It's a rare person who doesn't know someone who has lost a job in this recession. Sometimes, it 's the person staring back in the mirror.
Ironically, I've spent a lot of time reporting on how the worsening economic situation affects people on a human level, and last week, our office got some first-hand experience when about half of our colleagues in the West Coast office of our network finished their last day of work.
If you've been there, done this, then you know: being passed over for being laid off leaves one with a strange combination of relief and guilt. Relief, obviously, because you still have a job. Guilt because the person next to you doesn't.
So what can you do? Some thoughts:
· Do sympathize. Be the strong shoulder, the willing ear, etc, when people need to worry aloud or vent. It's temporary, but it helps.
· Do offer to help in any way you can to be useful. Maybe that means helping a colleague tie up loose office ends. Could be returning office equipment to wherever it goes so she/he doesn't have to. Packing up books, knicknacks and personal effects.
· Don't get into a management-bashing contest. For one thing, the manager who announced the layoff to your colleagues may have had a hand in sparing you. For another, you're going to have to work with that person after everything settles. Better to keep things cordial. Or at least neutral.
· Do pass on job leads and contacts, if you have them, so your laid-off co-workers can get themselves back into the market. Make calls, write letters of recommendation if you're asked to and if you can truthfully say "X was a great salesperson. Our clients loved her because she really paid attention to their needs, and the company is going to be poorer now that she's leaving. If times had been better, she wouldn't be."
· Do help to organize something outside the office that says "we'll miss you" in a way they can enjoy: potluck lunch; a night where you all go dancing or to a ball game; a group barbeque or a roller-skating party…. like that.
· Do find a way to stay in touch if you're really friends. Most of us spend so much time at work, sometimes our jobs become who we are. Remind folks that this isn't the case by e-mailing, calling to see how they are.
NEXT: How you exit makes a difference.
Been laid-off? Have advice for the rest of us? Write email@example.com. Remember that your letter, or parts of it, may be shared unless you request that we not.
Karen Grigsby Bates is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).
is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).