What to Say When…Someone’s About to Lose Their Job

EmotJobLoss2xLast week was one of “What to say when” for me.  I found myself three times wondering how in the world I could console someone, or support them in difficult situations.  One was the loss of a Dad to suicide, another was the trauma of a boss who was making life impossible and the third was someone who needed my support because of a diagnosis of cancer which is very frightening.  

All three times my heart ached but I feared the right words would fail me when they needed me to say things that would be supportive and helpful.  

In three blogs I have tried to address these difficult times we all find ourselves in with a little insight I have gained.  If you have further insights and special things you like to share with people in these circumstances please feel free to do so in the comments.  

(You may read the two previous blogs in this series at What to say when…someone dies, and What do I say…when someone is diagnosed with cancer?)

The beginning statement of advice for all three of the situations I encountered might be the same.  “If you can’t offer anything hopeful then remain silent.”  Good advice for many situations I’m sure.

Job loss, like the loss of health and the death of a loved one,  pushes people into that horrible place called “Grieving”.

The dictionary.com definition for “grief’ says, “keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow;painful regret.”  As I learned many years ago, after losing my home to a house fire, grief can cover a multitude of losses and the grieving and loss of one person can in no way be measured by the grief and loss of another.  To one the loss of a pet is as grievous as the loss of a child to another.   

As I learned many years ago, after losing my home to a house fire, grief can cover a multitude of losses and the grieving and loss of one person can in no way be measured by the grief and loss of another.  To one the loss of a pet is as grievous as the loss of a child to another.   

With a job loss, like other losses people are tempted to say things like, “there are lots of other jobs out there”, or “you can get another job”.  While those sentiments may be  true they are cruel words to someone who has worked hard and invested long hours and years of their life in a job.  In this situation, as in any situation where someone is grieving, avoid euphemisms. If you can’t find your own heartfelt words then don’t use someone else’s trite phase.

Adding to the horror of this situation is the difficulty of the job market, the agony of resumes and interviews, the possibility of having no income and the loss of friendships and contacts that go with job loss.  It is a huge problem which should not be trivialised.

In the case of my friend who was facing a job loss, she had the added issue of lawsuits for wrongful dismissal and the impossibility of dealing with someone whose manner was bordering on psychopathic.  Those types of people are experts at the art of tearing down someone’s self-esteem and of ruining not only future job prospects but also the reputations of the people they frighten out of the workplace.

What to say in this situation might include things which are going to increase someone’s confidence in tangible ways.  Remind them what they are good at.  Remind them of accomplishments.  Let them know you are available to help.  If you have some good experience with a similar situation or you have read good articles share them.  Be careful not to be too pushy with encouragement too quickly.  They may not be quite ready to hear it.

Asking what sort of things you can do to help if you are close enough to actually do that might be good.  It’s not just people who have lost loved ones that need the occasional casserole or visit with a glass of wine.  Flowers might even help.


About Peggy Guiler

You just never know what show up on my blog. As the name implies it is about the stuff of life just like Spilt Milk. Everyday events spark thought and contemplation. Special events in the community, the country or the world may strike a cord and get me talking. Sometimes it's about people in my life or circumstances, sometimes about my garden, sometimes about a book or a political issue. Always it's about something I am passionate about. In my business, River of Hope Enterprises (www.riverofhopeenterprises.com), I work as an "Certified Coach" (International Coach Federation), a trainer, consultant and speaker. and as a spiritual director. I also drive a school bus to keep the wolf from the door while I build my business. I love the kids on the bus (most of the time). My family is grown and I have three grandkids who thrill my heart but I don't get to see any of them very often. Circumstances of life have made "family" difficult. My son died by suicide at age 16 in 2000 and the strain on our family relationships since has been huge. Mental health is a field where I worked for almost 22 years and where I still do some consulting and training. That combined with my own battle with depression and my son's death weave together to form some of my greatest soap box items: suicide intervention, suicide bereavement and peer support in mental health are right on the top of my list. Social justice is an underlying passion. Keeping the wolf from the door as a single parent was full-time work and my career path as a journalists was augmented with cleaning contracts, cooking, retail clerk, and bartending. I have known hard work and am grateful for the experience and perspective it has given me. A firmly grounded faith and a passion for learning has now taken me toward a new field as a Spiritual Director and I am soon adding to that a license to marry people. As I move toward retirement I am very aware that I have to keep working so I chose to do things which will meet my modest financial needs and also my love of supporting people in their life journey. Woven into all of this is my love of writing. Trained as a Journalist, and having worked in the field as a freelance news writer for many years, I have a great love for writing. This blog is a new beginning for me. As I hone my skills and begin to form a daily discipline of writing I hope it will lead to more writing in the future.
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