Wednesday, October 12, 2011

When a friend gets laid off

In this economy, lay-offs are nothing new. As a child, I remember them being talked about only once, briefly. They were an adult thing. And then I got into the workforce, and the economy tanked (in that order, thank goodness). In the nearly four years I was at my previous company, I saw and survived three rounds of lay-offs. A few friends were also laid off from their jobs. As an employed person, I wasn't quite sure what to do or how to support my friends, especially since I had never been in that situation. But through the years I've learned a few ways to help a friend after they've gotten the pink slip.
  • Be a listening ear. Unless you've been there before and have good advice to give, just sit and listen. Even if you do have advice, it's good to listen first. Losing a job takes a major toll not only on a person's income, but on their self-esteem and overall security. I don't know about you, but those are things that I'm not equipped to address.
  • Offer to connect them to your networks. If you know the person to be reliable and you happen to know others in their field (even if they're not hiring), introduce them. It will help keep the recently laid-off friend in the circle of their industry and perhaps even lead to something more. One of my favorite people to refer folks to is my dad...he's super connected and almost always has good advice about positions or occupations that match the individual's skills, however high or low they may be. 
  • Be sensitive about their finances.  Don't leave them out, just get creative. Help your friend's savings last longer by inviting them over for a potluck instead of eating out. Or watch your latest Netflix with homemade popcorn—don't forget the chocolate chips and hot sauce for customizing to your taste (I don't recommend them together). It's okay to pick up the tab every once in a while when you do still go out, but don't make it a habit or it will start to feel like charity.
  • Maintain friendships with laid-off coworkers if you were close before. Being employed while a coworker is laid off is an awkward situation. There is no way to sugarcoat that. If you weren't friends before, you don't have to start now, but if your lunch buddy got axed, don't give them the cold shoulder, too. Just steer clear of employer-bashing or too much work talk, and definitely don't have them meet you at work.
  • Be interested in their job search. Lay-offs are like the giant elephant in the room (or is it the pink elephant? Or the pink gorilla? Cliche schmiche): No one wants to talk about them, but is avoiding the topic doing your friend any good? Don't speak up if you're just reminding them about their situation. But if you know your friend is actively searching, ask them how it's going and encourage them to talk about it. Take the taboo away.
Have you ever been laid off or survived lay-offs at your company? What tips do you have for helping a friend or coworker through the experience?


  1. A few years ago, my boyfriend at the time was laid off and I didn't kno how to handle it. I wish I would have read this back then!

  2. Great post, Angeline. As someone who went through a lot of job issues due to the economy, I would also say that people shouldn't be too judgmental. It seems silly to suggest changing your private thoughts, but it definitely comes through in your attitude/dealings with people.
    Especially in this economy, when entire companies are shutting down, many people may be un- or under-employed, even if they're capable, hard-working people. After my job troubles, I lost a lot of my pride and judgment for those that are now going through something similar. In addition to your tips, I'd suggest a perspective change as well. You don't need to feel sorry for them, but make sure you're not judging them either... you never know when you might be in the same situation! (again, I found this out first hand, quite the humbling experience!)

  3. Great post! Definitely bookmarking this to read again later.

  4. @ kinsey - You never know until it happens, right? Hopefully it won't happen to your bf again! It's also good to keep in mind that everything is easier said than done...I'm still learning as well.

    @ Ashley - That is so true! Being laid-off is not usually an indication of a person's work abilities or skills. It's simply a byproduct of a company's bad situation or bad decision. I think that talking about it and being non-judgmental is important in taking the taboo away from being laid-off and helping people get back on their feet faster instead of feeling like they have to hide or feeling ashamed (which they definitely shouldn't be).

    @ Grace - Thanks! Glad I could be of help. :)

  5. I was laid off once. I had been at my job for almost 6 years.
    It was awful. I cried my eyeballs out. Luckily my family reached out and helped me by telling all family members that I was on the lookout for a job and that if they knew of any positions I could apply for.
    I got a job in 20 days :)

  6. @ Lorena - That is awesome that your family rallied around you! It's definitely easier when you're not on the job search alone (whether it's from a lay-off or you're new to the job market, period).

  7. HI!

    This reminds me of the time that I was job hunting just after college 2 years ago and how it felt like when I was "tarmacking" and my friends already had desks at various great companies...Though I am glad that it gave me the chance to take up Spanish.
    I definitely will share with all job-seeking and non-job seeking friends

    1. What a great way to look on the bright side. I think everyone can benefit from this info...we will all have to lend an ear at some point or another in our lives.


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