none of my coworkers have contacted me after my layoff

A reader writes:

I was laid off a few months ago. My position was eliminated after reorganization, so it wasn’t due to any performance issues. In the weeks that followed, of the 200+ people in the company, three former coworkers emailed to ask how I was doing. Don’t get me wrong, I was extremely grateful to hear from them, and told them so. Still, none were from my department. I had a great relationship with most of the employees, including a few who were people I’d call friends … never heard from any of them.

Why do people cut all ties with someone who’s been let go, even through no fault of their own? Is it some kind of fear of a kiss of death? Do they think they’ll get into some kind of legal trouble? I’ve heard of the same thing happening to people who get a debilitating disease or injury. Ironically, everyone’s happy to be a LinkedIn contact, though some don’t use it much.

I’m still processing feelings of betrayal and want these former “friends” to know how hurtful their silence has been, even though I’ll likely never see them again. How is it that we spend a third of our lives with people and are willing to forget they existed at the drop of a hat? Is this a common thing?

It’s actually a lot more common than you’d think.

Part of is that many people are uncomfortable with bad news and handle it by … doing nothing. (Just look how many people don’t get in touch when someone’s loved one dies.) They don’t know what to say, or they’re afraid it’ll be awkward, or they worry they’ll somehow make it worse, and so they end up saying nothing at all, which of course the person on the other end finds incredibly hurtful and callous. A lot of people are just really terrible at this.

With layoffs, you’ve also got people feeling guilty they still have their jobs while you don’t, or worrying that you’re hostile toward the company, or worrying about what they can say that won’t sound disloyal or antagonistic to the place that’s still employing them. Or they can think they’re being sensitive by leaving it in your court to reach out if you want to, or even think you might want a clean break.

Another part of it is that work friendships tend to be transient in nature, even when they don’t feel that way at the time. Work friendships are very weird in this way — you can spend a huge amount of time with someone at work, have lunch with them regularly, share inside jokes and confidences and camaraderie, consider them a real friend, even go to each other’s weddings and other milestones … and then one of you leaves and you trade a couple of emails but never hang out again. Or you try to keep up the relationship at first, but within a year it’s fizzled almost completely. Often that’s because the thing that bonded you together was work, and when that shared experience goes away, it turns out there’s not a ton of foundation left. That doesn’t make anyone a bad person! It’s just how a lot of work friendships go.

Sometimes, too, work friends are more like casual acquaintances, but the frequency of contact makes them seem like more. You’ve got people who are being warm and friendly — because it’s nice to be warm and friendly — and you’re seeing them every day, and that can look really similar to real friendship simply because of how often you encounter each other … but sometimes you realize later, “Oh, we were really just friendly acquaintances.” And that’s okay! There’s a place for friendly acquaintances.

None of that means that people shouldn’t have reached out to you. They should have. They’d presumably have said goodbye if you were leaving voluntarily and had given some notice, and they should do it here too. But I’d put a lot of money on this not being personal and not meant as any kind of message at all, but rather just people being people.

But if these are people you’d like to stay in touch with or even just say goodbye to, don’t be shy about contacting them. I know it’s frustrating to feel like you have to initiate it, but if these are people you like enough to be hurt by their silence, it might be worth the effort to reach out. (And if you find you’re not moved to make that effort, there’s maybe a message in there too.)

But it’s hard, and I’m sorry.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 253 comments… read them below }

  1. Okay*

    Is having all your coworkers’ contact info normal? I only have contact info for the few people I hang out with outside of work.

    1. awesome*

      Depends on the job. Some places practically require you to use your personal cell phone for business reasons, which isn’t a fabulous practice imo, but it does mean you have your coworkers info

    2. cat socks*

      In my company, when people leave they will send a goodbye email and sometimes include their personal email address. I have the cell number for my boss and a few co-workers but I’ve never had a need to contact them that way.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        When people leave voluntarily – yes. In my two layoffs to day, I was notified first thing in the morning, before even making to my desk, and my access was cut of immediately. I was allowed to pick up my personal belonging, but no e-mail access whatsoever.

        1. Okay*

          Same here. People who have left voluntarily usually include their personal e-mail in an All Staff e-mail, but when we had layoffs, those people were not allowed to say goodbye.

      2. Goldfinch*

        At my company, nobody leaving for another job gets to send a mass goodbye, because that has to be okayed by top brass and handled through IT. I suppose someone with insane patience could go through by hand and select hundreds of names from the address book, but permissions to the department lists are locked down hard.

        If you get a goodbye with contact info here, it’s always a retiree.

    3. BRR*

      When I was laid off earlier this year, a few coworkers gave me their personal email and/or phone. I connected with several on LinkedIn as well. That being said, I’ve barely spoken with any of them since.

    4. TootsNYC*

      If someone leaves voluntarily, they often send an email to say goodbye and say “keep in touch” and provide email.

      But with a layoff, there often isn’t that transition time. It can be sudden.
      I could probably find someone on Facebook or LinkedIn, but that’s an extra step and it might derail me.

    5. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I was going to say this. I’m not on Facebook and definitely don’t have most people’s email addresses/phone numbers. I’ll pass along a hello via someone who might, but I think this is a very common reason people don’t reach out a lot of the time.

    6. Filosofickle*

      To me this is the value of LinkedIn – it’s how I know where to reach connections and former colleagues without having to track their current, personal contact info. The content isn’t terribly helpful to me but it’s my rolodex.

    7. RussianInTexas*

      Right? I had personal phone numbers of only 3 coworkers and one of them was my boss. Those were the people I contacted after my layoff, and the once I still see for lunch once in a while.
      The rest? No. No contact, no contact info, never needed it in 14 years being in the company.

    8. SimplyTheBest*

      I think it depends. At my current office, I get an updated list of everyone’s cell phone number any time we get a new employee (we’ve got about 20 core staff members).

    9. Mel_05*

      Not in my experience! I guess I usually had a couple peoples numbers, but for most people I couldn’t have contacted them even if I wanted to.

    10. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I was thinking along this line as well. Have you, OP, stayed in touch with anyone who’s left for other reasons? Have other people? When I was younger, my company folded and a few of us did lunch once in awhile. After a couple years we stopped with Christmas cards. I’ve been in my present job for 20 years, people have left. I am FB friends, but we don’t keep in touch.
      Is the layoff putting a more negative tint on this? OP, reach out to people, sure, but if you only have their work email and facebook messaging, then please reassess your view of friendship.

    11. Name Escapes Me...*

      My office has a list of everyone’s name/address/phone number/birth dates that gets put in everyone’s mailbox. Not a fan but made no headway. We’re a govt office with 24 people located in a smallish community so perhaps those local to here already know addresses anyway.

  2. Aleta*

    This is really interesting! I never would have expected former coworkers to reach out to me period, unless we already regularly talked outside of work. If we didn’t already text, I wouldn’t expect them to text me, etc etc. Some relationships are just situational, and that’s okay!

    1. Jamie*

      This is how I feel, too. I’ve never maintained contact with anyone if we weren’t also friends outside of work.

      I am the queen of situational relationships.

      1. MatKnifeNinja*

        Same here. Friends move. Or stay with you when you are in the ER etc…

        Coworkers, who you can be friendly with and have a great working relationship, aren’t friends. You are stuck together by the need of getting a paycheck.

        Out of all the places I worked, there are 4 people who I keep in regular contact with. That doesn’t mean the others weren’t wonderful people. I loved working with them, but they weren’t my outside of work friends.

        OP, it may have nothing to do with you the layoff. They probably wouldn’t have contacted you if you scored your dream job. People can be friendly and not be your friend.

    2. Librarianne*

      Same here. I see many of my former coworkers at conferences, and we’ll catch up over lunch or dinner there–but we don’t keep in touch any other way.

    3. Fiddlesticks*

      My feeling, also. If I had a friendly relationship with a coworker, but we never interacted outside of work except for group happy hours or something like that, I’d think it was nice but a little unusual/unexpected to be contacted by them if I were laid off. They’d have to get my number from someone with whom I had a closer relationship, anyway, since I’m not on social media, and that would actually seem a little weird.

      My take is that if you spend your working hours with someone, and no hours outside of that, you two may qualify as “friendly acquaintances” but you’re not real friends. It doesn’t mean they don’t wish you well, OP, but you’ll need to rely on your real-friend circle for emotional support during this tough time. Best of luck.

    4. Sparrow*

      Yep. There are a couple of people from my last office I see/communicate with fairly regularly, and they were all people I saw outside of work beforehand. The only other times I’ve communicated with people from that office are when they’ve reached out to me (on my publicly accessible work email) for networking purposes.

    5. Uldi*

      I was going to post something similar myself. We’re coworkers, and unless we are friends outside of work, that’s all we are; I’m adamantly opposed to the concept of ‘work = family’. Layoffs suck, and anything I might say or text would feel seem like platitudes.

    6. Kimberlee, No Longer Esq.*

      Same with me, it would have never occurred to me that a laid-off coworker would be upset not to hear from me unless we were very close. I’m not convinced that a bunch of people reaching out after a layoff is a generally accepted norm (and I’m not sure it should be… I feel like i wouldn’t want a bunch of work randos who still had jobs texting me when I’d just lost mine… )

    7. Nanobots*

      Yes same. I’m surprised to see Alison say they SHOULD have contacted LW. Like once I’m gone, my coworkers never need to speak to me again and that’s okay.

  3. glitter writer*

    I’ve been laid off, and I’ve been on the other end where coworkers are laid off, and honestly staying in touch mostly depends on the one who loses the job being the one to reach out first. Which sucks but is true.

    1. Beth*

      Yes, this, exactly. There’s a similarity to survivor’s guilt at play.

      If you want to stay in contact with former workmates, you really have to be the one who initiates contact. You know where they are; they don’t know where you are. They may not actually have your personal contact information, and even if they do, until you contact them, they haven’t received your permission, as a person who is no longer a fellow worker, to use it outside of work.

      1. glitter writer*

        Yeah. And in my last layoff, my whole team was axed, and everyone else was mad that we were all let go, and several folks sent me emails, phone numbers, Facebook invites, etc — but continuing to get coffee (which I do, even now, two jobs later, because I like them and also it’s good networking) is still on me to reach out.

      2. sunny-dee*

        Also, you don’t know how upset someone is likely to be or what kind of upset they are. Some people may want to stay in touch and be pretty philosophical about it, but others may be really bitter or angry or sad or depressed and not want any contact or reminders at all. Most people don’t want to poke strong emotions with a stick to see what happens (rightly or wrongly).

        1. Kathenus*

          This is so true. I was laid off years ago (~15-20% of non-union staff laid off the same day) in late October. The organization president sent a holiday card to me that year (he had done this for many/most staff previous years) with a personal note in it. I thought it was a nice gesture. A friend of mine also laid off was almost livid over it and thought it was incredibly disrespectful. Neither of us were right or wrong, but we both perceived the act incredibly differently. The same is true for the entire situation, so it is definitely hard to know how each individual will view reaching out. To me, I’d rather err on the side of reaching out to someone versus not, but that’s also just a personal choice where there’s no right or wrong.

        2. Locavore*

          Absolutely. I’m on the flip side of the LW’s situation now. I made it through a reorganization with a new job in the same company and am debating with myself about whether to reach out to a former co-worker who was left with no job. We worked closely together and got along great. I’d like to stay in touch for professional/networking reasons because we are in a niche line of work where it’s weird NOT to stay in touch for the occasional email or coffee after job changes. However, she made it known before her job officially ended that she was very bitter about how things turned out and stopped speaking to most people in the office except for the bare minimum. I’d like to think that this wasn’t personal, and that the professional relationship could adjust to a “new normal” with time. However, maybe it’s best to let her be the one to reach out if she has any interest in doing so.

