A funny thing happened on the way to being interviewed for an article about how to have conversations with layoff survivors.  A few days before our scheduled interview, the reporter got laid off.

We did the interview anyway, but the venue for the article changed from a national print magazine to a major online news network for which she freelances. As we began our conversation, she told us how bothered she was when her (now former) boss, whom she had known nearly 25 years, told her she shouldn't feel bad because she would land on her feet.

 “Yeah, I believe that is true,” she said to us. “But what I wanted to talk about was how hurt and disappointed I felt, not listen to him telling me how I should feel. But I guess managers don’t want to deal with people’s real emotions.”

 The manager was likely a well-meaning guy who thought he was saying the right things. But he was perpetrating one of the common manipulative conversations that crop up in organizations. 

Here are a few suggestions for having more authentic conversations in these tough situations:

  • Acting like everything is okay is not okay. Treat people like adults they are, capable of handing the tough issues, and give them straight information.

  • Telling people to “buck up” or assuring them they’ll be OK is an attempt to manage others’ emotions or avoid dealing with our own.

  • Before layoffs and after, people are anxious, uncertain, and afraid. Give them a chance to talk about these emotion.

Work is personal -- it’s a huge part of our identity. It may be a business decision, but it still feels personal, and that should be acknowledged and talked about.