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Don’t Be Red-Faced When Your Friend Gets Pink Slipped

Resumes, not lattes, are on the minds of some unlucky Starbucks [SBUX] employees this week. The company announced it is closing 600 stores and eliminating as many as 12,000 full- and part-time jobs, according to TheStreet.com.

When someone gets the axe -- whether it’s your colleague, brother or local barista -- how should you respond? To find out, MainStreet asked Anna Post, of the Emily Post Institute, for some tips. This great-great-granddaughter of manners guru Emily Post, who frequently teaches business etiquette seminars, tells us the key to job loss etiquette is to assume nothing about why the job ended and only offer to help out financially if you will sincerely follow through. A good, delicate script to follow is: ‘‘‘If you find yourself in a tough spot, please talk to me because I’d be happy to help you,’” she says.

By-the-book manners are great, but MainStreet also checked with the real experts about job loss etiquette advice: people who recently got canned. Here’s what they say:

BECOME A CHEAP-O FOR A SPELL.
Nicholas (his middle name), who was laid off from an editing position at a media web site this year, says it meant a lot to him that his buddies with high-flying jobs on Wall Street sacrificed fancy dinners and large bar tabs while he was unemployed. Even though he worried it would be “embarrassing,” his friends enjoyed happy hour deals and backyard BBQs just fine. This goes double for dating. “I am more about splitting [the bill] these days,” groans Jesse Young, who was laid off from his engineering position at a Philadelphia architectural firm a few months ago. Maybe lower the chivalry expectation bar for a bit, ladies.

FIND OUT THEIR VERSION– AND STICK TO THE SCRIPT.
An amicable lay-off can sour into a scandalous firing while going through the grapevine. “Feel free to get the real story but also know the story they want to be passed along for networking,” says Nicholas. He says his colleagues were happy to frame his lay-off positively while passing along his resumes and it helped him hook up with a new job quickly. “That’s the least they can do," he laughs.

DON’T FREAK THEM OUT ANY MORE THAN THEY ARE.

“This isn’t the time to tell them you don’t have any money and can’t shell out their rent,” says Nicholas. “If it’s your kid, try to downplay your own anxiety, because [the kid is] anxious enough.” And, though it may sound obvious, saying you cannot help out financially might be an awkward over-share in this situation. It’ll just make your loved one feel more panicked!

DON’T HIDE YOUR CAREER SUCCESSES.
Friends or family should not assume the unemployed will be pained at seeing their loved ones thriving – they’re not bad people, after all. Young says a friend of his got a fabulous new job, but kept the news to himself. “I was actually kind of annoyed he changed his behavior,” says Young.

LOOK FOR THE SILVER LINING, EVEN IF THEY WON'T.
“Point out that you were never happy at that job to begin with,” advises Melissa Noble, who was recently let go from her editorial post at a fashion magazine. In fact, several of the people for this article who were recently laid off expressed a lot of enthusiasm about the fresh start they’ve been given. Alex Geana, who lost his receptionist job earlier this year, says he was “already doing a lot of self-blame, so you don’t necessarily need to feed into the situation.” His more supportive friends asked, “How are you making the best of the situation? How are you growing?” The questions helped the moving on process.

So, what’s the silver lining for Starbucks folks? Well for starters, they’ll never have to call out “skim, triple shot Frappucino with peppermint syrup and no whip” ever again.

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