Do you read Dear Abby? I do. In the Houston Chronicle, her column is beneath the daily crossword and the last bit of the paper I read, before folding the paper in half and in half again for the puzzle, is Dear Abby. It's been my morning newspaper routine for years.
I recognize myself or my life in her column on occasion, taking the sage advice and letting it make sense to me, taking her words and making some adjustments to my thinking or actions. For 50 cents, I've found that her advice is a very good deal.
The headline of Thursday's column jumped at me: Unemployed worker feels forgotten by friends. And let me say right now that I do not feel forgotten by friends outside of work; it's some of the friends I've made over the past 18 years through my employment. The woman who had written Abby said that the phone calls and emails stopped almost immediately when word got out that she was laid off. She further said that being treated that way made her feel almost as bad as losing her job did.
Hello, lady, do I ever understand how you feel. With few exceptions, my previous co-workers have remained absent.
Abby or, as we all know, her daughter, responded that work-related contacts can become like an extended second family. She further wrote: If these relationships are treated as expendable, it can often be as traumatic as the death of a loved one. She named the five distinct stages of grief, which I had used for the title of my post February 20th. But she added that when it comes to a job loss there is also the element of fear. Fear of the uncertainty, fear of the future, fear of not being wanted. The work-related friendships we forged can be invaluable support to us, with one simple effort: Pick up the phone or send an email and ask the question: How are you? It would go a long way.
I know that in times of lay-offs, those not laid off are nervous and tend to keep their heads low and stay away from any conflict. I think that's normal behavior. I also know that when I've been on the other end; I've made the call, checked in, sent a note. I did it on my own time, and those friendships are still very much alive because of it.
Abby's column ended with a reminder that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. I think that's fitting advice, don't you?