10 Things to Never, Ever Say to Someone Who Was Just Laid Off


Getting laid off is one of the most stressful situations anyone can face in life. Year after year, one-third of workers quit their job or are laid off, either permanently or temporarily in Canada. The 1990s were characterized by a general feeling of job insecurity.While people deal with change and stress in many different ways, the following is a short list of possible emotional, psychological and physical responses that one may experience:

Typical emotional reactions include:

  • Anxiety
  • Shock/Disbelief
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Resistance
  • Sadness
  • Fear
  • Loss of enjoyment or appreciation
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Loss of self esteem
  • Shame

These emotional responses make it even more difficult when questions or statements like the ones below are communicated. Dont assume to know anything about current personal finances, job hunting prospects or future endeavours. Instead offer a caring, listening ear – further below are some tips to help someone recovering from a job loss!

Related: 7 Ways to Rebound From Career Setbacks

How will you pay your mortgage!

This statement is based on the assumption that the individual recently laid off has no emergency savings, no financial skills, no fore-planning and could be taken as offensive.

Is there something you could have done differently!

This question also assumes it was the persons fault, that the individual deserved to be laid-off. This is especially hurtful if your friend had confided sensitive information to you about previous negative feedback from a manager or supervisor. It is certainly not the time to bring that up.

Im sure you tried your best: That Job was just not for you!

Surely this was meant to be helpful. However, gauging someone elses work performance or career/job fit is a slippery slope.

Maybe next time You will have more Luck!

Perhaps this is an effort to offer a more hopeful outlook. It still  puts the future into question and may be more discouraging than helpful.

Have you started applying for Jobs Yet!

It’s wonderful to be supportive and keep your friend focused, but sometimes its good to give others time to think about whether or not they were happy in the last role, or if they should branch out into something completely different.

Maybe you should switch careers! 

Without knowing what direction your friend wants to go in its really hard to get specific about what direction is best. Please dont offer a suggestion without really giving thought to whether it would be a good fit for your friend. We all have our different dream careers – but dont suggest your friend try teaching, for example, if she/he is often overwhelmed by being around kids!

Will you be able to cover your bills

Surely you are concerned about your friends financial well-being and security but given the circumstances, this will make things worse. Not only is your friend jobless now, but you are now reminding him/her that the bills are due too. Any attempt at drawing attention to things which may pose an extra burden or responsibility in a stressful time can make  the situation look like impending doom.

Maybe you need to sell your house or give up your apartment!

Offering up advice on concrete next steps is also too abrupt. Let your friend come to you when they are ready to discuss anything as personal as finances and the way forward. Sometimes having the time to think through things is very important.

So and So was fired and he ended up on food stamps!

Case studies, whether good or bad can really backfire. Everyones situation is different and your friend knows that. Plus careers, industries, jobs are very different across cities, cultures and countries. So what happened to John at the hardware store that led him to food stamps – may not be relevant in your friends case.

With Your Age it will be next to impossible to find something else!

Please dont bring up age – especially as it relates to future career prospects. References to personal attributes like age, gender, background and even previous work experience will make the situation worse.

Tips for Coping

Here are some ways you can help others facing a tough lay-off situation. The resource center at Stanford university offers up these suggestions.

Be as supportive as possible

  • Let your friend or family member steer the conversation and be a listening ear. As with any type of loss the individual will have their own feelings and perspectives and will need to steer the conversation to relate how they feel.
  • Empathy is very helpful in helping individuals navigate through this emotional time.

Offer a helping hand

  • Exercise and having fun outdoors is an important antidote for stress. Offer to take your friend with you when you plan any outdoor activities.
  • Being mindful about eating and sleeping are important in trying to keep functioning as well as possible.

Offer more nurturing conversations

  • Help your friend do something everyday that helps them feel better. This is a time to be compassionate and to utilize stress reducing tools that help others to feel calm.

Help your friend/family member to keep a positive mental attitude

  • Stay aware of the messages that you are giving to someone else. If you notice you are sending self critical messages (e.g “You will never have a good job again”), it is important to observe this and to tell yourself to stop doing it. These thoughts are unhelpful and make others feel worse.
  • We can not always be in control of what happens to us – in fact, often how we handle what happens to us is the only thing we can control.
  • Remember that nothing ever stays the same, and tell the other person “this too shall pass.”
  • Help the individual to maintain a hopeful outlook rather than worrying about fear of the unknown

Read: Following your passion: How to Find your next career path


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