    2. Kramerica Industries*

      When I had coworkers that were laid off, management literally told us that the most sensitive thing to do at the time was to give laid off coworkers space and let them contact you instead of the other way around.

  4. Psych0Metrics*

    Not to go off on a tangent, but I think some of this comes from overuse of the word ‘friend’ in the US. In a lot of other cultures, friend is reserved for people we are close to- probably the US equivalent of a ‘best friend’. Americans are pretty averse to using the term acquaintance- it comes off as very stiff and formal, even though it’s probably the more appropriate term for many relationships in and outside of work.

    1. The Original K.*

      I agree, and I actually do use the term “acquaintance” or I will describe people by how I know them – “This is James, we’re in a book club together.” (I’m in a couple of hobby groups and there are a couple of people in them that I actually do not like, so to call them all “friends” is inaccurate.) I have had work friends and I have made real friends through work, but in my mind those are different things.

    2. TootsNYC*

      my husband and daughter, and to some degree my son, are scrupulous about using “acquaintance.”

    3. Gymmie*

      I kind of refer to “work friend” as specific to work. Like we talk a lot and stuff and are close at work but we aren’t friends outside of work, and if I left we wouldn’t keep in touch probably. I do have people I work with who are actual FRIENDS. I would refer to them just like that, I just happen to meet them at work.

    4. fposte*

      I don’t think it’s overused; it just gets used differently. That doesn’t make the use incorrect.

      And a lot of friends are situational–camp friends, school friends, etc. It doesn’t make the relationship not a friendship just because it doesn’t transcend the situation. Where I think you’ve got a point is that we’re not as good as we might be at allowing for the different shades of friendship, and understanding that being one kind doesn’t always mean somebody fits in the other categories.

      I also think that Alison’s right that leaving for any reason means that you’ll lose touch with a ton of people, so a lot of this is likely due to that fact and not the layoff. It’s unfortunate, since that’s a situation where even a well-wishing card would likely mean a lot, but I think three people is probably about what I’ve predicted and more than a lot of people would have heard from.

      1. Genuine10*

        Real friendships transcend situations. Everything you mentioned are friendly acquaintances. The word friend is overused in in the US. Many people who are called friends aren’t there for people when things get tough.

        1. Lance*

          What fposte is saying is that it’s subjective; there’s no one absolutely correct, universal definition for something like this, so likewise I don’t think it’s very accurate to just broadly say it’s ‘overused’. For your definition, sure, it appears it would be, but not for many others’.

        2. sunny-dee*

          Um, yeah, but that’s true for many people who people think are friends. Just ask anyone who’s been through a critical illness or a divorce or a death in the family or some other kind of tragedy. That’s not overused; it’s used differently in the US than maybe in your country.

          1. Alienor*

            That’s very true. After my husband died, I found out very quickly that a lot of the people I thought were our friends were actually his friends–I don’t think there was any ill will in their disappearance, but I never saw 99 percent of them again after the funeral, either. Some did add me on Facebook several years later (he’d died just before Facebook started becoming a thing) but that’s our only connection.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Yep. this, this.

              Loss causes a friend-reset in many instances. Friends exit and new friends enter. We don’t get to pick who does what, but I think we should be able to- what’s up with that.
              What is amazing to me is the many numbers of times the spouses family disappears once the spouse has passed. I am hearing this from people more and more.

              Losing a job can be on a par with other heavy losses in life. Framed that way, it’s a bit easier to see that people can just wander off and never return.

              1. MOAS*

                NSNR-This is so painfully true. Not work, but after my father died, I’ve had very little contact with my dads side of the family. My mother has been 100% discarded by them. It’s sad.

                1. nonymous*

                  Same thing happened to me and my mom. As much as I am aware and indebted to the extended group for normalizing experiences that make me a capable adult, part of me wonders why we wasted 25 years of Christmas/Bday/holidays for people who won’t even be FB friends.

        3. Kes*

          Eh, I agree with fposte – friend is often used to describe a type of relationship, broadly, without necessarily specifying depth of relationship, and I don’t think that’s wrong, just different. To me, acquaintance means I know them, friendship means I know them to a certain level and enjoy hanging out and talking with them – but the relationship could still be limited in context

          1. Quill*

            Yeah, aquaintance doesn’t cover the “we’re close during school because we suffer through 3rd period geometry together every day of the week for months, but we will never see each other during the summer” level of situational friendship.

            Now that we actually can keep in contact with those people by something other than letter, for years and years? There’s a weird category of people who are too close for aquaintances, but not close enough for friends, and aren’t technically speaking your neighbors, though that’s probably closest in that you might be able to rely on them for a small favor and you know a decent amount about precisely one aspect of their life.

        4. Washi*

          I think a lot of people would agree that they are warm acquaintances, it’s just that acquaintance sounds old fashioned and is rarely used, unlike “friend” which has a very broad meaning. People tend to use adjectives to distinguish friends: best friend, close friend, good friend, casual friend, work friend, school friend, etc.

          And I agree with Alison’s point that the issue is that you have so much contact with someone at work that they start to seem like a good/close friend because they’re one of the first people to hear your news or vent to. But when that situational closeness is gone, you realize that they were more of a work friend.

        5. Dust Bunny*

          No, it’s just a difference of usage. “Flapjacks” in the UK are granola bars; that doesn’t make the usage wrong, it just means they use it differently.

          I do use the term “acquaintances” for people who are not really friends, but I don’t hesitate to use “friends” for people whom I readily agree would not be likely to keep in contact if we didn’t work together. But then sometimes you can be actual friends with people and still lose contact once your lives change, can’t you?

          1. pancakes*

            It would be wrong to try to order pancakes in the UK by asking for flapjacks, though, not because that would be a terrible thing to do but simply because you’d likely be misunderstood. You are, of course, free to describe people as friends whenever you like, regardless whether some of us might prefer to think of them as acquaintances. The angst from some of my fellow Americans trying to assure one another they’re not wrong on this is amusing to me. It’s ok for people to have varying definitions of friendship!

            1. Turtle Candle*

              Well, sure, but this started with the word “overuse,” which is hardly the same as “different countries are different.”

              1. pancakes*

                It’s not far off from “different countries are different,” and I’d have thought it would be obvious to anyone following the discussion that there isn’t in fact any sort of rule as to what exactly overuse is. There’s custom, habit, and personal preference.

        6. Jadelyn*

          Who made you the friendship police? Definitions and usages being different doesn’t make them inherently wrong. Just because you define friendship a specific way doesn’t mean the rest of us are wrong.

          1. Songbird*

            A lot of it, I think, is classism. Americans often take British social relationships as right when they want to appear high class. Lower class American behaviors are less European in affect.

            1. pancakes*

              It is blowing my mind that multiple people here seem to think friend vs. acquaintance is lower class vs. higher class, to the point that the latter is seen as pretentious, “European,” or pretentiously European. Would it be alright for me to say this is all much more fraught than I realized or would that be putting on airs?

              1. Delphine*

                There’s a lot to criticize Americans about, but that they use “friend” more broadly than other populations isn’t one of them.

        7. techRando*

          You’re literally just arguing about word meaning at this point. The fact is that language is a living thing and different regions might define, pronounce, or use words differently. If region 1 uses a word one way and region 2 uses it a different way, you can’t prove that one of those regions is the objectively correct one because language is a constructed thing. You can’t scientifically derive the true definition of a word in a lab.

          In my experience in America, what you call a friend would be called a best friend, BFF, or “bestie”. (Yes, you can have more than one “best friend”.)

          People around me understand acquaintance to most often mean: “person who I fervently hate so much I’m unwilling to call them a friend in a social situation, and I’m willing to cause drama to avoid it”. I would like to change that, but if I wish to communicate and be understood, I can’t simply ignore how the people around me understand language. And how they understand language isn’t incorrect, even if I’d prefer we bring back common non-insult use of acquaintance.

          1. Gaia*

            “Friend” is literally anyone I know that isn’t family and that I don’t actively dislike. There are levels of friend from “I’ll wave to you in a grocery store” to “I will help hide a body and get you a ticket out of town.”

            If I call someone acquaintance, it should be assumed I am not a fan of them.

            1. Media Monkey*

              i agree (and am in the UK). acquaintance is someone i either know to say hi to but don’t really know (random neighbour, cashier in a shop i go in regularly, my kids teacher) or else know but don’t like.

            2. noahwynn*

              Yes to this. Maybe it is my Southern roots, but calling someone an acquaintance is purposefully distancing yourself from them in a way meant to make a statement.

          2. pancakes*

            I’m very glad I don’t have to spend time with the people around you. Not only would it never occur to me that acquaintance = “person I fervently hate,” it doesn’t seem at all helpful for people to be so coy about such a strong emotion.

        8. LawBee*

          “Real friendships transcend situations.”

          Weeeeeeellllllllllll no, not really. I have had deep, true, wonderful friendships that ended because someone moved. Doesn’t mean those friendships weren’t real. Doesn’t mean they weren’t meaningful or impactful. Something can be real and true and deep and also end.

          My law school friends? I would not have survived without them. They were friends in every aspect of the word. But we’re not friends now because we haven’t kept in touch or whatever, but that doesn’t devalue the connection we had then.

      2. pamplemousse*

        If you really want to get deep, the vast majority of friendships end up being situational to some degree. It seems to me like you’re lucky if you carry one or two friendships with you after the situation changes, whether that’s college friends you’re still talking to 30 years after graduation, or parent friends from your kids’ school you still call after you don’t have to set up playdates anymore.

        1. Librarianne*

          This has been my experience. My high school friendships don’t mean less to me because we lost touch after graduation; things are just different now. There is literally one person from high school who I regularly talk to now.

      3. Turtle Candle*

        Yeah, I agree. Terminology and cultural norms differ across countries, and this is not news, but it gets pretty tiring to keep hearing “you’re using the term ‘friend’ wrong” or “you smile too much” when in fact cultural norms being different is… well… normal. It feels weirdly judgy, even if sometimes self-judgy, and also a pretty dang narrow way to look at human behavior.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            This must be another culture mismatch, because I’m having trouble interpreting “overused” as anything but “not a correct usage.” Can you help me here?

            1. fhqwhgads*

              “Overused” implies “used excessively to the point of watering down the meaning”, which I suppose may be a subset of incorrect usage, but is a bit different than just plain old incorrect usage.

              1. Turtle Candle*

                How so?

                I admit as a nonwhite person who is dubious about white fondness for the Anglophile boundary

                1. Turtle Candle*

                  (I say this as a person who is charmed by the fhqwhgads word joke, from Strongbad.

                  But the “rules” of “proper English” are so often deeply classist. We say that words of the wrong kinds of people are wrong because they have watered down the message of right-speaking people, we say that they aren’t… wrong, exactly…. but are a kind of softly incorrect usage. In the US, we find it amusing; in other countries, it’s known to be quote, wrong.

                  It’s funny-but-acceptable for us to be sort-of-wrong, but we, “we,” don’t want to be more-wrong. People in the UK know where that line is. In the US, we tend to find it funny… until we realize it isn’t.)

            2. pancakes*

              “Overused” is clearly, here, a matter of personal preference rather than right vs. wrong. Saying that Americans tend to overuse the word “friend” isn’t much different than saying, for example, that we tend to put too much ketchup on our food. Obviously that’s not something we all do, obviously it’s something some of us do, and obviously there’s no one right way to use it. That, to me, would be a much stronger example of classism, as that’s something associated with working class Americans. It didn’t occur to me that people make a similar association with friend vs. acquaintance, but several people here clearly think there’s a strong association. I’m still not following why people are so up in arms about it, though. Observing differences in the way people use language isn’t condemnation. There are several people here acting as of thinking of people one knows as acquaintances rather than friends is the equivalent of holding a pinky out while drinking tea.

