A friend of mine was recently let go from her job without warning. Naturally, she was devastated and humiliated, and only told her closest friends. She has of course had to address the firing with job recruiters as she kicks off her search for a new job, but has found some reactions to be insensitive.
The other day she bumped into an acquaintance while having a coffee. Immediately the other person asked why she wasn’t at work. When she explained that she had left the company, the person kept pressing for details. Finally, she had to explain that she’d been let go, which quickly shut him up. It was an awkward moment and he left shortly after.
Others, she says, either suggest she take jobs that have nothing to do with her chosen field or skills, or remark that the firing was the best thing that could have happened to her because now she can go traveling or start from scratch. She knows these people mean well, but says that this sort of talk feels patronizing.
As a civility and etiquette expert, I recommend not prying for information when someone mentions that they changed jobs or left their company. If they want to share the details, they will. Many people who have been fired may feel embarrassed or insecure about it, and likely want to keep it private. If someone close to you does reveal that they’ve lost their job, keep it between the two of you unless they indicate that they’re fine with it being out in the open. Focus on what will actually make your friend feel better. Does he or she need a job lead? A night out? A friendly coffee to cheer them up and take their mind off things?
Lastly, avoid the temptation to complain about your own job too much. Be grateful that you have a job at all!