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5 Things To Do When Someone You Know Has Been Laid Off

When I arrived at work on March 16th, I started to make my to do list keeping in mind all of our lofty 2020 hiring goals. All my April 6 new hires were on track, we were coming in on schedule for our Q2 goals, and the shiny new office intended to house our doubled workforce was almost ready.


The next day they placed a hold on recruiting, and on Wednesday offers were rescinded. By the following Monday, more than 75% of the workforce was rendered useless and by that Wednesday most of us were unemployed. The company which celebrated having gone from zero to five billion dollars of volume in five years had gone from five billion to zero in five days.

This is arguably the best time to become unemployed. Stimulus plans have been enacted. There won't be any happy hours or brunch outings that I will have to sit out on to save money.

However, it is really difficult because of how quickly everything changed. One week I was worried about background checks and timesheet trainings, the next week I was worried about how to say goodbye to coworkers after being laid off. I and many others grappled with the extremely unexpected circumstances in an already unexpected time.

I have come to realize and appreciate all the people in my life who are ten miles away, eight hundred miles away and even three thousand miles away, who have shown their support.

It is hard to know what to do or say when someone is going through a hard time. I found, however, it was the simple things that anyone can do that made me feel better. Whether you are trying to figure out what to say to your best friend, acquaintance or coworker, here are 5 things that you can say or do to help them out:

  1. Help them to stay positive - it's easy to focus only on the negatives, but there are silver linings to focus on. Send them freelance opportunities. Remind them that for some companies, remote work is the norm. Show them that there are still dogs on instagram that make more money than they did when they were employed. You can turn a profit on your TP stock pile by selling it on eBay. There are endless ways to make money. Help them find (legal) opportunities.
  2. Remind them it is okay to enjoy having some time off - The circumstances are unfortunate but, the fact is they will have time to work on hobbies and projects. It is a great time to finally finish that bathroom remodel, start a memoir about what it was like to live through the COVID-19 crisis or catch up on their Netflix watch list. Maybe send them a gift card for their favorite bookstore or gaming service. Remind them that if they have applied to ten jobs, reached out to their old boss, and connected with every recruiter on LinkedIn before noon, it is okay to take some time to do the things they enjoy or spend the afternoons playing Mario Kart with their kids (or by themselves).
  3. Send them relevant job opportunities - They will be job hunting. Send them opportunities in their city and in their chosen profession. If they are your coworker, you know better than anyone what they can do. Recommend them to your LinkedIn connections who are "Still Hiring!!!!" If their industry is really not hiring right now, send them jobs that allow them to use their skills in a new way or jobs they would love. Sometimes things happen for a reason — maybe it was time for a career change.
  4. Check in - So many people are struggling right now and everyone has different worries and fears. It may seem like a positive thing to remind people how lucky they are (i.e."at least you just lost your job, not your family,"), but knowing they are better off than some does not make their worries go away. Remind them that it is okay to feel sad and stressed. We are all struggling right now and everyone's feelings are valid. No one needs to add guilt to the range of emotions they go through daily.
  5. Connect with them - After I was laid off so many of my coworkers connected with me on Facebook and Instagram. It is hard to think of something to say to a coworker who got laid off, but sometimes just connecting, saying you liked them enough to want to stay in touch means a lot. The messages my coworkers posted about how much the company and team will be missed meant the most to me. It was really nice to see and gave me a sense of closure that I didn't feel like I had considering how quickly everything changed.

We are all feeling the effects of this crisis every day. Thinking of things to say to someone who is going through a tough time is always hard. Thinking of what to say to a coworker who was laid off, when you still have your job, is especially tricky. At the end of the day, everyone just wants to know that they have support and are not alone. Show them you care. Just try not to send it from your work email — your signature is bragging!

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