When this happens—and the employee wants me to say: "You are right. Even though you are screaming at me and using foul language, we never should have selected you for termination. Let me re-activate you right now or perhaps double your severance"—sometimes they pull out the "big gun."
"I'm going to call my lawyer."
I always respond, "That's an excellent idea. In fact, I encourage you to speak with an attorney."
The response is always dead silence. I think they think they can scare me into giving them whatever they want. (Hint: I'm much more flexible when you aren't swearing at me. I may even plead your case.)
Most of them don't actually get an attorney. It doesn't scare me when they do, though. Why? We don't terminate you without consulting our in-house (and, in cases we're nervous about, outside) counsel.
You may think that a decision to terminate was arbitrary and capricious, but only a bad HR department would do something like that. The rest of us have thought through the situation, advised line management and listened to legal long before you are notified.
I still encourage you to get a lawyer, though, especially if you have to sign something. It's for your protection. Just know that it won't scare me.
Suzanne Lucas has nine years of Human Resources experience, most of which has been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources Certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady.