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Things not to say

Today is the last day of work for a friend who is very dear to me.  I’ve known him since he started his career.  We worked across the hall from each other and through the years have collaborated, strategized, hung out and horseplayed.  I learned a lot from him.  Eventually, he was relocated to a different site and I left for a better position at another company.  But we remained best friends.

His company was sold about a year ago.  Happens all the time.  Cuts were made.  Layoffs followed.  Tens of thousands of people  lost their jobs, including my friend.  Things just didn’t work out.

A couple of days ago, another former colleague of ours send me this list of things not to say to someone who has been laid off.  These tips are good advice.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to let people know that in this Mother of all Recessions, it’s not their fault.  They haven’t done anything wrong.  Their performance was most likely excellent.  But even when you know this intellectually, it’s hard to accept this blow to your ego, especially if you really like work and enjoy what you’re doing.

In these days of fear, uncertainty and dread, I find it difficult to believe that there are people who think that the recently unemployed have somehow brought this on themselves, that they don’t deserve unemployment insurance and that a job, any job, is preferable to nothing at all.  Somehow, it’s not enough for the Glenn Becks of the world to want to strip these people of support, they have to deprive them of their dignity and bring the condemnation of the country down on them as well.  It leads to misunderstanding of the nature of this Recession and insensitivity.  If you can’t say anything supportive, please say nothing at all.

Leaving it all behind is going to be hard.  Facing an uncertain future is going to be hard.  Scaling back is going to be really hard.  But I’ve made my mind up that my friend won’t have to face it alone.

Let’s stick by our friends.


99 Responses

  1. The recovery is about to be downgraded from 2.4 to 1.3 – apparently the “jobless recovery” doesn’t sell anymore. This anyd other news in tabloids today

    • Yes, and Krugman’s article today “This is not a recovery” calls for “no more sugar-coating.”

      THAT, from the biggest sugar-coater there was.

      Also, at Drudge, article titled “Anthen Blue Cross is allowed to move ahead with rate hikes” says California’s state insurance regulators have ok’d a 20% rate hike for Blue Cross, with Blue Shield to jump as much as 29%.

      It’s gonna get much worse, folks.

    • Summer of Recovery…………can’t you feel it.

    • I just frontpaged this economic news if you’d like to discuss those numbers there.

  2. They missed:

    “Can I have your parking space?”

    “I need somebody to mow my lawn every week”

    “Social Security benefits for orphaned kids pays better than unemployment”

    • That last one, did your ex tell you that?

      • Sometimes late at night when I worry about how the kids will pay for college I find myself pondering if I should get life insurance on myself and then just give in to carelessness.

        • *hugs votermom*
          Stop even thinking that.

          • It’s hard not to think that way some days. My gruesome twosome have student loans coming out of their every pore, and if I go, they will be able to pay it all off from my current insurance settlement. If I live for more than 5 years, not so much (term insurance only available till one is 65)

          • don’t even, as in I wouldn’t want anything to happen to y’all. Hugs to you too, HT.

        • I can relate. But always remember, they and you can find a way to make it through college, it will be hard. But being without a mother is life long and much more difficult. Money cannot replace a mother’s arms or her unconditional love. You are too valuable to them to ever go down that path.

          • exactly–they need us more. Nothing can replace a parent who cares.

          • OMG! Exactly! The value of a college education is decreasing, the value of parents who care that much about their kids and would do anything for them is immeasurable. Those kids will be able to adapt better to the worst economic conditions, with your help and the stable foundation you provide. Hang in there, you guys!

        • Your kids need you more than they need anything else.

          Don’t. Even. Think. They. Don’t.

      • Both my exhusband and I were part of the RIF statistics in banking in the mid 1980s. The 1990s were so great, that it seems odd to be back in that kind of economy. We both lost are second jobs out of graduate schools. Both of us were recruited away to those jobs by those companies from other jobs too.

  3. Having experienced a RIF, I probably heard most of these things too. It’s an uncomfortable place to be, on both sides. Kind of like comforting someone after a death – you know nothing you say is really going to help, but that human spirit in us feels compelled to try and offer support; even if you end up with foot in mouth disease. I’m sorry about your friend; the uncertainty is maddening. There are stages to this just like grief. The best advice I can offer is once he allows himself his well deserved pity party, he should establish a routine and a schedule. My son was only 3 at the time, which was actually a great help to me in keeping and maintaining some order in what seems like a descent into madness. Best of luck to him…let him know all your cyber contacts are sending out the positive vibes.

