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Reader Wisdom: What friends should and shouldn’t say when someone loses a job

Published: December 15, 2014 | Last Updated: December 15, 2014 By | Reply Continue Reading
A reader loses a job under difficult circumstances and suggests some ways that friends can be more or less supportive and helpful.

Many times, posters write comments especially worth reading because their experiences and suggestions can be helpful to others, especially those who may be dealing with job loss around the holidays. Below is the recent post from Erin (shortened and edited very lightly) that appears in the Forums under a thread entitled, Lost job – What friends should and shouldn’t say.

I recently lost my job under pretty terrible circumstances. It had nothing to do with my performance. There was no cause. The way my company went about doing this was underhanded and not above board at all. The responses I have gotten from friends and colleagues have ranged, really showing me who is a good friend and who is not. Or the ones who have just gone completely dark.

I think they could reflect a mix of not knowing what to say, to not finding me of “use” anymore now that I’m on the outside, to whatever my “supervisor” has said that has apparently made it radioactive for anyone to contact me. So I thought I would share these in case anyone ever has a friend who loses a job and wants some ideas for what to say and what to avoid.


  • “You’re out, move forward. Work on your resume!”

Okay, this text message was from a colleague/friend before anyone had clued me in to the fact that my “supervisors” were trying to fire me. Too bad she was friends with my supervisor and was the one who had told me what they were plotting. I was upset about the cruel way they were going about this and all the projects I had initiated and worked so hard on—and that the message came from my idiot ex co-worker who couldn’t care less about them. Instead of voicing any sympathy or outrage, she told me move forward and work on my resume. How nice, especially considering no one had told me this yet. It is like your dog is dying and someone says, “He’s dead, move forward! Go buy a new dog!” before the dog has even died.

  • “Just resign.”

Um okay, but you don’t get anything if you “quit.” When I told this friend – a stay at home mother who doesn’t support herself, she said, “Well it doesn’t seem worth it to fight.” I’ll just tell my landlord that. Note – don’t tell your friends to resign from a job. It’s better to be fired or reach a mutual agreement so you can at least walk away with something.

  • “How much severance did you get?” (One particularly pushy person ignored my lack of a response and went on to ask, “Six months? A year?”)

I was taken back at just how many people asked this. Or literally, this was the first and/or only question they asked. None of your business. Plus I signed my life away to get this. Invasive and rude. And next time maybe ask how I’m doing. Or just say you are sorry.

  • “Do you have a timeline?” 

Said by a friend. I wanted to say, um considering this just happened two days ago, no I don’t have a f-ing timeline. I’m still coming to terms with what the hell just happened. I really don’t want to think about finding another job yet or how long before the money runs out. And for the record, I DID get a good severance and I’ve been working for 20 years, so I think I deserve a break and time to recharge before I even think about what I want to pursue next. Back off.

  • “Any offers you are considering?”

Again b****, this happened two days ago so no I haven’t exactly been job hunting and fielding offers.

  • “Well this ended up working out well for you.”

Yeah I get it. It was a bad place to work. But it still feels horrible and it in this case it was personal and unwarranted, and I was basically the victim of a sociopathic boss (see above comments on her charming remarks about a former colleague who couldn’t find a job and was desperate for work.) I don’t expect friends to know all the details and nuances, but my company didn’t do this with my best interests at heart. They did it to hurt me. I’m hurting. I don’t care if it’s the best thing that ever happened to me, it doesn’t make what they did okay. It’s more than about money or what future opportunities I can have. This sent me reeling. I’m doing my best to get out of bed. Don’t say it worked out well for me because right now I’m just doing my best to focus on healing.

  • “Are you moving back home?”

Right. I’m just going to give up on life and move right back home with my parents. The answer is no. But thanks for making me feel like even more of a loser.

  • “Did you get a good package?”

Just to repeat – do not ask someone this.

  • “Go to the gym every day!”

Okay back off the perkiness. And yeah I get it. I gained weight. I was totally stressed and being manipulated while I earnestly did my job. I know how to eat healthy and work out. I don’t need you telling me or pointing out that i gained weight.


