I Didn’t Know What To Say to My Colleagues When They Just Lost Their Jobs

It had been long gloomy years for oil and gas industry, the oil price plunged down and no signs of going up to its peak value again. It seemed that the glory period of this business was over. We all knew and prepared that only a matter of time before the company would terminate a big number of employees.

Oil and gas business is a small world. One day we heard, one oil company which shared the same building with my company, just laid-off some of their employees.  Well, that was expected but the way they conducted the lay-off procedure was quite harsh for my personal standard.  On that fateful morning, the prospective to-be-laid-off employees were called to the HR office, told that they were fired and it applied immediately, meaning they had to leave the office right after that short visit to the HR office. They only had a few minutes to go back to their desk to take their personal belongings with them.

However, according to some colleagues, that kind of procedure was quite normal for some companies, so they were not surprised as I was. The lay-off program has been informed before, only no one knew when and who would be affected. Knowing the company culture, most of them already clear up their desk.

I couldn’t imagine if that thing happened to me. After more than ten years working in the same company, I have accumulated tons of junks on my desk, in my drawers and some under my desk.  The first thing came to my mind was to get rid of those junks.

Someone told me that the company where I work for is government related company, that kind of no-sweet-talk lay-off procedure would never happen as it would tarnish the government with a bad image. It would be done as humanely as possible. Losing a job is depressing enough, going through that unsympathetic treatment made you even lower.

Finally, the time came for   my company to do massive employee lay-off. We were informed that the notice of termination was sent on our HR computer systems, no hard copy letter as the company conduct paperless working policy. I knew my position was spared for the time being as I still involved in an on-going project. But still I was nervous when I type my keyboard to check the system and I was a relief when I didn’t find any notification.

When I finished checking and took my eyes from the computer screen, I realized some of the desks were vacant. My soon-to-be unemployed colleagues had to report to the HR office immediately as stated clearly on the notification.  Unlike the previous company, my company gave one week time for them to sort out all the necessary things before they totally were not allowed to enter the office.

During that one week, the office mood was so quiet, gloomy, and a bit sad for both the ones who stayed and the ones who had to leave. I felt sorry for them but I didn’t know the proper way to express my empathy for their unfortunate situation.  I was afraid a wrong choice of words would hurt them more. So I chose to say nothing.

Over three years later, when I am no longer working, I found an article on the internet about what to say and what not to say to someone who just lost their jobs.

According to the article, these are Things to says :

“I’ll keep my eyes for any job opening that might be a good fit for you.”

I was in the comfort zone for staying too long in the company for the  same job. I had no idea how to find a new job if, never regularly updating my CV. I was not capable to offer them that opportunity.

“Let me treat you to lunch so we can catch up.”

Yes, we had after office hour coffee and a little chit chat about uncertain future plans and promise to keep in touch. Thankfully with a Whatsup group, we still continue connected.

“Even though I know you’re scared, you’ll get through this and be just fine.”

I didn’t  have any idea to construct such encouraging statement like that.


Also, these are Things not to says:

“So, how are you gonna pay the bills.”

This was definitely off limit, unless the person was my close family member or my best friend, I wouldn’t discuss about money.


“OMG, I wish my company would fire me. I hate it there.”

I was bored to the bone with my job, really wanted to go. But I stayed because I need to stay longer to have more saving, in case I would be out of a job one day. But nobody in the office needed to know, especially the bosses.


I did nothing most of the time, but according to the article did nothing was the same as not having any concern and it’s awful.

I wish I would have known this that time. Offering a little support with encouraging words would lift their motivation to face an uncertain future. Things have happened but more importantly, I always take a lesson from my journey.

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