I’m upset that my friend wants to work for the company that laid me off

A reader writes:

I have a bit of what I feel is an ethical dilemma and would like some help gaining perspective on how it is best to handle this type of situation.

I was suddenly laid off from my dream job this past winter. And when I say suddenly, I mean one hour I was being given tasks and the next hour I was told they were coming to collect my work computer. Due to administrative decisions, my job was exported to another location so a different arm of the company would handle it. The kicker? I helped set up that arm of the company and ended up essentially training my replacement.

Obviously, I found this pretty traumatic and upsetting. You’d think that being told you have done nothing wrong when being let go is the ideal situation, but it was horrible to know there was no way I could have helped myself and that my skills and abilities were not at all part of the decision to let me go. It took me months to shake the feelings of inferiority and anxiety and start applying for work again, and my very good friend was there with me to help pick up the pieces.

Fast forward to several months later, when this friend suddenly tells me that they are applying for a job in the same department that laid me off. Not asked for input, just told me that it’s happening. It is worth noting that they are currently employed but feel unsatisfied in their job, so they aren’t desperate for money or work (which to me would change the situation).

The feeling of betrayal took me completely by surprise, but I find myself angry and hurt. As irrational as it is, I feel as though this friend is now stealing my dream job from me, even though the position they are applying for is not the same as the one that I was laid off from. I would take back my job in a heartbeat if it became available, I loved everything about it. And I know it is stupid to call dibs on a job or on a company — I have encouraged this friend to apply for the same jobs that I apply for in the past, so normally I do not feel possessive over work situations — but I want to tell this friend to go kick rocks.

I also worry that they will ask me to be a reference for them, as I am still well respected in that department (I have been asked to come back and contract every time the budget allows for it and have comfortable/friendly relationships with the people who still work there) and … well, I don’t want to. I do not want to help my friend secure something that I feel was taken out from under me. I know it is petty, I feel incredibly guilty for feeling this way, but I do.

What the heck do I do with this? I know my friend could do the job fairly okay-ish (I do believe that it is above their experience level) and the reasons I don’t want to help them are totally personal. There is no good reason for me to gatekeep this job or this company from them except for my hurt feelings. Should I suck it up and be helpful and encouraging to my friend? Am I being too petty by having feelings about this and wanting to distance myself from this person? How stupid will I sound if I tell them I think they are being weirdly inconsiderate by assuming that I would be enthusastic for them? Help.

You get to feel however you feel! But your friend hasn’t done anything wrong.

It sounds like intellectually you know that … but on a more visceral, emotional level you don’t.

I suspect there are two things going on. One, you feel like this company wronged you, and so loyalty demands that your friend not see them as a viable employer for themselves. You want them to see the company as Villain Who Mistreated Friend. Two, and probably bigger, you see your friend trying to take something for themselves that you feel belongs to you — and if you can’t have it, they definitely shouldn’t.

It sounds like you’re feeling similarly to how you might if you were mistreated by an ex and a friend comforted you through the break-up and got an intimate, close-up look at how hurt you were, and then attempted to date the ex themselves.

But this isn’t that! Your company wasn’t an ex. The relationships aren’t personal in the same way. Your friend needs to be able to do what’s best for their career, and they’re not wronging you by applying for a job at a company that laid you off.

And it’s not the same job! It’s not reasonable to expect an entire company to be off-limits to a friend because you once worked there and were let go. (That’s true regardless, but it’s even more true if you yourself have been doing contract work for them since leaving!)

With your feelings toward your company, I know it’s easy to say “it’s business, not personal” … but these are business relationships, not personal ones. Of course it’s awful to lose a job you loved, and it can feel personal. But at some point it’s better for your mental health — and for your decision-making going forward — to acknowledge that this is how business works: companies make the decisions that are in their best interests, just as you’ll make decisions that are in yours. They should treat you with dignity, of course! And they should pay you reasonable severance. But realistically, this is the nature of jobs. Not seeing that clearly leads people to make sacrifices for their employers that they shouldn’t make, like working unreasonably long hours for months on end, accepting poor pay and bad working conditions, and hesitating to move on because they feel guilty about leaving.

I think not seeing that clearly is connected to why being laid off for reasons that had nothing to do with you made you feel inferior … when by definition, the decision wasn’t a commentary on you at all. Seeing that clearly can be pretty scary — it means that no matter how good your work is, you can’t count on your job being secure. If you’d never really processed that before, you’re going to be deeply rattled when you’re forced to! It’s going to shake the foundations of something you’d relied on for safety — and rather than confronting that, it can be easier to feel like it’s somehow your fault. But it’s not, and making your brain challenge that thinking will help you make better decisions for yourself going forward.

Anyway, it’s okay to have a bunch of complicated feelings about the situation. But try to see that your friend isn’t doing anything wrong.

If you really need to, you can tell your friend something like, “I hope it goes well for you, but it’s still a really tender spot for me — so I hope you’ll understand if I can’t hear much about it for now.”

As for the possibility of your friend asking for a reference: if you’ve never worked with them, you’re not well positioned to be a reference anyway. You could reasonably send a note saying, “My friend Tangerina Warbleworth is applying for the X job. I’ve never worked with her, but she’s smart and passionate about llamas and could be worth talking to.” That’s not really a reference; it’s more of a referral. If you feel you can’t do that, you can explain to your friend that it’s just too much of a sore spot … but keep in mind that that’s going to be hard to say credibly if you’re also doing contract work for this company!

You don’t need to be actively happy for your friend but you do need to strive to be at least neutral … and to see their career decisions as a separate thing from yours.

{ 210 comments… read them below }

  1. Roscoe*

    I understand your feelings, and also feel you are being petty.

    I guess part of what I don’t get is that YOU are willing to go back and do contract work, so its not like you harbor some huge vendetta against them, but you also don’t think she should even apply there. That sounds oddly possessive of you. And as you said, its not the same job.

    I did once have a kind of similar situation. Me and my best friend have similar backgrounds, and both do the same general type of work in the same field. We worked together many years ago, but thats it. I was laid off from a company out of nowhere, and he heard all about it. A few months later after a lot of others quit, they reached out to try and recruit him. He gave them a polite, yet firm, email about why he would never work for them. That is great loyalty, and I appreciated him for it. BUT, the difference was, there was no way I would’ve done contract work for them.

    You kind of want it both ways, you get to still have a relationship with them, but don’t think anyone else you know should. If its a good company and a good job, you can’t really dictate this.

    1. Green Goose*

      I agree with “I understand your feelings, and also feel you are being petty.”
      Based on the letter itself, I think the OP had a strong inkling they were being petty and wanted confirmation from an unbiased outside source, which AAM is kind of perfect for in this situation. We don’t have any skin in the game so we can provide our perspective based on the info in the letter.
      When I was reading the letter, I was thinking oof, this sucks for the OP. And I can see why it may prolong some version on the sting to see your friend working in the department that you miss, but I think a lot more damage can be done by trying to kibosh it. You may come across as bitter or unprofessional to the department, which could potential chill a future possibility for rehire and if your friend found out they would be rightly quite upset with you.

      There may even be some unexpected positives if your friend is hired. You would have someone really rooting for you on the inside and might be privy to new openings or contract projects. If your friend becomes a good asset to the team, the company may also see that you are continuing to help them.

      This is anecdotal but I thought it might be nice for OP to read, I work at an org that had a guy Wakeen work here for years. There was an old CEO, Ron, that did not like Wakeen. Wakeen did great work but unfortunately Ron pushed him out and Wakeen was pretty devastated. He even moved away afterward. Well, a few years later Ron resigned and the company grew which offered some new, higher level positions and since Wakeen had done such great work he was shortlisted and then hired for one of the roles. If Wakeen had gone on a petty journey after Ron pushed him out and burned bridges, he never would have been considered for the elevated positions a few years in the future.

      1. Fran Fine*

        There may even be some unexpected positives if your friend is hired. You would have someone really rooting for you on the inside and might be privy to new openings or contract projects. If your friend becomes a good asset to the team, the company may also see that you are continuing to help them.

        Great points.

        And OP – your friend did not have to ask for your input or permission to apply to your former employer, so get that out of your head.

    2. Malarkey01*

      If I was LWs friend I would think the fact that she was contracting for them and would like to go back as a sign that it was a good company and there would be no harsh feelings if I worked there. If LW had a horrible toxic work environment, was treated very badly, bullied by bosses, or mistreated while there, I’d absolutely think steer clear these aren’t great people and I shouldn’t work for a company that contributed to treating my friend this way. There’s just a very mixed message in this situation, and I think gatekeeping a company you’d work for but not like for your friend (and in non competing roles) would stress a lot of friendships.

      I am sorry LW lost their job though and is having a touch time. That is really hard!

      1. Malarkey01*

        To clarify stress the friendship as in make the friend think twice about the relationship or develop bad feelings.

      2. Roscoe*

        Yeah, the mixed message is what I don’t get. She is working with them still, which looks, at least to me, like there aren’t hard feelings

        1. Mad Harry Crewe*

          I don’t think it’s as mixed as it seems from outside: OP wants more, but she’ll take contracting if that’s what’s available — but someone else getting what she wants is going to sting.

          But the friend isn’t getting what OP wants. The job OP wants is not on the table. The job the friend is going for is presumably one that OP could also apply for, if she wanted.

          I’m forgetting the name, but there’s also the thing where one’s own actions are justified and understandable in ways that someone else’s aren’t, because we’re intimate with our own circumstances and not with someone else’s. If I run a stop sign, it’s because I’m in a rush and also I checked and nobody else was coming and I know this intersection and it’s safe. If someone else runs a stop sign (especially if they’re not a member of my in-group, such as a motorcycle rider), they’re careless and a scofflaw and endangering others and a blight on society.

          OP maybe consults because she likes the team and needs the money and wants to maintain good relationships in case an appropriate job opens up again in the future, and none of that is a betrayal of her wanting the job (that’s not open, and doesn’t exist right now). Friend has a stable job and doesn’t neeeeeeed to change, so there’s no reason for friend to go for this job, which is a proxy for the job that OP wants and can’t have.

          OP, I would encourage you to talk to your friend about why they’re interested in this job. Listen with empathy, and work on detaching your desire for your old job from Friend’s desire for this separate job.

          1. OP*

            OP here, and I think you hit the nail on the head describing my feelings. I’ve since cooled off (the letter was part of how to do that…I didn’t want to take out my likely unjustified feelings on my friend or our mutual friends, but also really needed to get an outside reality check).

