Monday, January 31, 2011

Firings, Layoffs, and Demotions

The work arena is fraught with difficult and disappointing situations. People get fired, laid off, passed over for promotion, transferred against their will, and chewed out unjustly by the boss. In these situations nothing you can say will fix the problem, so it is important to mirror the person’s distress. Let him know that he isn’t alone, that he is, in fact, in good company. Reinforce the person’s good qualities. Don’t say, “Things will work out for the best,” or even worse, “I told you something like this would happen.” Don’t say that what happened to somebody else is even worse than what happened to him.
Instead, try one of these phrases:
“I’m so sorry you must go through this.”
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“This must be very, very tough for you.”
Do not indicate in any way that the unfortunate turn of events was predictable or even partially the fault of the injured party. If a colleague was denied promotion for what you believe to be very good cause, don’t launch into a lecture about the skills she needs to acquire or improve upon or tell her that somebody else was more qualified for the position. If the injured party says, “Don’t you think that this was rotten luck?” and you know luck had nothing to do with it, just say, “You must be really disappointed,” or some other phrase that lets her know you identify with her emotional state.

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