    5. Heffalump*

      Some years ago I read a book about France that said the French think American friendliness is superficial. I imagine that other nationalities think the same. The French saying is, “The Americans open their arms to everyone, but they don’t close them around anyone.”

    6. Emily K*

      Leslie Knope: “Oh come on Ron, we were friends for ten years.”

      Ron Swanson: “We were work proximity associates.”

    7. Mama Bear*

      Agreed. Someone you only hang out with or know from a certain social situation is often an “acquaintance” vs friend. Acquaintances are very transient. I left a company where I liked my team, but honestly the only people I keep in touch with are the ones I actually socialized with (like group lunch). It’s hard when you realize that you weren’t as close as you thought you were, but it’s really common for people to fade when the thing that brought you together is no longer a factor.

    8. LilySparrow*

      In my area, it’s fairly common to refer to people as your [context] buddy: work buddy, running buddy, gaming buddy, etc. It’s understood that this is a mutual affinity that hasn’t made the leap into general socializing or close friendship.

      Probably the term “fuckbuddy” has spoiled it for a lot of other places, but the culture around here is still very innocent-minded.

  5. ThursdaysGeek*

    If often see cries of “why haven’t they contacted me?” and often everyone is waiting for the other person to take the initiative. If you want contact with someone, in work or out of work, don’t wait for them to contact you – reach out to them!

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree in most circumstances but in this particular case it seems like they are specifically hurt that people weren’t checking in on them when they were going through something rough, so being the one to reach out wouldn’t alleviate those hurt feelings. I think it’s just a case of misclassifying Work Friends as real friends.

      1. Dan*

        I worked at a company with several rounds of layoffs, I got in one of the later ones. TBH, it’s just awkward AF no matter what side you’re on.

        Literally speaking? When you have no job and no money, things kind of suck. The employed person knows the answer to “how are you doing?” It’s “no job, no income, lots of bills…”

        If someone from OldJob calls me up and asks, what am *I* supposed to say? The truth? Or do I lie?

        We have these weird norms in the US, and the weirdness comes to a head in awkward situations like this.

    2. MistOrMister*

      That’s what I tend to think too!! When I understand being hurt by people not reaching out is if you talk regularly but you always have to initiate. Then it can be hurtful.

      But in a situation where someone was laid off and is upset that after months they haven’t heard from people….I think you have to look at what was your relationship with that person like. And also why haven’t you reached out to them? It is so normal that when someone leaves a job they just aren’t going to stay in touch with the majority of their coworkers.

      Also, I’ve had some coworkers be let go and I would like to have reached out to them, but I don’t have their contact info. At that point, unless they email me at work, we are likely never going to talk again. Not because I don’t care about them and wish them well, but I’m not going to find them easily. I don’t do social media and I am on linkedin so rarely I don’t even consider it when it comes to this kind of thing.

  6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Don’t get into that hole where you’re thinking “Why didn’t they call me? Why didn’t they reach out?”, when you seemingly haven’t reached out either? It’s not necessarily up to them to continue their friendship/relationship with you.

    These are two way streets. Lots of times they’re thinking “Is it weird if I reach out to Julie? We were friends right? But she was laid off…does she want to hear or be reminded of this place?” So they are also in that weird mental zone of their own.

    If you’re interested in staying friends, reach out and see what their reaction is.

    I had this happen to over the years after leaving jobs [layoffs are similar, since you’re not being fired or anything crazypants, it’s standard business. People come and people go in different ways] and every time it’s always been “I’m so glad you reached out! I was thinking of you but didn’t know it was my place to bother you.”

    1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      I left my previous job almost a year ago. I’d been there for 6 years. I had lots of work friends. Spend a lot of time with a few of them outside work as well. Since I’ve left, I have managed to hold onto exactly ONE friend from there. And that is only because we bonded over things other than work – we have very similar interests and sense of humor.

      1. 2 Cents*

        I’m in the same boat—left a job after 6+ years (at a place where they liked to tout “we’re family!”) I still see 2 people bc we’re in a book club, but my one work bestie and I have gone from constant talk / texting to just the occasional tag in a meme. If I saw her again, I’d be happy, but we’re both busy and honestly, 99% of the time we talked near the end was me bitching about the place lol.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yes, being bonded over something outside of “work” is really critical.

        I have two friends from my former job that have stuck because we are all now happily outside of that hellhole we shared in common originally. We have the same sense of humor and rarely chatted about work anyways.

        Also there are people who are friends in the moment and out of proximity.

        It’s the same as years ago when switching schools meant you’d leave a lot of “friends” behind. In reality, we were only friends because we were held captive together for hours upon hours a day.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I agree–this street goes two ways.

      Also, the contact isn’t gone forever, there’s no animosity. it’s almost in suspended animation.
      I would totally think I could contact any former coworker to say, “Hey, I’m applying in your company, would you have time to tell me what you know about that department/job?”

      I’ve even called people out of the blue to say, “I’m looking for work; do you know of anything?” I’ve never not been met with welcome and even some enthusiasm, and sometimes help. And I would react exactly the same way to anyone who reached out to me.

      But if our OP makes a point of letting people know that she’s hurt by their silence, that’s not going to make that a comfortable exchange later.

      1. Antilles*

        Or even just running across each other in some other fashion later and turning it into a real friendship. I’ve definitely had people who were “work friends” at my first job who I’ve met at conferences in my city later and then we meet up for drinks and start hanging out again.

        1. Librarianne*

          Same here. One person from my former job has family in my current city, so we meet up whenever she happens to be in town. But since we live 2,000 miles apart, we don’t see each other regularly… and that’s ok.

        2. Decima Dewey*

          It’s difficult on both sides. “Oh, wait’ll I tell OP that the boss who laid her off got promoted! Oops, not a good idea.” “They dropped the project that nearly drove OP crazy. Not a good idea either.” “I wonder how OP’s job search is going? No, OP would tell me if anything was on the horizon.”

          And before you know it, it’s been ages since OP and her former coworkers have spoken, and it’s going to be even harder to find a reason to connect.

      2. JustMyImagination*

        Agreed about the suspended animation feeling of work friends. Due to the nature of my industry in my city people move around to different jobs and companies fairly. There’s one woman I’ve worked with at 3 different companies, totaling about 10 of the last 13 years. We don’t keep in touch outside of work but always pick up right where we left off when we cross paths again.

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yes, that’s the thing.

        I don’t even “keep in touch” with my family but when someone does pass through one or the other’s town you may reach out if time allows.

        The same with the friends I used to see at school, most of them weren’t outside of school friends. There are people I haven’t seen since graduation that I still care about and if we do see each other while visiting for the holidays or something, we hug and say “It’s good to see you, I’m glad you’re well!” kind of stuff.

        I think that goes deeper into the meaning of “Friends” to some folks though. Friend is a catch-all phrase and means so many different things to each particular person. My partner has a million friends and it made me anxious at first thinking “Popular so popular…” and then it turned out that no, he just knows a lot of people and high fives people in passing but he only actually hangsout with or regularly chats with a half dozen of them. Whereas I’m more conservative in using that word, I’m fine with saying “My colleague” or “my coworker” and not “my friend” when we’re indeed just colleagues and coworkers, we can chat and laugh at the office but I don’t really find any reason for us to stay in touch outside of LinkedIn kind of thing.

        1. Quill*

          My mom has over 40 first cousins. I don’t know the vast majority of my second cousins, or first cousins once removed, or second cousins once removed, (mom’s cousins and their descendants overall) but whenever one is in my town my mom is chasing up a phone tree to try and set up time to see them.

          I forget who they are more or less immediately after.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            My family is so full of fractured relationships along the way that I don’t have that much of a problem to deal with! I’m also the youngest among an older family, so they still all think I’m 10 lol.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      I think of it that way too Becky. Friends of all types flow into and out of your life.
      It does not mean they stopped being your friend, or that you stopped caring about them, they’re just not a part of your life at the current moment. Sometimes they might be so again, and you’ll pick right back up. Other times, you may not ever hear from them again.

      I find that as I get older, my friendships are less… intense. I guess that’s because we’re married and work and husband and/or kids take up our time, as well as other life concerns. I’ll always BE friends with those people, but it’s not the same close intensive friendships we had at 12 or in our 20’s. I always joke with my oldest and dearest friend that we’ll probably end up as 100 year old ladies sitting in the nursing home together after our men punt, still laughing about the same old stuff. If life ends that way I’ll be happy.

      1. LawBee*

        My set of super close friends and I always joke about the island that we’re all going to retire to, and be taken care of by all of the grandkids. We are about 65% joking and 35% island shopping.

  7. The Original K.*

    When I was laid off, a bunch of my coworkers did email me afterward – and I was pretty shocked, TBH. I don’t know if they reached out to the others who were in that round of layoffs (the emails were just to me), but I was surprised to hear from them. We were an international team so I hadn’t had a ton of face time with most of them (about 2/3 of the team was in another country), and I considered them colleagues, not work friends. And I’ve been employed long enough to know that often when a job ends, so does your contact with colleagues.

    So while it happened to me, it’s not something I would expect to happen.

  8. lyonite*

    I’ve been laid off a couple of times (it’s common in my industry) and it’s never occurred to me to expect people to keep in touch, beyond things like Linkedin. Maybe it’s just that I don’t tend to socialize a lot with my coworkers, but my impression is that this is more the norm than anything.

    1. Dan*

      I was laid off several years ago, and the number of people I keep in touch with can be counted on one hand.

  9. TeapotNinja*

    Did you hang with them outside of work, and not just after work beers/whatever?
    If not, they’re not your friends, just coworkers.

  10. SugarFree*

    I totally went thru something similar after I was laid off from a 13-year job. What Allison said totally makes sense on why some of the people I thought I was friends with never reached out.

  11. ENFP in Texas*

    Friendships are based on shared interests, and as Alison points out, if the only thing you have in common is “we worked in the same place” then you’re not really “friends”, you’re basically “acquaintances”. I can’t think of any former co-workers that I have kept in touch with once our professional paths diverged, and that includes people that I worked with for many, many years and was very friendly with.

    1. SimplyTheBest*

      I’ve had a lot of friends that transitioned to work friends after someone left, but there was intentional effort put into that happening. Like, I put in my notice at the last job I left, and one of my coworkers literally said to me “we need to hang out outside of work before you leave so we can stay actual friends when you’re gone.”

      1. Mel_05*

        Yeah, when I left a job I’d been at for 10 years, a work friend asked if we could stay friends outside of work. We have, but it is a weird transition in some ways.

    2. Vicky Austin*

      I had a number of friends from the office that I hung out with on the weekends/after work, but we pretty much lost touch after they were no longer coworkers.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        It seems odd that people don’t keep in touch some way, with Linked In and FB. I have a bunch of co-workers that I keep in touch on FB, even if it’s only once in awhile liking their family picture or something.

        Others that I actually had friendships outside of work, I’ve kept in touch with a lot of them and do things with them when we’re in the same town. If not, again, just keep connected through FB if nothing else.

        1. adk*

          I have very few FB connections. I basically limited it to the people I want to keep in touch with so badly that I would invite them to my wedding if I was getting married. This means I have a couple aunts and several cousins I’m not FB friends with. And it definitely means that most of the people I know from work are not FB friends.

    3. Alienor*

      I’ve had a few, but we’ve never stayed *as* close, even with a lot of effort. I was super close with one work friend in particular for several years (including socializing outside of work and with each other’s families) and after they left, we kept it up for a long time. But, seven years on, we’re down to texting once or twice a month instead of daily, and I haven’t seen them in person for probably 3-4 years now.

    4. MommieMD*

      Truthfully I don’t care if I see my coworkers again. Most are great people. I’m just not invested in work friends. I’m there to work and my social and family life doesn’t cross over.

