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10 Worst Things to Say to Someone Who Just Got Laid Off

Alice Handley and Tania Khadder

August 26, 2009

Someone you know just lost their job. Yikes.

You want to be supportive. You want to help them see the positive side of their misfortune. You want to buy them a drink. And you should! But please, tread carefully.

The time directly following a layoff is a delicate one. Your friend will want your help, but they may not be so receptive to your wise suggestions or burning questions. The fact of the matter is, being laid off sucks. Your comments come from a good place (of course!), but you might be surprised at how they are construed by someone whose wounds are still fresh from getting shown the door.

Here are 10 things you shouldn’t say to someone who has just been laid off.

First Worst Thing to Say →


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    logar

    about 3 years ago

    2 comments

    I was laid off 2 years ago and just recently started working at a new job. I almost choked when I read "when life gives you lemons......." When my boss laid me off, she uttered those words to me. I almost reached across the desk and slapped her. To make matters worse, the next day a flower arrangement arrived at my house. They were daises in a vase filled with cut lemons and the card was signed by my boss. I threw out everything but the vase!

    As for unemployment benefits...File and file early. Every employee has paid into it. There is no shame in collecting unemployment checks. This is not 'charity' as some ignorant people may think and say.

    Many of my friends and family said to me everything stated in this article. After awhile, I figured out that they had no understanding of what I was going thru, since most of them were gainfully employed and had never been laid off before. My suggestion - check with your state unemployment office and take advantage of the workshops and classes offered. You'll meet people who are in the same boat as you. I was able to go back to school for computer programing certification, all paid for by my state. I ended up meeting friends, and we supported & helped each other till one by one, we became employed. To this day, I'm still in touch with them.

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    aworkinggirl

    about 3 years ago

    54 comments

    Well, I just read through this article and personally I would say anyone who thinks those are the "worst" are just plain being oversensitive. I get the impression from this article is that one is supposed to either say nothing at all (which to me is the worst because it's like blowing someone off) or to grouse and encourage negativity...the very negativity that if it sets in will keep someone from finding a job. The one I disagree with MOST is #8. Who is to say what job is inappropriate? Some people need to get their noses out of the air about the kind of work they'll do for a living. Being too picky or being a job snob is not helpful

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    Cheryllynnmarti

    about 3 years ago

    16 comments

    One of the worst things ever said to me when I was laid off years ago was "Congratulations, I hear it's happening all over!" After which, I was berated for not buying more Amway stuff! At least this person realized that my ability to buy those things might be impeded by the loss of my job. I also disagree with the rule about filing for unemployment. That should be done as soon as possible.

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    wbryan

    about 3 years ago

    4 comments

    I disagree about filingn for unemployment -- the sooner, the better and if the recently laid off are reeling from the shock, they may need to hear it from a friend.

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    ocbethie

    about 3 years ago

    2 comments

    If I had a nickel for when half of these things were said to me....I wouldn't need another job! :-)

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    Mgaudino

    about 3 years ago

    2 comments

    It is definite true. You need to grieve about what just happened. We are not robots to jump from one job to another. Especially if you really loved the job you where doing. There are 5 stages of grieving . Denial and Isolation. 2. Anger. 3. Bargaining. 4. Depression. 5. Acceptance. Maybe not in the same order for everyone, but you need to grieve. We are Human beings.

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    Buffalogal

    about 3 years ago

    4 comments

    Great article!!!I talked to my sister after I lost my job and she says completely nothing while I was crying on the phone sometimes she said things like you're not the only one unemployed or it is really hard out there.I think I'm really messing up her television time and she really wants me off the phone.I think that people who are working have no I deal what it feels like to live with no money everyday and to wake up every night wondering how you'll pay for the house you live in or just food.Thanks so much for your wonderful article

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    butterfly312309

    about 4 years ago

    4 comments

    This list is 'dead on'!!! Recently lost my job and have had every one of these comments said to me on one form or another. The other comment I absolutely hate, but not on the list is "Are you going to find another job right away or enjoy your time off?" I really want to scream at these idiots with there head tilt looks of wonderment.

    While being employed provides the obvious benefits, money, socialization, etc, for me it also helps me feel as if I have a purpose. When you are suddenly out of a job, you feel lost and your sense of purpose has been taken away.

    Thank you for the list.

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    cfulghum37

    over 4 years ago

    1014 comments

    I have been laid off before and it is not fun, but as I look back on my experience, I noticed that it gave me time to re-evaluate my career options and "retire" for a few months while I lived on the severance package that I received. Also at that time, my husband and I were just starting our own business, truck patching. This is where we grew vegetables and at that time researched organic - it would have been more expense in organic than in the money that it would have brought in. We still farm, but we have also branched out into raising horses as well. We really have not limited ourselves to one branch. I have since gone back to work outside the home again, but we still work flea markets and auctions as well as a few other markets.

    Another good thing is that I had a wonderful support base at home. It was wonderful!

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    CKOgi01

    over 4 years ago

    2 comments

    Amen to most of this! Having just gotten my downsizing letter a few weeks ago, I'm still in the 'reeling phase.' Nine years with my company, nary a performance problem. But we had massive contract losses for 2010, and the company had a round a corporate-wide job cuts, and mine was, unfortunately one of those mandated by someone I'm sure never even read my name. Unfortunately, my job also came with a company car...so I'm losing my transportation shortly, and taking on more debt when I'm staring zero income in the face is less than appealing.

