Being fired or laid off from a job can isolate the person receiving the pink slip. However, there are right ways and wrong ways to offer your support.
Usually, when a person is fired or loses a job, their life is turned upside down. However, the ripple effect a job loss can have on the workplace can impact everyone else at your place of employment.
Think about it: a co-worker you interacted with daily was just there one minute ago, and the next minute they were gone.
In the aftershock of a co-worker’s job loss, those left behind have an important choice; they can contact the fired co-worker or not. But, if they choose to reach out, the question is, how do they do so in a way that is sensitive to the fired co-worker’s situation?
The answer to that question is going to depend on the relationship that you have with the fired co-worker. Although it might be awkward to think about reaching out while the company still employs you and not them, sometimes it’s good to get out of your comfort zone and offer your support.
According to therapists and unemployment experts, here are some things to consider prior to contacting a co-worker who lost their job:
IF YOU ARE WORK FRIENDS, THE INDIVIDUAL WILL LIKELY APPRECIATE IT IF YOU REACH OUT TO THEM.
If you and your co-worker are genuine friends, just because they no longer work with you doesn’t mean your relationship should end. On the contrary, this is the time that they are going to need the support of their friends.
For someone who was let go from their job, they may experience an even greater feeling of betrayal when the people they worked closely with decide to shun them suddenly. Instead, consider reaching out and offering to help them in any way you can, whether it’s helping them network to find a new job or to lend a sympathetic ear.
The fact is that friends support friends during a time of need, which is precisely what a job loss is. A job loss can be isolating and humiliating. Reaching out to them within days of being let go can help lessen the blow.
The best way to approach the situation is to send them a brief message and follow their lead, whatever that may be. Just a simple statement like “thinking about you” can help. These types of messages, experts say, open doors to deeper conversations and allow them to feel safe until they are ready to talk.
You can also offer to take them out for dinner or drinks. For many, losing work friends means losing a significant piece of their overall social life. Offering to get together socially is a great way to support them. Remember, money could be an issue right now for your co-worker. So, unless you are ready to spring for dinner or drinks, offer some free social options like taking a walk together or meeting for coffee in the park.
IF YOU ARE BETWEEN ACQUAINTANCES AND FRIENDS, YOU SHOULD WAIT A WHILE OR REMAIN SILENT.
Reaching out can do more harm than good if you are not close to a co-worker who has lost a job.
An excellent way to check the temperature is to try and place yourself in the shoes of the person who has lost their job. For example, how would you feel if you didn’t hear from that person if you lost your job? That should be a good indication of what they might be expecting.
For anyone who fits this category, it is best to wait a few days before reaching out. In fact, waiting as much as a month is okay, according to experts, when someone is part of your much broader network.
Regardless of your relationship with the fired co-worker, you should avoid lingering on the hows and the whys of their job loss. If you intend to support the individual, avoid getting bogged down in the details of their firing, and even if you’re pretty sure you know what happened because you heard all about it through the workplace grapevine, chances are that you do not know the whole story.
Your best bet is to send the individual a tactful support message and focus on them and the value that they bring. Don’t beat around the bush, though. Reaching out might feel a bit awkward, but it’s going to feel even worse when you ignore that they just lost their job. Let’s face it, losing your job sucks, and it is okay to acknowledge that, and you can do so without going into specifics.
You might consider saying, “I heard you no longer work for our company. That makes me sad, and I wanted you to know how much I enjoyed working together. I’m here for you if you need anything or want to talk.” You can also ask, “How could I support you right now?” and follow their lead.
For a co-worker that just lost their job, a good thing you can do for them if they are interested in your help is to assist them in their search for a new job. Introducing them to individuals within your professional network is a great way to do that. However, don’t wait too long to help them out. Research has shown that its harder for unemployed individuals to secure a job after suffering long-term unemployment, which is defined as being without a job for more than six months.
Experts say that the faster you can assist a fired co-worker in getting back on their feet, the easier it will be for them to avoid getting trapped in a long-term unemployment situation. That is why most experts agree that if you are going to reach out and offer support, no matter what your relationship with the person may be, don’t wait too long to do so.