      1. MatKnifeNinja*

        I had a coworker die a few years ago. The family put in the obit, “services at a later date.”

        The services weren’t really later. They family didn’t want to deal with random coworkers. One employee did get an invite. The employee was in the cleaning crew, and he and the deceased shared a similar interest.
        The family knew about the person through the decease talking about him.

        1. Gyratory Circus*

          On the flip side of that, I had a co-worker die in tragic circumstances a few years ago and there were 5 of us who went to his funeral. I work at a massive company with tens of thousands of employees and several hundred in our building alone. And aside from the deceased’s immediate family, the 5 of us from work were literally the only other people who attended. Apparently he was pretty much solitary in his personal life and kept everyone at arm’s length. I had hesitated about going because I didn’t know him that well, but man it broke my heart to see such a low turnout, and the family was very grateful that we went.

      2. Elena Vasquez*


        When I was a lot younger I quit a job to move on to another one. My workfriends and I decided to join a monthly bowling league to keep in touch. As the season went on, my teammates began to drop off, until one Saturday evening I was the only one bowling.

        Now I know better. Friendly with coworkers but not friends with. The investment in time and energy doesn’t lead to anything long lasting.

  12. Relatable*

    This letter is particularly well timed, and my comment is more directed to Alison’s reply, which is comforting.

    I was let go a few months ago, and while it wasn’t on bad terms (just not the right fit) once I was terminated I reached out to my team, and apologized for letting them down while thanking them for their help and kindess during my employment. I thought some of them were actual friends, but all of them on frindly terms. They replied they were sorry things transpired as they did, but since then- nothing. Several of my former coworkers have since had big life accomplishments to which I “liked” on social media, as I held no negative emotions towards anyone and I wanted them to know I support their individual success.

    I have heard nothing from a single soul, not even so much as a “like” on any social channel (and recently I accomplished something quite big that I was proud of). It hurt, it hurt a lot.

    LW, I sympathize. It sucks a lot that people are this way, and what Alison said is quite true. Ironically, sometimes it seems the places I’ve worked where my coworkers ignored my existence the whole time was easier…so when I left, I had nothing to lose. I hope you’re able to find closure somehow.

    1. Det. Charles Boyle*

      I’ve always heard that it’s better not to be connected on social media with work colleagues. I consider the people I work with to be my coworkers and while I’m friendly toward all, I don’t consider any of them to be friends for life. I don’t do social activities with any of them after work hours. So I would not be surprised not to hear from them if/when I leave this job.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I always wait until after I don’t work with someone to decide whether I want to stay connected on social media. Some yes, some no.

      2. Kes*

        I wouldn’t except LinkedIn unless we’re particularly close – and even then, I wouldn’t expect much interaction elsewhere, just a way to continue to have some connection and view into their life. Even for LinkedIn, I wouldn’t read too much in – many people aren’t even on LinkedIn that often.

        1. TootsNYC*

          whereas I accept LinkedIn for any colleague I have a good opinion of, even if we weren’t close.

          My standard is, “would I be happy to acknowledge that we worked together, and would I be glad to have them speak of me, and me speak of them, to a prospective colleague or employer?”

      3. Name Escapes Me...*

        I agree that it’s better, but my office has everyone connected to everyone of FB, even bosses & grandbosses(!!) and my not wanting to do that left me out of important interactions.

        So, as soon as I was connected I put them all in the ‘restricted’ list and only see my posts if I make them public or if I interact with them on their pages. (certain family members get put on that list as well!)

        I make occasional public posts that are kind of harmless so they are none the wiser to their being excluded from most of my personal stuff.

    2. Random Commenter*

      I wouldn’t read too much into it, especially things such as liking accomplishments. There’s no real standard to social media behaviour and a lot of people (myself included) never “like” things.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Try to remember that social media is a bunch of algorithms now. Seriously, lots of times your posts aren’t being seen by many of your friends list because of their BS way of organizing them thinking you “care” more about people you’ve liked a couple posts on verses the people who only post every blue moon and therefore…duh of course you aren’t heavily liking their content.

      When I first seeing my partner, I was getting anxious about the face they didn’t like much of my stuff… then when I finally got the nerve to say something, they blinked at me and looked utterly dismayed because they simply hadn’t seen anything I had posted. It was true shock too, not that “oh oooooopsie” [hence why we’re still together, they’re not a monster, lol].

  13. Umiel*

    I think Alison summed this up very well. I recently left a job, and many people told me that they would miss me and that they would keep up with me. I predicted the in three months that no one would even remember I worked there. In truth, it only took about 6 weeks!
    I am more surprised when people do reach out to me for something other than questions about my old job. It’s usually a nice surprise, however. Some of the people I have had the closest post-work relationships with have been people who reached out to me, but who I would not have expected to have heard from at all.

    1. Alienor*

      Sometimes I feel bad about how fast I forget people. There was a guy in my group who left (voluntarily) over the summer, and his nameplate is still on his desk because it hasn’t been reassigned to someone else, and even with that reminder it’s like he was never here. And I liked him a lot and enjoyed working with him.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I think it’s helpful to expect nothing. Then when someone does show up a couple times and show interest it’s a surprise and a happy thing.

      Younger me was laid off a couple times due to lack of work. No one contacted me. Ever. What carried me through that was I did not expect them to contact me. I did miss some of them and I wished I still had the job so I would have reason to gab with them.

      Annnd if I am totally honest about every thing there have been a couple people who wanted to stay in touch with me. And I dropped the ball because of Life. This is also a helpful tool. I think of them and hope they are not too mad/sad at me. I take this thought and apply it to the new circumstance where I do not hear from Jane or Bob and try to just remember them warmly. It’s not always easy to do this and it does take some practice.

  14. Cobol*

    At an old job I mentioned a fresh graduate who always got upset (not upset, upset) when I said when one of us dies in reference to somebody leaving the company. Until people started leaving.
    Ironically the two of us still meet regularly, but in general…
    Don’t take it personal OP. Some people will astray in touch, some won’t, some will send a nice note attached to a Facebook friend request, some will send a request with no note and never say anything.

      1. Antilles*

        Reading the comment, I *think* the intent was “this place is good enough that we’ll all be here till death do us part, haha” as a joke about how unlikely it is they’d ever leave. But even that would make me blink a little, to be honest.

      2. sunny-dee*

        I think what Cobol meant is that once someone leaves the company, it’s like they died — you’re not really in contact any more.

      3. TootsNYC*

        because it works much the same way?
        They’re not around, no one talks about them, and someone cleans our their house–er, desk–and there’s not much trace of them anymore. They become a memory that fades as newer people come and go.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            There’s more than one work place out there that uses this expression in this manner. A person leaves and they get forgotten. Seriously and deeply forgotten.

  15. Fiona the Baby Hippo*

    In one of my first jobs, a coworker was fired and I didn’t reach out because…. I didn’t know what to say. Then, because the world is small, we wound up working together a few years later. The poor woman was then laid off, and that time I reached out and stayed in touch. We actually are (mostly internet) friends now, but now I’m much more likely to reach out to others as well – not to stay friends, necessarily, but to offer help in the job search, offer to set them up for coffee with friends who work in tangential industries, etc.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      You know, this is an interesting point here. Some people not contacting the OP may feel that they do not have anything to offer OP of even modest help. I have friends who are super technical people. I am not even sure what work would be appropriate for them, because their arena is so far removed from anything I understand. Even in work settings I can give examples such as engineers. Their job search is nothing I can even begin to make an intelligent contribution toward. It’s not that I don’t care.

  16. Your Friendly Neighborhood Enby*

    I’m used to the convention that when laid off / leaving / whatever, you send out a message to work friends and colleagues with your personal info to “stay in touch.” Usually I only hear from folks when one of us is jobhunting and needs a reference, but that’s been okay for me.

    Friendships are partly about context. If the context in which your friendship operates changes/goes away, the friendship will also change/go away. That’s normal. If Bob and I are work friends and only see each other at work, if he gets laid off I’ll send him a well-wishing email reply to his “stay in touch” email, but that’s it. If Joe and I work together but get drinks at happy hour every Friday or are in a D&D game, we’ll keep getting drinks together or keep gaming together even if one of us gets laid off because those contexts haven’t gone away.

        1. SimplyTheBest*

          That hasn’t been my experience. Twice I’ve been laid off. One, I was laid off in the morning and had the day to transition. The other, those off us who were being laid off were told a month in advance. So while I’m sure there are layoffs where it’s immediate, I don’t know that any one thing is the norm.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I’ve been laid off 7 times. In only two of them was I allowed to continue to have access to email, etc.

            So your experience is not an indicator for how it’s done across the board.

            I used “if” because there are times when people do have more notice–but that’s not a given.

            1. RussianInTexas*

              Yes, from a company’s perspective, I can see allowing access after telling a person they been laid off is a huge security risk, no different from a firing.

            2. SimplyTheBest*

              Which is exactly why I said “I don’t know that any one this is the norm.” Because your experience is *also* not an indicator of how its done across the board.

        2. Your Friendly Neighborhood Enby*

          Not in my experience. I’ve been given notice both times I was laid off, I think 2 weeks each time. I’m used to people being cut off like that when they’re being fired, as a way to prevent retaliation, but not with layoffs.

          1. RussianInTexas*

            Both my experiences were the opposite. My manager caught me downstairs and marched in to the HR area and that was that. No warning. And it was actual layoff, not firing. I wasn’t the only person.
            Boyfriends’s company was going through mass layoffs couple years ago, and it was the same. No warning, not giving people the opportunity to even log in first thing in the morning. A company of 100,000 people, their layoffs were in thousands.

          2. RussianInTexas*

            Friend works for a known oil company – they won’t even let you log in after you put in a resignation.
            The moment you resign, you are cut off – you will have security to escort you to your desk to collect belongings, but you have to surrender your badge and you cannot use your computer.
            They will pay for your two weeks, but you can’t come to the office.

            1. Fiddlesticks*

              That sounds a lot better than most places I’ve worked – when you give your two weeks’ notice, not only are you treated poorly because your boss is grumpy that you’re leaving, but you’re swamped with work that you “must” complete before you leave, and you’re also asked to interview and train a replacement at the same time. Two weeks paid time off before starting a new job sounds wonderful!

  17. Lisa Turtle*

    I have only ever kept in contact with people after a layoff if we actually talked/hung out outside of work. It sucks to think about it this way, but for a lot of people it’s “out of sight, out of mind” in regards to coworkers, especially if work was the only time/place you interacted.

    1. Antilles*

      Same here.
      People who I met up with on occasions for things not at all related to work? Many of them I still talk to and interact with.
      People who I only interacted with at work or work-adjacent events (post-work happy hours, midday lunches, company parties)? No interactions whatsoever.

  18. Jaded Millenial*

    I remember when I learned the lesson that coworkers not your friends; a close coworker moved to another department in the same office suite and then proceeded to ignore me. It’s an easy mistake to make when one is young, but I’m glad I’ve internalized the lesson. Don’t take it personally, OP, and good luck with the future.

    1. pancakes*

      That’s not the way everyone or even most people would behave in that scenario. Ignoring someone in the same office that way is pretty intense in terms of unfriendliness.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agreed. It’s just poor form not to keep friendly lines open with everyone. I can understand those unusual occassions where it’s a bad idea for specific reasons. but for the most part keeping the door open is the route to go.

  19. Andy McHoll*

    I left a job and a former colleague told me she and the others on our team were instructed not to mention my name or contact me. Leaving a job, by choice or not, can be traumatic, especially if the work environment was tumultuous.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Toxic bosses. I had a boss who would designate someone as The Enemy. Even if The Enemy quit, Toxic Boss would drive by The Enemy’s house to see who of the current employess was visiting The Enemy. The Toxic Boss kept specific records of her findings and use that info against current employees. The situation was so surreal that no one knew what to say to the Toxic Boss.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Huh! Did I ever work for you? Because this did happen to me once.

