Aug 30, 2022 - Economy & Business

How to help a friend through a layoff

Illustration of a pink slip shaped like a broken heart.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Dozens of companies have started to tighten their belts as executives look to cut costs amid a weaker economic environment. That means layoffs.

Why it matters: Losing a job means more than just losing a source of income. There's also loss of community, self-worth and identity. And it might bring on feelings of shame or guilt.

  • Wanting to soothe or help a friend who has just lost a job is a natural reaction.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Everyone responds to loss differently. Ask them what they need at that moment. It might be tea. A hug. Time, space or just for you to listen.
  • Unless they ask, avoid offering advice. The first few moments, hours and even days after a layoff can be destabilizing. Your friend may be overwhelmed with planning for their adjustment, or with worries about the future. 
  • Avoid company bashing. Piling on a former employer may only serve to feed rumination (thinking about all the "what-ifs"), or even fuel self-bashing.
  • Limit saying variations of "everything will be ok." In the face of uncertainty, your friend is likely worried most about the length of their tunnel and not the light at the end.
  • Get permission before sharing their news or name for networking.
  • Share your own job loss story carefully. Your circumstances might be very different from theirs. And the economic environment surrounding your story might be too.

The bottom line: Letting your friend guide you can renew their sense of empowerment at a time when they feel most powerless.

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