    • Thanks for that, dm. I’m sure good vibes are greatly appreciated by anyone who is laid off. It’s so much better than the people who act like rats abandoning a sinking ship and kicking everyone off the lifeboats so they can save themselves.
      That’s what Glenn Beck wants. He wants us to behave like selfish animals instead of civilized human beings.

    • Going back to school helps. Even if it’s not training for anything practical–a music or art course or two gives pride in new skills, makes new friends and provides some sympathetic company for several hours a week, and is just plain fun when not much else is.

  4. Last night I caught some scenes from the old movie “A Face in the Crowd”(1957). A RW senator and a power seeking TV crook were tackilng Social Security. The senator was saying that people in this country are addicted to protection – but it weakens the moral fiber. Daniel Boone didn’t need any protection!
    Some things never change.
    The international edition of the tabloids

    • Well, yes. But this time it’s a so-called “Democratic ” president appointing the “cut-SS-advocates” to a commission.

      Even Andy Stern (former head of SEIU, appointed by Obama to commission) supports privatizing of SS. (I watched the hearing where he said that).

      I suspect Stern supports a government bailout of under-funded union pensions instead, at the cost of YOUR Social Security.

      • it is no wonder the Dems wanted to throw out the “old coalition” and try to have a new latte liberal coalition. They wanted younger voters so they could destroy the social safety net without younger voters realizing in time that they are being suckered and hurting themselves.

        • Yep. They’ve lost the youth vote now, though.

          Gone—just like the Independents and the senior citizens.

        • Wow–I never thought about that. That maybe part of the reason for their ‘new coalition.”

  5. Your friend is very fortunate to have you by his side, RD. I’m so sorry this is happening.

  6. The Upper Crust are coming back from Nantucket, tanned, rested and with knives sharpened , the
    ” summer of recovery” is over

    #2 Do you know what you did to deserve it?”

    I had to stop reading at that one. You might as well ask the victims of a tsunami wave that question ….WTF

    Sorry about your friend RD.

  7. More hit-my-paycheck articles:

    From NYT yesterday: “AARP Says Brand-Name Drug Prices Up 8% in 2009.” Thank Obama’s behind-the-scenes deals with big pharma.

    From WSJ yesterday: “Credit Card Rates Climb,” explaining “levels hit nine-year high as new rules limiting penalty fees help fuel rise.” Thank Dodd’s behind-the-scenes deals with banksters: ok, we’ll stop fees, but in exchange, we want no limits on interest rates.

    Oh, and GDP for 2nd quarter revised DOWN to 1.6%. Just a year ago, it was supposedly 5%.

    All totally “unexpected,” of course.

    • I’m not a spokesperson for the industry but research is extremely expensive, the FDA doesn’t approve many drugs these days without a lot of data, lawyers are waiting for the first adverse drug reaction to cash in. What would you have them do?
      Just curious because people who complain about drug prices don’t seem to be particularly forthcoming with solutions.

      • I would have them negotiate cheaper group rates for the AARP crowd, possibly from Canada, especially for Medicare recipients.

        But Obama et al stopped that before any negotiation even began.

        I certainly understand the lawyers and “adverse reaction” issues. It’s the same reason so many doctors choose not to serve Medicaid; the recipients are extremely litigous, with a lot of help from their neighborhood community organizers.

        Negotiating group rates for Senior Citizens is not the same thing, though.

        • Solution enough?

          • Um, you still haven’t addressed how you intend to bring down the cost of research.
            I mean, unless you *like* the prospect of less research on potential cures for cancer, alzheimer’s, infections, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, etc, etc, etc.
            Up to you.

      • Quit spending more on marketing than on research!

        • Ok fine. No argument here.
          Now, what are you going to do about the FDA, patent expirations, class action lawyers, etc, etc, that make research extremely expensive?
          I don’t think people are getting it. The cost of discovering drugs is VERY expensive and getting more expensive all of the time. If you want new drugs, someone has to pay for the discovery of those new drugs.
          Until people start to address the patent expiration issues, the FDA issues and the class action lawsuit issues, the cost of drugs is going to continue to go up. Negotiating with the drug companies is not going to bring down the cost of discovering new drugs. They will continue to be expensive to discover and produce. That means companies make less profit, which is just hunky dory for you the consumer, but makes the jobs of the researcher less secure. The drug companies have to cut expenses somewhere. So, they try to do more with less. This is, of course, IMPOSSIBLE, but they will continue to do it anyway. Right now, no one is discovering new drugs. If you like the way things are going, then, fine, continue to whine about the cost of drugs. But please, don’t do it on this blog.