      I still texted FormerBoss, because he and I had a personal meeting scheduled later that week, that I’d requested and still wanted to have. Got a response along the lines of “sorry, not allowed to talk to y’all, you can go to (person who’d terminated him) and ask him the questions you wanted to ask me.” (I didn’t take that option.)

  20. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    Feelings of betrayal are pretty out of scale for what’s going on. A layoff isn’t a personal betrayal, and 200+ people who coincidentally shared an employer with you don’t really owe you anything after that tenuous “relationship” is over. You don’t mention how long you were employed there, but three people reaching out to you via email sounds like an average amount of contact from former coworkers. I’ve been at my employer for almost 14 years and, although I have a good working relationship with many people here, I’d expect about the same level of contact were I to leave. People have their own lives to occupy their time.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Misplaced anger/upset. Grief often does this. Our brains can latch on to something/anything and decide “If ONLY ….”. In OP’s case, “IF ONLY, my friends would contact me…”.
      Not everyone, not all the time and it is entirely possible it may not apply to you, OP. But these side issues can protect us from dealing with the things that reeeally, really bother us. It could be easier to think about your lost friends than think about your lost job. BTDT myself, but for me, it only helped me avoid the real thing that bothered me: my lost job. This is where I had to change my expectations, to not expecting anyone to remain in contact. I had to do this so I could move forward with applications, new place, training and all that.

      1. FromSoftToHard*

        I was laid off a couple of months ago with about 20 other people after 22 years. It’s surprising who has reached out and who hasn’t. I think it also depends on how many friends you have outside of work. If you have a large circle of friends outside of work, you’re less likely to care about work “friendships”. I do not have many friends outside of work, so I could relate to feeling hurt to some extent (even though I know I shouldn’t). But you’re right, the real feeling of betrayal I needed (need) to deal with was being let go after spending two decades letting my position be the main/only source of pride and accomplishment outside of my now-grown children. It IS grief, and it makes people less likely to see things truthfully. I’ve so far stayed in contact with a few, but I had socialized with them outside of work on several occasions before. I still trying to reframe my expectations for the people who haven’t reached out or who have not responded in the way I hoped when I reached out.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I’m leaving these comments kind of late in the game, but hopefully someone will see them and find them helpful. I did work at a place where we had reunions for ex-coworkers, and stayed in touch with the ones that’d been laid off. Two examples that come to mind, a then-CIO that was disliked by everyone, fired my friend, who was a middle-to-upper-level manager. The friend’s then-gf threw a going-away party for him later that week. There was a huge turnout. Like, at my current job, if we have a happy hour and, I don’t know, everyone suddenly got unplanned bonuses and are going out to celebrate and also the company is paying, I’d say maybe 5-10 people would come out. At that going away party, the bar was packed. 30-40 people if I remember it right. Another, last year, I got an invite to a retirement party for someone who still worked at that place (I left ~15 years ago), who used to be a good friend. I came out and she told me that she’d been forced into early retirement, and that this was essentially a layoff party. Again the place was packed. Both people who still worked with her, and who’d left long ago, came out. But it was really an exception. It was a one-off and I never experienced that kind of connection with the former coworkers at any other place I worked. I think it was a combination of people having worked at that place together for a very long time (20-25 years tenure was fairly typical), and the fact that we worked together pretty much round the clock, between being the 24/7 support teams and going on business trips together. I would not expect anyone from my current workplace to reach out or stay in touch. I see people leave here (voluntarily or not) and within two weeks, best case scenario they are forgotten, worst case, everyone suddenly has an epiphany about what a bad worker the departed really was; even if the person had been well-liked and everyone hated to see them go.

  21. Falling Diphthong*

    Did you contact them and they ignored it? Or are you mad they didn’t initiate?

    In either case, do not send the “I am so hurt” email. It will just reenforce their no contact decision, whether that was deliberate or accidental. (If they don’t normally contact you outside of work, why start now?)

    I think Alison is right–these were casual acquaintances, and the frequency of forced contact made it feel like more.

  22. juliebulie*

    Last time I was laid off, I sent a farewell message with contact info to the people I’d worked with, and was astonished/miffed when the only person I heard from was someone outside my department.

    We had recently butted heads over something, and I was worried that our work relationship would suffer as a result, but it actually helped clear the air and made things better. When he replied to my farewell and said he was sorry we wouldn’t be working together anymore, I was really touched.

    Not so impressed with the coworkers in my own department who didn’t say goodbye, but oh well.

    Last time I was laid off before that, my coworkers contacted me to give me a going-away lunch. So, you never know. But it doesn’t hurt to reach out if no one reaches out to you first. Just… if you do reach out first and don’t hear back, I think it’s reasonable to feel miffed. But it doesn’t matter. Just move on.

  23. F Sharp*

    I take issue with claiming that “They should have” reached out after a lay-off. All work cultures are different, but I don’t look at my coworkers as anything but that and don’t owe anybody anything. A lot of people have that opinion as well (even if its not an over expression of it), which is why most of them did not reach out.

    1. Never Been There, Never Done That*

      That’s my thought too, F Sharp. I’ve worked at the same agency for 18 years and have worked with hundreds of people (social workers, student interns, nurses, doctors etc.) and in all that time I made one GENUINE friend. One. Why? Because I choose to have a very small friend group. I tend to be introverted and just doing a normal work day drains me. I like all those people I’ve met, I wish them well, live long and prosper, whatever. I like them but they are not my FRIEND.

    2. Heidi*

      I think it’s interesting that OP mentioned that 200+ people work there. Was she expecting 200 people to contact her? I don’t think I know that many people in general, much less at work. I’m also not sure I understand what the nature of the outreach was supposed to be. Condolences for being laid off? Or maintaining social contact outside of work that they may or may not have done while she worked there?

      Personally, I would never expect any of my coworkers to contact me if I left my company unless it were a networking thing. It may be because there isn’t a traditional protocol for when someone gets laid off, like sending a present from the registry if there’s a wedding or flowers for a funeral. I’m wondering if the OP was relying on her coworkers to provide the same level of emotional support that family and friends tend to do when sad things happen. If so, it might be setting the bar too high to assign an emotional support role to people that have only ever served a work support role in her life.

      1. TootsNYC*

        she says that none of the three who did reach out were in her department.
        I might be wistful if none of the people in my immediate department had sent me an email to say, “Sorry to hear, I wish you the best.”

        But not hurt.

  24. Genuine10*

    It is the same way with classmates. When I was growing up all the way into college I was confused by the difference between friends and acquaintances. How could we spend so much time together talking and laughing than when a class change, a transfer to a new school or a graduation happens it all ends? Because classmates just like work friends fall into the category of friendly acquaintances. It always got me when I would call the person or see them in person and there is a distance there that didn’t exist before. That’s because the thing that bonded us a class, school is no longer there.

    1. Vicky Austin*

      There’s really only a few people from both high school and college who I am still friends with.

  25. Blisskrieg*

    As someone who gets caught up in work and loses track of how many weeks go by, it’s important to hear that it matters that people stay in touch and feelings get hurt. This is a good reminder that people do care and reaching out does matter. Not just for layoffs, but for people moving on toward their next step. Thank you OP for this reminder, and I may internalize it as a New Year resolution. Even one or two calls or texts toward a well-liked colleague who leaves may mean something to both them (and to me)!

    1. Lillie Lane*

      I agree. One of the late “life lessons” I’ve learned is that it is generally better to reach out to people going through a hard time than to say silent. One of my former coworkers was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I didn’t reach out much because I didn’t really know what to say. After I heard that she became severely depressed, I felt terrible that I hadn’t been supportive (luckily, she’s doing great now and cancer-free). It really hit home after I was laid off and not one of my coworkers sent a message or LinkedIn connection invite. It stung a little bit.

      So now if I know somebody is going through a rough patch (personally or professionally), I try to get over my discomfort with “finding what to say” because in reality, you don’t have to say anything! Just reach out and tell them that you’re thinking of them.

      1. Quinalla*

        Agreed, I think it is much better to reach out with an imperfect, but genuine message of caring than to not reach out at all. When I hesitate because I’m not sure the message is perfect, I now push through that hesitation knowing that it is better to show my caring to the person.

        That said, I do understand not reaching out after work ends. I stayed in touch regularly with folks from my first job (13 years!) for about a year after I left, but I was always the one setting up lunch and sending emails and I eventually got tired of doing that much work. I also got tired of talking about somewhat toxic former job too which is all they wanted to talk about. I still reach out over email occasionally when I run across something I know they will appreciate and we occasionally talk on linkedin or at events if we see each other and that works for us. I was actually pretty close with my former boss, but he took my leaving pretty personally even though he told me he shouldn’t be, so we really aren’t close anymore. I just feel that is unfortunate, but I still extend a friendly email and say hi at events, if he wants to get closer, I’ve left the door open /shrug.

  26. Theory of Eeveelution*

    If you workplace is anything like mine, HR and management refuse to name anyone who was laid off, “for their privacy.” My work laid off a handful of people earlier this year, and I STILL don’t know everyone that entailed. Basically, the way you find out is when you try to email someone you’re working with on a project, and the email bounces back. It’s a stupid system.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I still remember the time our division head called us all together to say that she’d had to lay off a few people, and stressed that it was all about numbers, and that we should help those people look for new work, etc.

      And then she didn’t name them.
      I mean, they already had been told; it wasn’t a secret.

      But people spent the next 30 minutes whispering urgently in attempts to figure out who it was.

  27. RussianInTexas*

    1. It is super common and normal. If you want them to communicate with you, you reach out.
    2. Don’t confuse work friends with friends.

  28. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

    When I was fired, unfairly, from my church job as the only office person, I was treated like I was this tainted, dirty thing. No one wanted to talk to me, or to know the truth. So I know how much it hurts to be treated like this.

    1. RussianInTexas*

      Just because your former colleagues (you in general, not you specifically) don’t reach out after your layoff or firing, doesn’t mean they think of you as a dirty tainted thing.
      Corporate word is a vastly different beast from a church. People come and go. It’s a transitional place, and there is no real expectation of friendship outside of it. Layoffs are not personal.
      I haven’t contacted people who left. I wasn’t contacted by people after I went through a layoff. It’s not personal. The people are not and were not my friends but coworkers.

      1. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

        I should have been clear … I meant the church members. They all carefully turned their heads.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          I can see how that would hurt. But in a regular job? It’s usually not personal, and not really expected.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, churches are in the people biz. One would expect better behavior than this. A friend had a job which provided a maintanance type service for churches. (sorry, vague. He was in and out of a lot of churches.) As the years rolled by he said the stories piled up. Unfortunately, your story is not as uncommon as one would hope. I don’t think he will ever view any church the same again.

  29. BlueDays*

    When I was unexpectedly laid off from my last job, I was friendly with all my coworkers, but really only considered one as a “work friend,” and she was the only one who had my cell phone number. Someone else had been unexpectedly fired a few weeks prior, and it’d taken our supervisor a week and a half to tell us they “left the company,” so I texted her to let her know I’d been laid off, not fired, and she responded with sympathies. Then I texted her the next day to let her know she could have a a company-specific gift card and some useful company branded products (that she liked to borrow from me) from my desk. Never heard back from her to confirm if she’d gotten them or not. Kinda hurt, but I understand. We chatted a lot at work about random things, but without the context of being at work, it didn’t feel like there was much to say since we really had nothing in common.

  30. Robin*

    I think this is normal. I was at my former workplace 17 years, in a fairly stable department where many of my co-workers had also been there 10-15 years. In a restructure of the department 5 years ago, I was laid off (along with a couple of others). Over the first couple of days I heard from 2 or 3 people. A couple of months later I was invited by someone from a different department to a function at her church. Since then, I’ve had one or two contacts through LinkedIn with one guy who is still there (I am eligible for re-hire and a couple of years ago I applied for a job in a different department and was letting him know – they rejected me). Nothing from anyone else.