            The stinging part was the lack of pause, I believe, or the lack of acknowledging either ‘you would have a good insight into this’ or ‘this may cause a feeling or two.’ Not the job-wanting itself. I think it stirred up the same ‘you have no power or meaning here!’ feeling I got from the original job loss, who knows. Feelings are confusing! I agree with Alison’s assessment here and with your advice – which is what I ended up doing a day or two after I wrote this!

            1. JD*

              Okay this is kind of ridiculous but bear with me.

              For *six years* I entered a pageant for an annual event that I love; but I was never chosen to be a finalist. Last year I brought a friend of me to the event and she really enjoyed it. So this year, she entered the pageant — and was chosen as a finalist.

              It’s great that she did that, and great that she got picked. But I was definitely stung by it. She never even would have heard of this event if I hadn’t taken her. Why didn’t she ask me if I would mind if she entered? NOPE, she does NOT have to, and it is 100% her choice, but just because something is logical does not mean it doesn’t cause a ripple of emotions.

              I absolutely do not think you were being petty, I think you were being human. You have the good grace to acknowledge your feelings are not necessarily warranted, yet you feel them anyway. I hope everything works out well for you AND your friend.

          2. just passing through*

            there’s also the thing where one’s own actions are justified and understandable in ways that someone else’s aren’t, because we’re intimate with our own circumstances and not with someone else’s.
            “It’s one of those irregular verbs, isn’t it? I have an independent mind, You are eccentric, He is round the twist,” as they put it in the fantastic TV show Yes Minister.

            Come to think of it, there’s probably material for more than a few AAM posts in Yes Minister

    3. Meep*

      I think it is the idea that LW doesn’t feel good enough to get their old (full-time) job back but their “underqualified” friend might be good enough to get a full-time job that is being hard to swallow. It comes more down to LW feeling inferior than a sense of their friend must be loyal to them.

    4. OP*

      (I am OP)

      I know it sounds a bit gate-keepy, but I think the basis was a little different. It was less that I did not want them to work there, and more hurt that they did not consider that it may give me the sad time feelies (and that it might be best handled with a little more tact than was used when the information was delivered) or that I may be a good person to ask about whether or not it was a good fit for them. I think it stirred up the feelings I had when I lost my job, namely that I had no impact nor value. Misplaced? Certainly! But that’s why I wrote a letter asking for advice instead of flipping a figurative table over the situation, hahaha. I’ve sense worked through the aforementioned sad feelies and thankfully come out the other side.

      (re: the short time contracting – I took it at the time because I was desparate for money and couldn’t land an interview anywhere. And probably a bit because it felt like reassurance that my being bad at the work wasn’t the reason for my layoff, if I’m being honest with myself)

        1. OP*

          I think it’s more likely the exact opposite – that they did not think it was a big deal. Despite the way the letter sounds, I’m generally hard to rattle and it wouldn’t surprise me if it just didn’t cross their mind that I might be a little less chill on the inside than on the outside about this one. They are actually usually more likely than I am to have a strong emotional reaction to things! So I think it was just a combo of ‘seemed like it wouldn’t be a big deal’ on their end and ‘oh crap, I didn’t realize this was still a big deal to me’ on my end

          1. AcademiaNut*

            With this sort of question, it’s better not to ask if the answer isn’t going to change anything. If your friend asked if you’d be okay with her applying for the job, and you said no, would your friend then not apply, and go quietly back to her unhappy job (which can be its own form of desperation), or would she apply anyways? If she’d apply anyways, what was the point of asking?

            FWIW, these sorts of feelings crop up all the time when someone gets something you really want. You’re struggling with fertility and your friend gets pregnant right away, you’ve just had a messy breakup and your sister gets engaged, your feel stuck and unhappy in your job and your spouse gets a promotion and an award. They’re not doing it *at* you, and it *is* petty to be mad at them, but it’s a thing that happens, and you have to go off and wrestle with the emotions yourself. It’s also reasonable, if she gets the job, to not be a listening ear as she talks about it.

        2. Rainy*

          I also wondered that.

          There’s really no good way to hear bad news. Most people think there is, and they want to think that they would have reacted differently/better if they’d heard in a different way, but there’s just no good way to hear something you don’t want to hear.

      1. Esmeralda*

        Perhaps your friend remembered how painful the whole thing was for you, and did not want to make you feel bad by asking you for advice for a job at that same employer. Just saying, “I’m applying for X job” is a way of keeping it short and not asking you to get involved in a way that might hurt you.

        I think you need to assume good intentions. And not the unkind interpretation that doesn’t seem to fit what you’ve told us about your friend.

  2. Persephone Mongoose*

    Aw, OP, I feel for you — and I agree with Alison that you definitely seem aware that your feelings aren’t rational, which is good — but honestly, let yourself feel them anyway. Self-awareness is great, but it’s not worth trying to talk yourself out of feeling what you feel. Talk to someone else, write in a journal, get them all out and process them in whatever way feels right to you and is also healthy. IME it’s way worse to try and bury or deny or try and rationalize your way out of actually feeling them than just letting them run their course. If that means taking a temporary step back from these conversations with your friend as she goes through the job process, that’s okay, too. You’re not punishing them; you’re doing what’s best for you during a tough time.

    1. Marillenbaum*

      This is absolutely the right advice, IMO. Feelings just are, and it’s okay to let yourself feel them. You don’t have to say that you feel all of these things to your friend; you can just say, “Hey, things with Company are still a weird sore spot for me, so I’m probably not the audience you need right now” and then absolutely let yourself feel the weird, petty feelings and remind yourself of the rational part of you when they subside. You’ll get through it, however things shake out with your friend’s application process.

      1. Koalafied*

        100%! Honestly acknowledge your feelings and allow yourself to feel them no matter how “irrational” they are. Feelings will subside the fastest when you aren’t trying to talk yourself out of having them. Just do your best not to act in a way you know is irrational or counter-productive.

        Sometimes you just need to cry or scream or write about how sad/frustrated/angry you feel. That’s just part of being human. Just let the more evolved part of you choose to scream into a pillow instead of at another person, and write the woe-is-me/how-dare-you letter in a word processor for yourself instead of emailing it to someone else.

    2. CatCat*

      A+. Personally, I find journaling helpful since it’s a safe space to release your feelings. Sometimes I style entries in the form of a letter I’ll never send to the person I am upset with and for whatever reason I find that helpful.

      1. Recruited Recruiter*

        My spouse’s former co-worker does this now. He used to do an email to a person that he did not intend to send, and then once he sent it accidentally. There was huge fallout, and he lost multiple friends over that email.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I am terrified that I will do that so I write them in Word rather than in Gmail because I think better when typing than when writing. And if it’s a really good email that I’ve written that I feel will actually help the situation, then I copy it into Gmail and send it, but almost always I just close the file without saving but feel all the better for getting All the Thoughts out of my brain.

          1. Mrs. Hawiggins*

            Also another reason why I put the recipient’s name in last. A) I won’t send on accident and B) I’ve made time to really commit to what I’m saying, once I’ve dialed it down from the word document of course…

          2. Mrs. Hawiggins*

            Also another reason why I put the recipient’s name in last. A) I won’t send on accident and B) I’ve made time to really commit to what I’m saying, once I’ve dialed it down from the word document of course…

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Same! And also I try to remember to attach the file first, before I’ve written the email or put in the recipient’s name. It’s not foolproof but it does help cut back on the number of times I forget to attach the file.

        2. Cj*

          My report did this. He remembered to delete my e-mail address from the send line, but left my boss and grand-bosses there, and my boss forwarded it to me. He may have said a few unflattering things about me, but it reflected way worse on him.

        3. onco fonco*

          Oh nooooo. I do shouty draft emails but never, ever, ever put the recipient’s email address on them.

      2. Lacey*

        Absolutely. I often work through things by journaling about them and sometimes I even realize that what I thought was bothering me, is not actually the problem and I’m able to resolve the real issue.

    3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Yes. To be human is to be a little petty — we all have these feelings from time to time. Recognizing and respecting our feelings is how we get them out of the driver’s seat and make decisions based on our values.

    4. Smithy*

      100% support this. Jobs take up a huge amount of our time, our lives, our brain – and because of that can leave some pretty long lasting feelings that can be quite complicated. And often the more complicated, the more muddy they make figuring out the best way forward.

      That being said, a huge reason why I strongly agree with finding a good way to process your feelings on this is because you’ll be a better professional peer to your friend when you have your own feelings in check on this situation. For so many of us, our professional options can feel narrowed due to a number of external reasons that we can’t control. So when our friends or people in our network say to not work somewhere, the reason needs to be really strong.

      There’s a certain kind of organization in my sector where the pay is 100% at the top of our field, but the structures are inevitably messy and that can lead to some very toxic management structures. I know the one place I worked still has that in place, and I strongly advise against working there. Similar places….the same bureaucracy is in place to allow a wide range of very problematic workplace environments to emerge. But I don’t know for sure if that’s the case and I do know the money is huge. So I share what I know and what I’d do, and just hope that by being an honest broker people will afford me the same kind of professional honesty. If the advice we give ends up feeling too sweeping and too personal, then we likely lose out on people returning the same kind of information to us.

    5. cmcinnyc*

      Strong agree. A gracious step back now preserves the relationship. If you tell your friend this is a tender spot and you can’t discuss the opportunity with them, but wish them well, they should take the cue and not ask you to provide a reference. And if they do ask, it is fine to say no. It’s not like you were their manager or coworker–it’s a personal relationship and they’d be asking to leverage that at a time you really aren’t feeling solid.

    6. MissGirl*

      OP, I think part of the problem is you haven’t moved on from this job. It took months to start applying to jobs, you’re still contracting there, you’d take a job there in a heartbeat. You’re still desperately holding on to hope you’ll work there again. While none of that is wrong—you have to work—I’m thinking it’s keeping you from throwing yourself completely into a job hunt.

      Tell yourself this job isn’t ever going to happen. It’s time to put all your energy into looking to a new opportunity. This one is gone. Sure, there’s a chance to could come back but you can’t wait around for it. Move forward.

      1. Amaranth*

        This is down at the heart of the issue, I think. Its not that friend is showing disloyalty, as friend is competition for a spot that OP truly wants. There is even that little dig about it being a bit beyond friend’s ‘fairly okayish’ capabilities. OP feels like contracting means ‘not good enough to hire’. They need to find a way to set aside the longing for company to come to them and offer their old job back. Maybe that means actively seeking other contracts, doing some training that lets them make new contacts in the field, or having a frank conversation about what opportunities might be coming available at the new arm OP set up so they stop pining.

