Poll – You’ve Kept Your Job, But How to Handle Your Colleagues Who Didn’t?

Layoff Etiquette: You're OK But Your Coworker Got Laid Off | CorporetteWe live in scary times. Every day there are thousands of people laid off, from law firms and banks and every company imaginable. The Wall Street Journal tells us that young women are more vulnerable to layoffs. If you’re slightly lucky, your company is ‘fessing up to the fact that the layoffs are economy based, and not performance-based firings. If you’re VERY lucky (or perhaps indispensable to your company) you’ve survived the layoffs and cuts — for now, at least. Our question today is one we’ve never even had to consider before — what is the appropriate way to deal with the colleagues who didn’t survive this round of cuts? (And by colleagues, we mean someone who never rose to the level of “friend” with you — you never hung out with them on a one-on-one basis, but you were friendly with them in the office and would acknowledge them with a happy wave if you saw them across the room at a public event, but not necessarily go over to say hi.) They may be the “walking dead” — allowed to keep their jobs for 3 months, ostensibly, to look for another job — or they may already be out the door but still coming to social events with other co-workers, like baby showers — but in both cases you’re still seeing these people. How do you handle? What do you say?

layoff etiquette


Photo credit above: My old office, all packed up, originally uploaded to Flickr by yksin. Note: The editors of Corporette have no idea why the photographer packed their office up, and do not intend to imply that the person was fired, laid off, or otherwise terminated from their position.


  1. What do people think about addressing the situation head-on and saying “I’m so sorry to hear about the layoffs. You’ll definitely be missed.” Seems less awkward than dancing around it or pretending it never happened, but too forward?

  2. In the 4 months I was recently given to look for a job from my law firm, I experienced a range of emotions. Never, however, did I suffer the embarrassment of someone discussing my layoff before I brought it up myself. Let your laid-off colleague control the flow of this information. She may be feeling strong, but your bringing it up could ambush her emotionally. She’s dealing with a lot of things. Give her the power to choose if, when and how to share things.

  3. “new cookies”?! Really, Corporette?

  4. LOL, jojo — At one of our jobs they would bring out a a tray of Nabisco cookies twice a day — whenever there was a new kind of cookie people would comment on it in the coffee room. But hey — c’mon — who ISN’T talking with random people about the new Oreo Cakesters? (Or whatever.)

  5. When I got laid off, they laid off about 5 other people in my department. It was really sad. My boss wasn’t even there.

    Then I ran into a few of them at a wedding, and two of them completely avoided me. It was like they had on idea who I was. Like I was just some random person that was friends with their coworkers. They were people I had spoken with every day!!

    People are so weird sometimes.

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