Well you probably know it by now. You bump into somebody casually, and ask them how things are, between wondering why they are round about at 2pm as you thought they'd a really busy job. "Well," says your acquaintance, "actually I've been let go and have had no luck finding another job." Gosh. You were not really expecting that one. And don't know what to say. So you brush some kind of postive comment up, and are shocked when suddenly your pal gets visibly perturbed, or just makes some rapid excuse and leaves. Well here is a tip on how to avoid this kind of embarrasing scenario.
1. Don't trivialise or try to dress up the unemployed persons misfortune as something great. Don't try to tell somebody that its a blessing in disguise (yes its wonderful when your income drops by nearly 70% and you have to move back in with your mum at the age of 37) or that it might be "for the best." Thats just not understanding the very severe consequences this might be having right now for them.
Secondly, a lot of people, contrary to folklore, don't get big payoffs or any at all. Some people might not even get their last pay cheque if the emmployer went bust. On the other hand, those who have had a modest package might still be reeling and cover up their real feelings, especially under the surprise scenario of having the equivalent of the price of a modest new car in the bank before reality kicks in. Let them, but don't gloss it up either.
Say Instead: "Sorry to hear about that, it must be terrible for you right now."
Do: If you have free time, invite them round for a chat. Its a huge hit going from working a 40 hour plus week to twiddling your thumbs. They might need somebody to listen to them even.
2. Don't dwell on the misfortunes of your own situation. Especially not if you work in a fairly protected public sector job. There is no comparison between losing your job and a pay cut of 10% or so. None at all. Don't even think about it. Don't talk about stuff like negative equity etc.
Say instead: "If I hear of anything going, I'll let you know - why don't you mail me your cv?"
3. And finally, don't make assumptions about your friends situation. So many people make big assumptions on the back of the little they know about a friends work and qualifications. For example there are loads of unemployed IT admins in Ireland right now who are basically bumped down because of the flood of graduates being taken onto WPP programmes (paid for by you the taxpayer) and the fact that they couldn't afford education, certification, or in a minority of places thought they were too special for all of that. Well don't be blase and tell you friend oh you are so qualified sure you will get something quickly. Actually a lot of even well qualified folks are finding it difficult right now.
Say instead: "I hope something turns up for you soon."
A lot of people might face major lifestyle changes as a result - one thing I think thats occuring a lot is tenants are moving back with families because of a major gap between real world rents and the maxmimum SWA will pay - much of what is in the SWA bracket is so substandard most normal people wouldn't be able to live in those hovels, so many many are finding themselves living back with mum at the age of 40 or so. This is very hard, especially if you've spent years living independently. Even more so if there are a few siblings whove also had to return to the nest. Don't whinge and moan if your friend is going to move a couple of hundred miles away about how much you will miss them - they are losing a lot more than just the few hours of company!
Don't be an ass. If there is a job going in your place, and the friend is suited, why not let them know? Ok fair enough if that person is likely to be a big disaster and unsuited to the job. I have one friend who is looking for work (not laid off but not happy in current role) who I simply would never refer for anything but a very routine role, plus she's extremely annoying. But don't be territorial for the sake of it in this environment. If there is a place going anyway its quite likely you might get a small pay out for bringing in their CV.
If there is something you can help out with, do. Practical stuff like help moving house etc is great and appreciated. Anything that saves people money will be very valuable.
Don't pressurise people or talk shit. One peer went off the rails on alcohol for example. Now the last he needs right now is somebody who is not in a similar position lecturing him. Leave him be for a while, then get somebody who is in a similar position to have a chat. If its really minor, don't mention it at all. They have far more to worry about. For example, an acquaintance sent me a really abusive text accusing me of being stupid because he got stuck because of ash cloud for a few days more than me - despite never having suggested things he came up with afterwards. Well guess who's right off my Christmas card list right now? Yeah. Crap like that goes doen like a hole in the head.
Don't get the "bill Cullen" mindset and convince yourself that its all the fault of unemployed people themselves for not "selling themselves" or "knocking on doors." Its an employers market right now and will take time for the workers to adjust. Likwise shut it on welfare cuts - right now there are many different scenarios and many people, especially those who were earning better than average salaries, are finding things hard. Bite your tongue.