A challenge that you are guaranteed to face in your career will be when something negative happens to someone you know where you work. When good things happen, everyone knows what to do or say.

When it’s not so good, it’s much harder to know what to do. What do I mean by negative?

  • They interviewed for a promotion and didn’t get the position.
  • The project they were leading failed.
  • Their division in the company is sold and they will no longer be part of the organization.
  • Through an organizational realignment, they are being moved to a new location.
  • Through an organizational restructuring, their job is eliminated.

In most of those situations, the person is still around, trying to put on a public face that says, “it’ll be okay”, but inside they are struggling. They will feel everyone avoiding them, and that only makes it worse. Silence hurts.

The impact becomes like a death, where people know you’re in pain, but don’t know what to do or say. Yet unlike a death, the person is still around. In fact, you see them in the hallway. Everyone wonders, what do I do? Should I go see them? What will I say? Will it help? Will it only make them hurt more if I say something?

The result is most people say nothing, and that’s not good. Silence hurts.

I remember early in my career a senior leader I worked with was relieved of her responsibility (she was losing her job), but she remained with the organization for a couple of weeks. We weren’t close friends, but we had worked together for several years. I was young, and it was awkward. I didn’t know what to do or what I would say to her, so I said nothing. Inside, I knew I shouldn’t be silent, but what should I say to her? Regretfully, I stayed away and never forgot it. I know saying nothing hurt her.

When things have happened to me (they ultimately happen to all of us) I always wished someone would say something so I could talk about it. As an example, when my organization merged with another, my reporting relationship moved from local to corporate. On the outside, it didn’t seem like much, but it was significant to me. No one wanted to talk about it, they were just glad it didn’t happen to them.

When something difficult happens, people are usually surprised by the people they expected to say or do something and don’t. It hurts. You don’t want to be alone in difficult times.

When you are aware of someone who has been impacted, be the person who says something, who stops by to visit or at least makes a phone call. You can’t fix what happened, don’t even try. I doubt they will remember what you say to them, but I suspect they will always remember you came by. You’ll make a difference in their life. You’ll be there when they need you.

Never forget, that’s one of our responsibilities as a Christian, to comfort others.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

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