• Handling Breakups

A woman loses a job and loses her friends in the process

Published: July 12, 2014 | Last Updated: December 27, 2023 By | 18 Replies Continue Reading
When someone loses a job, it can make co-workers feel squeamish, even the ones who were your friends.



I worked at my job for 17 years and developed friendships with several women at my job for that long. About a year ago, our longtime manager left and we got a new manager who made my job miserable. I suddenly lost my job two months ago when the manager found fault with some things I did.

I tried contacting my co-workers/friends, and they won’t answer phone calls or e-mails. Not only am I heartbroken about losing my long time job, I’m devastated and depressed that these co-workers abandoned me. Not one has contacted me to ask me how I’m doing.

I realize that they may be worried about contacting me if the manager finds out, but they can contact me after work hours. I would never cause trouble for them or jeopardize their jobs. All the years we worked together, I was always there for them and supported them, celebrated their birthdays and milestones in their lives and was there when they had sadness in their lives.

This is why it hurts so much and I’ve been depressed about their abandonment. If the same situation happened to one of them, I would reach out to them to see how they were doing. I got the one co-worker/friend the job there many years ago and recommended her for a promotion. I’m trying to move on, but it’s very difficult. Any suggestions?

Signed, Lisa


Hi Lisa,

Losing a job after seventeen years in the same place must have left you reeling. I’m so sorry you’re in this situation. Hopefully, you’ll be able to land in another setting that will turn out to be more hospitable than the situation you’ve been in for the past year or so.

When people have worked together for many years, relationships form by virtue of being in the same place and dealing with the same challenges. I can understand your disappointment at your loss of your friendships at work but even when someone retires or changes jobs voluntarily, alliances between workplace colleagues often weaken or erode completely.

When a co-worker loses a job, as happened to you, people are often fearful (as you suggest may have happened in your situation) about their own jobs and thus, are reluctant to continue friendships with the person who has been extruded. I don’t know whether or not this is the case but your co-workers even may feel that the supervisor had just reason to end your employment.

Also, I’m not clear whether your relationships with your colleague were limited to workplace friendships or if you ordinarily saw your colleague outside of the office, too. If you were only close at work, they may feel like the connection is no longer there.

If you’ve reached out to the one or two people to whom you have felt closest and they haven’t responded, you may want to let some time pass (at least a month) and try approaching them one more time after the dust is more settled. In the meantime, focus on your job search and your relationships with other friends.

You may actually be depressed given these circumstances and not have much energy to reach out for new employment or friendships. If so, it might be helpful to seek out additional support from a counselor or mental health professional until you are back on your feet.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

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Comments (18)

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  1. Marge says:

    Great mental imagery Andrew!!!!

    • lottie says:

      Hi Marge,
      Like you I think Andrew is pretty smart in what he writes. Those “minds eyes” are sometimes very useful!! I am glad Andrew reminded us to use them.
      When I wrote to you last I wrote “they wear the clock of friendship” I meant cloak.
      I hope you are doing ok now Marge. Some friends are so mean it is a wonder they manage to get any in the first place,BUT they do. My husband says I am too honest and generous then get used. Well tomorrow I am off to London for the day on my own to the Imperial War Museum .Take care Lottie

      • Marge says:

        Hi Lottie, I agree with you all the way. That is so sweet of you to follow up with me. I am doing better. Training at the new job and it is a bit challenging but the people here are nice and friendly and patient, thank God. An ex coworker from the old company called me over the weekend (not the big phony that was in my department that I thought was a friend) but another one. It opened a wound that is healing but I let her know that I am doing really good at this new job. (she loves to gossip) so this is something I don’t mind her repeating. I also told her what I think of my ex boss. LOL. I also let her know that I dont want anything to do with anyone at that company besides she and another coworker who has checked on me since I left so not to share my information with anyone. That message I know will get around…=) Enjoy your trip Lottie! London, how exciting!!!!!

  2. Andrew says:

    Many friends in life are circumstantial friends. Two life rings align and a huge bolt called work, school, social activity etc slides down and a friendship forms. Once the bolt is removed the rings often move away from each other or at least one of them does.

    Some of these friendships that are troubling you may be what I call claustrophobic friendships. That is friendships that have extremely narrow boundaries. A perfect example is the friend who picks you up and takes you to university every day. You have a great time in the car together but no matter what you do the friendship doesn’t go beyond the four doors of the car.

    Accept what has happened and move on. You may find the following two things beneficial. Two burning questions and a sail.

