Imagine that on one scorching hot Texas day, you stride into the office a man on a mission. You head straight to your coworker’s desk to find out if she got all of those mindless tasks you needed done ASAP taken care of. You walk up to her in a manner clearly showcasing that you mean business.
You then say, with clear authority and dominance, “Hey, did you manage to get that report done? If not it’s completely okay, I know you’ve been busy” (side note: you’re a huge pussy). Turns out this sweet angel had gotten the report done, but then informs you that tomorrow is going to be her last day and that she has been “let go.” You’re then thrust into one of the most awkward professional experiences, the one-to-two minute conversation with someone who just got fired. Every situation is different, but the conversation breaks down the same, so don’t make it worse than it has to be.
1. Don’t Over-Apologize
They know it sucks, you know it sucks. There’s no need to continually show how sorry you feel for this unemployed bastard by continually making them feel like you wish you could give them some sort of charity. A quick, “Ah, I’m sorry, that’s a shame, best of luck” will suffice. Don’t be the crying gymnast from Jerry Maguire because that now former coworker of yours knows that you’re going to be perfectly normal when you go talk to Bob Sugar in the next room. They know you’re sorry, but not end-of-the-world sorry. Don’t act like your dog just died when really it’s more like you lost your favorite pen.
2. Don’t Over-Compliment
Again, overdoing it just makes it worse. You can let them know that you enjoyed working with them, or thank them for helping you out that one time where they sort of helped you out. Don’t go into a monologue about how they were the glue that held this office together, and that you’ve never seen anyone as good at what they do as them.
Don’t bullshit a bullshitter. They got fired for a reason, and if they were actually that damn good at their job, it probably means they were a massive dick so there’s no reason to compliment the hell out of them anyways. If they were good at their job and aren’t a massive dick, it likely means that the move was financial and your name is next on the chopping block, so start packing your shit.
3. Keep Outrage to A Minimum
You’re starting to notice that when dealing with a laid off employee, moderation is key. This person just had all their life plans put on hold and are facing the Hunger Games of a job market. You don’t need to turn that spark into a blazing inferno of rage by discussing how this company is out of its damn mind for doing this, that your boss is an idiot, and that you can’t believe you’re still working for a company like this.
They had their reasons for letting them go. It sucks, but it’s life. And that’s still your boss, so even if he/she is a big asshole, you’re still stuck with them so don’t cause a commotion. This already-pissed off newly unemployed person might focus their anger on you for actually still being employed or try to talk you into quitting too. Don’t let some moment of pompous righteousness put you standing outside the local soup lines (nowadays that means having to cancel HBO).
4. Don’t Promise to Keep In Touch
Unless that was your workplace best friend, you’re never going to see this person again (except maybe via a couple pictures on Facebook if you even got that close). Don’t profess your desire to hangout really soon when really you don’t have their number and don’t want to risk losing out on the thirty seconds of your life it takes to add it.
If you truly feel bad about this poor jobless creature and really feel like you owe it to them to hang out, or at least offer, just remember that they probably didn’t like you that much in the first place. They’re only sharing this info with you because it’s their way of letting you know that they won’t be doing any of the other shit you’ve asked them, and they’re secretly glad that you won’t be eating the candy they keep at their desk every time they get up to take a piss. .
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