    That being said, there is one person, from another different department (but not still with the company either), who I am still friends with, but we also share an outside hobby and were already getting together regularly before she quit several years before my lay off.

    Someone from my current workplace quit a couple of years ago, after having only been here a year or so, and I heard from another co-worker, that she was disappointed that no one had reached out to her (this was after only being gone a couple of months.) I replied to current co-worker with the script above.

    Often, they are simply work relationships.

  31. London Calling*

    I can tell you what’s even worse, LW – being treated like Typhoid Mary while you’re still going through the layoff process. Back in 2003 we were told that there were going to be layoffs and in my department three people were told that one would be going. I was pretty sure it would be me, and I wasn’t that bothered – the company I was working for was known for generous settlement terms and I was burned out with the place anyway. What was deeply irritating was to have colleagues some step into the lift at the same time as me and retreat to the farthest corner possible while all but covering their faces in case they breathed in while in my vicinity.

    And yes, the majority of them had barely stopped congratulating themselves that they had survived when the second cull kicked off – and that one was brutal. Pretty much three quarters of the company from MD downwards – including the people who’d run the original redundancy process that chopped me.

    Didn’t sympathise, I’m afraid.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Ugh! Yeah, stay away in case layoff is contagious.

      It’s difficult too because the message comes down from the C suite to everyone NOT cut is that they need to focus on profitability, customers or whatever and NOT on the headcutting taking place. Unfortunately, some people fall for that load of corporate brainwashing.

  32. MissDisplaced*

    OP, Please don’t take it personal. They’re not being hurtful or betraying you I’m sure. But for a lot of people, work friends mostly stay in the realm of work, and they’re not as much part of life if you know what I mean. They’re not the same friendships as your best friend you grew up with, though sometimes we get very lucky and they can become so.

    I have had a few work friends who I’ve stayed in touch with over the years, many I’ve never heard from again, and some that have gradually faded over time as we all moved on. You never know which will be which–I stay in fairly close touch with a former colleague in another country whom wasn’t even in my office but never talk to others I saw every day at that job. But if there are say, 3 or 4 people you felt closest to, you need to take the first step and contact them! Some of this is on you to take the step to initiate the contact again.

    And I also think that part of your feelings may have to do with the fact that you yourself haven’t yet quite moved on.
    Getting laid off is difficult, and your world gets upended and you’re in a pile of uncertainty. It bites, but try to put it behind you.

  33. Going Anon for This*

    I am struggling with something similar right now. A colleague and I became pretty good friends and talked often. After they left, we kept in touch, but I can see that it is fizzling. I try to reach out periodically, but responses get shorter and more time passes before I even get a response. I’ll be honest, it does hurt. I think it is a combination of not having the shared workplace to discuss and just the distance that comes from not seeing each other often. I try not to take it personally, but lately I have to admit that it is hard to shake the feeling that it is.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Sometimes people just grow apart. Sometimes it is physically moving or living far apart, or maybe they had other life changes like meeting a new romantic partner, having kids, etc.
      I had a good friend I met at a job. We did a lot together after the job ended for a year or two, but after I moved cross country, it became harder and harder to sustain that level of close friendship. Then she also moved and I lost touch even more. It’s sad, and I miss her humor sometimes, but we’ve both just faded it I guess.

      1. Sharon Shallot*

        I worked with someone that became a close friend but she had a toxic personality and it got worse as the years went on. We used to catch up every break for years I was so drained from it all (her constant negativity about everything including me). Then some good news – she moved job locations. I used that window to ditch the friendship all together. I feel so happy about it (it’s now a few years later). I am a bit of an introvert and dealing with people during the workday is so exhausting. I can’t wait for my own break times to do what I want to do (and not gossip with toxic friends).

  34. Daffy Duck*

    I don’t have the private email addresses of any of my coworkers. I think I have my boss’ phone number and maybe 2 or three coworkers from when we travelled for work and wanted to meet up in the airport. Maybe…if it automatically transferred over to my new phone. All our contact is thru work channels.
    They may not know how to get ahold of you.

  35. Mr. McGillicuddy*

    This is so common when it comes to layoffs and it’s happened to me multiple times and I wasn’t the one reaching out. Instead, it was the people left behind who gave me their contact information who said let’s stay in touch, I’ll call you for coffe ect. and never did.

    I tried reaching out to catch up and most often I never heard back.

    I think this also happens when someone leaves a job for other reasons such as mental health or chronic illness; people are just too busy keeping their heads above water, have the time or know what to say, so they just don’t contact you.

  36. Dust Bunny*

    I don’t even have most of my coworkers’ personal contacts. We don’t hang out together outside of work now, so I can’t imagine we’d stay in touch after one of us left. I’ve kept in touch with a very few former coworkers but it’s more like FB friends-level, not getting together for coffee. But . . . we’re work friends. If it’s not already sticking as friends, proper, then it’s not going to turn into anything more.

  37. BRR*

    I definitely get it LW, I was laid off earlier this year as well. I think work is a glue that holds a ton of coworker relationships together. Even the people I was friendlier with, it’s weird to suddenly be thrust into the world of not talking about work. You even mention that you’ll likely never see them again. I can understand why you’re hurt, but it’s really common for work to be the only connection between coworkers.

    1. Jamie*

      The glue holding relationships together is a really good point. Sometimes its work, or a hobby, or friend who holds all the other friends together.

      It happens a lot in families, too. I was 20 something when my parents died and my siblings and were a little rudderless for a while about how to be a family without the glue of mom and dad holding us together. No mandatory gatherings, freed up our holidays for our inlaws…and even though we were individually close and loved each other without the common thread of our parents we had to figure out new dynamics and how to be a family without that.

      For family many will push through the awkwardness until the relationships adjust, if that makes sense…in a way people won’t even think to do for coworkers or hobby friends.

    2. Kathenus*

      Agree with this comment about work being the glue. Unless there are outside interests that tie you to any of your work colleagues, one of the levels of awkwardness is that they aren’t going to want to mention work stuff because they don’t want to seem disrespectful or hurtful to talk about things in the office. And if that was the main bond that you have, it takes away the main topic that conversation might be based on, so they might feel uncomfortable reaching out because they don’t know what to say.

      I’ve been in a situation that has some similarities, and there are a couple of people I’m still a bit hurt that they didn’t ever reach out, but the trick for me was realizing it was about the situation, not about me personally. Sorry you’re going through this.

  38. hbc*

    So…how have you been about contacting others who got fired, quit, or laid off before this happened to you?

    Sometimes it takes being on the other side to recognize what might be wanted and welcome, and it’s better for everyone if you give the benefit of the doubt that they’re not actively snubbing you or staying away from your Unemployment Cooties.

    Plus, if your friendship was one that took place exclusively at work, it’s kind of unnatural for it to suddenly shift into another sphere. My soccer buds aren’t playing soccer with me because they want to hang with me 90 minutes a week, I’m basically part of what makes going to soccer fun (I hope.) If I blew out my knee, I would expect to lose contact with all of them who weren’t already separate social friends.

  39. AuroraTraum*

    Something like that happened to me over a year ago. I was let go from a job that looking back on was very toxic, but at the time I was devastated. No one, at all, reached out to me afterwards, not even a coworker/friend who I’d moved from a previous company to the toxic one with. These were people who I would have frequent happy hours, baby showers, texted with outside of work hours, and other non-work events with for over two years. Hindsight being what it is, I can look back on all those relationships and see them for the flawed things that they were. Sure, it hurt like hell for a while after, but I feel stronger now for it. Plus, I used what I’ve learned from this community to build a better relationship with work at a better job.

    The coworkers who do reach out after a layoff are the ones you want to keep close. Forget the others.

  40. Silicon Valley Girl*

    Companies handle layoff communications differently, & those employee left behind may not have a lot of information. Some places I’ve worked, a reorg happens, & I don’t know who has been let go until I try to email them the next day & get a bounced email!

  41. Longtime Lurker*

    This is timely, as today is my last day before I start a new job next Monday. I made sure my best work buddy has my contact details and told her to freely share with anyone who wanted to stay in touch. Yesterday, I forwarded myself a mass email from a supervisor to all staff (sans attachments/message info; kept names and emails only) so I could look everyone up on LinkedIn later. I do have work friends I’d love to stay in touch with but I’m mostly concerned with networking.

  42. The IT Plebe*

    I could have written this letter nearly two years ago. When I was fired from my last job (performance-related and no bad blood on either side), I was surprised and hurt that only a couple of people had reached out afterward — especially since I had known one of the team leads since college and we had a friendly rapport well before either one of us got a job there. Plus, this was at a start-up that was big into team bonding — not quite “we’re all faaaaamily here” but not too far off either.

    It took me a lot longer than I care to admit to understand that when the common ground is a job and that gets lost, there’s not much else and rarely is there anything left worth picking up again. Work friends are not the same as social friends, no matter how much the lines may blur. I’ve since made my peace with it and enjoy pleasant but appropriately distant relationships with my colleagues at my current job and am much happier for it.

  43. Some Lady*

    I think another layer to this is that it can be tough navigating conversations with someone who no longer works there, especially when that’s the main thing you have in common. What would have been normal conversation now has questions about what’s appropriate to share all around it. To have an ongoing relationship, you might need to make it clear you’re not looking for info about the company and just want to keep up as people.

    1. MommieMD*

      Plus it may be hard if someone is ragging on the company you still work for. You may feel disloyal. Work relationships are very rarely long term. I think it’s best just to accept that and move on.

  44. Silver Mare*

    I had a horrible experience after being fired when I’d been on excellent terms with people there that I worked with: they ignored me. They turned their heads in the street, they refused to say “hello” when I smiled and said “hi” (I figured if I made it not awkward, things would be easier if I went on nicely and normally), they addressed my boyfriend but not me when I was standing right there… It was vile. It made me feel invisible and really played a part in my mental health at the time. (Note, not fired for anything that would have meant no one could talk to me, nothing confidential, not in finance, education, government etc – bog-standard office work and production. That may have made more sense.) It was dehumanising and it was surprising how badly it struck me.

    Maybe Alison is right and people just don’t know what to do or say. That doesn’t make them right, however, and there’s a decent level of humanity we can all aim for. The best thing I personally took from that (besides learning what I can from my abrupt departure) was that I didn’t have to act like that. I could still smile, I could still exist, I had a right to exist. I could say “hello” and I could be how I wanted to be (friendly and polite), whether that was to the people who had ignored me etc or new people, other people. You can take it forward and hold it lightly in mind that you can act differently when you are in another position – a better position. You can’t control what others do but you can definitely look at what you’re doing and learn from it.

    Sorry for going on!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      You know, this might make an interesting column for Alison. What does one say to a laid off coworker and when do they say it?
      Over and over I am seeing here that people are suggesting that others do not know what to say. Looks like a topic for discussion to me.

      I am sorry that happened to you. That’s awful.

  45. Holy Carp*

    It’ll be the same when you retire. The lesson here is that your work buddies are different from other friends. Don’t expect to hear from them – move on. It’s not YOU; it’s the situation.
    I retired in the past year and I knew this would happen, but it’s still a little jarring. I’m looking for new venues and activities to make new friends, but it’s not as easy as when you were in school or work, where there was a ton of people to swim in. :)

  46. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

    I’m so sorry, OP. I don’t know how close you were with your coworkers prior to the layoff, but it’s possible they also assume that *you* don’t want to be contacted by *them*, due to trauma or bitter feelings or something. So unless you and your coworkers already have a precedent for communicating outside of work, they probably won’t start the tradition now.

