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7 things you should never say to a coworker who just got laid off

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By Allana Akhtar, Business Insider

  • When layoffs hit a company, they can be upsetting for employees who were close to the colleagues that got let go.
  • While you might be angry or upset, career experts warn against talking badly about your company.
  • Try not to diffuse the tension with humor or give unsolicited advice either.

Layoffs can devastate an entire organization. 

Employees who are let go might take months to get another job. The layoff can seriously alter their confidence, or put a dent in their finances. 

The colleagues left behind, though they keep their jobs, might face "survivor's guilt" and ask why they weren't let go. Or, they might feel angry at the way upper management handled the layoff. 

Whatever your emotions might be, career experts say you should avoid talking badly about the company after a layoff. Plus, you should avoid trying to diffuse the tension with humor or hand out unsolicited advice. 


"What was the conversation like?"

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"We were all going to go to the concert but we figured you wouldn't want to go anymore."

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If you remain friends with the laid-off colleague after they leave, try not to make assumptions about what they want or their financial situation in the aftermath of a layoff. While the laid-off coworker may well be tight on money, ostracizing them from social events without asking is unnecessarily cruel, said Cenedella.

"Making assumptions about what the person wants to do or how they're feeling as a result of the situation doesn't help," Cenedella said. "Don't make the decision for them."


"The person who laid you off is a total jerk."

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Having a close coworker get laid off can be an emotionally taxing situation for those who remain behind, Kerr said. Oftentimes, they feel just as angry at the company for firing their trusted colleague. Other times, the person who did not get laid off goes through "survivor's guilt," and questions why they got to remain.

All the confusion and mixed emotions might lead you to vent angrily about the company with your laid-off coworker.

But Kerr said to resist the temptation. Making the other person angry won't help them move on, and talking negatively about the company you still have to work at could have repercussions if your conversation gets out.

"Be careful picking sides and remember that even if it's someone who you consider a friend, chances are you don't know both sides of the story," Kerr said. "You need to manage your own feelings."


"Here's what you should do."

© AP Images

Offering advice might seem benign, but nobody wants to think about the arduous job-hunting process right after they get laid off, Kerr said.

If you do want to be helpful, you can tell the laid-off coworker you'll connect them with your professional network or refer that person to a position elsewhere. Before offering them advice, however, ask permission and avoid beginning the statement with "you should do..."

"I think that's a very supportive, positive thing to do, if you can genuinely offer advice in terms of next steps in what they should do," Kerr said.


"Oh my gosh, what are you going to do?"

© Getty Images

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