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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The "what not to say" list is just ridiculous. And the what to say list may be just as bad. Hey, look forward to 2 years of unemployment. And stop being so damn ungrateful, you fat slob...millions of people are going to bed hungry, so suck it up. But you have nothing to worry about if you have movie star good locks, elite athleticism or a one-in-a-hundred-million imagination or sense of humor. Seriously?

How about just telling the person they were a valued colleague (or friend) and will be missed. Best of luck and let me know if you need a reference. If you're friends, how about telling them to feel free to call after work hours some evening if they're feeling down and just need to talk.

October 01 2013 at 12:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I had the world's stupidest sales manager as a boss one time. She told me I "sold too much and demotivated her sales force!" In 40 years of sales that was by far the dumbest thing I had ever heard come from a "sales manager's mouth." In all the decades of selling I had done the sales managers wanted others to observe and learn from my skills. Not this stupid woman. And, by the way, she had the worst customer service and sales skills I had seen in many years. She was always focused on non-job related conversations (ie) American Idol or bad-mouthing her mother-in-law. Amazing who some companies promote to sales management positions!

May 03 2013 at 9:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kay Parent

lol.. yes people DO say this stuff. my boss said a lot of it to me, after 10 years of working there. *none of your co workers wanted to work with you* *The customers disliked you* *you're not cut out for retail* (excuse me? i been in the business 20+ years before i even joined your lousy place...) things like that. yes, people do say this stupid ****, especially bad bosses

April 07 2013 at 3:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jamie Mitchell

This is the stupidest article I think I have ever read. Is this guy a total idiot? Would ANYBODY actually say ANY of those things he cautions against? Who would be that stupid or heartless?

This is just a pointless "Top 10 Things..." that are popping up all over the Internet. They are just headline catchers and there is absolutely NO substance to them whatsoever.

However, I've got to say, THIS one is – by far – the most ridiculous and idiotic I have EVER seen. This author ought to be embarrassed, but if he was stupid enough to write this drivel, then I doubt he has enough sense to KNOW to be embarrassed.

Oh, and one other thing: AOL totally SUCKS to make people give them personal information to be able to comment here. I just wanted to comment on this story; that doesn't AT ALL mean that I want a lifetime of AOL sending me their CRAP by email. Quite a desperate move by a dying corporation.

This stupid story and forcing us to accept their spam just demonstrates why AOL is completely irrelevant and pointless. They could at least have the decency to die with dignity.

December 14 2011 at 7:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jamie Mitchell's comment
Kay Parent

lol.. yes people DO say this stuff. my boss said a lot of it to me, after 10 years of working there. *none of your co workers wanted to work with you* *The customers disliked you* *you're not cut out for retail* things like that. so, yes, people do say this stupid ****, especially bad bosses. he could have benefited from reading this. oh and my responses to him were (excuse me? my co-workers are friends of mine, the customers spend time telling me how happy they are to see me cuz some of the other cashiers are so grumpy, unfriendly & slow AND i been in the business 20+ years before i even came to work for you... and why did it take 10 years for you to say anything? moron.)

April 07 2013 at 3:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you're reading this, stop. Go directly to Google, search for "platitudes and why they suck," and read the article of that title by Mary T. Kelly. Strelecky's suggestions are nothing but glorified platitudes. I had to double check to see if he really did say, "No they aren't part of the 925 million people around the world who go to bed hungry each night." Talk about cliche! They may be technically accurate, but...is one of his "several acclaimed books" entitled "How to Make Enemies and Alienate People?" Facebook needs a "Dislike" icon!

You can keep your pink-slipped friends speaking to you, or at least reduce the likelihood of being told to go to hell, by disregarding Strelecky's "what to say" advice.

I did learn one thing from this article: if John Strelecky can be a #1 Best Selling author, so can I!

April 24 2011 at 10:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Is it just me or does this article seem useless to anyone with common sense? Could I get paid to write an article listing the Top 10 things not to say to an amputee?

10. Did you hop here all by yourself
9. You weren't kidding when you said gas cost an arm and a leg
8. Didn't you Co-star in Forrest Gump
7. You must be awful at Rock Paper Scissors
6. Aren't you the drummer from Def Leppard
5. Your argument makes no sense, you clearly don't have a leg to stand on
4. Do you know the kid from My Left Foot
3. Well you surely won't set any records in the breast stroke
2. How do you go to the bathroom with that hook for a hand
1. Now all you need a parrot on your shoulder and an eye patch to complete the ensemble

That will be $400 USD please. Thanks AOL!

March 23 2011 at 5:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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