    Many years ago I found myself trapped in a dark friendship labyrinth of disappointing friendships. There were many things that helped me get out but two of these were burning questions that I often dwelt on. “How can I live on a higher strata of satisfying and rewarding friendships?” “How can I draw good friends into my life?” Those questions acted as torches that lit up the dark corridors and provided me a compass showing the way out.

    At the time I was suffering from severe depression and in hindsight I noted that I used mental imagery to change my focus. In my mind’s eye I saw myself on a beautiful white yacht. I was SETTING SAIL. I was in some kind of tropical island paradise with crystal clear water. I felt that I was journeying to better friendships and actually looked forward to arriving. You might like to see if the same mental imagery works for you. Walt Whitman sums up what I’m saying here in his famous quote. “Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”

    Good luck on the job hunt.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Wow the same exact thing just happened to me. I left my employer (it was my choice) and on my last day I was treated horrifically! I managed to suck it up knowing it was my “last day”. At the last hour of my shift, my manager became hostile and I couldn’t take it so I emailed human resources and they sent her the email I sent which I thought was really disgusting. So my exit was so ugly that if I had a video recorder, voice recorder or a witness I would have a law suit. Unfortunately no one witnessed anything at the end when I had to exit. I contacted my cubicle mate who I thought was a friend of 13 years. I texted her about my exit and how I cant believe how the manager treated me out the door and her only response was “that bad?”. I asked if I could call her and she stated she was busy and would call me back and a month later, I never got that call back. This is someone who I went to her baby showers, childrens birthdays parties etc. She knew how I was being mistreated on my last day and she never once contacted me to see if I was ok or what ever happened. Saw her true colors at the very end.

    • Marge says:

      Hi Lottie, OMG this is really strange. I feel like maybe the law of attraction or something in the stars or energy is working but today, my ex coworker the “so called friend” just contacted me via text to let me know that she heard I was talking behind her back. Unbelievable. Its been a month since I left that toxic disgusting place and she never once called me but yet she now contacted me to ask if I was talking behind her back and that just because she didn’t contact me gives me no right to talk about her and that I cant expect her to drop her life because of my issues. What a slap in the face! She is and never was no friend of mine! You really do learn the true colors of people. My best revenge is that I am at a much better environment now. But yes your right it does hurt but like all things, it shall pass. Thanks Lottie!

      • lottie says:

        Yes Marge,how strange no doubt in my mind she is suffering with a tormented mind. She and the rest will have discussed everything together. It will have kept them going even though work should be priority.Imagine Marge them talking between themselves about who might have the next instalment on you. It is a shame you answered her call or said you were busy and would ring her back. Never mind she has unloaded her guilt,onto you, and YOU know you are not to blame. Remember nobody likes a gossiper especially one who does not tell them what they know. To me they are all to blame now the excitement of you going has cooled down ,they are now suffering the consequences of their gossiping and are stuck with guilty minds which is a torture in its self. Pity you didnt say that YES you have talked about her constantly and say what a rubbish co worker she was wearing the clock of friendship,AND then laugh out loud. What a deceitful person. What have you got to lose, its the truth.On the other hand by keeping quiet they dont know what has been said by you it could work better. Whatever way you come out of this queaky clean. Take care. Hold your head high girl. Take care Lottie

        • Marge says:

          Thanks Lottie. I did let her know that I don’t consider her a friend anymore. She said that the world did not revolve around me and that I wanted people to feel sorry for me. What a crock of sh*t. To me, that just shows me the lack of integrity she has. She was one of the reason why I resented being there anyway. She got away with murder at that company yet she was always treated better than I was.

          Thanks Lottie!

  4. Lisa says:

    Thanks, everyone for your kind responses. Several other former co-workers have been in contact with me (not the ones who I thought were closer friends), and I’ve gone out to lunch with a couple of them. It’s been very upsetting, losing my longtime job and losing people who I thought were friends. I was always a good, dependable worker and volunteered for any extra work, and got good evaluations every year from the previous manager. When the new manager came in, a lot of changes were made and the new manager continuously found fault with what I was doing so I had to leave. The employment search is rough, I’ve applied to a lot of places but have not gotten any responses. I’ve actually decided to make a career change and will be going back to school, and hopefully will be able to find a job when I’m done.

  5. Denise says:


    So the bottom dropped out and I empathize. I don’t know what it’s like because this hasn’t happened to me, but I can imagine.

    Did the misery-making manager find legitimate problems? Were you given a chance to correct them or make improvements? Were there warnings? If you have doubts about the whole firing process, I’d definitely contact legal or employment help to see if everything holds water. Sometimes companies or managers hope the employee will be shaken up enough or just want to drop it rather than contest it or question it.

