Responding to Someone Who
Has Lost a Job

Lost a Job

When disaster strikes a friend or family member, you want to help.  But there is a fine line between helping and interfering.  

For someone who has suddenly lost a job, being sucked into the vortex of multiple thoughts and emotions that accompany such an event leaves little room to process very much information coming from others – even people who care a great deal.

Sometimes, a simple, gentle response is all a person needs.

What Not to Say

Knowing what not to say/do when someone has suffered loss of employment, or experienced other bad news, can be a helpful start in knowing what to say.

  • Acting as if you know what the person is experiencing by comparing or making it about you.  “I know just what you’re feeling.  I lost my job right when I least needed it, and it’s tough, believe me.”
  • Giving advice.  “Hey, I’m really sorry, but you can’t let this get you down.”  Or “You really need to just get back out there and start looking!”
  • Trying to be funny.  “Everyone should lose their job once in life.  So, consider yourself caught up!”
  • Insinuating that the loss was inevitable.   “With markets and job losses the way they are, it was just a matter of time before your industry was hit.”
  • Posing an unanswerable question.  “Why do you think this happened now?”
  • Patronizing.  “So very sorry, Mary, but think about the people who have it worse.”

It’s natural to default to one of the above examples when you’re caught off guard and need an immediate response.  Humans depend on each other for encouragement.  When a family member, friend, or colleague has been laid off, hearing a gentle and encouraging voice will be appreciated.  Kind and simple sentiments bring strength: “I’m sorry you’ve been laid off.” 

Knowing another person is there for you acknowledges the need to have someone stand by you, even commiserate with you.

Keep it Simple

Every one of us have been in circumstances without a clue as to how we got there, but we know we don’t like it! 

When those situations arise, hearing someone say, “Know that I am here for you, whenever you want to talk,” is not only a pledge of moral support, but it is an acknowledgement that sometimes bad things happen and good people are affected. 

You might also consider these short responses that go a long way: 

  • “I just heard the news today and want to say I’m very sorry.”
  • “Hey, if you want to meet up or talk, I’m here for you.”

What next?

  • The most important thing to do is to pause and listen very hard. 
  • Depending on the person and situation, reaching out again shows that you care. 

Of course, there are no words that will erase the emotional experience of losing a job.  But the right words, delivered with genuine kindness, will help ease the shock.

Human hearts, it seems, open to gentle influences.  We all need love and support.  Regardless of how you choose to voice your support, having a positive tone throughout your conversation will be uplifting.  Consideration, courtesy, and common sense will serve as your guide in knowing what to say and offer.



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