How to Support a Friend Who Has Lost Their Job

HAS SOMEONE YOU KNOW LOST THEIR JOB?

NOT SURE HOW BEST TO SUPPORT THEM?

2020 has been a challenging year for many and circumstances have made it even more important for us all to stay connected and be willing to support those around us.  Australia has lost over 800,000 jobs since March, with unemployment reaching an alarming 7.1%.

You may have already heard from a friend or loved one who has lost their job because of the crisis. With R U OK Day just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to start equipping ourselves with the skills to have ‘real’ conversations with the people around us. Job loss, or reduction in hours and income can be hard to talk about – especially if your job is left intact. It can be an awkward, murky and guilt-ridden conversation to navigate.

When we’re faced with such information, it can be tempting to offer words of optimism or to look for ‘silver linings’; like pointing out how the crisis is temporary, and the economy will one day recover… But it’s often better to ignore these impulses.

However, colleagues, friends and family play an extremely important role in helping someone to manage the transition, loss and emotional rollercoaster/grieving process often experienced after losing a job. 

In your first conversation with a newly unemployed friend/family member the following tips might be helpful:  

Tip 1) EMPATHISE AND VALIDATE

Often our first urge is to help our loved ones to solve the problem because if we can do that then they will stop hurting, right? Wrong. Often, the first thing that is needed from a friend when you are hurt or upset is to feel heard and understood. Empathising is a vital first step and it is relatively simple. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine how they feel, then say: “That must make you feel [insert emotion]”.

Then Validate.

Validate that worrying is normal. Validate the questions your friend has about the future, about their retirement funds, and their rent. Validate the loss, no matter how ambiguous it is.

Use this time to provide clear emotional support – “sorry, that’s really hard” or “that must be upsetting for you”. 

The message communicated should be something along the lines of… “of course you’re upset, of course you’re anxious, of course you’re worried, of course you’re confused”, and “that makes sense to me, I can understand that”.

Tip 2) BE PERSON-CENTERED

There’s a great deal of evidence suggesting that using language that is quite controlling or directive in nature can often leave people feeling less optimistic and more helpless.

The degree to which ‘supportive comments’ acknowledge and explore the distressed person’s emotions and experience (as opposed to ignoring or reframing them) can have a big impact on a person’s resilience, self-esteem and wellbeing.

Tip 3) BE PATIENT

Show compassion through patience. This is not the time to be judgmental or pushy. Just because what they lost was a job, and not a person or pet, doesn’t mean they have not experienced loss.

Tip 4) AFFIRM AND SUPPORT

When the time is right, offer to help. Assist in brainstorming about new opportunities and how to get there. Perhaps encourage the person to make a list of their skills and accomplishments, assist them in practicing for interviews or in writing a CV. And always remember keep the individual, their feelings and needs, as your central focus. 

If they’re struggling to reach a point where beginning the job search seems possible, encourage them to reach out for professional assistance. Which brings us to Tip 5…

Tip 5) SEEK HELP

If you, or someone you know, is struggling to get back on their feet after losing their job or due to changes in their work schedule, frequency or security, we stress the importance of seeking help.

Losing a job suddenly can often bring a kind of grief that individuals may need support from a professional to move through it.