10 Things to Never Say to Someone Who Loses Their Job

Things to Never Say It seems like everywhere you turn these days there's concern about the economy. With unemployment rates running at 9 percent nationwide, there's a good chance you'll be crossing paths with someone who has lost their job. If it happens to someone you know, here's some quick guidelines for what to say and not say.


What to say

Tell them they'll be OK. Point out that J.K. Rowling, Jerry Seinfeld, Robert Redford and Lance Armstrong all got fired. It opened up the chance for them to become the amazing successes they did.

Explain to them that life is about finding the right fit. That job wasn't it. Now they get to find what is. And with technology today, it's never been easier to learn about new opportunities and become an expert in those areas. It can be done without going back to school, and it can be done quickly.

Let them know if they had to get let go, this is the time. In most states people can get 99 weeks, which is almost two years of unemployment compensation, while they find that right fit. Inspire them to view that as quite a gift, and to use it wisely.

Focus on the positive, listen to them, and boost their emotional state by reminding them of things they have accomplished when they set their mind to it. Those same attributes are what is needed now.

You can also help them reframe the severity of their situation. Yes they lost their job. No they aren't part of the 925 million people around the world who go to bed hungry each night.


What not to say

In general, don't say things that create more stress for the person. Referencing how many other people you know who are also laid off, or how bad the job market is, or how long your friend(s) have been out of work, will only make the situation worse. It's also not a good idea to assign blame. Telling them it was their fault, or telling them the company is to blame doesn't accomplish anything useful. It just creates anger, or regret -- neither of which is going to help the situation.

The situation is what it is. Lousy or not, it's now up to them to get back in the game, and a negative attitude is only going to hurt their chances of doing that.


Ten things to definitely not say

No matter how funny you think they would sound, stay away from these comments.

  1. I can't believe they waited this long to let you go.
  2. You had a job? It seemed like you were always at home./
  3. It could be worse; this is only the second-worst job market this century. It could have happened to you during the Great Depression.
  4. I know you're sad, but it's not like you were that good at it anyway.
  5. McDonald's is hiring.
  6. This is bad for most people. Given your skills, it's catastrophic.
  7. To be honest, most of us were amazed you even got the job to start with.
  8. I bet now your boyfriend/girlfriend will leave you and something else bad too. These things always happen in threes.
  9. I hear they're looking for call center people in India.
  10. Don't worry, I have a new recipe for ramen noodles you're going to love.

At the time it happens, getting laid off is not a life highlight for most people. It's also not the end of the world. Millions of people have experienced it and went on to find something better. Remind the person you're talking to that they can, too.


Next: The Faces of Unemployment



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