within a large logistics group, quite satisfactory with rather bright evolution perspectives. Yet, Peter is highly tempted by creating his own business.

This is a much important project to him and he has been thinking about it for a year now. As a matter of fact, he has already created the structure but under his wife’s name to avoid scrutiny from his current employer. Peter is keen to engage in its development but without resigning which would give him no financial package.

His employer is happy with Peter and sees him as a high potential. Peter enjoys his n+1’s trust as well as his n+2’s. So, he cannot contemplate the idea of generating his own firing in good conditions to get a severance package. Also, he is careful not to attract his current employer’s attention on his own new business and stays discreet on this.

At the same time, his departure in his current company’s present context, could reveal some lack of proper management form his n+2 and this could be an aggravating circumstance.

The selected Strategy

In Peter’s case, the aim is to bring his n+2 to find interest in Peter’s departure, particularly image wise for him, and for Peter to exclude any internal repositioning possibility.

What Peter will use is that he had been witness of misconducts and business malpractices of the part of his current company with which he disagrees but with which he has been involuntarily part of. So, Peter chooses to express his discomfort to his n+1 then to his n+2.

He initiates a meeting with his n+1 knowing that his real objective is to make his n+2 react as n+2 is the one who has decision power. Here’s the bulk of his approach to n+1:

“I wanted to see you to express my real discomfort and worry about practices that hurt my values and my ethics. Since I got more operational functions, what I see is worrisome for me. You’re the first one I’m approaching on this but I may also talk to others about this.

I have reached my limits with these unethical practices and, unfortunately, I can only observe that, in order to do my job to the full extent and hit my targets, I have to use them. I also see I’m not the only one here.

On one hand, there’s the official story of a clean and virtuous company and on the other hand, the daily reality. I can’t, and nor can you, comply with the official and theorical guidance put on to us.

I can’t cope with this hypocrisy any more.

So, I’m wondering. I don’t have a clear view on what my future in this group here can be but I’m uncomfortable with this situation and I’m wondering if I should talk to others. Until now, I’ve closed my eyes on this but with my current responsibilities I can’t avoid them, I have to be part of it but I no longer want to.

What would I say if I were to be interrogated within an investigation? I don’t know. What’s your advice?”

The main obstacle to avoid is that an internal repositioning be proposed to Peter. That’s why he has suggested that these malpractices are widespread across all departments in the group. N+1’s reaction is quite neutral at first but he triggers, as expected, a meeting with n+2 who tells Peter that n+1 is furious, feels, threatened and would see Peter’s departure with a good eye.

N+2 underlines Peter’s successes and reckons that his departure would send a bad sign internally as well as externally.

The players’ game

Then n+2 goes for a doublespeak. At first, he let Peter understand that the company will never let such a high potential go with a big check and that they need him. Then, he let Peter understand that he can easily be repositioned within the group and that he, n+2, will help including outside the company. In any case, chances are that n+2 is now aware that Peter’s departure is a serious option.

Now it is necessary to embark n+2 in the option of Peter’s departure and one way to do it is to put n+2 “at risk” by telling him that, even if he, Peter, were to be repositioned within the group, he could not keep quiet the company’s practices in order to explain or justify his transfer. And this would damage n+2’s image.

Several days off later, n+2’s reaction is swift. He suggests a Mutually Agreed Contract Breakup (MACB) while stating that the financial compensation could not be high. Peter’s departure is clearly accepted as the option of choice. Now, progress has to be made on the financial front.

Peter then presents n+2 an estimate of his damage as a 200 K€ compensation plus an outplacement service arguing of the fact that he has not project.

N+2’s reaction is quite harsh but he doesn’t make any counterproposal. Yet, he says he is prepared to keep on discussions with Peter and encourages Peter to evaluate the situation with the HR Director.

Here, tactically, Peter firmly refuses to change the person he talks to in order to force n+2 to remain the negotiator by saying that, under these circumstances, he does not accept to be given the runaround to dilute the negotiation and, if need be, he’ll make contact with the group’s president.

N+2’s first proposal is at 70K€, much less than Peter’s expectations but yet, it exists. A meeting with n+3 then takes place to make the same case than to n+2. This improves the company’s proposal to 90K€. This solution is accepted by Peter as he does not want to prolong the negotiation even if he could but he wants to engage in the development of his iw own new company.

In the end, even if Peter’s compensation could have been higher had he taken the negotiation further he leaves the logistics group with a check and will get the unemployment allowances which will allow him to get on his project, create value and hopefully now jobs.


Make the decision to leave is a way to control the start of the process but nothing’s owed to you except the legal or conventional. To think about your objectives and take the employer, through a suitable strategy, to the negotiating table are ways and means to leave in satisfactorily conditions.

To know more on the topic of negotiate the terms of a voluntary departure please use the enclosed contact form or speak directly with a coach specialized in departure negotiation.

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