        The thing that OP appears to be pushing aside here is, if the company fired (and maybe they need to start with actually using that word) them with an hour notice, what is to stop it happening again? Maybe the takeaway here should be its a great place to consult, but not a very reliable or loyal employer.

        1. Amaranth*

          Correction, I was reacting to something else I read this morning, OP was not fired, but laid off so I don’t want to make them feel worse.

        2. OP*

          Oof, I’m genuinely sorry that it came across as a dig. I didn’t mean it to be. I didn’t want to be unkind and say that I don’t think they’re qualified and tried to soften my wording, which clearly had the opposite effect. I think my friend is excellent at what they do, but that the job in question is a bit outside their wheelhouse and quite high up in the department structure. However, I trust that they would acclimate over time, thus what I meant by ‘fairly okayish.’

          A good reminder to me to proofread one time more than I believe I need to.

      2. OP*

        (OP here)
        This is excellent advice. The funny part is that I now DO have a new job, and I like it! To use the (not fully accurate, but an easy way to express the feelings) dating analogy: it’s sort of like being in a new relationship, then suddenly seeing your ex out with someone else. Do you realllllllly want to break them up? No, but for a second your brain short-circuits. This was a full on blue-screen-of-death short circuit.

        But I like your idea of just reminding myself that it is gone and working on letting it go the rest of the way. I will definitely work on this, and thank you!

    7. North Wind*


      I really feel for you, OP. With some things your feelings just are what they are and won’t/can’t respond to your own rational appraisal of a situation. It sucks because you can feel bad twice – about the situation and about yourself. Just have to let your feelings be what they and look for ways to accept/soothe them while making choices according to the reality of the situation.

    8. GlitsyGus*

      Exactly this. You recognize that these feelings are petty and that it’s not appropriate to act on them towards your friend.

      Since you do know that, the next step is to just feel them and let yourself be hurt. All of Persephone Mongoose’s options are great. We feel what we feel, and the more you try to bury or dismiss those feelings because they are “wrong” the more resentment will build. Work through it however you need to, as long as your actions aren’t directed towards Friend. Really, this does suck! I totally understand where your feelings are coming from! Let yourself work through them.

      I do also wonder if doing the contract work is causing you to hold on to this company and dream job a little more than may be healthy for you. Obviously do what you need to do to pay rent, but this whole ‘keeping one foot in’ may be holding you back from finding your new dream job. I know you didn’t ask about that, but just throweing it out there.

    9. OP*

      100% on the journaling! I think that’s a bit of what I was doing by writing the letter!

      Thank you for the empathy, and I did manage to work through everything and feel much better overall now.

  3. Marny*

    What an excellent response! Compassionate and rational. I think we can all get how LW feels since it’s so hard not to take things like this personally, but it’s so helpful to be reminded that while it’s ok to be hurt, you don’t need to let that hurt cloud your actions.

  4. Teapot Repair Technician*

    I have a bit of what I feel is an ethical dilemma…

    An ethical dilemma occurs when you’re forced into one of two options, both of which are (or may be) unethical. I don’t see where that’s happening here.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Plenty of people use the phrase to mean a choice between what’s demonstrably ethical and what their gut is telling them, and I think OP’s intent is clear we don’t need to nitpick language.

      1. RagingADHD*

        I don’t think it’s nitpicking language. It’s an attempt to alleviate the LW’s distress and self-blame.

        There is a growing confusion about what ethics are, and I frequently see people (especially on this blog) tying themselves in emotional knots over “ethics” when there’s no such thing at issue. For example, there was a letter not long ago about someone thinking it was “unethical” to stay in a job they liked long-term, because someone else wanted to apply. This confusion is harmful to people.

        The only course of action in this situation that would be unethical would be if the friend asked for a reference, and LW gave a false one – either deliberately bad, to keep them from getting the job, or falsely good, because they haven’t worked with the friend.

        If asked for a reference, LW’s gut desire to decline is perfectly ethical. There is no moral obligation to give one. They could just say no, and that’s fine from an ethical standpoint. It would be better for their relationship if they explain the reason, but they wouldn’t be doing anything wrong.

        They could also give the personal referral, as Alison described. They could recuse themselves by telling the friend about their feelings, so the friend might never ask in the first place.

        In reality, the friend hasn’t asked for anything, so there is no dilemma. And there would be no dilemma if the friend did ask, because the options presented by LW’s gut and their intellectual reasoning are BOTH ethical things to do.

        1. OP*

          (OP here)

          These are exellent points, and I will try to be more mindful of my use of language/try to find more accurate ways of expressing myself. Thank you for your comment.

      2. serenity*

        I think it’s fine to point out that the terms “ethics” or “ethical” are quite different than what the OP is trying to convey.

    2. Birch*

      OP thinks they’re in the position to help the friend get this job, and that not helping would be unethical because they have personal hurt feelings about being laid off. Sometimes people *are* put in that situation, it just so happens that OP is likely not a great reference anyway so the ethics bit is a moot point after Alison has reframed the situation. But it’s pertinent to OP’s perspective when they asked the question.

    3. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I took it to mean that she feels that the friend is being unethical being she knows how they treated OP by unexpectedly laying them off

  5. londonedit*

    It’s really hard not to take these things personally, but your friend isn’t taking anything away from you, and the company isn’t snubbing or slighting you by employing your friend either. I understand why you feel an attachment to the company and to your old job, but there was a letter the other day about wanting to go back after a layoff and several people questioned why someone might feel like that – you say yourself that the layoff caused you to feel inferior and anxious, and that it was traumatic and upsetting. Do you really want to work for a company that made you feel like that? Could you really trust the company not to suddenly ditch you again with no warning? How would you feel if they did? There’s a lot to unpack here, but I think it’s time to put your feelings about this job and this company to one side and move on with your own life, and let your friend carry on with theirs.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      That’s a very good point. The firm who canned me without warning is certainly one I’ll never trust again. I still miss the people there, and what I did for a living but if I was employed by them again I’d forever have tense shoulders waiting for the axe to fall.

      It’s okay to be nostalgic about good old times. It’s not okay to ignore your future to dwell on them.

    2. Fran Fine*

      Do you really want to work for a company that made you feel like that? Could you really trust the company not to suddenly ditch you again with no warning? How would you feel if they did?

      I was let go from two separate jobs early in my career with no notice. Both places let me work out the day and then let me go at the end of the day. The first place that did it, I knew I was never going back because the management team was toxic as hell, the company itself was shady (it was one of those for-profit colleges), and I just wasn’t good at the job (I was an admissions rep, so it was a sales role). I was embarrassed about how the whole thing went down (I didn’t drive and a coworker was taking me home, so had to wait while I signed the separation papers promising not to sue and granting me severance in exchange), but I was also relieved to be free of the place – I had been job searching for awhile anyway. That place was and still is on my Never Again list.

      The second time this happened, I was a long-term possible temp-to-hire at a law firm and all of the temps from my particular staffing agency were let go for budget reasons. Again, they let me work out the day, and then on my ride home from work with my mom, the staffing agency called me to say the firm was letting us all go and I could come and collect my things from the agency the next day.

      I was traumatized and deeply hurt by this because I had finally found a job I was good at during the recession, only to be sacked due to something completely out of my control. Then I was terrified because I had student loans to pay and couldn’t pay them if I was unemployed. But about six weeks later, the staffing agency called and said the firm was able to move some funds around and after firing a third of their temp staff, they had enough money to bring back only a handful of us – and I was the only one from my former department they wanted to bring back. Apparently, my supervisor raised hell because the temp cuts happened without her input and she told the staffing agency that had she been allowed to give names, mine wouldn’t have been on the list. Then, the staffing agency asked if I was still available and could come back. Well, my job search wasn’t really going anywhere, so even though I was still bitter about how the layoff occurred, I had no choice but to go back (it helped that I knew the supervisor wanted me there and said nothing but great things about me to the firm’s HR team and the agency).

      I ended up staying at this place for two and a half more years, and the entire time, I was paranoid I was going to be laid off again. In fact, I stopped decorating work spaces with personal items for years because I never wanted to be in a position to have to go pick up my things in a brown box again. The entire time I was at that firm, I dreaded spring time because they regularly cut staff – I got acid reflux from all the worrying and I worked myself nearly to death to prove I belonged there, which led to extreme burnout that lasted for years.

      Having gone through that experience, I would never do it again. I haven’t been laid off again in a decade, but if I were in OP’s position, knowing what I know? Yeah, no – I would be good on ever going back to my former employer after dismissing me with no warning.

      1. OP*

        (OP here)

        I’m so sorry that happened to you twice! It was super jarring just the once.

        Thank you for sharing your experience in going back, it’s very similar to mine in contracting for a short time at the company that laid me off. Knowing that the nervousness lasted your full time working there is a very good incentive for me to let it go and know that I would likely be unhappy even if the job miraculously came back. I really appreciate you sharing this.

        1. Fran Fine*

          You’re very welcome. I’m glad those stories helped you realize you’re probably better off looking forward instead of backward.

  6. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Emotions versus logic. A very very well travelled branching road!

    It’s okay to feel what you do, I’m not about to tell anybody their emotions are wrong. Find an outlet for them – writing in a journal, ranting to yourself while driving alone in the car (yeah, my favourite!), whatever works. The key part here is giving them an outlet that nobody else hears or sees. Generally once I’ve done this I find with time the rants just…go away. They no longer bother me.

    Never show the writing to another person, especially the one that you feel hurt you. Never tell them about it. Never let a smidge of it cross your face when you’re with them. They can’t change their life to make you feel better about what your ex firm did to you – only the ex firm could do that.

    1. AGD*

      This. I put them in Word documents in a hidden folder, and then generally feel better and never look at them again.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Found some of my old ones on my hard drive (at home) the other day! I remember how hurt and stressed and upset I was when I wrote them but reading them now is like ‘seriously? I was that bothered?!’

        The I deleted them and played Diablo :)

    2. Zandra*

      Even the ex firm might not be able to make you feel better about it. It’s a fact, and it happened, even if they were to come to you right now and proclaim that it was their biggest mistake ever to let you go. You’ll still feel betrayed.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        That’s an excellent point and I wish I could correct my words to take your comment into account.

        I guess it’s like if one of my less salubrious exes offered to get back with me – sure I had a great time with them but it ended badly and I’d not trust them.

        (Hypothetical, I’ve been happily married for nearly 18 years)

    3. Sara without an H*

      This is good advice. Feelings are just what they are, neither good nor bad. What you do in response to those feelings is where the ethical stuff kicks in.

      OP, I would encourage you to journal like hell right now and, gently, discourage your friend from confiding in you about the details of the application and interview process. In 12 months, you probably won’t care about any of this.