    I HATE the 'You have to file unemployment right away!' Well, genius, technically, I'm still employed for a few more months, so can't do that while I'm getting a paycheck. I already feel stupid enough as it is, so stating the obvious is rather insulting. (I realize this decision had so nothing to do with performance, but really difficult to not play the 'If I'd have taking this training, joined this committee...etc. game.)

    The two bright sides are that my position is work from home, so I don't have to face my still-employed coworkers as I frantically search for a job, and that I no longer have to feel guilty about being upset with work problems and hearing 'Well, be glad you still have a job!'

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    cboyden

    over 4 years ago

    2 comments

    Unemployment insurance is not charity. It is something every employer (and employee) pays into for the protection of the employees should hard times hit the business............in good times and in bad. Because there is that mistaken stigma of "charity" encourage the recently laid off friend to file for UI immediately and you be smart and explain that it is NOT charity. It can relieve, for a short time, the stress of no income at all. (No, it isn't a lot........but it is better than the kick in the pants that you just received from your job.) And when filing you find out about all the other options........paid training, updating computer skills, free workshops for resume writing, updating interview skills, career fairs, etc. Visit your nearest Career Center or Workforce Center for updates and support and encouragement.

    I say "file immediately" and find out about how much you can collect (whew........I will be able to buy gas to get to an interview or buy food, pay a mortgage, etc.) and learn about the stimulus package (collect longer than first thought) and many other options available to the unemployed and the underemployed. Even the Cobra benefits can be drastically reduced if you are smart and tune in to the options available. If your job went off shore like mine did (11 years and suddenly 'bye bye') there are benefits through the Dept of Labor.......check it out on the DOL website.

    You can't control the actions of the "Vice President" that let you go but you can control your reaction to that action. And as a friend of mine said........"no one has actually died from a layoff. And what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

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    MilanShimono

    over 4 years ago

    22 comments

    @aly123 What I want to know is why my job was such a huge part of my identity and losing it feels incredibly bad. My sister lost her job after 29 years at a global firm. I had no idea how bad she felt until I experienced it.

    I think that's an acute comment, aly123 -- it's definitely a thought and a perspective that I know I think about.

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    Account Removed

    over 4 years ago

    I was laid off last October 2008, And it sort of worked out great fro me! It was a complete down sizing because of the economy, so we are entitled to state funds to cover education costs! So I'm in school and going for an technical degree in Package and Label Printing. This program that we have at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wisconsin, is one of the top programs in the country and this field is still growing! So I should have no problems finding a job when I graduate!

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    dht923nh

    over 4 years ago

    12 comments

    This article is spot-on and unfortunately very timely! The last time I was let go [once in 1995 and again in 1996] the economy wasn't in the same dire straits as today, but it took me four years to find a comparable job in compensation and responsibility. If I had known up front what would be endured - the loss of job & house, living in a questionable neighborhood with manageable rent but high drama [think crime] - I don't know how I would have managed.

    Of course, manage is what you do - eventually. But on the front end, you need to come to terms with the situation, grieve, and get the same kind of support you would if someone close had died. In a sense, someone has - the you that held that job, had those work friends.

    People don't know what to do or say in any awkward situation, not just job loss, so this is no surprise. Those of us who have gone through it are more likely to stay quiet and listen, letting the laid off person tell us what they need.

    The other thing about being let go that isn't mentioned enough is that there is still a stigma attached to it, even if there is no fault, that there is somehow something wrong with the person. People are so in denial that a job can be lost for no other reason than a salary had to be cut from the budget of the employer, that they assume the laid off person did something wrong. The stupid and insensitive comments come from a place of judgement - "I know you're not saying, but you must have done SOMETHING to get yourself into this mess." And the laid off know that many others they face harbor these feelings even if they don't verbalize them.

    klcrowley61 - I especially empathize with you, as I was in the same boat with the first 15 years of my career after college in the same company. Instead of a luncheon celebration of service, I carried a box of personal stuff to the car on my last day, accompanied by my boss who carried a second box. The idea that this might be upsetting and showing emotion being a sign of mental instability is a sign of the times; "professional" these days means you've learned to be a robot which can be reprogrammed. Depth of experience, dependability, loyalty, commitment, flexibility and ethics that used to be the mark of a true professional have given way to "how much can you do for how little money?" and the bottom line. Not only do workers suffer for this, but clients as well, as the worst criticism I have received in the past two years is that I am "too customer service oriented." Imagine that, in a company which survives on providing services to others!

    Thousands have been laid off at my company, and it shows no signs of slowing. I'm on this web link in preparation for the inevitable, trying to give myself a head start in the search for my next position. The tips and stories here are invaluable!

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    klcrowley61

    over 4 years ago

    2 comments

    Very nice list.

    I was laid off 2 1/2 months ago, after 23 years of service. I was given 45 days notice and had to come into work and face my co-workers daily. Many people struggled with what to say to me. As the days passed, it got worse and worse. Some people, whom I thought were friends, never spoke with me again. To make matter's worse, the people affected were encouraged to apply for newly created positions within the same organization. Needless to say, several of us didn't have the required skill sets and were eventually escorted out of the building. I can't tell you how many of these "things" were said to me.

    In addition, expressing sadness at the loss of 23 years worth of professional relationships or the fear of being unable to make mortgage payments, was simply not accepted as a normal reaction to a painful and difficult situation. Rather it was perceived as a sign of mental instability, that had to be dealt with and documented.

    Finally, this type of situation has no real closure for affected individuals. One day you are there, the next day you are gone. There are no good-bye luncheons, or farewell speeches. You either walk from desk-to-desk or building-to-building and say your good-byes one-on-one, or sign your pink slip and walk out the door.

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