October 20, 2017

I’ve Been Laid Off…Now What?


languages of an apology The Five Languages of Apology

The depth of emotions that come from being laid off stretch a large gamet. Whether the unemployment was planned or completely unexpected, the warring psychological implications still plays on ones security. Last year, I shared a post called “The Five Languages of an Apology, ” which caused many of you to ponder forgiveness and apologies in new ways.  During this same time, my husband was dealing with a year long unemployment. Taking the Five Languages of an Apology, my friend, Jennifer, shared some amazing words of wisdom for those dealing with the emotional side of being laid off. Unemployment is so prevalent these days, that even if you’re not in the midst of it, these ideas shed encouragement on dealing with many difficult situations.

“Are you being forced to make tough decisions at work every day?  Are you, like many, wondering how your company can continue to make ends meet?  What if you have to let some employees go:  What role do apologies have in a layoff?

First, let me say that I feel for those on both sides of the layoff dilemma.  Being terminated strikes at the heart of our security.  Those who remain in the workplace have challenges, too:  They may have “survivor’s guilt” and a heavier work load.

Seven years ago, my husband was laid off during a bank merger.  Despite being able to anticipate that this outcome was likely for his small unit, we were still stunned and terribly saddened when he was officially terminated.  I found I was so distracted by the tornado of job searching that it was hard for me to be around others (even at church) whose futures seemed secure. At times we felt like we were wandering through a blizzard — we could see people enjoying the warmth of their fireplaces through their picture windows while our family was out in the workplace cold.

What was one small comfort during that difficult time?  My husband received an apology from the executive over his former division.  This individual made a personal connection to communicate his concern and interest for my husband and offering his assistance as my husband pursued a new career.  Without compromising on the business necessity, this apology conveyed what Gary Chapman and I have termed the first “language of apology.”  Here are all five of the apology languages:

Apology Language #1

Expressing Regret:

“I am sorry”

Show concern for the other person’s feelings.  Express sorrow regarding their difficult circumstances.  Display empathy and concern for their feelings.

Apology Language #2

Accepting Responsibility:

“I was wrong”

Name your mistake and accept fault. Note that it is easier to say “You are right” than “I am wrong”, but the latter carries more weight.

Apology Language #3

Restitution- Making Amends:

“What can I do to make it right?”

How are they now? Is any debt owed or repayment due? How shall I make amends to you? Do they need help dusting themselves off and getting back up on their feet? How can I restore your confidence that I care for you- even though my actions were hurtful to you?

Apology Language #4


“I’ll try not to do that again”

Engage in problem-solving. Don’t make excuses for yourself such as: “Well, my day was just so….”. Instead, offer what you will change to prevent yourself from putting them in the same predicament again.

Apology Language #5

Requesting Forgiveness:

“Will you please forgive me?”

Be patient – they may need time or greater clarification of your prior statements.  Finally, your apology may not be accepted, but at least you know that you have been faithful in offering a sincere olive branch of peace.

In the corporate world, tough decisions must be made, but these decisions can be humanized by considering this framework and specifically speaking languages 1 and 3 above. While a company cannot apologize in the sense of “wrongdoing” for layoffs, the expression of regret is a valuable gift.  Severance or job-seeking assistance can also be important steps in providing some form of “institutional restitution.”

Today, I’m glad to say that my husband is enjoying a new job in the investment world. While I would not have chosen this trial, I can see that the Lord has used it to increase my compassion for clients and friends who are enduring job loss, while bringing us to a better place both in my husband’s career and in growing our faith.

Whether the next apology you make is at home or at work, please remember this: Sincere apologies are a precious gift. They impart a feeling to the receiver of being deeply valued . Further, they smooth the way to true forgiveness and reconciliation. May you surprise others with the transparency, humility, and boldness of your apologies!”

Dr. Jennifer M. Thomas is a wife and mother of two school-aged kids and one feisty four-year-old.  She is a motivational speaker and part-time psychologist in private practice in Winston-Salem, NC,  as well as the co-author, along with Dr. Gary Chapman, of The Five Languages of Apology.  This book has been translated into a dozen languages and they’ve been radio guests on Focus on the Family and Janet Parshall’s America.  Visit her website: www.drjenthomas.com.


  1. My husband had worked at a company for 12 years and was the only income we had. On Christmas Eve last year he was laid off. His boss took him in a room and read from a script! He took it very hard. This was the start of our emotional roller coaster ride. It took him 6 months to find a job that was half his pay, now he has a contract job that pays a little more but doesnt offer health ins. We always count our blessings and we consider ourselves lucky to still have our home. We are praying for the roller coaster to end but until then we are just hanging on for the ride. Thank you for the words of wisdom.