Okay, well I sound quite bitter and negative. I do realize I am probably hyper-sensitive and people are well-meaning, but they really rubbed me the wrong way or touched a raw nerve. Here are some of the things that people said that were just so nice and helpful and just touched me so much or helped me a lot.

  • “I’m really sorry.”

If you don’t know what to say, that works just fine.

  • “What the hell?? Are they stupid?? Your office is so messed up.”

Thank you, I appreciate the support and outrage on my behalf.

  • “I HATE that place. That is a horrible place to work. I’m so glad you’re out of there.”

True or not, thanks for making me feel better.

  • “You did an outstanding job. You keep in touch. If I can help you in any way, I will.”

When you get fired or let go, or in my case left after what they had done, it sucks. It hurts. They attacked my worth, my value, my spirit. Someone validating the good job you know you did means a lot. Offering to be a reference or help in any way is something tangible that means a lot as well.

  • “I know the job you did. Everything looked so simple but they don’t realize the reason it was so simple to do was because of all the work you put into it to make it like that.”

Wow. Someone validating the work I had done. When your employer decides you are disposable, sincere comments like that are just really, really nice to hear.

  • “Did you at least get a fair severance?”

Okay if you are going to ask this, at least this is a nice way to ask. It doesn’t ask “how much” I got and says that you think I deserved something fair.

  • “Are you going to be okay? Are they at least going to pay you for a little bit?”

Just goes to show that some of this all depends on the person and way they ask about this. In this case, a really, really caring friend asked in the most concerned way possible. It wasn’t to be invasive or just curious, he was genuine concerned and would have found some work from me if I had said I was going to be in financial trouble.

  • “That’s a bad, bad place. The leadership is bad. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. You’re going to be better off in the long run.”

Now in this context, the whole this worked out well for you attitude is not so annoying. They acknowledged that it wasn’t a good place to work. That they had done a not right thing and it was in my best interest not to be there. Not a delusional oh this all just worked out great for you! And they said better off in the long run. Not how great it is today while I’m curled up in bed trying to recover from the stress and anxiety of the last month.

  • “The year I spent after being fired my job was the best thing that ever happened to me. It was really good to be away and get new perspective.”

Means a lot coming from someone who has been there, not just something trying to make you feel better because they are uncomfortable. And who you have seen become successful again.

  • “I just…have a really, really good feeling about this. I don’t know. i just have a feeling. This is going to work out for you. I just know it.”

The nicest part was that this friend was so sincere. Before saying that, he told met the story of another time he had felt this way, and the positive outcome and said he was feeling the same way. From some people, it would just be nice and supportive, but he was so upbeat and positive, it brought a smile to my face too.

  • “Aw, f*ck, are you kidding me? I’m never buying any of their products again!”

It’s okay, you can. But I kinda heart that you said that.

  • “Stay strong. That doesn’t mean you’re not going to have bad days. This isn’t a time of stability or certainty. But you’re aware, you’re strong, you will get through this. I believe in you.”

Coming from a tough, strong guy himself, those words meant so much. And just the acknowledgement that there would be bad days, and the encouraging words to stay strong.

  • “I couldn’t have worked there. They’re all animals.”

My therapist. She’s kind of awesome.

  • “I’m sorry for what happened at your office. You did the best job and please let me know if I can help in any way.”

Those I’m sorry’s are really nice to here, especially with a validation that it wasn’t my fault and that I did a good job. Which means a lot considering how much pride I took in my work that was just devalued by my employer. So those words are nice to hear. Along with the offer to help.

  • “I saw your old manager yesterday. He had nothing but good things to say about you and was so disgusted what happened there.”

This girl actually called me just to pass on compliments that someone had said about me. When you are home wondering what the water cooler gossip about you is, someone assuring you that the comments about you are positive really does make you feel better.

Also on The Friendship Blog:

Ever been fired? What were the most supportive ways your friends helped you get over the hump?

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Category: Friends and Money

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