  7. FrenchCusser*

    Ah, anger. Can be very useful, and sometimes (most of the time) it just gets in the way.

    Anger shoves itself in when you don’t want to deal with that feeling of helplessness – it makes you FEEL powerful when you’re not. It’s easier to feel anger than to feel that powerlessness and hurt, so we glom onto it when it’s NOT helpful.

    You need to just let yourself grieve over your ‘dream’ job, go ahead and feel the sadness and hurt so you can get past them.

    But whatever you do, DO NOT take out your anger on your friend.

  8. Mannheim Steamroller*

    [“I have encouraged this friend to apply for the same jobs that I apply for in the past”]

    Is there any chance that YOU might want to flip that and apply for the same job that she wants (since you did like working there and the company already knows you)?

    1. Beany*

      OP *could*, but then I’d expect Friend to write in complaining of betrayal, and perhaps for better reasons. It certainly won’t strengthen the friendship.

      I’d also like to know what OP is working at now. The laying-off was last winter, and OP says it took months to begin applying for work again. Is OP employed now, and if so, how do they feel about the new job?

      1. Fran Fine*

        + 1 to your first paragraph. That would be incredibly shitty since it would be done as a tit-for-tat payback thing (or it would at least be perceived that way), plus, the job isn’t even similar to what OP was doing and loved, so what would be the point?

        I also wonder what you wonder about OP’s current job situation. It sounds like OP’s still doing contract work for the employer who laid her off, but the letter doesn’t say that OP found a new permanent gig someplace else. If OP hasn’t, that explains the heightened emotions surrounding the friend applying for a permanent role at her former employer. People who are currently happy with their employment situation don’t usually begrudge others trying to experience the same thing.

      2. Fran Fine*

        + 1 to your first paragraph. That would be incredibly shitty since it would be done as a tit-for-tat payback thing (or it would at least be perceived that way), plus, the job isn’t even similar to what OP was doing and loved, so what would be the point?

        I also wonder what you wonder about OP’s current job situation. It sounds like OP’s doing contract work for the former employer, but the letter doesn’t say she has secured permanent employment someplace else yet. If that’s the case, then it makes sense why OP has all of these heightened emotions around the friend applying for this new job at OP’s former employer. People who are content with their careers usually don’t begrudge other people seeking the same thing.

        1. Amaranth*

          Though that then begs the question why OP isn’t on top of all the job openings there, if they want to return so badly. Perhaps because this isn’t at the same level as the prior job? The way they describe their insecurity though, I wonder if they’d even apply for fear of being rejected. I think OP needs to find a way to distance from the idea this is the one and only dream job for their lifetime. I don’t know if that means a stint of therapy, setting job search goals, etc.

      3. OP*

        (OP here)

        I AM employed now! But very recently, and it really did take about eight months (yes, including the couple I spent wallowing in self pity, although I did use some of the time to at least try to learn a new language) to even land an interview. I’m not living in my home country, and there are some extra hurdles to jump over in trying to get into a job market when you’re from somewhere else, I’ve discovered.

        I like the job! It’s quite different than the last in some ways, and I do occasionally pine for the halcyon days of before, but mostly I’m glad to be working somewhere with lovely coworkers and a good atmosphere. Part of my confusion was probably based in the feeling that ‘Darn it I got over this, WHY AM I NOT OVER THIS!?’ which added a layer of frustration to the bad-feelings-cake.

        I wouldn’t ever go out of my way to try to snipe a job from my friend, also, because I agree with you that it wouldn’t lead anywhere good. It wouldn’t fix anything and would just let the bad feelings grow. I know they didn’t poke a sensitive spot on purpose, so neither that nor being unpleasant to them would serve anything. Which is why I wrote a letter looking for advice instead, hahaha.

          1. Fran Fine*

            I am as well, and I’m glad it’s a position OP ultimately likes! That will go a long way towards getting OP over the nostalgia from the old job and help the healing process. (Because losing a job, especially one you loved, is very much like losing a loved one for many people and needing to grieve it properly is a thing.)

  9. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

    OP, I write this with all the kindness and empathy I can muster:

    Go to a therapist. This behavior is irrational, and it would be good for you to confront it & grow away from it.

    1. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      This is what I was coming here to say. It seems like the layoff was incredibly traumatic for the OP, and a therapist would be able to help the OP work through that trauma, as well as work through the messy emotions involving the friend applying to the company.

    2. Hell in a Handbasket*

      Yes, I thought the same when I read that it took her months to even get to the point where she could apply for jobs again.

    3. OP*

      (OP here)

      I would like to note that there wasn’t any behavior involved in this – just some conflicted feelings and a worry that action would be requested that I was unsure I could fulfill (i.e. a recommendation) even though it is the thing I should do. I did not at any point tell friend not to apply or that I thought they were being insensitive, because I did not and do not think there was any malice in their action. I wrote a letter here instead of risking causing undue hurt to them. Unless you mean the letter writing was irrational?

        1. Sparkles McFadden*

          I think you’re doing fine too.

          I like Alison’s script about telling your friend that company is still a sore spot. A good friend should understand and give you some space to work through what you’re working through. I also doubt you’ll be asked for a recommendation or introduction, but if that does happen, there’s nothing wrong with saying that you don’t feel you can do that.

          It’s rough but it’s good that you know what your friend is doing. Think about how much worse it would have been if your friend hid this from you and then told you “Hey, I’m working for your old employer.”

  10. PT*

    Alison’s answer is 100% on point, but were I advising the friend, I would consider this a “show, don’t tell” sort of situation. Before applying to the job, the friend has a pretty good data point of how the company conducts its layoffs. Is that how most companies in the friend’s field typically conduct business? Or is that an outlier, an unusual way of doing things? Because it is worth really understanding if that’s a standard business practice that’s unavoidable or one that’s unique to the company, before applying to work there.

  11. DEJ*

    I feel seen here, as I’m still struggling with feelings surrounding my own layoff after over 10 years and the fact that my former coworker is now in a job that didn’t exist when I was working there but I would have loved to have. I know logically that I’m in a better overall life situation, but that doesn’t make those hurt feelings go away magically.

    1. OP*

      (OP here)

      I’m so sorry that happened to you! And I understand your feeling as I know I’m doing better also, but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still sting from time to time.

  12. Nayo*

    I think you should at least try to express support for your friend even if you can’t be their #1 cheerleader during the process. They helped you at a very difficult point in your life and it will seem rather petty and dramatic if you turn right around and say “I’m sorry, I can’t deal with hearing about this” after what they’ve done for you. I totally understand why you’re upset and it’s fine to feel that way! But I’m of the opinion that you need to keep it to yourself because they haven’t done anything wrong.

    1. Fran Fine*

      I thought this as well at first, but then I realized that OP may not be good at faking enthusiasm when she’s really not feeling something – and why should she for this particular situation? Totally be there and be super supportive of the friend when the latter applies to other companies, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the OP telling the friend that she appreciates everything friend did after her layoff, but because of the freshness of that situation, OP needs to take a step back from anything having to do with this company for now while still wishing the friend luck.

      And depending on how close OP and friend are, I would just honestly tell my friend everything I wrote here to Alison. That I’m still traumatized by the lay-off, but would love my job back if I could get it because it’s exactly what I wanted to do with my career, so it’s hard for me to watch friend possibly move on with company even though it’s irrational to feel that way. But that kind of honesty only works if you’re truly close.

  13. Rayray*

    I personally would try just having a conversation with the friend and be honest about how you feel.

    As someone who also got a sudden layoff like you, I get it, and it’s the kind of burn you don’t actually understand unless it’s happened to you. And this wasn’t even a job, company, or boss that I liked. I hated it so much I frequently cried and had some stress-induced breakdowns and fits but it was still a major burn. Your feelings are definitely valid, so it would be fair to explain to this friend how you feel but it may also be a good time to do them a solid and help them out if this is potentially a good move for

  14. Chris too*

    I wouldn’t apply to a company that had laid off a friend, unexpectedly, without cause. I’d also try to avoid their products or services. Just saying. It’s just business, perfectly normal, and nothing personal on the part of the company, but surely our friendships aren’t conducted on the basis of “just business, nothing personal.” That said, the fact the OP is willing to go back as a contractor might be confusing the friend.
    I realize I’m probably an outlier here, and I do appreciate Alison’s answer.

    1. Colette*

      The vast majority of layoffs are unexpected and impersonal (i.e. the person being laid off didn’t do anything wrong). That’s the way they’re supposed to be – it’s about the job, not the person. If you don’t apply there or buy their products/services, you’re eliminating a lot of potential companies.

      1. londonedit*

        Exactly – in the UK layoffs are known as redundancies, and the company is legally supposed to be able to prove that it’s the job that is redundant, not the person. There’s no ‘with cause’ or ‘without cause’ about it – it’s not a firing, it’s eliminating the position that person has been working in. Are redundancies nice? No, unless the person is taking voluntary redundancy (often a company’s first option before they move to mandatory redundancies, and often with a decent redundancy package for those who take it) and is happy about it. But unless a company had seriously mishandled a redundancy process for one of my friends, or screwed them over in some other way, I wouldn’t hold it against the entire company and refuse to work for them or buy their products. I’ve been made redundant before and I know people who have gone on to work for that company, and it doesn’t bother me (beyond a ‘rather them than me’ sort of feeling).

      2. WellRed*

        Exactly. There’s always a cause, whether we know, understand or agree. It is not personal and definitely in this case has nothing to do with skills.

      3. pancakes*

        Yes. There are a couple lines in the letter that seem really revealing of the LW’s mindset on this, and that Alison didn’t really address in her answer – the part about it being “horrible to know there was no way I could have helped myself and that my skills and abilities were not at all part of the decision to let me go.” It’s not enough, in my view, to point out that layoffs are generally a business decision. It’s also important to understand that people’s skills and abilities are not the be-all and end-all of whether they get what they want or deserve in life. The LW seems to have faith that people’s work success (or lack of) reflects their skills and abilities like a mirror – a very common view in a culture enthusiastic about capitalism, but also a seriously pernicious view to have internalized. The idea that people who lose out in some way must deserve to do so (and the other side of the coin, that people who have career success must richly deserve it) is corrosive.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          See the paragraph that starts with, “I think not seeing that clearly is connected to why being laid off for reasons that had nothing to do with you made you feel inferior…” :)

        2. Colette*

          I think this is a really good point. Bad things happen to people who have done nothing wrong. That’s just how the world works – doing all of the right things does not guarantee you a good outcome.

