How to Act Around Laid Off Coworkers

Updated on June 10, 2020
Max Dalton profile image

Max holds a B.S. in mass communications from SIU, an M.A. in communications from U of I, and is pursuing an MBA from Webster University.


Being one of the last people standing when all of the coworkers around you are getting laid off can be awkward for you and scary for the individuals receiving their walking papers. This article walks through what you can do to help them both work through the pain of getting laid off and get pointed in the right direction.

You need to give coworkers around you who have been laid off plenty of space and the freedom to vent.
You need to give coworkers around you who have been laid off plenty of space and the freedom to vent. | Source

Let Them Vent

Give them their space and let them vent if they have to. They are going to be going through a range of emotions between when they find out initially and their final day. The gamut of emotions may range from anger, fear, and sadness, among others. Serve as a sounding board, and work to be empathetic to their point of you. However, if someone does sound unstable or like could potentially do something harmful to either themselves or the people around them, don't hesitate to escalate the situation to your manager.

Networking Help

Offer to help out with networking assistance in any way you can. If you're a member of an organization associated with your line of work, offer to take that individual to a meeting to meet some new people. Additionally, offer to put the person in touch with any good recruiters you've worked with over the years, or any friends you have who work in the same field that may be able to help. You can also make yourself available to review the person's resume. Finally, pass along any jobs you notice where you feel like they may be a good fit.

Pointing coworkers who have been laid off to any good recruiters you know is a great way to help them start moving in the right direction.
Pointing coworkers who have been laid off to any good recruiters you know is a great way to help them start moving in the right direction. | Source

Don't Rub It In

Do not voluntarily start talking about how you're glad you survived that wave of layoffs. Your coworkers may have been taken out by the first round and you may be up next. It's alright to be silently grateful you still have a job, but it is not acceptable to discuss it unless someone else brings it up, and even then you need to tread very lightly. Also, don't be the person that delivers the news of people getting laid off to other departments. Your coworkers may want to keep that private for a period of time, and if word gets back to them that you've been sharing that information without their approval, you may have created an even more awkward and uncomfortable situation for everyone until they are gone.

How to Be Powerful When You're Fired

Don't Push Too Hard

Don't forget that even though they are on the way out, they will still be expected to do their job until the last day. While they may find themselves with more free time as their responsibilities get transitioned to other teams, that does not mean you should stop by their cube and ask why a specific task isn't done if it's a little bit late. Again, they will be going through a lot of emotions and also likely working to find another job, so if you can live without the piece of work you were waiting for, it may be best to live without it. Alternatively, because that person is leaving the company anyway, you may be better served looking for someone else to do it.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2017 Max Dalton


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