What does this really mean when used by your employer at your termination or during a performance review? It’s a catch-all phrase that covers up a multitude of the real reasons for termination. “Not a good fit” can mean that the manager didn’t like your personality, your work product or style, or that you didn’t fit with the team dynamic. “Not a good fit” can also cover other “for cause” reasons for termination where the employer is trying to be non-confrontational. “Not a good fit” is synonymous with “going in a different direction” or even “job elimination” or “restructuring.” While there may be no ill intent in these reasons, they may also be a cover for a discriminatory or retaliatory motivation.
When faced with these comments, take a step back and ask yourself what you think is really going on. It is particularly important to ask these questions when you feel “blind-sided” by the decision or where you have been in recent conflict with a manager or co-worker. If you are able, ask your manager what they mean by this and to give you some examples. Think of this as an opportunity to better understand what they are saying but also as a fact finding mission.
Not all terminations using this language are discriminatory or retaliatory but you should definitely ask yourself what you honestly believe is going on to support the decision. Also beware performance improvement plans (PIP) that appear to focus “soft skills” without much explanation.
Having done some critical thinking about the process, your next step is to decide what you want to do about the conclusions you have come to. If you believe that you were wrongfully terminated and that you want to do something about it, here are some options that an attorney will discuss with you:
- Negotiate a separation package: The attorney you select will draft a letter to your employer that outlines your claims and invites the employer to engage in a negotiation. This process will go back and forth with numerous discussions and you will be included at every step of the negotiation process. You should expect that the employer will engage in the negotiation but start with very low numbers. Don’t be offended by this as this is what every employer does. You will finally get to a point where the employer provides a “last and final” number and you have to decide if you will accept it to end the process. If you accept the settlement, you will be required to sign a settlement agreement or separation package the terms of which your attorney will discuss with you in detail.
- Litigation: This means go to court. There may be some instances where, following the initial demand letter, it becomes clear that the employer is not interested in engaging in good faith negotiations. You and your attorney may decide that the employer may respond better to the filing of a lawsuit. Prior to authorizing the filing of a complaint in court, you should make sure that you understand the full implications of what that process entitles, from the procedure to the costs to approximate timelines. Litigation is a stressful but sometimes necessary process.
The Bottomline: Ask a lot of questions, of your employer, yourself and your attorney. An informed decision is the best decision.