        3. OP*

          Yes, both you and Alison are spot on with that. This was actually compounded by the fact that I’ve moved to a country where job security is taken for granted, and firing or laying someone off requires roughly a mountain of paperwork defending the decision and several months of notice amongst other things (once you are past the probationary period). So it took everyone I know here a minute to even believe that I had lost my job! I mean, amongst my friend group no one had ever known someone it had happened to. It was an overall wild experience.

          But it absolutely added to the feeling of ‘I am the thing that sucks’ knowing that what happened is exceptionally uncommon. I have since been doing lots and lots of work trying to reframe my sense of self away from the things that I accomplish and I thought I was making progress until this darned thing turned happened and I realized I was still more sore than I had thought.

          1. LDN Layabout*

            It’s really, really hard when you feel like you need accomplishments, otherwise, what’s the point of you (the point of you is always you, the person).

            I’m glad to hear you’re working on this OP and also that you’re working again.

          2. Despachito*

            Oh, I am so sorry you feel that way.

            It seems there was a bunch of concurring coincidences not in your favor (the fact that it is not usual to get laid off and that it happened just to you and not anyone else).

            I consider myself grateful that when I was laid off, it was our entire department which was made redundant, so I was spared the gnawing feeling “I am the thing it sucks” you are describing, and were I the only person to get the ax I would probably doubt myself (wrongly and unnecessarily) just as you.

            I know that this feeling too is irrational, but rationally, you have absolutely no reason to think your are worthless – if this was the case, the company would never outsource their work to you.

      4. tamarack and fireweed*

        I’m not sure about that. I read through Alison’s response and most of the comments, and they’re on point – mostly. I do think the company isn’t getting the criticism it deserves though – because having an employee build up and train a team in an other location and then with no warning – and it sounds extremely abruptly – lay off the employee is, I’m sorry to be blunt, a shitty way to handle this.

        (I was laid off too, and it was preceded by visible shifts in priorities and their geographic distribution, water cooler conversations, my boss getting laid off… also I was aware that the way my position was structured, on my own request!, was such that if I’m successful, the position becomes unnecessary. Also, I was in a country where laying off people is a multi-week process, with a warning, and the company paid for a legal consultation for me with a lawyer of my choice. All this made me way less resentful – I knew that no one I was working with had deceived me or taken advantage of me.)

    2. LDN Layabout*

      All those actions feel pretty performative, versus what the LW explicitly says her friend did, which was support her and be there for her during the tough period after her layoff.

      Just saying.

      1. Chris too*

        You could probably fairly say that performative behaviour is one of my characteristics. If you mean me, I’ll accept that assessment.
        By “without cause,” I guess what I mean is that if some people are being let go, and some people are staying, I’d accept it as ok if I could see the weaker performers were the ones leaving.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          The point being that none of the behaviour you outlined as being ‘a friend’ is actually part of being a good friend. It in no way helps or supports the LW except in her irrationality.

          Whereas the friend has actually supported the LW when it counts and when she needed it.

          1. Chris too*

            I’m not really going to argue with you, as I don’t think I have a good leg to stand on! I tend to be more on the emotional side than the rational one, and I think the letter writer is probably similar to me. I’d hide it, but I’d be hurt. Hopefully not mad though! I’m not a lunatic at work stirring up drama, if that’s what you’re picturing. I’ve been described as even-tempered and someone that gets along well with others.

            I’m assuming the letter writer got all the financial support, severance, etc. she was entitled to, and that the support she received from her friend was emotional, not practical. That’s why I’d feel, or at least worry, as the friend, that applying to the same company would negate the support and make it feel like so much hot air.

        2. Colette*

          Sometimes the answer is “we’re not going to make that product anymore” or “we had to get rid of 5 people, and you were hired last” or “Sam is better at Excel than you are, and we had to make a choice” or “the director didn’t recognize your name”. And sometimes the answer is that you’re the lowest performer in the area they’re keeping, or that you were rude to the receptionist, or that you told the boss she was wrong.

          Maybe the company made the right decision, or maybe they made the wrong decision, but it’s impossible to tell from the outside.

    3. hbc*

      I think you’re right about the confusion, and that might be some of the reason that OP is having trouble resolving this too. I’m just not sure what principle the friend is supposed to uphold that prevents them from applying. “They did you so wrong that I won’t work there, but you should work there every chance you get because they’re awesome!”

      I will say, I find it hard to square a company that really values me with one that snatches my laptop from me and doesn’t let me work some sort of a transition or even try to find some other way to let me stay on.

    4. Just Another Zebra*

      I’m really glad I’m not the only person who thought this. I can’t imagine my friend being laid off in this manner, supporting them emotionally through the process, and then deciding that was a company I wanted to work for. It’s fine to say these are business decisions – and, for the company’s part, they are. But my friendships aren’t business decisions; they’re personal relationships.

      I’d probably feel different if it was BIG COMPANY, and my friend worked in accounting but I decided to apply for a job in reception. But it sounds like friend is applying for a similar role OP used to have. I’d probably have sour grapes, too.

      1. Chris too*

        We also don’t know how specialized these jobs are. Maybe there are only a few employers in this field, or these people live in a small town with only one good employer. Obviously that would make a difference.

        I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels like this! My experience of layoffs is kind of out of the norm these days, in that I’ve always been warned in advance that it was coming,
        and roughly when. I wouldn’t be angry at my friend but I do think I’d be quite hurt, and feel our friendship wasn’t as strong as I had thought.

      2. Colette*

        I’ve spent much of my career in high tech, where layoffs are extremely common. It’s also really common to restructure from arrangement A to arrangement B, and then go from arrangement B to arrangement A a year or too later. Refusing to work at a company who laid off my friend wouldn’t help my friend or hurt the company; it would potentially hurt me. And I’m unconvinced the friend should reduce her options out of loyalty. It would be different if the OP had been hurt due to lax safetly procedures or something, where the friend could use that information to decide whether it was a company who treated their employees well. But being laid off doesn’t, in itself, translate to treating employees badly.

        I’ve been laid off from more than one great company who treated their employees well, If a friend got a job there, I’d wish them well – and I’d encourage them to apply, if it was a good job for them. The fact that the OP is taking this as a personal blow concerns me.

        1. Just Another Zebra*

          I’m not saying the company did anything wrong, per say (though I find giving someone new work at 11am and dismissing them at 1pm to be shady AF). The layoff was a business decision. I’m also not saying OP is handling this perfectly – I imagine the stress of losing a job in a pandemic has made this so much more difficult for OP.

          But I’m side-eyeing this friend, hard. I just don’t think that’s how you treat friends, or friendships. I’d have to have a much better reason than unfulfilled and bored at work to potentially hurt a friend like that.

          1. Colette*

            It’s entirely possible that the person giving out the work was different than the person doing the layoff, and they probably didn’t know it was going to happen.

            And we don’t know that the friend doesn’t have a great reason – but even if she doesn’t, I don’t think she’s responsible for managing the OP’s feelings about a place she doesn’t work anymore. I do think the OP should get some help, though.

            1. tamarack and fireweed*

              Yeah, but they should have known! I think it’s a shitty way to treat people, and while I agree that the LW should find a way to shift the feeling of resentment towards the friend, I would warn them against the employer! I wouldn’t want to work there!

              1. Colette*

                If you were going to be laid off, would you want people who aren’t involved in the decision to know before you did? Most people wouldn’t.

          2. Amaranth*

            I’d think any doubts friend had about the company, though, have probably been alleviated by OP’s willingness to keep working with them, maintain friendships, and possibly being pretty obvious that OP would work for them again in a heartbeat.

          3. Chris too*

            Just Another Zebra, let’s be friends!

            I don’t really disagree with Colette or LDN, it’s more just…I dunno…we’re all bringing our own industries and past experiences into this. Companies make business decisions. It’s certainly possible to be laid off in a good way that doesn’t cause bad feelings towards the company. It isn’t about the company, it’s about the friendship.

            1. Despachito*

              It is interesting how opinions can differ.

              I think quite the opposite – that my working decisions are none of my friends’ business, and that they have no right, moral or whatsoever, to interfere in them.

              So I would feel absolutely no obligation towards my friend in this sense, and if they held it against me that I accepted a post in a company that dismissed them, I’d consider it to be very weird.

              I understand that they could FEEL hurt, but I’d expect them to act maturely and not to turn it against me (and kudos again to OP for not falling in this trap).

    5. BadApple*

      I agree with you. I think the company really treated OP poorly… and of course work is work so taking contract work doesn’t really factor into it. (That said, I agree that if I were the friend I would think from the contact work that things were peachier than they are.) It’s all business, but also it is our livelihood, and in the US specifically, benefits.

      1. FormerInternalRecruiter*

        I don’t see how they treated OP poorly. They laid OP off, but that’s business. It doesn’t seem from the letter that they did anything horrible to them.

        1. BadApple*

          My read of the letter is that OP set up a department and then was laid off, with her tasks being transferred to the new department. I don’t think it was actively malicious, but — if she is so valuable to be tapped for contract work — it seems strange that she wasn’t moved into the department she set up in some capacity. Or, it’s strange that they had her, specifically, set it up.

    6. I should really pick a name*

      I wouldn’t consider this to be without cause.
      Yes, the LW was laid off through no fault of their own, but if the company is shifting the job to another part of the company, it’s not an arbitrary layoff.

    7. EventPlannerGal*

      I wouldn’t do it either. I’m not trying to make any recommendation as to how the OP should behave, I just think it’s funny how firmly everyone has come down on the “it’s just business” side when I would just never even consider doing this. People value different things, I guess!

    8. Meow*

      I agree. For me it’s not even about whether the lay off was justifiable or not (it probably was) but just the fact that my friend was laid off and was very upset about it. It’s especially odd to me because it sounds like the role is in the same department. I can’t imagine doing that to a friend who is still grieving the loss of a job she cared a lot about. If it was in a totally different department, or if it had been a couple years, then sure. Or if this is a very niche field or a rural area with few jobs, then maybe… but if there are other options I can’t imagine why someone would do this. It seems quite selfish to me. Like you said, the company’s decision may have been just about business but I’d expect my friendship to not be. Personally I would probably consider putting some space between me and the friend for a bit and would bow out of giving a reference.

  15. Colette*

    I’d suggest working on dealing with having been laid off, possibly through therapy. You’re not looking at it in a healthy way – the business made a decision that wasn’t great for you, but that happens. Since it took you months to “shake the feelings of inferiority and anxiety”, it’s possible you need a little help reframing it in your mind.

