Losing your job is such a weird place to be. And right now, it’s not a terribly unique place to be. After all, those of us who have been laid off are counted by the thousands and reported on the evening news daily. Every one of you has been touched by the unemployment crisis this year, either having been laid off yourselves, knowing a close friend or family member who has suffered that fate, or you may even have waited by the phone for “the call” to find out the status of your job and received good news.
Unfortunately, many of us did not receive good news on the end of that call, but it doesn’t stop people from opening up their big mouths to barf heaps of advice on our well-worn shoes. To be clear, I was on the opposite side of this phenomenon a year ago when one of my best friends and coworkers was laid off from our Big Pharma company. Looking back I remember trying to maintain our relationship by calling her daily and attempting to keep her up to date on the craziness she no longer had to deal with. Did she care? No. Was I able to understand that? Nope.
Now that I’m on the receiving end of these phone calls, I realize how incredibly stupid these conversations can be. There is absolutely no way for someone else to know how hard it is to lose my job… yet at the same time I have these moments of sanity where I can look back and actually be glad for the lay-off. Still, no level of sanity and understanding makes me ready to accept that phone call when you’re complaining about how frustrating that same job is. Thanks, but sitting at home, eating Ben & Jerrys by the pint, and scouring the internet while desperately seeking a job doesn’t exactly put me in the position to feel bad for you and your job woes.
So today this jerky guy came to take away my company car. In the process of finalizing the paperwork, he attempted to “encourage” me with tales of all the other reps whose cars he’s taken… and the fabulous new jobs they have. Dude, you just confirmed I don’t even have another car as a backup and you have the nerve to tell me those stories? Not. Helping.
Going back to my friend who was laid off last summer… Now that I’m on the receiving end of this, I know I made some monumental blunders in how I dealt with that challenging situation. Thankfully, we’re still as close as ever, but I think that’s largely due to her ability to forgive the multiple times I unknowingly put my exceptionally large feet into my even bigger mouth. (Yes, that’s a line from Friends.) For that I’m grateful. And I’ll be forgiving of the stupid stuff other well-intentioned people say to me, but there are some comments that just must not be repeated.
So, in light of that I’ve decided to create a list of THINGS I DON’T NEED while looking for a job. And yes, these have ALL happened to me, most have happened more than once, and in amazing displays of thoughtlessness many of these have been combined single conversations resembling a Blazing Tour of Impudence.
1. Don’t call me to complain about your new territory. Especially if said territory consists of MY OLD TERRITORY that you took over when I was laid off.
2. Don’t complain about your company car. Don’t do it. Just shut up.
3. If I wanted to watch the evening news and hear stories about the thousands of people out of a job, I would do it on my own. It’s not helpful for you to call me from your company car, on your company phone, say “I understand what you’re going through” and clarify that your genius understanding comes from a nightly news special. You do NOT understand and that is Not. Helping.
4. “I’m praying for you.” Don’t say it unless you really are. Otherwise it’s just an empty platitude. I believe in prayer as much as – if not more than – any other person, but don’t say it if you don’t mean it and aren’t really going to do it.
5. “Wow, it must be nice to have all that free time.” It would be nicer to have a job, thanks. And if you’re so jonesin’ for free time, take some vacation.
6. “Sometimes I wish they’d laid me off, too.” Why would you even say that to me? Yeah, collecting severance is nice, but you do realize that ends at some point, right? Then what? If you know of some other super-fantastic job out there, share it with ME. You know, the one who actually NEEDS a job!
7. Laid off or Fired? Someone posted this to my Facebook wall (not asking me the question, but clarifying how annoying it is to be asked that question), and while no one has directly asked me that question, I completely understand the sentiment. I am very quick to explain to new folks that I was laid off before they could even wonder if the other were true.
8. “The grass is always greener!” “Where there’s a will, there’s a way!” Gee, thanks for the practical advice and astounding show of moral support. What do these things even mean?!
9. “So have you found something else yet?” Don’t you think I might have mentioned that? I’m not one of those strange people who hangs on to good news until the last possible second. If I found a job I’d probably be doing it… not updating my facebook status 17 times a day.
I’m sure there are more that could be added to this list. In fact, I’m positive in the next three days some well-meaning soul will make the dumbest comment I’ve heard yet. But for now, there’s the list.
So what can you do when a friend or family member loses their job? Be supportive! Understand that they’re suffering a kind of loss. It’s not a death – I realize that! – but there are some similarities to how it’s handled. Such as, a time of anger, a time of denial, a time of stunned silence. There are stages to the grief of job loss just as there are stages to losing a loved one. And sometimes, whether or not you loved the job has nothing to do with it. It’s just a painful mess, truly.