    Also, this might be cold comfort, but they probably are shaken on your behalf. I’ve seen two people get fired from my current team. The first one I didn’t even know was a firing until 2 months after the fact, because it was hush hush. I was shocked when I learned the truth. The second one was a colleague I was friendly with, so I did meet up with them after the incident. I don’t know if it is the case in every workplace, but in my team, we get pretty tense when someone is let go.

  47. pamplemousse*

    I don’t have a lot of advice, but I just want to say I’m sorry you’re feeling like this, OP, and I think it’s completely understandable. I’ve worked at my job for six years and have a few people I truly consider to be close friends, along with many others who I get along with and talk to frequently who are more in the “friendly acquaintance” category, including my managers.

    If I were laid off or quit, I’d miss them all terribly, especially if I didn’t have another job lined up or if I wasn’t quite adjusted to the new workplace yet. The daily, low-stakes interactions of “let’s complain briefly about that long meeting” or “look at this photo of my niece at Halloween!” or “that presentation you gave last week was so good, can we figure out a way to work on a project together sometime?” really make day go by and make you feel connected to other people. You have shared references and inside jokes. You’ve likely been through stressful situations together and come out still liking one another. I’m well-liked at work, but I know that if I left, they wouldn’t stay in mourning for long — just as I’ve often failed myself to keep in touch with coworkers I admire and like a lot.

    What I’m saying is that it’s not unusual to be sad about this. But I’d encourage you just to see it as a fact of life, not a failing on their part. If you run into these people again, they’ll probably be genuinely glad to see you. If you reach out after a little time has passed, they’ll probably be happy to catch up. They probably have the same questions of just how close you actually were, and feel just as awkward about staying in touch.

  48. Partly Cloudy*

    I was laid off last fall (my “position was eliminated” so it wasn’t a mass layoff where tons of people were all going through the same thing at the same time – the total headcount in the company was around 100).

    I got hurtful radio silence from a couple of people who I’d considered close “work friends.” We had socialized outside of work once or twice and hung out/chatted at work a lot. On the flip side, I did hear from a lot of other people, many of whom I was sort of surprised to hear from (in a good way). It was touching to know that more people cared than I realized, even if they weren’t the same people I thought.

  49. Not My Real Name*

    About a year ago, one of my coworkers was laid off. He’d been increasingly volatile and we were expressly forbidden from communicating with him. Our boss had us locking doors and afraid that the former colleague was dangerous. I assumed that the lack of communication was due to some litigation and followed the boss’ orders, since he was the one who signed my paychecks. I regretted not being able to get in touch, since I’d liked this colleague. I kept tabs on him through a mutual acquaintance as best I could.

    Fast forward to this summer, when I got laid off. I strongly believe that I, too, was made persona non grata by my former boss. Despite it being a position elimination, he went against organizational policy with his layoff process. It got ugly and I had to get a lawyer. In fact, it was my former colleague who suggested the lawyer after I let him know I’d joined the layoff club.

  50. Another worker bee*

    I’ll admit I’m guilty of this, OP. My employer went through a pretty devastating round of layoffs – there was a slight reorg but mostly they just needed to cut headcount to keep doors open. I reached out to several people on adjacent teams but the person on my team, with my title, I couldn’t bring myself to reach out to because of the guilt and I didn’t feel he’d want to hear from me – I was spared and he wasn’t. It felt a little different with people not on my team, because my keeping my job was not at their expense, so to speak.

  51. AndersonDarling*

    If you had contact with a few people at Old Work, then all your old co-workers are getting updates from those contacts. It’s like a game of telephone where the channel expands as soon as the info gets to the contact. The contact keeps everyone informed on how you are doing. Sometimes co-workers will ask the contact to ask you something the next time you chat. But since the co-workers received information (“She’s doing great and got a new job!” or “She’s having a hard time adjusting”) then they don’t feel as compelled to reach out on their own.

  52. Nicole*

    I can kind of relate. I was let go last year from a job I kept 6 years and I ended up Facebook friending a bunch of coworkers after I was let go (I follow the rule at work to not FB friend people until I’ve moved on from the job; just for privacy’s sake). And a year later, I sort of keep in touch with a couple, but not too many. Like Amy said, work relationship’s end once the work ends, at least that’s the case for me most of the time (although I think that sucks).

    A few people brought this point up, but for me, when I was let go, I contacted via text/messaging and just asked people how things were at the office. It’s a two-way street and since it sounds like you were JUST let go, it may feel awkward for them to contact you and be like, “So, uh, how is unemployment going?” Be the one to reach out and you may be surprised.

  53. Lee*

    Oh well now I feel like a jerk… there was a coworker I had a nice rapport with who got laid off due to that part of the company being discontinued. I thought I should leave it in her court to contact me in case she wanted a clean break (she could have stayed on for another couple months but she chose to leave immediately, so I never saw her again.) I’m going to message her even though it’s been a few months…

  54. Typhon Worker Bee*

    Ah, I really needed to read this. I recently got laid off, but with 6 weeks notice, so I’m still working there. The boss sent an email around explaining the situation, specifying that it’s a reorganisation and that I’m not being let go for any fault of my own, and thanking me for the work I’ve done while I’ve been in the job. The people I work with the most closely have been really supportive and lovely, but out of the rest of the group, maybe two or three people out of more than twenty have said anything to me. I don’t consider them friends per se, but we’re all very friendly, occasionally hang out together socially, and they’re nice people. And yet, even when there’s an opportunity such as being with me in an otherwise empty elevator, or me initiating a private IM about an unrelated issue, there’s just… crickets. It’s been a bit hard to take, so thank you for this very timely article!

    1. TootsNYC*

      they may think it’s a sore spot, and they don’t want to poke it.

      They may also just not remember it at the moment.

  55. Lady Blerd*

    A lifetime ago I used to work at a call centre and I had gotten close to one of my colleagues, phone numbers exchanged and all that. And then I was let go of that job and poof! No more contact from her. She has since moved on to a job in the Downtown core and I still go there regularly to shop so once a year or every other year, we see each other when I go there after office hours to shop, including this week where, by reflex, I almost smiled and then swallowed it quickly because although I never think about that friendship outside of when we see each other, I am still a little hurt by her disappearance. Although I should be more understanding because I am not one to maintain a high level of connection outside of work.

    I also work in the type of job where people are posted in and out regularly and like Allison said, our intense work friendships reveal themselves to be rather superficial and you find yourselves with not much to say when you run into each other. I’ve accepted that as part of my place of work’s culture. That said, this is one positive side of Facebook, you can maintain that link through it even if you never physically see each other again.

  56. Another HR manager*

    OP I get that this is hard. People at work know me better in some ways than social friends. Work friends see me almost every day. They see me at my best and my worst. They forgive my stress — and allow for my foibles and I for theirs. And yes, these friendships will dissipate when one of us moves on. But to me, that does not make it less real. Frankly, I could also lose a close social friend if we had to work together and they find out what a stress-puppy I can be! There are different types of intimacy – each valuable. And while there is deep value in the friendships that last the years, these are few and far between.

  57. 1234*

    I’ve been in the World of Work for over a decade. I’ve semi kept in touch with ONE person from a former job. It is more like networking than “real friendship.” Sometimes I will send her an email with a link to a job that might suit her. Last time, she responded “Always up for new opportunities. Hope you’re well.” Sometimes, she will text me when she is in my city. I will do the same like “Hey, I saw you were also on the guest list for Industry Thing! Too bad I didn’t run into you there!”

    I don’t expect to keep in touch with any former co-workers. I’m not close to them outside of the office and don’t expect to be now that I don’t work there anymore. I will say, young, naive me thought two of my former coworkers would be BFF even after both left OldJob. They had a lot in common! Both former coworkers were llama groomers married to teapot analysts. They were all around the same age.

    Imagine my surprise when one of them wrote to the other on social media “I really enjoyed our friendship at llama grooming company. I hope you’re doing well.” I read that and was like “They don’t talk anymore???” which might make sense. One llama groomer moved to another country with her husband. The other llama groomer and her husband bought a house in the suburbs and had children. Their paths diverged and their friendship, however strong I thought it was, didn’t keep up with their changing lives.

  58. MassMatt*

    OP I have both survived rounds of layoffs and been laid off, it’s a painful experience, I get it. But IMO you are taking this much too personally. People fall out of touch when they don’t have things in common anymore, and for most people at work, work is what they have in common.

    I agree with other commenters that you can take the initiative to stay in touch with THEM, but I implore you to resist the urge to “tell them how hurt I am” or talk about “betrayal”. This will likely ensure the former coworkers will never want to interact with you and damage your ability to network. I know it’s difficult but try to be positive in your interactions as much as possible. Good luck in your search!

  59. Junior Dev*

    I texted a former coworker a few weeks after getting fired to see about getting drinks together. His first response was “I’m glad you reached out, I thought you’d be mad at us.” (I was—still am—mad at my ex-boss. Not him.)

    Reach out, OP. At least to the people you want to stay in touch with.

  60. TooTiredToThink*

    I read a bunch of comments but didn’t see this – sometimes managers tell their employees they aren’t supposed to contact people who’ve been laid off. I would assume that OP would know if she had worked in such an environment; but just in case, I’m saying it. I do know I have a vague recollection of being told not to contact any staff after I was laid off (but I kinda ignored that and sent the FB and/or LinkedIn invites as I wanted). I also know with us, there were so many lay-offs that I think it just got overwhelming for most people and they went into survival mode. I wasn’t surprised that the only a few reached out after it happened. And like the OP; it was people from different offices and not local people.

    1. Jamie*

      Yep. Persona non grata.

      I worked in a place once that would flag email to make sure ex-employees weren’t contacting current employees via work email and connecting on LinkedIn was seen as betrayal.

      1. 1234*

        What? What if the person left on good terms, such as simply moving on and finding a better opportunity?

    2. Elizabeth*

      It was made very clear to me when two long-time coworkers were laid off that maintaining social contact with them would be detrimental to my long-term prospects at the organization. I always found that to be a horrible attitude. The entire management team involved with the layoff has left, so I can go back to being friends with the one who is still alive.

  61. Malarkey01*

    This was such a great response, especially the part about confusing friendly acquaintances with friends. I once worked with someone I thought of as a good friend, and then I had the need to call them at home on their personal phone. I felt so weird like I was crossing a boundary and apologized for bothering them after hours… that’s when it hit me that we weren’t actually friends because calling someone at 7 pm is not a big deal for friends. Since then I’ve always thought would it be normal or weird to call the, on a Saturday as my friends?or friendly? test

  62. Minocho*

    I’ve made a few good friends that have lasted well past the job where I met them. But only a very few.

    Reaching out to people through a work related medium (Linked In is great for this) has worked for me in some circumstances similar to this. If you take the first step and keep it light and conversational or make a clear and limited request, you are likely to get a good response.

  63. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I was only laid off once in my whole life. And my former co-workers stayed in touch with me for technical advice.

    Some of us were in the company’s unemployment/guidance center, so we saw each other. And we did remain friends – and some kept in touch.

    Three things – with e-mail – always compile a list of e-mail addresses and send them to your personal e-mail account. In that manner you can always say good-bye no matter what the company’s e-mail policy is.

    LinkedIn – you always know where everybody is.

    Last but not least – if you were in any professional associations – STAY IN THEM. Go to their get-togethers.

  64. Maude*

    I learned years ago in my first professional job after job cuts were announced, that once you are out of the building you are out of their lives. Previous social engagements dried up and zero contact was made. The layoff was devastating and realizing these work “friends” were not actual life friends at all was also devastating.
    Since then I have drawn a thick line between work and personal friendships, and never the twain shall meet.

    1. MommieMD*

      Agreed. I like and care about my work friends and wish them well. Save for one I see in real life I’m ok never to see them again if anyone parts ways. The one I’m very close to also went to med school with me. There’s an additional connection.