  16. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    This is not relevant to OP’s struggle, but Tangerina Warbleworth would make a great cat name.

  17. Bamcakes*

    >>Should I suck it up and be helpful and encouraging to my friend? Am I being too petty by having feelings about this and wanting to distance myself from this person? How stupid will I sound if I tell them I think they are being weirdly inconsiderate by assuming that I would be enthusastic for them?

    OP, you’re framing this as EITHER my feelings are 100% rational, my friend is in the wrong and therefore I get to disengage, OR my feelings are irrational, my friend is in the right and therefore I don’t.

    Feelings don’t work that way! It’s completely possible for feelings to be irrational, for your friend to be perfectly in the right (she is, by the way– but you know that), but still say, “look, this is really difficult for me. You haven’t done anything wrong, I really wish the best for you, but I am still totally wound up and a bit irrational about Ex-Job and I just can’t get past that and be your sounding board and support person for this. But I’m here for everything else and I would like to take you out to dinner and talk about our favourite TV shows to make up for it!” Maybe you can even ask an ex-colleague to speak to her about the role but not get involved in the conversation yourself! Just figure out what you can’t do, what you can do, and offer to do that.

    You can take responsibility for being weird about it, but still set the boundary you need to set. You don’t have to be objectively or rationally in the right to go, “Sorry, too weird for me right now, I wish you all the best.”

    yeah, your friend might not see it that way, and might still be annoyed with you. But hopefully there are other dynamics in your friendship apart from supporting each other with work stuff and you can lean into those heavily to make up for disappointing her in this area. It’s OK that sometimes we can’t support our friends in the exact way they want to be supported because of our own weird shit, and most friendships can survive that.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      This is great. I would be pretty upset if I found out I was causing my “very good friend” this kind of grief and they never mentioned it. Friendships involve feelings! But the way you phrase it is very good – it communicates “it’s a me thing, not a you thing, I’m in your corner, but I need to not engage on this topic.”

    2. ecnaseener*

      Excellent point. You don’t have to be a perfect friend all the time, just do your best to make up for it in other ways.

    3. Despachito*

      This is a great reply!

      I like the framing “I am sorry, it’s still a sore spot for me, and I do apologize for not being able to support you more in this: but please know that I will support you in everything else and that this is absolutely not about you but about me”.

      LW – I also think that your feelings towards the friends are irrational and that he did not do anything wrong, but I would like absolutely to take my hat off for you for being able to realize this. There are so many people who would feel the same (understandably) but not have your humility and perspicacy and just act on their feelings and hurt their friend and their relationship (very wrongly).

      My impression also is that you yourself have mixed feelings about your company. If I understand it correctly:

      – they terminated you out of the blue and walked you out of the premises (which must have felt pretty awful, and while I understand that being laid off is not personal it very much depends on HOW it is done. When our entire department was laid off, I had no bitter feelings but that was because we were given a more than obligatory severance, a normal notice period, and the company sort of helped us to establish ourselves as contractors; your company did almost the opposite, and I understand why it feels like betrayal)

      – you still work for them as a contractor (which from the outside would look like you do not feel any resentment)
      – you would be happy to work for them again,

      which absolutely does NOT feel like betrayal.

      If I was your friend I think I’d be a bit confused – do you feel betrayed or not?.

      And honestly, if I was considering to take a job with a company who “betrayed my friend”, I’d think about it not from the point of view of loyalty to my friend, but from the point of view “if they really betrayed her, they are likely to betray me too”.

      But again, I would like to express my admiration that you are aware of things, are willing to think about them and do not blindly follow your feelings.

      1. pancakes*

        The number of people saying the letter writer can’t be all that resentful toward their employer because she still works for them is wild to me. Most people work to keep their bills paid, not to signify their approval or respect for their employer.

        1. Meow*

          I was thinking the same thing. Maybe LW doesn’t have another option right now because she needs income to eat and pay rent.

        2. OP*

          Yeah, that was the long and short of it. Many months with nary an interview, and I would have taken anything that would put food in my cats’ bowls. It did, admittedly, also feel reassuring that I was not secretly a horrible worker and that it WAS all administrative.

        3. Despachito*

          I see what you mean – of course it can be a purely rational decision out of need to pay your bills, although you hated your employers’ guts.

          But if this was the case, it does not sound logical to deny the friend the very same right (because she may be in the same desperate need of income as OP).

          Moreover, OP herself says “I would take back my job in a heartbeat if it became available, I loved everything about it,” which sounds a bit confusing as to the resentment.

          I do not want to nitpick OP’s words, and I truly appreciate her sincerity because there are not many people who can do this. I think this is just a sign of the fact that the situation is so heavily emotionally loaded for OP, but I think she herself is very well aware of this.

          1. allathian*

            The friend isn’t desperate for a job, they’re just unsatisfied in their current job and looking for a change.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            Feelings are often not logical! That’s okay as long as you are able to take a step back and recognize it, which it sounds like OP is kind of trying to do–I think they just needed a little push which hopefully they got from Alison’s response.

    4. Shan*

      Great explanation.

      I was in a somewhat similar situation back in 2015. The bulk of my team had moved over to a new company as part of an acquisition back in 2012, and they brought me over the following year. I was pretty new in my career, so very low on the ladder, but most of my team were well known and very established. Well, as often happens in these mergers, things didn’t gel well, so when they industry slumped and they cut 25% of the staff, almost all of my team were the first to go. I survived, probably because I was a) less known and b) lower paid.

      My former manager, who was my mentor even before we worked together, was VERY bitter. And I totally understand! Her feelings were absolutely valid. But I still worked there, I had bills to pay, and since the market was terrible, it wasn’t like I could just quit in solidarity and find a job at some other company. And to be honest, I still (mostly) liked my company. It made being around her difficult for quite a while, because she just wanted to spew about how awful the company was, but I still worked there and didn’t want to sh*t talk it. Letting her vent her spleen and being sympathetic, while not joining in, was a real juggling act. I wish I’d had the confidence to say “hey, I support you, but I can’t be the person you tell all this to.”

    5. Nayo*

      I like this a lot. I think most people would be willing to accept OP’s feelings and boundaries on the situation if they saw some effort being made to make up for it in other areas. “Sorry, I know I’m being weird, it’s not your fault, let me support you in other ways” can go a long way!

  18. Callyb*

    What a thoughtful response! Additionally, the comparison to the personal “ex” situation is on point. That is a time to change friend to enemy.

  19. Akcipitrokulo*

    Ouch, that does sound hard!

    It’s not her fault.

    I think from your letter you alrrady know your feelings aren’t rarional or fair. But they are still there and you are still feeling them!

    It will get better as you keep telling yourself what your rational side knows. You’re a bit raw just now – but it will pass.

    Finding someone (not your friend!) to vent to about this in confidence might help. Maybe writing to Alison did thr trick!

    But most of all, remember – and keep telling the part of you that is reacting instinctively – this is not your friend’s fault.

  20. Pam Poovey*

    Honestly, I 100% get why you feel the way you do. I was let go without warning or explanation from a job at a retailer that is very well known in a specific hobby circle I am part of. That was in 2013, and I still get a kick of anger and hurt when I see people I know (who know my history) using or promoting their products. want to shout “but they WRONGED me, don’t you care?!” Especially because I think the quiet part of their lack of explanation was that I’m fat and didn’t fit their aesthetic. So I extra want to shout about it. I know logically I can’t stop people from buying things where they want and that this place’s fame is stronger than my grudge, but it still stings to see it.

    Can you stop your friend? Probably not. But you are allowed to be hurt, even if it isn’t logical.

    1. June*

      You expect people not to use a company product because you were let go? Unrealistic and too much expectation.

      1. A Person*

        I think that you just repeated back to Pam Poovey exactly what they posted to say. And they are self-aware about it. Let’s be nicer to each other.

  21. WulfInTheForest*

    I’ll be honest, I’m kind of surprised that the LW’s friend is willing to apply for a company that laid off LW so suddenly. It would feel like a very shaky business to work for IMO, and I’d be wary of signing onto a company that laid someone off with zero warning.

    1. BRR*

      It’s very common for layoffs to be sudden though. The friend should definitely look into it but layoffs aren’t always a sign of shaky business.

    2. Shan*

      Honestly, most companies have had layoffs at some point in time. At least, all the companies in my industry have. If I wasn’t willing to apply to any that had, I’d be SOL.

    3. Colette*

      Layoffs are usually sudden. And that’s good. I’ve had advance warning, and sudden is way better. Let’s say you have a division of 100 people, and you’re going to cut 5. If you don’t give advance warning, 5 people are blindsided, the rest are shocked, and soon everyone moves on to either job hunting or work.

      If you give advance warning, 100 of them are stressed, probably for a month or more. Everyone is job hunting, and your most marketable people find new jobs. And if the most marketable people don’t work in the areas that are going to be cut, you still need to do cuts and then rehire for the skills you’re now missing.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        Interesting. I’ve had advance warning (that there would be layoffs, not that I specifically would be laid off). It meant I cut my spending and left me in better shape when I actually DID get laid off.
        I can see how doing it suddenly could be better for the company, but advance warning tends to be much nicer for the employees who actually get laid off.

        1. Colette*

          Some people do that! But many others don’t. I once worked with someone who, IMO, was adequate at her job but not great, and she was sure she wouldn’t get laid off – even though by that point, 2/3 of the company had been laid off, and the company was spiraling the drain.

          And for a lot of people, cutting spending isn’t something they can do in a month, especially if they have a lot of debt. So everyone goes into a panic, and no one can make financial decisions because they don’t know whether they’ll have a job or not. A lot of people also start asking management whether they will be laid off – and management can’t answer, because they don’t know (and even if they do know, the next questions will be around severance or health care or other things that haven’t been sorted out yet).

          Advance notice sounds good, but IME it is better to have no notice.

        2. DataSci*

          It’s terrible for the people who *aren’t* laid off, though. They have a month of anxiety and low productivity that ends up being for nothing.

          Really, if you are laid off it sucks either way. If you aren’t, the advance notice stresses you out for no reason. And the company no longer gets to choose who leaves – the best people in all areas do, instead of (a) the lowest performers in some areas or (b) all people in particular areas that are eliminated.

          I’ve been in three of these situations – laid off (no advance warning), remaining after a sizable round that was announced in advance, and remaining after a round that wasn’t announced in advance. The “announced in advance” was worst. Really. It was my first job out of grad school and I was terrified for a month, which ended up being for nothing. When it was my position that was eliminated, I got a severance package and started looking the next day.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah. I get it that this would work for some, but I’m in an area where advance warnings are mandated by law, and the actual layoffs are negotiated with employee representatives. Everything has to be clearly documented, and there has to be a genuine business need for the layoffs. If things look up, they have to offer the jobs to the old employees, at least the unemployed ones, if they’re rehiring within 6 months, before they’re allowed to start a new hiring process.