  8. Amongst the things not to say is “The Cow with the 310 million t*ts”
    and this is the thme of today’s DUdies edition

  9. Rarely mentioned in talk of unemployment, beyond the people who are laid off, are the people who are hounded out of a job. Work environments, in my experience working since 1960, started becoming openly hostile in the 1990s.

    My first and last layoff came in 1991 when my company closed the doors on my department in New Jersey letting go 75 people and reopening the department in Philadelphia with 25. At the time, the gratuitous nastiness was shocking.

    No more. I now know several people who have been hounded out of their jobs, all different levels of workers from management to line grunt. If you think being laid off is traumatic, try experiencing daily harassment, emotional torture, threats of firing without ultimately being fired, until the spirit can take no more and the person quits.

    And the number 2 question on your do not ask list: what did you do to cause this to happen? For these people, it is assumed that they did something to cause their plight. No unemployment, no sympathy,no justice. No institutional support (friends’ support is nice, but it doesn’t necessarily get you back on your feet). You basically have to lie about why you left your last job. The down time between employment is longer because the demoralization is deeper.

    May I also point out that, at least in my experience, the victims are predominantly women (of all ages) and men in their 50s and older.

  10. {{Riverdaughter}} I’m so sorry.

  11. the victims are predominantly women (of all ages) and men in their 50s and older.

    A friends’s husband was canned this week after 35 years . The comany brought his stuff to his house and dumped it in the drive way …when older men are fired , for them it’s simular to when a husband of many years tells the 1st wife, he’s found someone else . Your youth is spent only to hear ” and I never loved you”


    • wow, you’re right. You’re always so good with the analogies, paperdoll.

    • Right, ’cause women are married to their husbands and husbands are married to their jobs.

    • I’m very sorry for your friend and for riverdaughter’s, too.
      What a world, what a world.
      My husband is sixty and we’re beginning to hear the woosh and feel the heat of the swinging scythe.

      • Excellent way to put it Sweet Sue ….we say ” the shadow of the axe has fallen over the land” …same thing.

  12. This is a wonderfully compassionate post RD. Thanks for writing it. Some 30 years ago I was one of about 40 people who were laid off when our company was bought out. It was a good thing for me, because I started my own firm that led to greater income and pushed me to learn and grow in ways I wouldn’t have if I’d stayed in that job. But… and that’s a very big but… today is very different – there are so many people out of work that it’s not so easy to just successfully start up one’s own business.
    They are bent on destroying the American way of life and any sense of security we might have. I join dm in sending good vibes for your friend’s success in finding what he wants and needs.

  13. When I was laid off, I was in shock. A man who was related to my landlord and about my age invited me to dinner to discuss it. He told me that after I recovered from the shock and the inevitable feeling that I was to blame, I’d come to realize this was the best thing that happened to me. My next job would be better because I wouldn’t choose a lesser job. The was true at the time because we didn’t have outsourcing from within and without in high tech. Although it was yet another recession my first company was failing because of its own faulty technology (and it was ahead of of its time). Now I am supposed to feel grateful that I have a job, and too bad the wealthy, fast-growing company won’t hire the people needed to do the work.

  14. All I can say is that #10 is never good for anything. There’s a reason for me to hit you in the mouth as well.

  15. Thanks for this posting. As I said earlier in the week my son was laid off, three little children, wife in her last year of nursing school, and good old Duke (dog) & Tinkerbell the cat.

    It’s real hard, and I don’t live near them. But am trying my darnest to be supportive.

  16. RD, Understand your friend’s feeling of helplessness – I’ve been there. I’m glad he has a friend like you, cause it is really tough – and in my case it was a forced buyout, so at least I got some money. It doesn’t make sense, all these productive people being discarded like banana skins – it’s appalling. Anyway, my condolences to your friend, and again, he’s fortunate to have you as a friend.

  17. Mother Teresa, Calcutta and Gandhi in this Colbert segment on Glenn Beck. http://is.gd/eGPRf

    A must see segment of Colbert Report on Glenn Beck and his supposed ‘Restoring Honor Rally’.

