A rash of layoffs in the media biz in recent days has reminded me of my own abrupt exit from sweet, sweet Salaryland.
I feel bad for the bereft, whether they were new hires setting out on their journalistic adventures or old hands like myself. But there’s not much I can do for the jobless except to assure those who are feeling raw that the sting will fade. You may be broke as hell by then, but at some point you’ll wake up and realize it really was about them not you.
What I can do is disperse some gentle advice on what NOT to say to the recently laid off.
5. Any sentence beginning with the words “You should.” So, “You should have taken that job you interviewed for last summer,” Nope. “You should have specialized in (list subject name here).” Nope. “You should have sucked up to X more.” Nope, nope, nope.
4. Ditto sentences beginning with “You shouldn’t.”
3. “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to you.” No, no it isn’t. Yes, a person can survive being laid off, can learn from it, may bounce right into a new job, may claw their way into an entirely different line of work they end up liking much better. No, suddenly being left without financial stability and sans health care still isn’t as bad as falling ill or having someone you love become seriously ill. But being escorted out of the building at the orders of a company you’ve dedicated months, years, decades, of your life to absolutely bites and that is all there is to that.
2. “Everything happens for a reason.” I can feel my teeth grinding just typing that. Not all of us believe that some cosmic force has drawn up a detailed road map to our lives. Bonus tip: If you are on the receiving end of this platitude, here’s a response that I found worked quite well. “Yeah, and the reason is I got royally screwed.” Except I didn’t say screwed.
1. “Say, too bad about what happened. Can you give me your replacement’s email address? (smiley face)” Yeah, I know, you’re thinking surely someone wasn’t as crass as to send you an email like that, Michelle? And you’re right. I didn’t get one of these charming requests. I got half a dozen.
Although in all fairness not all of them had smiley faces.
P.S.: Want to know the Six Best Words to say to the Recently Laid Off?
“Let me buy you a drink.”