Etiquette (2) Virtually everyone knows someone who’s been laid off. It’s become the norm, not the exception in our 21st-Century economy. That doesn’t mean it is any easier to deal with, and it still feels crummy. So how to navigate our automatically updated friends when this happens?

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#SMEtiquette layoff

Dear Amy:

I was laid off from my job of six months the other day. They told me they didn’t want to get rid of me, but couldn’t afford to keep paying someone to do my job and there were no other jobs they could move me into. I don’t know that I believe that, but that’s another issue.

While I know I should share the news, I don’t really want to make a big deal about it. I don’t want to whine and I know that getting all sorts of expressions of sympathy will probably just make me feel worse about it.

But I know that as soon as I change my LinkedIn status, the questions will start rolling in. How can I handle this?

Sincerely,
Laid Off and LinkedIn

Being laid off is different than being fired, and most people know that. At some point, most people in your life will find out; it’s up to you to determine how you want the news to spread.

If you don’t tell people what happened, there will be versions that will get out, even if the folks who share the news are well-intentioned.

Own the story – be the person whose version is out there. Even if you don’t want to be particularly public about it, tell a couple of friends and ask them to quietly spread the word. Spend some time offline for a couple of days if you need to get away from sympathy posts.

I did this the first time I was laid off and was amazed at the outpouring of emails, texts and other messages I received from online friends. Several reached out with offers of freelance work or connections for potential work. I told only three or four people, and they ensured my online communities of friends knew, and knew why I was quiet for a few days.

I might add, getting all those messages of support didn’t make me feel worse. They actually made me feel better.

As for where you post the news if you are public about it, there’s no right answer. Post it on Facebook, Twitter, G+, anywhere, if you so desire. Just out with it. Be prepared for that deluge of well-wishes. Thank people for their concern and don’t be afraid to ask for help on job leads – tell people that if they hear of a job that might suit you, to send it your way.

And do change your LinkedIn job status. If you don’t want everyone to be notified of the change, LinkedIn allows you to choose if you want this update to be shared with your network. Choose the option that works better for you. Whatever the case, you don’t have to write that you’ve been laid off – though there’s certainly no shame in it.

The change in job status will quietly spread to your network. You’ll come up differently in LinkedIn search, too. Take the opportunity to make over your whole profile.

While you’re not announcing that you’ve been laid off, the change in job status may well lead to opportunities you didn’t expect. Layoffs are commonplace, and potential employers don’t regard them as negatively as we believe they might.

After a comment I made about the layoff in a LinkedIn group, someone who needed my services contacted me. She reached out specifically because she saw I was no longer at my old job.

Basically: Everyone knows someone who was laid off, and the stigma just is not there any longer. Take time off if you need; but don’t be afraid to share the news.

Just as importantly: Don’t bad-mouth your former employer. It’s tacky and speaks to bitterness. Even if you feel bitter about the layoff, take the high road. While you likely won’t want to work for the company again, you might find yourself in a situation where they want to rehire you (it happens) or at the very least, where a former supervisor might be interested in hiring you at a new company.

Bad-mouthing your old company or bosses can hurt those chances. You probably also still have plenty of friends at your now-former company. If you start badmouthing the company or specific people there, this can put your friends in an awkward situation.

For those of us who haven’t been laid off (I have been, twice), but have friends who have been, it can be a difficult subject to know how to broach. Above all, remember: Be a friend.

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