In a bad economy, you’re bound to know someone who was laid off, can’t look for a job and has spent the last few weeks or maybe even months in the unemployment line. Getting laid off work causes severe worry because of financial concerns and puts stress on relationships.
As a friend, you should have compassion and understanding when hard luck strikes someone you know. Your friend or family member is likely feeling embarrassed, tense and very worried. It’s not about you now. You may have to be the one to walk on eggshells around him to keep your sanity and your friendship going through the tough times.
Here’s how not to treat unemployed family and friends.
- Don’t ask how the job hunt is going. To the frustrated, angry and embarrassed unemployed person, this translates to “Why aren’t you working yet you stupid, lazy bum?”. Harsh and incorrect, but sensitivities run high when you’re feeling vulnerable. It’s better to ask “What help can I give you and your family right now?”. Though they’ll probably say nothing, it lets your friend know you are there for him.
- Don’t think that he doesn’t have a job because he is lazy. Corporations restructure, merge or shut down, companies downgrade, economies go into recession or maybe your friend was forced to retire or just screwed up and made a major mistake at work. There are several reasons why someone gets unemployed. It takes around 6 months to find another job but sometimes even longer. However long your friend has been unemployed, never assume they’re not working because they are lazy. It’s harder to find a job because of fierce competition. If your friend isn’t able to work because they lack the skills, it’s more likely they’re afraid to learn something new. Or he may even be depressed. Self-esteem takes a blow if you keep getting rejected, the bills are piling up and you don’t know what to do to feed your family.
- Don’t hide. They were your friends and family when they had jobs, why should they stop being your friends because they had a setback? Don’t just avoid your friends because you don’t know what to say. Invite them over for a meal or take your friend out and pay for it. Don’t invite them to go out with the group on your annual camping trip when you know he doesn’t have any money.
- Don’t take offense if he gets upset. Being unemployed brings out a lot of insecurities and tension.
- Don’t assume he has time on his hands. Once again, this translates to “you aren’t working so you must be doing nothing”. Unless you’re willing to pay, don’t ask him to babysit your kids.
- Don’t brag about your current professional success or wealth. If you are fortunate enough to be doing well, say you got a promotion, or you got a bonus or a new house, it is insensitive to tell your unemployed family and friends about it. They will take it as bragging and if they’re feeling frustrated, it may even make them more depressed.
Being sensitive to your friend’s needs will only make you closer in the end. If the tables turn and you find yourself on the unemployment line, you’ll want to be treated with kindness and respect too.