Laid Off – Now What? Advice on What to Do and Say if You or a Colleague has Been Laid Off

June 11, 2012  |     |   0 Comment

Please welcome guest blogger, Mary McCormick.  Mary is the Director of Protocol Consulting and Training in Portland, Oregon,  She is certified by the prestigious Protocol School of Washington and has a lifelong passion for learning about and teaching etiquette.  Mary is a valued Business Etiquette trainer and guest speaker.  This is the first part of a two-part blog series by Mary.

There is no formula or a hard-and-fast rule on what—and what not—to say and do when a friend or colleague has been laid off, or if you have been let go. It’s a situation that offers great potential for misunderstanding and hurt feelings as people who have lost their jobs are understandably sensitive, embarrassed, or scared.


Different situations clearly call for very different reactions.

  • Be honest about what you’re prepared to do. The question you should ask is: “What am I realistically able and genuinely committed to doing to help out?” It can be something small, like setting up a recurring coffee date or something more substantial.  For instance, if a co-worker mentions they’re going to miss your group lunches, set up a recurring lunch with friends – just be mindful of budget constraints.
  • When you don’t think you could be of much help and feel awful about the situation, not knowing how to act or what to say can lead to awkwardness, and awkwardness can lead to inertia. Keeping people in the loop or being available to them as a sounding board and generating ideas is more valuable than we realize.

It’s certainly helpful to be sensitive about money-related matters, such as restaurant picks or trips. It’s most important to be helpful in terms of career networking or keeping past colleagues in the loop.

But helping out friends isn’t without complications. What do you do, for example, if a friend applies for a job at your company and asks you to put in a good word? If she’s qualified, it’s a “no-brainer”. But what if she isn’t? Do you tell her so and risk your friendship or make the recommendation and put your own job in jeopardy?

According to my research, it seems that quasi-honesty is the best policy. You shouldn’t promise to put in a good word if you have no intention of doing so. However, you can be helpful in other ways, such as recommending her for a position where she might be a better fit or offering some advice about other employers that might have opportunities.

If you’re the person who has been laid off, what can you do to ensure that former colleagues are eager to provide any assistance they can? When you are sending a goodbye to your colleagues or announcing your new contact information, don’t just send the obligatory mass e-mail. You have to make it personal. Making this extra effort may inspire a coworker to alert you of future employment opportunities.

Such personalized attention will pay big dividends later, says career blogger and columnist Penelope Trunk. “It might take five or six days to write a bunch of personal e-mails, but it might be worth it. I mean, you have the time, and you need to be networking now anyway.”

Stay tuned for Part II of this blog series, with guest blogger Mary McCormick.


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