Helping someone who has been laid off
Obviously, when someone is laid off, it can be a tough situation for everyone involved. People left behind are generally left with more work to do with less resources. Further, those still at work may feel a little guilty at the feeling of relief they have over keeping their job. Friends who still have a good job may feel the same… and other may be struggling as well. Finally, as in virtually any situation in which there is grieving, most people don’t have any idea what to say or do. Sometimes what they try is worse than nothing and they know that… so sometimes they do and say nothing. However, there are some things that are better than nothing.
A few years ago, I took a lay off from my position at a ministry. A number of other people were laid off at the same time, and I attempted to maintain my role comforting and helping them, as well as comforting many of my friends who stayed behind who were naturally worried and afraid. I have also since had a number of other friends face lay offs and business closings. Fortunately, as a licensed counselor, I was able to open a private practice; not everyone has been so fortunate. We are all one body, when one rejoices, all rejoice; when one suffers, all suffer. (1 Corinthians 12:26).
Recently, I had another friends mention that his company had recently faced lay-offs, and in our conversation, he requested that I make note of my recommendations for being a blessing to our friends who have been laid off from their job. I can tell you that after my lay-off, some people did a great job of encouraging me. From my experience, what I have read, and what others have told me, I have put together some ideas. These are not in any particular order. However I can tell you that a great first act is to let them know that you are there for them. Probably 100 different people via email, notes, Facebook, etc. communicated some version of “I am here for you, let me know if you need anything.” This is a great first step, but not a great last step. After making yourself available to BE sought, it is time to then seek them out. Here are some things to try with your laid-off friend:
1. Stay in touch
Maybe the main pain I have heard from others is what comes when they feel forgotten. Unappreciated is a close second, but I will get to that later. Don’t forget them; call them, text them. Over the next year especially, call them on their birthday, check in with them, invite them to events.
2. Buy their lunch
I don’t fully understand why this is such a blessing, but it is. Even after I was doing fine financially, this gesture was still a very powerful reminder that my friend was looking out for me. I would recommend that you take your friend to lunch at least once as soon as possible and pay for it. Especially if they are unable to get a job for a while, continue to do so. One interesting though might be that if you are a leader in the company, you might consider small budget line that allows some of the remaining staff to do this over the next few weeks. Obviously, if you are at the point of lay-offs, even a small budget line like that might send a bad message, so you would have to measure that… and so long as it isn’t abused, I think litte things like this could be a powerful deterrent to the almost unavoidable negative feelings that can grow even in the best of lay off situations. Others have told me that it meant more when people are willing to sacrifice paying for lunch out of their own pocket.
3. Let them know how you miss them personally
And that you believe in them. Obviously, the team that I left still needs to engage in rapport and team building events and trips. Now, they are just doing them without me. They still even engage in some of the traditions that I helped create for the team (I will mention the value of this later). Concerned about my feelings about their first trip together without me, most of them just didn’t talk about it; even though I knew about it, I appreciated their sensitivity. However, I was amazed at what was really by far the most encouraging. One of the men just stopped me at church and said “hey, man, I really missed you at the retreat. It just wasn’t the same without you.” I felt completely comforted and any mixed emotions were totally gone. It is advisable to let people know how you, personally, miss them. Now, what about how the company misses them (in your opinion)? Let them know about that too.
Maybe the company is doing fine. Maybe the company is even doing better in some regards. However, there are going to be ways that it isn’t. I think it is ok to let your friend know how you think the company, no matter how much they had to do lay offs, misses their contribution. Let them know how things are not better without them in the company. This doesn’t mean you have to bash the company with them; in fact, I recommend against that – it will only retard their own process. On the same coin, I think it is wise to also avoid saying in any audience that “things are better now after the lay offs” – it will likely get back to them if you do. In other words, let them know how the company, and especially their friends, miss them.
Be honest with them, to the degree you can appropriately, about what happened behind the scenes… and what continues to happen… and let them know when you just can’t and what you can’t talk about. They will appreciate it, and they will also understand the limitations. Nothing is better than being honest, by the way.
4. Tell them what it meant to you to work with them
I think this is best done in writing as well as in person. A handful of people also wrote notes to me detailing how much my investment in them and in the ministry meant. I can tell you that on discouraging days, those notes mean a lot. Let them know that they made a difference. Though this is a little bitter-sweet at times, it has also been encouraging to hear how my “fingerprints” were left where I worked. It reminds me of the sadness of not being there anymore, but much more importantly, it reminds me that I didn’t waste years of my life. I think letting people know is worth it.
5. Be a reference for them
My former boss, the CEO of the ministry, has done this brilliantly. He has sent clients to me, written a reference for me before I asked, and even offered to help me get speaking opportunities. This communicates that he believes in me and is willing to help me move forward in life. It is a tangible way to accomplish a lot of what I have already talked about. When someone I believe in has lost their job, I have made a habit of getting their resume’ and sending it out to anyone I think would be a possible contact for them along with my personal recommendation. The feedback has been that this is encouraging. Helping them make contacts and even helping get a job is a favor of super value.
6. Pray for them
Be faithful, in the midst of all the rest of these, to seek the Father’s blessing on their behalf, in the Name of the Son, through the power of his Spirit. It is important to remember that neither us nor our friends fall outside of God’s promises to never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Further, that all of it will work together for good for those of us who love Him and are called according to His purposes to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28,29). These truths do not remove from us the obligation and opportunity to shepherd our friends and those others that God places in our paths. Stay visibly and intentionally involved with them. Treat them as you would want to be treated. There is bound to come trouble in this life and it may be yours to face next. Godspeed as you try to be a blessing to your friend!