            That said, I’ve been laid off twice. The first time I found out layoffs were coming, getting the slip was a shock, even if I’d been somewhat anxious the whole time since I heard the news. The second time I started looking for a new job as soon as I heard about potential layoffs, and I voluntarily resigned because I had a new job lined up before they announced the layoffs. My old employer was great about it, they paid out my notice period as severance rather than expecting me to work the month, and I was able to start my new job earlier than I might’ve done if I’d had to work my notice period, which is usually the case unless you’re fired for cause.

      2. Meow*

        Agreed. In my experience working in HR the only times advanced warning is given is in the rare circumstances that the WARN Act applies or in situations where an entire department is being laid off due to a client contract ending or a program ending where it’s obvious that the situation is time limited.

      3. tamarack and fireweed*

        I had advance warning, and vastly prefer it. The advance warning was for *me* personally. And they made resources available so that I could be prepared.

    4. FormerInternalRecruiter*

      Layoffs with no notice are super common. I’ve seen my company go through multiple rounds of layoffs (I’ve been working for them for almost 10 years) and the majority are with no notice. Some even happened in my department. My company is very stable but had some areas of the business that weren’t doing so well so layoffs happened.

    5. OP*

      To my friend’s credit, it was a layoff of….one. Under very bizarre circumstances that are unlikely to be fully replicated. Despite how awful it felt at the time, I can (usually, unless something pokes a surprise tender spot I didn’t realize I still had) look back at it and see it as being a casualty of bad timing and luck. I can absolutely understand my friend not connecting that to a larger picture that points to an insecure job situation.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        I’m on the side of “this sounds like a shitty way to go about laying off people”, but clearly I’m not in the majority here. Either way though, if this was me I’d probably try to message to my friend “I’m still smarting from how I was blindsided and let go from a job I deeply cared about – and had done very well in. So you should know this is how they operate. And I really don’t have it in me to cheer you on very much in this, but know it’s not about you, but about how sore a spot this is for me. Let’s talk about boardgames for a while.”

    6. DataSci*

      Layoffs happen all the time. It’s part of life. Mergers make positions redundant, departments get shifted between offices, products get discontinued. Stable companies tend to do these infrequently and as needed; it’s when they get to the second big round with no reason other than “cost cutting” that you start updating your resume.

      “No warning” is also 100% standard in many fields. When I was laid off (position was eliminated), they shut off my access by the end of the meeting – I couldn’t even send a farewell email, and had to ask someone to do so for me. They don’t want people with access to sensitive code or information to either copy it or sabotage it on their way out the door, and people who are just reeling from being laid off may act irrationally.

  22. Veruca*

    I have been in a similar situation, and here’s what worked for me.

    I couldn’t control the loss I’d experienced. Couldn’t fix it. My friend couldn’t fix that either. She would have if it had been in her power.
    Because of my loss, my friend’s experience didn’t seem fair and it made me angry.

    I spent time visualizing where each path led. Acting on my anger was going to lead to further loss. But acting as the good friend I’d always been was going to eventually lead to dealing with my feelings and experiencing joy for my friend, even though it was going to be hard. I liked the “me” that let go of the anger and feelings of unfair much better, and so I focused on taking small actions that supported my friend. My attitude followed my actions, and soon I could think of her opportunity without connecting it to my own disappointment.

    It was *really* hard, but 7 years later I can say that I grew a great deal through the process and it allowed me to deal with my own loss in a way that I’m not sure I would have otherwise.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Thanks for outlining the process you took that led you to a better frame of mind. Very actionable!! I am filing this away for how to approach difficult situations.

  23. voyager1*

    I think what hurts the most for you LW, is the folks who laid you off are the folks who your friend wants to work with. This is different from it being just in the company, it is literally the same department. So yeah I get the hurt and feelings of betrayal. I think you need to tell your friend that you hope it works out for her but this is still pretty raw for you and that you can’t really be the go to person on this. A true friend will understand.

  24. Tina Turner*

    I’d realize I had no right to demand friend not apply.
    BUT I’d remind her that I was happy in the job and got an hour’s notice to leave. So that could happen to her too if she left her current, secure job for this one. Because it WASN’T personal to you, it can happen to anyone.

  25. J.B.*

    I wonder if one reason why this feels extra hard is the continued contracting. I hope that the letter writer can find another job and cut off the contracting to get more space.

    1. Roscoe*

      I’d wager it doesn’t help. Clean breaks are always a bit easier to deal with. But there really hasn’t been a full break there.

      My last job laid me off. I happened to get a new job later that is more or less the building next door to the old office. I see people from there out and about all the time. Let me say, I still have some bitterness there, and I’m willing to wager its because I’m constantly reminded about it.

      It would be like how hard it is to move on from a relationship if you lived in the same apartment building and ran into each other all the time. If you had a clean break, it would be much easier.

    2. OP*

      I have recently found another job that I like quite a bit! And you are right, the space is helping. But the contracting became necessary when I couldn’t manage to get an interview anywhere and really needed some work.

  26. El l*

    There’s really two parts to this – both of them emotional.

    First, here’s the service you (OP) give your feelings right now: You’re within your rights to tell your friend a few things like, ‘It’s your career/life, but know that they fire people for dumb reasons,” or “I’m warning you right now that it’s going to be really difficult for me to provide references or provide emotional support on this. Not saying I won’t, but I’m not 100% over what happened to me.”

    Because this is the second and more important part: You still have some processing to do about what happened (and not with your friend). You’re still talking about it like it’s your “dream job, that you “loved everything about it,” and this job was worth a huge amount of love.

    But it sure wasn’t. That’s too much love to put on any job – jobs let people down. And definitely not in this case! This workplace fires good people without warning. Why would you even now feel that you would “go back to them in a heartbeat” if you know from bitter experience that your skills and abilities won’t be enough to keep you in the job?

    All these negatives that you’re feeling right now about them…they were always there, whether you realized it or not. They’re just not worth the nostalgia. They’re not worth it. They never were.

  27. Seeking Second Childhood*

    My question for you OP: would you go back to the department in a different job? Your friend may have been asking to make sure you weren’t applying for it. Everywhere I have worked, someone who was laid off in a reorg was eligible for rehire in another position.

  28. Ginger Baker*

    I love everything about this reply, but I want to specifically highlight that in many ways, THIS piece is…just as useful for personal relationships. Personal relationships aren’t business arrangements and shouldn’t be, but you should both still be getting something *mutually beneficial* out of them, and if you aren’t, it’s okay to leave/accept that the end or change of that relationship isn’t something done “at” you per se…and you should not make continual sacrifices of your own self and happiness over and over in an unbalanced way:
    “With your feelings toward your company, I know it’s easy to say “it’s business, not personal” … but these are business relationships, not personal ones. Of course it’s awful to lose a job you loved, and it can feel personal. But at some point it’s better for your mental health — and for your decision-making going forward — to acknowledge that this is how business works: companies make the decisions that are in their best interests, just as you’ll make decisions that are in yours. They should treat you with dignity, of course! And they should pay you reasonable severance. But realistically, this is the nature of jobs. Not seeing that clearly leads people to make sacrifices for their employers that they shouldn’t make, like working unreasonably long hours for months on end, accepting poor pay and bad working conditions, and hesitating to move on because they feel guilty about leaving.”

    1. Becca*

      ‘Personal relationships aren’t business arrangements and shouldn’t be, but you should both still be getting something *mutually beneficial* out of them’ yes, but in so many different ways. To gather what one gets from a business relationship (should be immediate, legal). A personal relationship is not this way. Someone invests in personal relationships in a way they should never invest in a business relationship. And good personal relationships require such an honest look at oneself, in a way that almost opposes what a business relationship would sometimes.
      I feel tgat saying something that compares personal and business relationships so simply, as one should be getting things from it, could lead people down a bad path.

      1. Ginger Baker*

        Oh hmmm. My experience is often the opposite: People who are willing to stay for months, years, longer than they should in problematic “like a family” jobs are often *also* staying much too long in other relationships where they internalize problematic “norms” and feelings that it must be somehow “their fault” or something they could fix if only they could find the Exact Right Way to ask for their [very basic] needs to be met. Ymmv but I have seen a lot of overlap in my life, that people who struggle with boundaries struggle with them in multiple types of situations not just in a single arena.

      2. Despachito*

        “. Personal relationships aren’t business arrangements and shouldn’t be, but you should both still be getting something *mutually beneficial* out of them, and if you aren’t, it’s okay to leave/accept that the end or change of that relationship isn’t something done “at” you per se…and you should not make continual sacrifices of your own self and happiness over and over in an unbalanced way,”

        I absolutely second this, and I actually think that personal relationships are, in a way, quite similar to business relationships, in the sense that you must get a “profit” out of them, and if you don’t for a long time, it is time to “declare bankruptcy” and move on.

        Of course this is not the same monetary, immediate profit as in business, but one in terms of your well-being, satisfaction, fulfilment… and if you do not have this in the long term, what point would there be to continue investing in the relationship?

    2. Colette*


      The OP is upset with her friend, but the friend has been good to her and supported her when she lost her job. The friend is allowed to do what is in her best interest (i.e. apply for a job).

      The OP should work on letting this employer go – she’s trying to hold on to it, and the employer has dropped their end of the rope. Maybe the employer made a horrible mistake, but it’s their mistake to make. The OP can’t make them hire her back any more than she can reply to someone breaking up with her with “no you don’t”.

  29. Ultimatumee*

    I referred (not recommended) a friend for a job at my employer. He worked there for a month, then quit in a huff. He said they were discriminating against him. But all I saw was that he got offended every time they asked him to do something or to do something differently. And they didn’t fire him, he quit (and no it was not at the level of a hostile work environment). Anyways he wanted me to quit too. After I didn’t, he tried to stay friends with me for a while. But after the Harvey Weinstein scandal, he decided he could no longer stay friends with the kind of person who could stand by while evil acts were committed.

  30. Mary Anne Spier*

    I feel this letter in my soul. I was laid off from my dream job a few years ago and forced back into a role I swore to myself I would never do again. But I had bills to pay and no alternatives for a while so I had to do it and I was absolutely miserable. The person they inserted into my role retired a few months ago and seeing my old position posted broke my heart. I have since found a similar role in a different school and am very happy here but the feeling of betrayal from that job is still there. I was laid off because of budget cuts and they decided they didn’t need as much staff in that area as they had; they just drew a line on a piece of paper according to seniority so no matter how good I was at my job it just didn’t matter. I get it. I totally get feeling thrown away and feeling like you didn’t matter. I’m so sorry.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Yes, I think it’s the feeling of powerlessness that really hurts – if having no control over what’s happening to you.