    And these 17 year friends dropping you like the plague… Assuming they can’t use work hours to contact you, fine, I think 2 months is enough time for at least some of them to find 10 minutes to email or phone. You probably had “favorites”. For everyone to go from 60 to 0 is just too weird. Unless….they weren’t as much your friends as you thought; what you did at work was bad enough to them to change their minds (which I don’t believe); they heard false rumors; someone set you up; the manager wanted someone else in your place. If thinking of these possibilities makes you feel worse, I apologize. I just like to consider any scenario.

    It’s just unnerving to think you know and can depend on people and you can’t. Even if I don’t want to socialize with co-workers after hours, I would still return a call or email, even a one time message to say it’s too bad it happened and hope you find something soon and I don’t socialize after work–something like that.

    It’s junk like this that makes me skeptical about finding true friends. Betrayal can cut deep sometimes. And, yes, I like to keep work and leisure separate because I see this group all day every day.

    I hope you find a better job soon and the pain lessens soon.

  6. hanna says:

    That has to be one of the hardest things to go through, a job loss after so many years compounded by everyone being too afraid to talk to you. I lost what I thought was one of my closest friends after leaving my job. It’s possible that they have been told not to speak with you.

    Have you tried giving your former manager a call? He/she may be familiar with what you are going through. It’s extremely common– which doesn’t make it hurt any less, but you are not alone in this.

  7. Buster S says:

    Dear Lisa,
    First I am truely sorry about hearing your loss position you
    Served for a good 17yrs. I just lost my job at Wal Mart after
    1.6 mos. and all it took was 2 mins over the punch out time
    But Your case is Very Sad, I am so sorry as well as to Your
    friends/ co-workers not having any sort of contact? I wish I
    can just reach out and HUG you and put back that HAPPY
    Smile back on your face! You “DESERVE” an Emmy Award
    if only HOLLYWOOD would know, this would put a lot of Co.
    to “SHAME” based on this as an actual TRUE told story! I’m
    Serious you REALLY do DESERVE a BIG GIANT HUG! Be
    Good to yourself and you know I can be your friend,the one
    that won’t run away!

    • lottie says:

      Hi BusterS, Your words are kind you also deserve a big hug.
      Lisa, I hope you are feeling better. Lauren has given some very good sound advice. Lottie

  8. Lauren says:

    Hi Lisa,
    I an sorry to hear that this happened to you. Those co-workers must be afraid to contact you, because they will be afraid that they will be singled out next to be fired from their jobs also. That is also hard to take. Two blows at once.

    Have you contacted a wrongful dismissal lawyer about your situation? You may have a strong case for financial compensation. I hope the company gave you a decent financial package when they fired you, and if not , they should do it now. An employment lawyer will help with this.

    Do you have anyone in the company who will give you a good reference? Look into that also, as that will help greatly in your job search.

    As well as the lawyer, you might also want to talk to an employment counselor who will be able to help in several ways.

    Seventeen years is almost a total career time. I would want to know why it took the company 17 long years to “discover” that your work was not “up to standard”. 17 years???

    Did the company offer any “retraining” of any sort? If no, there is another huge issue.

    All the best to you. Be strong.

  9. lottie says:

    Hi Lisa,
    How you doing? Yes I most certainly agree with Amy you must feel really down. It does happen when you lose a job how co workers and friends you think you have disappear. They panic like rats leaving a sinking ship not wanting to be friends or involved any more. Just imagine ,though it is hard for you how they will be gossiping and then of course if they bump into you in the street cant face you. Feel sorry for them that they are not strong enough to make contact with you. At least one will want to be in touch I am sure of that. Always the least likely. Try to stay positive we are here for you.Another job will come along. Co workers can be very fickle. When I finished a job some years ago the least likely stayed in touch. I am now very good friends with my ex manageress who also left after me. Birthdays do get forgotten and yes it hurts like hell. You take care Lottie

  10. Amy F says:

    Lisa, I’d certainly be depressed if I were you. We spend more wake time working than we do in almost everything. When you’ve been somewhere for 17 years, you probably felt like you had a second family so you had two major losses with try loss of your job.
    When I’ve left long term jobs, my relationships with former coworkers changed, even ones we promised we would change. I think I’ve only become closer with one former coworker than I was beforehand.
    I agree with Irene about waiting a certain amount of time before contacting the women, and when you do make sure you’re not using their work emails and or cell phones. In most cases employers are legally permitted to monitor work emails and your former coworkers might not feel comfortable communicating with you at work with work provided computers or email.
    Unemployment is depressing, so you might want to talk to a mental health professional while you’re going through this major transition. Maybe you can volunteer somewhere once a week to stay connected to people and meet some new, like minded folks.
    Good luck with your job search.

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