The state of our economy has brought unfamiliar and sensitive business and social dilemmas to our culture. Since the first of the year over 3 million people have lost their jobs due to the recession and approximately 8% of our nation is unemployed. If we still have our jobs, we most likely know someone who has lost theirs. That's given rise to a growing phenomenon: Recession etiquette.
Many of us have watched a coworker, family member, friend or neighbor lose their jobs and it has left us at a loss for words. So the question is should we tiptoe around the subject, or do we hit it head on? What is the appropriate response to someone who lost their job, their savings and perhaps even their home? Being socially savvy means thinking ahead and being prepared with what to say and what not to say.
Avoidance. This might sound like a given, but as a reminder … do not avoid friends and family who are going through great loss because you do not know what to say. Even if you're not sure, it's better to be ready and available than to disappear from their lives. What you think might be allowing them time to heal or rebound from disaster might be just enough time for your friend or loved one to go into isolation which can often times lead to depression.
Saying: It's just not fair! Do not assist in a pity party by telling them "it's not fair." It's easy to play the blame game or slip into the ugliness of finger pointing. This is a waste of time. The fact is lay offs are not about fairness, it's about the reality of this economy.
Saying: Don't worry. Do not try to bury the situation by saying - no need to worry everything will be alright. It sounds as if you are minimizing their very real circumstances. Of course they're worried; anyone would be if they were told their paycheck had come to an end.
Listening! The most important thing we can do is listening, and let the person vent. Emotions such as rejection, anger, fear and confusion can surface. You probably will not be able to answer their questions but more importantly - your role is to just listen.
Assisting with their job search. Ask what you can do to assist in their job search. Extend a hand by offering to update their resume, practice interviewing with them, open your contact list to make connections, or send a letter of reference if necessary.
Staying in touch. Stay in touch throughout the weeks until things look up for them so they understand you are there for them and truly are interested in their recovery. We all need to know someone is cheering for us – which leads to the next very important tip.
Encouragement. Of all the things we do for our friends and family encouragement ranks at the top of the list. Make sure your words are sincere and timely because nothing is worse than an insincere compliment or made up words that are more harmful than helpful. Cards of encouragement and support can be a source of encouragement that can be read over and over again.
No matter what the economic outlook, the underlying rule in times of a recession is always the same: Treat others the way you would want to be treated!
Joy Weaver is a renowned etiquette expert and author of Just Ask Joy… How to Be Socially Savvy in All Situations —a book highly endorsed by Jean and Zig Ziglar. Joy represents designer Joseph Ribkoff and is a regular guest on ABC’s Good Morning Texas. She is nationally published and has been featured on ABC’s The View, in the Associated Press, New York Times, USA Today, Southern Living Magazine, Dallas Morning News, and The Dallas Business Journal. Protocol Enterprises/Just Ask Joy is based in Dallas and has served clients across the country since 2000. You can learn more at www.justaskjoy.com.