  2. You are so right about the apology making a difference in a job loss situation. When my husband lost his job, several leaders in the company did the very thing you described above. It did make a difference in how we looked at our situation and how we viewed the company. I very well remember the feeling you described about being out in a snowstorm while everyone else was in their warm homes. God was, and continues to be faithful. So happy for your husband’s new job!

    Blessings to you~


  3. Our family: Asst. pastor, surrender to mission field, leave U.S. to get established, months later visa denied, return home, lose mission support, no job, hearts broken.
    Months later: heart mended, small job in public sector, still serving, pressing forward.
    Philippians 4:19
    But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.


  4. This is the first time I’ve heard these thoughts expressed this way. I missed your orginal post on ‘The 5 Languages of Apology’. We have taught our boys from the beginning that when they apologize for something they have to say what they’re apoligizing for. They can’t just say “I’m sorry”, they have to say “I’m sorry for….” and then ask “will you forgive me?” I’ve always thought it’s too easy for kids (and adults) to say I’m sorry and brush it off without much thought. I think when we have to name the behavior we’re apologizing for, it makes us think more about what it is that we did wrong. I love that someone took these ideas and put them together in a teachable way. Thanks for sharing this!


  5. Hello, everyone!
    Jen, thank you for sharing my book and story again.
    Readers, thank you for your comments- I enjoyed reading these!
    BTW, I’ll be speaking about The Five Love Languages and The Five Languages of Apology in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin for a relationship conference on Feb. 11th and 12th, 2011. http://www.thinkmarriage.org/learn/your-learning/121
    Jen, I’ll think of you as I fly into your Green Bay area! I wish I could take you along in my suitcase, friend!


    Jens Reply:

    Oh, I wish I could fit in there to come along. 🙂 I found this in my drafts back from last year when you sent it to me, and realized that I had never published it. Thought is was too wonderful for others not to be encouraged by it.


  6. Grrrreat!!!Post! And how neat to have the author join, would love to read both in entirety. People just dont apologize much anymore,or at least not how I was taught&raised to do/how to do. Real remorse is always nice when you’re hurt in some obvious way. And the sensitivity to know you may have been hurt in a non-obvious way? Rare&wonderful thing. Thank you, both Jens. 🙂 -s-


  7. I do love this post. So few people are talking about how to help/ minister to the unemployed right now, yet there are so many of us walking that road! My husband, also, was “downsized” last year. The supervisor that made the decision was truly crushed to have to do it — and the fact that we worship at the same church made it quite awkward. However, the supervisor and his wife continued to care for our family, inquiring about how we were (which, on occasion, we really didn’t want to discuss, I’ll be honest!) and telling us they were praying for us.

    We are still in the middle of transition — my husband has started a new job in a new town and we are still trying to sell our home and have me and the kids join him. There are still times that forgiveness and forging on are hard, yet we can see God’s hand in all of it, and trust that all things WILL work for good as He has assured us in this. The new job is already FABULOUS, and that is such a blessing.


  8. Isabella says:

    After 38 years of marriage, four children, and three grandchildren, my husband was laid off from a family business where he had been employed for 7 years. We had faced unemployment before several times in our marriage, but this was to be a harder test. After years of faithful service to our Lord and generous tithing, we lost EVERYTHING–all our savings and our home with almost $200,000 in equity. We were living in California at the time, which was especially hard hit during this recession. Homes in our small city there were simply not selling. Unemployment lingered on for three years for us. At an older age, we were also facing very real age discrimination in the job market. My husband has an MBA. (We are in our late 50’s.)

    Sadly, we saw the real underbelly of men during this time. It was a time of terrible betrayal by several people. Except for our dear children and two sons-in-law, our families ignored our dilemma completely. My husband’s faith never waivered, but I struggled mightily. What have I learned through this as God has slowly helped us to recover? I learned that the ONLY ONE in whom we can truly trust is Jesus. I have experienced His abiding love, and I also know that He is just. He sees the hearts of men. I also know that His plans are HIS. He does not have to answer to us or be accountable to us in any way, and we should not be surprised at the “fiery ordeals” we face as Christians. But we must trust that His plans are perfect and someday, even if it is not in this world, He will reveal all to us.


    Jen Reply:

    Isabella – thank you for sharing your wise words of wisdom. I understand the depth of pain that can be caused by that kind of business break up, and you are so right, only the Lord can get us through times like that. I will continue to pray for your family as you rebuild. Thank you for sharing just a bit of your journey with me.


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