    • Glenn Beck crashed Twitter…folks shocked at his claim to being a Demi God of sorts, oh, but just a few steps below MLK. His speech will have long lasting affect…oh for at least 25 to 100 years, Rosa Parks got nothing on what he plans to do! Notice that he hasn’t said where he is going to dial back to, to restore things…in his planetary time machine that he is activating with his BIG SPEECH.

      • Is Tawana Brawley gonna be at Sharpton’s rally?

        • Hemmm, is misogyny OK when Glenn Beck does it to Hillary?

          • Glad you responded. When I saw the post I just left TC for awhile for fear I would make a hasty, nasty remark.

            I returned to see it has been dealt with. Thanks.

          • One of the best things about the blogosphere is the daily opportunity to make hasty, nasty remarks to idiots, dimwits and other Obots (or to total strangers who have done nothing to deserve it.)

          • Dee, yup, I once thought he was working for women’s rights but then I started watching more carefully…and WOWZA!

            I hope Palin distances herself from this man, I don’t think she has seen all his rants.

        • RestoringHonorRally? #BECKFAIL “I am thinking about killing Michael Moore and I am wondering if I could kill him myself or if I would need to hire somebody. I think I could…”-Glenn Beck video http://tiny.cc/1vr1l

          “Dr. King never had to ask anyone to leave their signs and guns at home,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the NAACP.

          OK, call me stupid, but really is this a person that is going to take back the Civil Rights Movement and protect our RIGHTS? Is this a person that is like Mother Teresa, Gandhi, or Martin Luther King Jr., who believed in advocating in a none violent manner, that included speech.

      • Beck is “reclaiming” [among other things] the civil rights movement, which is about the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard.

        I’ve been listening to him on and off this week, gearing up for the soiree in DC. The overall gist is we “have to get right by God.” Divine providence, historical revisionism and high-pitched emotion are the primary tools Beck utilizes. He’s the present Tea Party Demagogue–whip ’em up and anything is possible.

        His featured historians/scholars are anything but. I’ve done some research on several of them, so far all bogus credentials, a lot of far right Christian preachers, John Birch society connections and outright historical fabricators.

        We’re living in dangerous times.

        • A good book about the “historians” is “Liars for Jesus.”


        • I understand that MLK’s niece Alvita King is speaking/appearing at Beck’s rally, but that MLK the Third is appearing with Sharpton.

          Odd, that split, and that an MLK family member chooses the Beck rally instead of a Sharpton thing.

          • Alveda is a conservative.

          • “…Banning Same-Sex Marriage Is A Form Of Gay Bashing….”-Coretta

            It is no surprise if you look at what Coretta Scott King said and who is helping to bring the evangelicals to the rally.

            CNN:Beck Rally|Evangelical Garlow- partnered with Mormons in California to pass proposition 8 banning Gay Marriage. http://tiny.cc/tnlzv

            Glenn Beck Fail: Best Of Beck Clips “Let’s line them up and shoot them in the head”-Glenn Beck

          • Meet MLK’s Glenn Beck-loving niece

            Glenn Beck is smitten with Alveda King, a fundamentalist Christian and outspoken foe of gay rights and abortion — and niece of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. She will speak Saturday at Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally on the Mall, which falls on the 47th anniversary of her late uncle’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

  18. RD – I’m so sorry you are having to watch your friends suffer.

    I used to work for a major aerospace company that had some HUGE layoffs right after 9/11, as many companies did from the recession that was already starting before the attacks went into full swing. It was terrible. They let some really good people go, and every one of them had families that needed the income and benefits.

    Part of me felt guilty for keeping my job and it was stressful watching the pain of people (even on my team) having to figure out what to do.

    I was not laid off, but I saw a horrible character and attitude from managers and the leaders of the company that I would never forget. They had good economic reasons to reduce the labor force since the airlines were cancelling orders – but the stress of a work-life reduced to a survivor (like the tv show) mentality… well, it sounds like you are there and truly, I am sorry for you and your friends.

  19. Thanks for those tips. I think most of us have experienced downsizing in some form. Very early in my career, I witnessed an older employee being laid off. It was awful. He had worked for the company his whole life and rose to VP, then pushed out. He was removed from his office space and given a big, but smaller, glass office with nothing to do. He’d come in and stared at the wall. It made one sick to see him. That’s when I learned that companies don’t care about their employees.

