Part II: Laid-Off, Now What?

June 15, 2012  |     |   0 Comment

This is Part II of a blog series by 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.

If you, or someone you know, has been laid-off, you might find that people are eager to help. Layoffs have become increasingly normal and almost expected; any stigma attached to being let go is fast disappearing. People realize that helping others is good karma—and practical. In today’s business environment you have to be supportive.

Here are some etiquette tips to keep in mind should you find yourself in such a situation (ref: Diane Gottsman):

  • Don’t fight it. At least don’t get on the defensive and start taking jabs at the person delivering the bad news or engage in a shouting match over the fact that you have just wasted the best six years of your life. Begging, pleading or making excuses will not help the situation at this point.
  • Take responsibility. If you are being let go for a specific reason, acknowledge the misstep and how you have since learned from your mistake. Refrain from placing blame on others or making excuses. Learn from the experience and turn it into a positive the next time around.
  • Leave the building with your head held high. In the perfect world, saying goodbye to your peers as you leave and thanking your boss for the opportunity to have gained valuable experience would be an extremely gracious gesture. If possible, when walking out of the building, with or without a company escort, don’t slump, slouch or look down at the floor. You have nothing to hide and you have done nothing wrong—it simply did not work out.  The job doesn’t define you; you define the job.
  • Do not engage in trash talk. Think very carefully before divulging colleagues or clients’ idiosyncrasies or confidences. The business world grows very small when you make a name for yourself that is divisive and unflattering. No one wants to hire a person (or do business with one) that is an unpredictable gossip.
  • Don’t let any grass grow under your feet. Get moving on updating your resume and get out there to network and make new contacts and connections. Change is never easy.  But, properly handled and used to your advantage, the loss of one job may help you focus and learn more about who you are and what you want from life and your next career step.

Helping Others

Losing a job may seem like a personal failure for those who have experienced it. Comfort, friendship, understanding and an offer to help is always appreciated. The loss of a job is akin to divorce, death, relocating away from friends and family and other cases of loss. It can also lower one’s self-esteem and produce panic attacks and separation anxiety. Meeting the situation head on, making yourself available to talk and being supportive is tremendously helpful. Offering to connect coworkers with someone who might be able to help with re-employment can go a long way to help someone get back up after being knocked down.

It is very important to help employees work through the shock of being separated from their company. Providing a structure in which the retained employees can interact with the impacted employees would be very valuable for both groups. Unless the impacted employee is too upset, plan a department luncheon or get-together to support and wish the impacted employees well. It is important that the impacted employees get connected quickly and start networking–or accelerate their networking–to find new employment as quickly as possible or at least stay in the game while they’re looking.

Some Final Thoughts

  • Watch out for others who may not be coping well. Someone nodding off in a meeting may not have slept the night before because of anxiety. Someone who is usually gregarious but refuses to join her co-workers for lunch may be struggling with depression. Reach out if you know the co-worker well or if she reports to you. Be a good listener. If you think it’s depression, encourage her to seek help. Respect your co-worker’s privacy by keeping what you know about her situation confidential.
  • Make time to reassure others. Ask your friend how she’s doing, and let her know you’re there for her. Reassure a co-worker that your relationship is in good standing.

Knowing that others support you is like a healing balm that helps ease the pain.


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