Etiquette for Giving Gifts to Laid-Off Employees

Something small and discreet is a good gift option.
i Jupiterimages/ Images

Sometimes a job is bearable simply because there's that one supportive co-worker who is helpful, a good listener and a friend. And . . . Bam! One day she's axed -- but you're there to help her pick up the pieces. While you'll no doubt immediately comfort her with words, you may also feel inclined to give your friend a little pick-me-up gift after she's gone. The key to the right present, however, is making it appropriate for the occasion.

Send It

    When a co-worker is laid off -- especially when it's a complete surprise -- she can experience a mixture of resentment, helplessness, anger, confusion and worry. Because of this, she's sure to have various thoughts swirling in her head, among them shame and embarrassment. The last thing you want to do is draw more attention to a situation she wishes wasn't hers. So, refrain from running out of the office and buying her a parting gift. Instead, get her address to keep in touch, and send her a pick-me-up gift by mail.

Gift Certificate

    This is not the time to take up a collection from the office or solicit money from anyone. Doing so may actually seem condescending to the laid-off employee. Make the gift certificate personal -- something either pertaining to her impending job search or an item that might ease her mind, such as an enjoyable outing. You can be sure that $25 to $100 on a grocery or generic bank gift card would be appreciated. Other options include credit at a resume-writing service, a subscription to an industry-specific newsletter or magazine, a restaurant or spa gift certificate, or movie passes.

Personally Appropriate

    A personal gift shows your friend you care about her feelings and valued her contribution to your work life. If she has a passion for gardening, buy her a nice plant and give her a card that says, for instance: "Whatever you do, I know you'll bloom." An office mate who enjoys reading might like the latest novel from her favorite author, and the jewelry lover would appreciate a charm with an inspirational saying. Try to make the gift personal, but not funny. Even if you two are close, it's in bad taste to give her a gift like a new set of pajamas, which might be taken to represent all the free time she may now have.

Give Her Resources

    Help your gal pal with her inevitable job hunt by first asking if she would like some possible leads. If yes, send her the names and contact information of people you know who may be able to help. Do you have a friend who is a recruiter? Does your uncle own a corporation? Is your best friend's company hiring? If there are any particularly helpful job sites you know of or books with interesting industry information, pass them along. If it's appropriate, type a letter of recommendation and send it to her. This way, she won't have to ask you for it and it'll lift her spirits when she reads about her past contributions.

Lend Her Your Ear

    Sometimes the best gifts cannot be bought. Show your friend true sympathy by listening to her situation. Ask her how you can help -- she might surprise you with the answer. Perhaps she wants your support in attending networking events. Maybe she could use your keen eye for grammar or writing wit as she revamps her resume. Your unemployed pal could be facing financial hardship, a bout of depression and low self-esteem. Stay in the moment with her and allow her to grieve. When she's ready to hear it, point out her talents and assets.

the nest