How to Handle Your Friend’s Job Loss

How to Handle Your Friend’s Job Loss
We all complain about our job, how tired we are, how bored, how busy, how unfair our boss is, how competitive the environment, yet at the same time we know that we are really lucky to have work and get a pay check. Someone you know is probably out of work at this very moment whether it is a neighbor, friend or family member – maybe it is your spouse. You tiptoe around the laid-off person not knowing how to interact, what to say or not say. Losing a job is a great stressor. A job loss is like a death, not a physical death of course, but the death of an identity. Most people don’t separate who they are from what they do, so when they are out of work, they feel invisible or like nothing at all. A stern inner critic whispers the word, “Failure.” Memories of old losses come to mind like being kicked off the team, not being asked out to the dance, or not getting the lead part in the school play. Old hurts get attached to this job loss.

Obviously, the focus is not on you, but how do you navigate this kind of loss? How can you help? First you have to accept that you are not responsible for everyone’s happiness. You do not possess a magic wand to change the situation. You need to have a healthy sense of who you are and what your role is here. If you offer too much sympathy, you are exuding a weak energy instead of support. Please do not feel guilty that you are working because this will darken the dynamics of the relationship where you absorb negativity and the other person senses your suppression and actually feels worse. You have a right to claim your joy as long as you don’t flaunt it. In fact, the latest research proves that happiness is contagious. Therefore help this person catch the wave of happiness by bringing him out to socialize with others – not just you! Form a “happiness club” with your friends and acquaintances to create happiness synergy.

Job Loss Etiquette
  • You have the ability to be a great listener. Just listening helps a grieving person unburden the heart. You don’t need to say a word. Simply listening to the person sharing his reality will help him feel better. Resist the temptation to interrogate and find out the missing pieces because you are curious.
  • You have great power to say something genuinely inspiring when asked for your opinion. Be careful not to hurl platitudes and proverbs such as “I’m sure you’ll find a better job real quick”. Don’t make false promises because when you don’t deliver, people feel worse, more isolated and resentful. People are not in the mood for unrealistic cheerfulness which can grate on their nerves. Perhaps, you have been laid off or fired in the past, and know how to regroup. Maybe you have read a study about the subject and can present the research. Or you know someone who can help this person find a new job or how to update skills to be more marketable.
  • You have fun and humor to offer. Just because someone has a problem, experienced a loss or is grieving doesn’t mean that he or she can’t laugh or have fun. Don’t dwell on the loss like you are watching a fire; instead suggest a fun activity you can do together. Exercise together to release stress, create empowerment and feel better. When you are laughing, playing or relaxing, great inspirations and solutions come to mind. Tease out the inner child who is playful and daring. It is difficult to find a new job when one is depressed and beaten.
  • You have movie therapy to offer. Check out films where the main character has lost his job and recovered like Russell Crowe in Cinderella Man. Watch the video together. Discuss it and see how the character finds his path. It happens to take place during the Great Depression.

For more information on managing your stress and reclaiming your life read my book, Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life. To listen to archived radio shows with guest experts visit Turn On Your Inner Light Radio Show

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