Modern Etiquette: Lost your job? Retiring? is it congratulations?

Mon Mar 18, 2013 8:18am EDT
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By Mary Mitchell

LONDON (Reuters) - (Mary Mitchell has written several books on the subject of etiquette, including "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Etiquette" and "Class Acts." She is also the founder of executive training consultancy The Mitchell Organization with the website The opinions expressed are her own.)

I doubt if Shakespeare was thinking about our 21st Century workplace when he penned that "parting is such sweet sorrow" yet the oxymoron surely is not lost on anyone who recently has lost a job or retired from one.

Conversing about such news from an individual whose position has been made redundant or one who has just retired is, for sure, a challenge to our compassion and civility.

Losing one's job can be construed as a blessing if you hated the job and considered each day spent in it purgatorial. In a perfect world, severance payment can kick start an alternative career one previously only dreamed of.

For most, though, the experience brings up all sorts of fear and insecurity, both emotional and financial, and the process is painful at best - especially when there is a household to support.

This I know from personal experience. I also know from personal experience that it's best to have a good cry before trying to figure out what to say to others.

Let's rule out bashing the individual and the organization whose decision it was to end your run. We never know when our paths might cross again.

So, practice saying (in front of a mirror, if possible), "It's raining outside," and in that very same non-judgmental, unemotional tone, state: "My company eliminated my job last week," or, "there was a restructuring and now I'm out of a job." Then follow it up with something constructive like: "I'm doing my best to put a good face on the news and pursue every avenue open to me. I plan to take some courses to buff up my skills in the meantime."   Continued...

Office workers walk during morning peak hour in central Sydney October 28, 2009. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz