Q:  Last week there was a big layoff where I work. About 10% of the staff was told their jobs were eliminated effective immediately and they had to leave right away. 

Those of us who still have jobs feel shaken and conflicted. We realize our job load just increased by a lot and at the same time we feel lucky (and guilty) to have a job and sorry for those who don’t.

My question is about etiquette regarding contacting those who are gone.

I worked closely with two people located in a different state and would like to say farewell  their work emails no longer work). Should I reach out to them? Or would that seem intrusive.

A:  What you are experiencing is known as survivor’s guilt and it’s a normal reaction to the effect of the “layoff experience”. Layoffs are one of those work-life events that is miserable all around: for management who has to execute the deed, obviously for the people who are affected by it, and –as in your case- for those who survive it.

But your instinct to want to reach out and connect with peers who were affected is a good one. Acknowledging that you’re aware of their situation and some of what they’re going through, will likely be well received.

It can be as simple as a brief note wishing them well with an encouraging word. Offering to help if possible with networking or introductions it’s a bonus. The best avenue is probably on the Linked In platform, which gives you a professional and private way to stay in touch. It also establishes the relationship in a work related context (that’s why I’d avoid Facebook or texting).

Something like:

“I was so sorry to hear you were affected by the layoffs. I enjoyed working with you and please feel free to contact me if I can help.  Best of luck” will suffice.  But, you can elaborate in your praise or desire to help (“stay in touch”) as needed depending on the situation.

Whatever you say, be genuine and sensitive.  And follow-through in what you offer.  Hope this helps.

©Copyright Eva Del Rio

Eva Del Rio is creator of HR Box™ – tools for small businesses and startups. Send questions to

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