  65. Aeon*

    It’s a bummer, but that is usually the way it goes, in my experience. I was laid off from a job that I’d been in for a very long time. And there were some people who were lovely and supportive about it on my way out the door, who I never heard from again. One in particular who I thought was a close friend who went full radio silence as soon as she heard. It stung a bit at the time, but I know that they are very busy, we work opposite schedules, etc. But it was also that the main thing we had in common was gone. The particulars of why it’s happening are probably less important than trying to not take it personally is. This is very likely not a personal slight.

    I have been lucky to keep a few friends from those days, but those were people I was already exceptionally close to, hung out with often outside of work, and bonded over a lot of non-work topics. Those people are my good friends. With few exceptions, the rest were just colleagues. And that’s OK.

  66. Looking Forward*

    OP here. Thanks to Alison and everyone who commented – your insight has helped a lot. I guess I read more into the working relationships than what was really there. I was able to send a goodbye email to everyone with my contact info. Had been with the company just shy of ten years.

    Didn’t socialize outside of work, and it makes sense I should initiate contact – maybe in the future, after I man up and get over it first (yeah, I’m a guy).

    Tough to say if the silence is the result of giving me space, an awkward reluctance to speak, or a fear of poking strong emotions with a stick (by the way, best phrase ever, sunny-dee).

    To Relatable, Jaded Millenial, Blisskrieg, Grand Admiral, MissDisplaced, anyone else I may have missed – thank you for your empathy; you all rock! While the cold shoulder still smarts some, I’m moving past it. The day will come when it’s just a distant memory.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Friends for a reason, a season or a life time.

      This is a wonderful bit of advice that can be applied to classmates, neighbors, cohorts, or to the just plain kind sales person in a nearby store.
      It can be a sanity saver in some cases.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      I don’t know if this will help with how you think of it, but I was laid off after 12 years with the company and 5 with that particular group of coworkers. No one kept in touch (a few work-related questions, some LinkedIn connections), despite several being relatively close work friends. I didn’t initiate anything myself except a few targeted requests for references from people who had offered. It hurt some, but I had other colleagues who had left for various reasons over the years and only kept in touch with the few I had known before work myself.

      And then after 18 months I ended up back at the same company and indirectly working with that group of coworkers. Honestly, I dropped right back in. I felt really welcomed back and there wasn’t any of the weirdness that I feared – it helped that I didn’t show what little bitterness still remained (about the layoff, not lack of contact). Some more distant colleagues didn’t know I had ever been out of the company in the first place.

      So, it’s very likely that it’s only situational, not personal. I’m sure they would be the same friendly people and think just as warmly of you if you were to run into them, just not in the keeping-in-touch after you’re gone sense.

  67. MommieMD*

    Work friends are almost always situational. It’s not personal. Your work friends did genuinely care about you but that era is over. Sorry about the lay off. Good luck.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. I think it’s possible to make a couple good friends over the years through work, but more often than not, once that one big thing people have in common is gone, people detach. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that if work was the only thing people had in common, there’s nothing to talk and commiserate about once that’s gone.

  68. Type 2*

    I could have written this letter. Same thing happened to me – and people I’d known for 20 years, people whose bridal showers I planned, people whose family funerals I attended, DID NOTHING. It hurt way worse than losing the job.

    I think you have to let yourself mourn this. Also know that, even though it’s cowardly, it is true that people “don’t know what to say”. It’s crap, but it’s true.

    Best part is that I landed a great job with a company known in my town for treating employees like gods and goddesses. And – shocker! – my phone is ringing off the hook! Hard to believe that the same people who acted as if I had vaporized now want to “pick my brain” about working at Awesome Co.

    You have helped people by posting this. To everyone out there – if your friend/co-worker loses their job – just send a note/text/call/smoke signal and say “I’m thinking of you.”

  69. Looking*

    I’ve been laid off twice after working for 20 years. First time was after a two year stint and several people laid off. I had several people reaching out asking if I was ok, expressing surprise and disappointment that I was leaving, saying complimentary things and thanking me. Beyond those initial reach outs I haven’t stayed in touch with my main team as it is awkward and we all needed to move on – they with the new structure and me with my new life without the company. I’ve had reach outs from a few people who were job hunting or interviewing for advice, while others still in the company understandably haven’t communicated as it’s awkward OR they can’t gossip with me about company stuff anymore understandably! The second lay-off was after a shorter stint, it was noticeably a bad fit between myself and my manager (although still office silly a lay-off) and I didn’t get any reach outs save for a few peers. I’m sorry to hear you didn’t hear from others – did you have social relationships with some of your past colleagues? I found a difference between work friends vs friend-friends (which are much fewer for me). Also if there’s mutual professional benefit.

  70. MonkeyPrincess*

    I think this can be industry-specific. My husband works in IT, and he and many of his friends get laid off with a considerable amount of regularity. Finding a new job (either because you don’t have one, or just because you’re looking to move) is very much about connections, and he stays friends with people he worked with 20 years ago and they’re always helping each other network. I worked in a more traditional office environment, and the only person I’ve ever stayed in touch with was a coworker who was pregnant at the same time as me, and we commiserated about that, and having a same-age kid was enough of a bonding experience. But we don’t even hang out, we’re just Facebook friends who message every once and a while.

    1. LilySparrow*

      Yeah, I commented below about not staying connected socially with colleages. I do stay connected about work, the industry in general, job hunts, references, congratulations – the kind of thing you’d do on LinkedIn, though not always through that platform.

      And the sort of Facebook/Instagram connection where you like their vacation photos or comment on a baby picture. The same kind of general awareness you’d share with the parents of your kids’ classmates, or the neighbors from the house you used to live in.

      I think LW was looking for a really direct personal connection, and that’s just not the norm in my experience. Relationships are built not just on time or liking, but habits.

      If you haven’t built a habit of connecting with someone in different contexts, and for different reasons, then there’s no infrastructure to support the relationship when the original context ends.

  71. ResuMAYDAY*

    I couldn’t read through all the responses here so I’m sorry if this was already said by someone else. For those of us who *have* stayed in touch with coworkers who were laid off, the outplaced person frequently wants to vent and talk about how the company treated them poorly. Twice, former coworkers attempted to get me to quit in solidarity with them! The conversations became a loop of them complaining and me comforting, until I detached.
    It could be that your former coworkers are predicting something similar. It’s so difficult to empathize and commiserate while being relieved you aren’t in the same tough spot, be willing to help but not wanting to feel guilty about any of it.

  72. Pretzelgirl*

    I think its hard, because we spend 40+ hours a week with people. Depending on the nature of your job, you could have a lot of interaction with them. I had a job where the staff was incredibly close. We went to weddings, baby showers, hung out, outside of work etc. We were a young a staff as well. I was laid off, along with several others. I remember feeling like I lost all my best friends. I was so lonely for months afterward. I still miss my time there, and it was almost 8 years ago! Some people stayed in touch, but most others moved on. It just kind of happened.

    So I think its more common than you think. I think some people view their work friends as just that and nothing else. Then that job is over and everyone moves on.

  73. Horseshoe*

    I think in general, if you want to stay in touch with people, assume that you have to do 100% of the reaching out. If it’s people from an old workplace, if they just don’t respond, then I would try to let it go. I have also had the opposite issue where a coworker left / was fired, and I tried to stay in touch and they ignored me.

    I really loved my coworkers at my last job, and I have stayed in touch with several of them, but it is 100% me reaching out to ask them to lunch, me going over to where they work to meet up for lunch (to make it convenient). They have kids and long commutes and existing daily routines, so I fit our meetings into that. It might sound like they just aren’t that into me when I describe this, but I’m confident that these people are all happy to meet with me for lunch, just not so invested that they will set up lunch themselves. I still think of them as “work friends” as opposed to close friends where I would pick up the phone and have a long call with them, but they are part of my social network.

  74. Heffalump*

    ~20 years ago I saw some general observations about the work world posted at the placement center at a community college. There was a lot of good information, but the thing that comes to mind right now was: Be careful of getting too close emotionally to your coworkers. It may affect your ability to size up situations rationally.

  75. Karen S Eugenio*

    This happened to me about three years ago. I was the manager of a small department and got laid off, escorted out with my box of stuff right after. I texted my team to let them know I was gone so they wouldn’t be caught by surprise when they saw my office cleaned out. They all texted back to say thanks for letting me know/good luck and then nothing ever again.

    I totally understand it but I managed these folks for two years, helped them develop their careers, shared their foibles, ups and downs, personal issues- the whole nine yards, then NOTHING. It kind of sucks and still stings a few years later…

  76. LilySparrow*

    I’ve moved around a lot in the last 25 years of working, and I can only think of two former coworkers who reached out to me socially – a boss who left the company and invited many coworkers to her annual holiday party that year (but not again). And a peer who, after I left, sent a general “call me if you’re in the neighborhood, we can grab lunch.”

    I can’t recall ever reaching out to a former colleague socially. Maybe a card if I heard their loved one died.

    Work is work. It’s nice to work with nice people, and sometimes work involves mingling and networking, or being supportive to someone who needs it. But it’s still work. Not personal.

  77. Luna*

    If you are really, really good friends with those people – and by that I mean ‘outside of work’ friends, having shared life stories and events and all beyond the standard work interaction – then they are mainly friends. If they are just work friends, well, you no longer have contact after not working there anymore. Simple as that.

  78. Similar Situation*

    This happened to me twice actually, and when you’re already feeling vulnerable for losing a job, having people you considered friends drop off at the same time can be painful. I had friends who would invite me to parties at their houses and out for drinks, and we’d share everything about our working life. Then when I was layed off, no contact. Not even interested in getting lunch to catch up. So it’s not just you. It happens. I always prefer to keep in touch — I guess some people just function differently.

  79. Looking Forward*

    No schadenfreude here, but glad to see that I’m not the only one this has happened to. Moral of the story, co-workers are not friends and are only concerned with their own lives. It sucks, but this is the society we’ve crafted for ourselves.

  80. boop the first*

    Okay I have to ask.

    Did you reach out to these 200+ coworkers?
    I only ask because you didn’t mention any of the conversations you initiated yourself. You did express disappointment that none of the 3 people who emailed you were in your department. Is that because you already initiated contact with your closest departmental coworkers and therefore they are excused?

    If you did send out a message and they didn’t reply back, sorry to hear it. I sent out a message or two to my coworker after a lay off and didn’t get an answer and it does feel a little like rejection. Usually I assume they saw it when they were busy, and then forgot about it.

    But by chance that you didn’t do this, then is it reasonable to be upset? Hypothetically speaking, shouldn’t they then be wondering the same about you? (My family used to do this all the damn time… I would call, and they would spend the call complaining about how I only call once or twice a year. Or how I only made the trip up to visit them once a year. How many times they’ve called me during that time? Zero. They would even travel to my city to purchase something, and not even let me know they were around.) Why is it such a one-sided expectation? I assume this isn’t the case for you, though, otherwise you wouldn’t have taken the time to write a letter about it.

  81. LawBee*

    That is so hard. And being the person who was laid off is very lonely – it happened to me a few years ago, and I had the same experience. I thought I had this great relationship with several coworkers but it just fizzled to nothing not long after I left there. And I felt a little abandoned and a little betrayed and very very alone.

    As my mom said to me then: some people are friends for a reason, some are friends for a season, and there’s value in both.

    I’m in the process of leaving my job for another, and while I hope to stay somewhat in contact with people, there is really only one person I do consider an actual true-blue friend – and we just had the conversation yesterday about how we’re going to work to keep our friendship alive after we don’t see each other every day. It is going to take work, but that’s part of maintaining a relationship.

    So I feel you, LW. All the ghost hugs from here.

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