Letters to the Editor • Opinion
The coronavirus might not be the worst of it
The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

In the coronavirus environment, workplace retirement celebrations are another casualty

When tens of millions have lost their jobs, don’t expect a big retirement party.

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Reader 1: I recently retired from the company where I had been for six years. Since the pandemic, everyone had been working from home. Even though my retirement was announced to our larger division, I received no notes from outside my very small department. My boss mailed me a card with a $25 gift certificate to a store I don’t shop at. (I’m sure the money came out of her pocket.) I feel miffed that there was no other recognition. When I left previous jobs at two other companies, I received cards, cash, parties, cakes, etc.

Karla: I’m going to lead with kindness here: “Miffed” is a reaction best saved for deliberate or brutally inconsiderate snubs. I suspect you’re feeling more hurt, disappointed, even a little fist-to-sky angry at being denied acknowledgment of a once-in-a-lifetime transition. Other retirees, newlyweds and graduates of all ages can no doubt identify with this.

But as of this writing, about 100,000 people have lost their lives and close to 40 million have lost their jobs. Even if your business has been relatively untouched by the coronavirus pandemic, your colleagues are no doubt focused on maintaining life and livelihood. Anything that doesn’t support those efforts is collateral damage.

Given the circumstances, I recommend you count yourself lucky if a proper send-off is the greatest loss you suffer this year, and host your own celebration once the danger has passed.

Reader 2: My company just underwent a massive layoff because of covid-19. I am very fortunate to still have my job but sad to be losing many colleagues, some of whom I have worked with for many years. What are appropriate ways to acknowledge these colleagues?

Karla: Throwing them a lifeline is the first thing that comes to mind. Offer to serve as a reference for anyone who needs it. Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities that might fit someone you know. Forward résumés along if you have connections. Social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) is great for this, especially if you want to pool resources with other still-employed colleagues. And if you’re in a position to convince your employer to file unemployment claims with the state on behalf of those laid off, that could save a lot of headaches.

The next best thing is to let your former colleagues know they haven’t been forgotten. Even if you don’t have a job lead to offer, a simple check-in by email, phone or text can make a difference.

One caveat: You don’t want to stoke resentment or give your employer cause to suspect you of doing so. When you reach out to former colleagues, try to keep the focus on their well-being and their future, and avoid workplace gossip.

Work Advice: Preparing for layoffs and related hazards

Reader 3: If I am offered a job by a different company while on furlough, do I still have to give a two-week notice?

Karla: Oh my sweet summer child, no. Unless it’s something you committed to in a contract, two weeks’ notice is courtesy, not law. The idea behind giving notice is to allow you time to wrap up or delegate any outstanding projects, and to give the employer time to start finding a replacement for you. But if you’ve been on furlough, that’s probably not a concern.

Work Advice: I was passed over for promotion. Is it disloyal to look elsewhere?

This also is not a law, but it’s smart: Before you breathe a word to your current employer, make sure the new job offer is solid and legitimate. This is not the time to let go of one vine before you’ve firmly grasped the next.