How to Support a Retired Colleague and What to Say

  • Workplace communication expert Carrie Skowronski says there’s a right way to reach out to a lost colleague.
  • She says that asking them questions about their next steps would not stress them out.
  • To show your support, get in touch, follow up via email or text, and tap a shared experience if you have one.

Your company has joined many other companies in layoffs, and while your job is safe, you’ve had to watch your close colleagues fall from the ranks. Now your brain is looking for ways to show them in their time of need.

While you may be struggling with the “right” thing to say to someone who is recently unemployed, the most important thing is to support them with compassion and sensitivity in this sudden career transition.

Human resources and workplace communications expert Carrie Skowronski shared with Insider what to say and do — and what not to say and do — to someone who’s been laid off or fired, and the email or text template to express your condolences. express.

1. Don’t be too positive or ask, ‘What’s next?’

Although they may arise from good intentions, overly positive doses – comments like “Look on the bright side!” — almost never has the desired effect and someone who is unsure of the next move will look deaf.

It is also important not to pressure them to show how they are feeling or their plan for the future. Your immediate instinct may be to ask, “What are you going to do?” “Are you going to be okay?” or “What’s next for you?” Your colleague is probably already thinking about these questions, and if you separate yourself from your own concerns, they may become more emphasized.

“Don’t put them on the spot so you have to be comfortable now with you in their the time of need. Instead, leave unhelpful questions at the door (or in your drafts),” Skowronski said.

2. Don’t assume you know how they feel

It is extremely difficult to predict how people will cope with the shock of losing a job. Although losing a job can be scary and stressful, some people may feel relieved to be in a role at a company that was no longer a positive work experience for them.

“Empathy isn’t about feeling bad for someone, it’s about holding space and allowing others to experience a range of emotions,” Skowronski said. Whatever feelings arise, commit to validating your partner exactly where they are right now. If they express disappointment, allow them space to express those negative feelings.

Something as simple as, “I’m sorry. I know this is incredibly difficult and coming at a bad time,” can go a long way to making people feel seen and heard, added Skowronski.

On the other hand, if your partner is thrilled to have new freedom to do things like enjoy a mid-day spin class, visit a museum without crowds, or spend quality time with their kids, don’t need to steal that joy from them. by forcing a discussion on the burden of job hunting.

3. Tap into a shared experience

Since job loss is such a common experience, another way to show compassion is to tap into your sense of “humanity,” Skowronski said.

Are you laid out for yourself? Don’t be afraid to share that experience and make your colleague feel less alone. Skowronski suggested an opportunity to broaden the conversation by saying, “Let me know if you want to talk to someone who’s been through it and understands.”

When it’s time to actually have this conversation, “Be sure not to compare your experience or try to get your colleague to agree with your own layoff story,” Skowronski added.

4. Appreciate the value they add

It’s normal for you to feel self-conscious and question your competence after losing your job, no matter the circumstances. Acknowledge what your co-worker did and give examples of how they helped you or demonstrated a valuable skill. They will be left with some much-needed validation and an opportunity to look back on their tenure with satisfaction and closure.

5. Start the conversation over a message

Email or text is a great place to start when contacting someone who has lost their job. This is what it would look like:

Hi [name of colleague],

I am so disappointed to hear this news. I want you to know that I have come to appreciate yours expertise and learned a ton from our partnership. I’m just a text message away if you ever want to grab a coffee or need an audiobook. When you feel ready for your next opportunity, I would be happy to connect you with anyone in my network.

speak soon,

[Your name]

6. Follow-up

Losing a job may be a single event, but recovery and moving on is a gradual process, and people still need care and support weeks and even months later as emotions sink in and out.

To be an ongoing source of support for your colleague, Skowronski suggested shooting a short check-in message, such as:

u0026quot;Hey there! You are on my mind. How are you today?

is the key word here today — because the feelings after losing a job will be progressing day by day, and gauging how your colleague feels at this time will help you support them better.

Networking is key to getting through a tough time in your career. You may not have all the answers someone is looking for after losing their job, but your genuine support can go a long way.

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