  31. Jennifer Juniper*

    LW, I’m giving the stink-eye to your company.

    It sounds to me like they’re not well-organized at all, considering how you were laid off. You may have to pick up the pieces for your friend if they get hired by the company – and then get laid off the same way you were.


    1. Colette*

      I get the impression you’ve never had any experience with layoffs, because this was really common. And, having been through a number of layoffs, I can tell you that an unexpected layoff is the best option. If people know it’s coming, the workplace becomes a terrible place to work – and, like hiring, layoffs often take longer than expected, so it drags on for months.

      1. BRR*

        Yeah I keep seeing people making comments about the layoff but this is really just how they happen. There’s really just not a great way to do them (other than providing a generous severance and some other smaller things).

      2. Despachito*

        When I was laid off I actually preferred we had quite long notice period, nor did I feel too unhappy about it because I was looking forward to freelancing.

        That said, our insurance is not tied to your employment. If it was, I’d be probably scared to death to lose my job.

        1. Colette*

          Did you know you were getting laid off, but with several months notice? Or did you know someone would be laid off, but not that it would necessarily be you? There’s a pretty significant difference between those two scenarios.

          1. Despachito*

            We were “made redundant” as an entire department.

            I think we saw it coming unofficially for several months before. I am not sure after those years when it became clear that we all are going but I think it was pretty soon because I do not remember any worries about who would go and who would stay. If part of us was to stay and the other had to go I think it would have been much more taxing and likely to create bad feelings.

            Officially, they gave us two-month notice (which there were bound to by law), and paid us three more months as severance (which was more than they had to).

            Overall, it did not feel personal, at least to me, because they complied everything they had to comply, and some more.

  32. Miss AR*

    I was just in a similar situation, my coworker and friend got laid off. We were part of the same department with same title. When we found out I wasn’t part of the layoffs (400 company wide due to Budget cuts) I immediately reached out and my friend told me “she was happy for me, that it was okay, and that we would continue to be friends”. Her last week (she was given a 4 week notice) she completely ghosted me, and ended up blocking my phone number. She decided to be petty and end our friendship with no warning. So OP, is this company worth more than your friendship? If your answer is no, then put your feelings aside and be happy or at least neutral for your friend. Like Alison said, you don’t have to be a reference if this is still too painful, but you really need to think that your friend also deserves to think and make decisions for her own future. Good luck.

    1. allathian*

      That’s unfortunate. But for me it would absolutely go this way, too. Work friendships for me are pretty much always situational, and I see no need to keep in touch with former coworkers, even if we were friendly while working together, after we are no longer working together. Even those that have lasted for a while after I or the work friend moved on, end up just atrophying out of a lack of contact within a few years.

      That said, I’d never mislead a soon-to-be former coworker about staying in touch with them and then just ghost them. I’m sorry your former coworker treated you so horribly.

  33. Sue Wilson*

    OP, I think I’m getting something slightly different about your feelings from most other people. It feel more like you’re afraid that if your friend gets this job, it is confirmation that your perfect job is gone. That the reconstitution of the department is final. And that is exacerbated by your continued contracting (which I think it would be for me as well. if they keep needing your services, why did they lay you off? Why aren’t they using that other department?). I can’t tell how close your friend’s job would be to your old job, but either it’s too close or this is you projecting those fears onto your friend. And I think you feel powerless.

    If that’s what’s driving your feelings, I think you need to ask for what you want. Do you know enough about the new company processes to get an actual long-term contract? If yes, ask for one. If no and there’s no path for you to find out, then you need to see if you can create or find another “dream” job. But you need to let go of it being at your old company. You might need to stop contracting.

    Furthermore, if your friend’s job would take away your contracting hours, because it is too close to the old job you had, then I honestly would see that more as a betrayal, and I don’t think it’s petty to avoid helping her with something that would take away from something you like doing. But if it’s not close? If it has nothing to do with it, I think you need to face your feelings on what happened (which again might involve asking for what you want or letting go of this company), and see if you can’t help her by separating this job from the company you knew. It’s not that company anymore.

  34. A Feast of Fools*

    When I’ve been in similar situations where I felt strangely possessive over my friend(s) getting something that I [wrongly] thought should be mine, I’ve found that saying it out loud to the friend helps.

    “Friend, this is so weird but I actually feel jealous that you are getting Thing and not me. Which is super ridiculous since of course you would get the Thing and not me because of [reasons]. I’ll get over myself eventually but I just wanted to get it out there in case you notice me acting weird. Feel free to call me on it. Emotions are strange things and I don’t want whatever this is to hurt my friendship with you.”

    1. Despachito*

      I think that for that you had to be very close, and congratulations on a friend you can be truly open with.

  35. meagain*

    Years ago I had traumatic ending at a job where I was basically forced into quitting. It was a horrible situation, the “boss” who was a part of it was lying, horrible, and shady about it, who completely betrayed me, and the whole thing was a mess. A year later, a very close friend who had known all of this, was applying for a job (elsewhere) and wanted to use him as a reference. (She had once worked for him too.) We had a thing where we always sent each other important emails to edit and proof for each other. She sent me a draft of her email to him asking him if she could use him as a reference. She was like “I know you hate him and he screwed you over, but I need you to proof this for me.” I found it incredibly insensitive.

    Also, sometimes we really do just have emotional responses to things. An ex-boyfriend of mine of six years had cheated and gotten another woman pregnant. He worked in sports so obviously I felt extremely angry and petty and wanted his team (his employer) to lose every game. It also happened to be my friend’s favorite diehard sports team. The team posted a generic social media post about the upcoming season and I saw she “liked” the post. I felt so betrayed! Like WTF how could she like that post knowing what he did to me??? I realize that’s very extra, nor would I ever say anything to her, or in reality even hold it against her, I get it, and that my vendetta (not really) is not hers, but I couldn’t help but feel a little stab when I saw that. Just human I think.

  36. Drizzle Cake*

    I was unsatisfied in my last job and not desperate for money or work. But. I was climbing the walls with misery and boredom, and desperate for a new job.

    Your friend is allowed to want a more satisfying job.

  37. June*

    Don’t take your anger about this employer out on your friend. Your friend just wants to have a stable job and life and provide for themselves. You don’t have dibs on this company and your friend has done nothing wrong. There is no disloyalty.

  38. Despachito*

    This is completely off-topic, but I have to say it: Icannot appreciate enough the kindness of Alison and of the commenters.

    The advice is great per se, but what I really value is the genuine acceptance of the asker´s feelings and of their right to have them (while at times being frank about the fact the asker should absolutely NOT act upon them, and that they are not rational).

    This is in fact something what I lack in most advice given in many places – sometimes there is only the complacent compassion but without really solving anything, sometimes there is just the harsh (if accurate) advice with no acknowledging of the asker´s feelings.

    This place combines both in the way the best psychologist would do, and I find it extremely useful (because I’d find it very hard to act upon a spot on advice if it lacked some understanding to my – possibly strange and unjustified – feelings.

    So THANKS again for this place, to Alison and all the awesome commenters.

  39. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    Wait, what?

    Well, yes, I suppose I could be considered passionate about llamas, although right now I only have eleven (Covid). Hope to be back up to my usual forty-two soon!

  40. Not So NewReader*

    OP, I noticed a few people here said your old company sucks. I agree. I think that all that is wrong here is that your dream job was actually a nightmare- whoops wrong kind of dream.

    I am hoping some day we can move away from the phrase, “it’s just business” because it’s people lives. If people can’t pay the rent/mortgage because of a company’s actions how can it not be personal? It impacts their personal life.
    OF COURSE people going to feel angry/beatup/bunch of other things. I do not understand the disconnect here- they are hurting the members of the society that sustains their livelihood. We are all interconnected and interwoven our actions impact each other regularly.
    In your case I am sure that you felt used- they got their new department out of you and then GOOD BYE. It might be the norm, OP, but that does not mean it’s ethical or responsible. Just because some companies are doing this does not make it all okay.

    I see where you said this is not their norm to ditch employees like this and your friend “knows” this probably won’t happen to her. Respectfully, I am trying very hard to take you at your word. The problem I have is that right here they have proven that they ARE capable of treating people like a disposable commodity. I don’t need 100 examples to believe your real life example. Perhaps you can try to counter-balance your upset with your friend by saying to yourself “but I know how this company really is.”

    I am sure your feelings were exasperated by still having a tie to the place- through contracting work. Getting to a new place was the best thing for you, OP. As one person here said, if they hired you back then you could be on edge just waiting for them to drop the other shoe again as they did this time. I know for myself, I could see me looking over my shoulder constantly if I went back.

    I am glad you got yourself to safer ground, OP. I think in a bit this situation could turn and you and your friend will find role reversal going on- where the company does something and it’s your turn to console her. I get that her application and employment there stings (stung?). Try to keep in mind that life is a movie, not a photograph. If you look at the photo in your head of her applying there and later accepting employment there, you are not looking at the whole story. This story is not finished yet- it’s a movie that continues on and there will be more to the story.

    I am ambivalent on the question of friendship loyalty. I think that is because my overriding question is that she saw how you got treated and she thinks she will make out better. It’s probably just me, but I have never seen that one work out. A company dumps off my friend, I say, “Thanks for the heads up!” and I choose to look at other places. I am thinking of what is best for my survival, not so much loyalty to my friend. But both points lead to the same action of applying elsewhere. I doubt I’d say it out loud to a friend, but I’d be thinking to myself, “Good luck with that!”.

    1. Despachito*

      As to the friendship loyalty – I think it is necessary to take all cases individually.

      I have some friends I love dearly but if they complained about their employer I’d take what they say at least with a grain of salt, and not always skip to the conclusion that it was the company who was in the wrong. I do not think I would refuse an otherwise interesting job just out of loyalty to my friend if I myself did not see any red flags.

      But of course it would depend on the situation – if the employer behaved illegally towards my friend, or if they seem to be toxic, it would be against my own interests to apply there.

    2. Epiphyta*

      THANK YOU for writing this. When Spouse was laid off with no warning, it was four years before we were financially stable again. We had to sell our house and leave the state and the support structure we’d built up over 20 years. It was a miracle that neither of us got sick during that time, as we had no health insurance. “It’s just business” makes me grind my teeth.

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