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What to Say When a Co-Worker Is Laid Off

Watching a co-worker pack up after being laid off is saddening for those workers that made it through layoffs. Employees across most industries in the US are experiencing this solemn situation, and we should be prepared with what to say when someone we worked with gets a pink slip, so that we don't unintentionally come off as insensitive colleagues. See my tips for how to respond when you're told a co-worker will no longer be on payroll when you


  • If you were close with the person, then you should react as a friend would. Go beyond condolences and let the person know how much you will miss her, and ask if there's anything you can do to help take her mind off things. Because this person is still your friend even though she's not a co-worker, tell her you're there to listen when she needs to vent.
  • Just work acquaintances, not exactly friends? Acknowledge the situation, don't ignore it. You might feel awkward that you'll still be getting a regular paycheck when the other person is dreading her job search, but she's probably not thinking along those lines and will appreciate a supportive gesture. Simply tell the person she will be missed and wish her best of luck. Nothing sappy, just be professionally sincere. Only ask for her contact information if you really want it, but don't feel compelled to get your old co-worker's personal email address.
  • So, you're happy to see the person go? It probably goes without saying, but try not to gloat. It might be easy to ignore the person completely if you work for a large company, but if you work in close capacity to the co-worker, then it's harder to avoid eye contact. Be a good sport — smile and say good luck.
  • Have you had to say goodbye to co-workers lately?


Join The Conversation
JEJJessica JEJJessica 8 years
* sorry meant to say hard situation for Rasputin's comment and I don't think it'll matter what she says or does to relieve tension.
JEJJessica JEJJessica 8 years
It's sad. My fiance got laid off yesterday (along with 30% of the company -- 80% in his division) and one of the things that really helped him is that all of his supervisors that didn't make the decision came by and gave him hard copies of all the products he'd produced at the firm, gave him strong recommendations, and offered him insight to a possible lead that wasn't quite his career path previously. Everyone in my industry is experiencing and mainly it's not something anyone did and it's usually an equally hard decision for the company owners as for the recipient when they are having to do more than 'trim the fat' as some call it. as for being trained by someone above you, i would be up front and deal with the coworker honestly. you sound apologetic and just let that come across, that is going to be a hard decision no matter what.
Rasputin Rasputin 8 years
I have a question - what does one say when a co-worker who is a friend (but not that close) is laidoff and now you get promoted into their position and have to get trained by them? AWKWARD!! Any advise? Training is to start in two weeks! (The co-worker doesn't know yet...)
booglass booglass 8 years
Getting laid off sucks. When this happened to me people avoided me like the plague b/c they feared reprisals from boss. The lay off was an indirect message to my ugly. But feeling like people acknowledged my work would have left me feeling less bitter.
seven7 seven7 8 years
I'm surprised this is even an issue. My company does their layoffs in a way that we pretty much don't see the person getting laid off when it happens. We've also been asked to take long lunches and leave work before so the people could come and gather their personal belongings without anyone there.
cubadog cubadog 8 years
Skigirl that is not why I was laid off. My VP was very hoenst with me and I knew it was coming. He told me to stay home so I could spend my time networking and looking for a job in the privacy of my own home.
xoclirpa xoclirpa 8 years
I just recently had a good friend of mine laid off in our office. While I was very sad to see her go, I was a little relieved that it wasn't me. I talked to her about this and told her how guilty I felt for even thinking it but she reminded me that she was going to be ok and she even told me that she was relieved that it was her and not me that was let go. She's newly married and I am a single she knew how much stress it would be on me. I made sure to have a luncheon for her and got her a very nice gift certificate to a photo shop since she is going to be starting her own photography business.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
i think that this is something that we've all had to deal with and it's really hard and painful. one of my great friends just got laid off and i didn't know what to say. my fiance is a recruiter so i offered to pass along her resume to him to see if he could help since i'd love it if he could - but other than that - i don't know what the right things to say are. i think that it's key that you shared these with us knowing what kinds of troubling times are still ahead
gemsera gemsera 8 years
Wow did I miss some massive sugar news or something? I think its important to say something, anything, as they probably wont remember WHAT you said (unless it was nasty) but that you said something and it helped.
catewithaC catewithaC 8 years
I was recently laid off, and I wish some of my former colleagues had read this. Probably the worst reaction I've received is asking work-related questions, like "Where did you save XX?" or "Where were you with YY?" How insensitive! I have had other great co-workers handle it brilliantly.
nancita nancita 8 years
These are great tips, and timely. Another thing I would add is to offer to keep an eye out for job listings and other opportunities. I think it's sort of what they say when anyone suffers any tragedy: It's most important just to say something, not ignore it and pretend it didn't happen.
skigurl skigurl 8 years
cubadog - maybe you were laid off because you didn't go into the office all month?
cubadog cubadog 8 years
I am friends with our VP and I was the one laid off on Halloween although I did not go into the office all month. I stop into the office because my friend is helping me find a new position and I have to say being the person let go that people need to not avoid the topic guess what you can still say hi to me. Plus you all should be very afraid!
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
I usually avoid them like the plague.
foxie foxie 8 years
Wow, what an appropriate topic for the TeamSugar gals to discuss right about now!
bellaressa bellaressa 8 years
Thanks so much Savvy. I have not seen this at work but I have many friends, acquaintances, and family that have lost their jobs and I believe this may help.
skigurl skigurl 8 years
hahahah "happy to see the person go?" haha that would be such a bittersweet moment
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