    Alan Simpson is planning to make 70 years the retirement age. But companies get rid of older employees because it’s cheaper to have younger worker. I can see the future, and it’s not pretty.

  20. Thanks for the wonderful post, Riverdaughter! My best wishes to your friend!

    Having been laid off myself last month, I have heard a few of the things on the list. I am not sure I agree with not mentioning unemployment though. Some people might not think of it at first. But it is a benefit that your company(ies) have paid for and to which you may be entitled. Even if someone doesn’t need the money right away, they should might down the line if they start running out of savings. And if one is re-employed quickly, one can always donate the money to a food bank.

  21. Sorry! My cat is helping me type and somehow posted the above while I was trying to re-write a sentence. It should have been: “Even if someone doesn’t need the money right away, they should consider receiving the money right away: it might provide a cushion down the line if they start running out of savings.”

    Just my thoughts.


  22. Just want to say, I think those are excellent things not to say. I’ve heard several of them myself and, no, they are not helpful.

  23. The question for the future of humankind comes down to what creed will future generations embrace as the dominent creed: Western civilization, Islam or Communism and which creed do you want to live under? Hmmm

    • Reality and not paranoia … ever tried it?

      • That LOL should have been nested here. I hate replying to the last comment on the thread – it often doesn’t nest properly.

      • Anyone know, is Sam Huntington now a zombie? That would explain a lot.

    • please, take all the time you need to ponder this question in complete silence

    • I am afraid I am currently creedless.

      Guess I could join the Girl Scouts. Their creed is as follows:

      “Always leave a place cleaner than you found it.”

      Damn – how strange. Probably why I was never a scout.

      • Wow–the Boy Scouts’ motto is “Be Prepared,” the Girl Scouts’ is “Always leave a place cleaner than you found it”? Oy. And there, in a nutshell, my friends….;)

        • exactly

          Its actually shocking. I had no idea.

          OTOH – my Mother would say about the creed – Good plan, must have been written by a Good German Woman.

          My Mother was a Good German Woman.

        • yeah esp. when unprepared boys make messes that they won’t let the girls who are prepared (b/c they have to leave everything cleaner than when they found it ) clean up until they’ve let every other unprepared boy take a shot at messing things up first

          • Behind every idiot boy there’s a brilliant girl with a mop and dustpan. Just make sure to use the servants’ entrance and be out by 9am.

          • and behind every brilliant girl is a sisterhood of traveling broomsticks… of course every idiot boy gets to fly before a brilliant girl does. But the mob will burn any witch who won’t use her broom to sweep in the meantime.

      • Whoa! That’s new. It wasn’t the girl scout motto when I was a kid. Ours was always Be Prepared.

    • Uh, you do realize that Islam and Communism are considered part of Western Civilization, don’t you?

  24. LOL!

  25. I have a screenplay on the back burner. All about the newspaper biz and what happened. I still get angry when I think about what happened, RD & Co. Like to a friend who was called and told she no longer had a job after the place was sold.

    She was recovering from heart surgery.

    That film called Up in the Air — a good one to watch. I’m sending you good thoughts for your industry and your friend.

    When I can stomach writing the evil characters who did what they did, I will. So the whole world can see them.

  26. Oh, you’re still in the wilderness. It’s just that it’s a bigger wilderness than anybody ever imagined, and there are a lot more people in it than ever before.

  27. We need to stop saying “unemployed” and start saying disemployed.

    Unemployment could be an accident.

    Disemployment is on purpose.

    • I like that.

    • Interesting piece you wrote. Also, this concept of “dis-employment”
      ps: it was nice to see “Falling Water” on your masthead. Yesterday front page LAT nobody is buying Lloyd Wright.

      It sort of sums things up.

      “Dis” makes sense. As in dis in terms of childhood expectations of what our lives would be assuming we worked hard, went to college, went to work, expected to have families, expected an American Dream, expected some sort of honesty in return for our own?

      Dis-expecting too much, perhaps.

      What I see is that we are slowly going out of business?
      After everyone is “dis-employed” no one will buy anything and so everything will topple.

      That is happening in CA. Stores for cell phones have taken over all the mom and pop operations along the main drag here. Everything is a lost wilderness of text messages!


      One great thing about telling a big corp to fuck off?
      I was truly happy afterwards. I was. Ten years of happy so far!

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