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5 things to remember if your best friend at work is being let go

30 Sep 2020

Is your work bestie being made redundant? These tips from Hays’ Robby Vanuxem may help you remember that it’s not the end of the world.

It’s one of the things that many of us dread happening at work: that person in the office that we’re always going out to lunch with, sharing our work worries and stresses and celebrating our successes with, is leaving the organisation.

They’ve been a part of your professional and personal life for so long and you look forward to seeing them every time you arrive at the office. How can they possibly be leaving?

Unfortunately, the impact of the pandemic means that many people will currently be going through redundancy. Most people don’t know what to do or say when a colleague or friend has been made redundant and may feel guilty if they haven’t also been made redundant.

Here are some tips to help you, and your friend, through this major transition in your professional lives.

1. Put your own fears aside (for now) 

If your best friend at work is made redundant, you might understandably be panicking a little about your own job security and what your future might look like within your organisation. What does this mean for your role? Who will you be able to confide in from now on?

These fears are natural but, for now, be sure to put them aside and support your friend during this difficult time.

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You’re their friend, so you should be there for them as a source of both emotional and professional support. The steps that you take to support them might therefore include simply listening to their concerns and focusing their mind on their strengths. Ask them open questions about their life direction, imagine new roles and opportunities for them and help them to network.

Put yourself in your friend’s shoes and understand how they might be feeling. What do you think would be most useful to you if you were the one who was being made redundant?

2. Allow yourself to be upset 

In these circumstances, feeling sad or upset is absolutely understandable. Recognise their sadness as well as your own. Your friend being upset is a sign that they are dealing with the loss of their job in a healthy and honest way. Not acknowledging such sadness may risk them remaining stuck in denial and anger.

As for you, your colleague leaving – even one you were especially friendly with – shouldn’t be something that adversely impacts on your wellbeing or performance at work in the long term.

In every office, people come and go over time and the situation will be no different at your organisation. So, don’t dwell on the past for too long. Instead, look ahead to the new professional opportunities that await you as well as your friend in their future career.

3. Get to the real root 

You will probably go through many emotions when you learn that your best friend at work will soon no longer be around. But if you still feel disengaged for a while after they’ve left, and even felt this way before their redundancy, you should challenge yourself on whether the absence of your friend is actually the root cause of your unhappiness at work.

It might not be your friend having departed that is the real problem, but instead something else. For instance, a lack of recognition for your efforts, a company culture that doesn’t feel right for you or not feeling sufficiently challenged in your job.

Of course, you won’t want to make any ill-judged career decisions, particularly at this time. However, this could still be a very good time to reflect on elements of your role that you’d like to change, your career ambitions and what changes you might need to make to get there. Such steps will help you to feel happier and more fulfilled in your role, whether that be inside or outside of your organisation.

Just don’t presume that the mere fact of a respected colleague leaving means you should head for the exit door, too. The situations of you and your friend aren’t comparable.

4. Welcome the change 

You may wonder who you’ll be able to ask that difficult question or who’ll you’ll be able to confide in during challenging times. Or you might just fear that you’ll become isolated in your workplace. It’s easy in these circumstances to suddenly think of the worst-case scenarios that could possibly come to pass.

Take some time to actually think about what the realistic impact of your co-worker’s exit will be on you. When you do, you’ll probably soon realise that no matter how bad the situation seems now, the effects of their absence won’t be as detrimental as you initially feared.

Sometimes in life, even a big change that initially brings strong fears for us actually turns out to be one of the best things that could have happened. A bestie leaving can have this effect for many people.

No longer having the comfort of a close friend at work may actually end up being quite freeing. In their absence, you may realise just how reliant on them you were, and you may become more open to pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to develop relationships with other colleagues and learn new skills.

5. Stay friends 

Your work friend leaving isn’t the same thing as them exiting your life completely. So, make the effort to at least touch base with them now and again. Organise catch-ups so that you can remain friends. This will help them to move through the grief and trauma that often accompany redundancy as you support each other and talk through any concerns either of you may have.

Also, when you do see each other, don’t just talk about work. After all, your friendship was probably always founded on more than simply sharing an office together, including shared experiences, values and ways of looking at the world.

By Robby Vanuxem 

Robby Vanuxem is managing director at Hays Belgium. A version of this article previously appeared on the Hays Viewpoint Blog.

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