How to Really Deal with an Unemployed Person

Earlier today I read a post on The Awl about proper etiquette in dealing with someone who is unemployed and how to talk to them. The more I read, the more annoyed I got. “This writer obviously has no freakin’ idea what it’s like to be unemployed for longer than 3 months,” I muttered to myself. “She also has no idea what it’s like to be unemployed when you’ve already been in the workforce for at least 10 years.” I read through the comments and while some people had truly helpful comments, the others were just as clueless as the author. I sent the post to my friend Giles, who is brilliant and wise, and who also happens to be unemployed. He was just as disgusted as I was.

Since the whole point of a personal blog is to tell the world what you think, regardless of anyone else’s opinion on the subject at hand, I figured I would use my blog to publish a counter-argument to the list of do’s and don’ts provided by Ms. Georgopulos. Having spent long periods of time being unemployed and/or underemployed, I think I have a decent grasp of the subject matter.

She writes: Stop calling it funemployment.

Moxie says: Who the hell is using that term anymore?

She writes: Get them out of the house early on…Have fun when you go out together.

Moxie says: Respect their wishes and don’t make their unemployment about YOU.Yes, it’s uncomfortable to know people who aren’t working while you still have your job. But unless you were actively involved in screwing up the economy and/or forcing my employer to lay me off, I am not blaming you or holding you personally responsible for my unemployment. Are you doing something fun and you want my company? Then call me up and ask me to go with you. I know my money situation, you don’t. Let me decide if I can or want to join you.

She writes: Try to think of them when opportunities come up.

Moxie says: I’m only going to say this once, so pay attention: the ONLY time it’s okay to send along job listings from CareerBuilder, Monster or any other website is if the person you are sending it to said it was okay. I did not ask you to be my headhunter. If and when I do, trust me, I will let you know.

She writes: Consider a barter system.

Moxie says: If you’re someone I don’t know very well, I don’t want to barter with you because most of the time it smacks of pity and charity. If you want help with a DIY project at your house, ask me. If I want to do it, I will. Otherwise shut up.

She writes: Avoid asking how their day went.

Moxie says: You know what? I may be doing a hell of a lot more than you think. I have time to read, write, figure out HTML, and bring peace to the Middle East. Don’t assume my answer is going to be full of complaints and bitching, or weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

She writes: Don’t take it out on them when you’ve had a bad day.

Moxie says: If you have any semblance of intelligence, you know to avoid doing this to anyone, much less someone who doesn’t have a full-time job. If you want to vent about the moron who keeps stealing your stapler at work without getting any sort of advice in return, then preface your conversation with, “May I vent for a couple minutes?” T-Wizzle and I do this with each other and it works beautifully.

She writes: Don’t shrug off their weird habits.

Moxie says: I don’t even know what this means. What business is it of yours if I’m constantly muttering to myself? I could be working out peace treaties with the PLO by talking them out – how the hell would you know? You’re too busy bitching about your missing stapler at the office.

She writes: Keep in touch during the day.

Moxie says: Just because I don’t have a job doesn’t mean I want to hear from your sorry ass 24-7. And this suggestion from the article’s author is extremely insulting:

Maybe even forward them “classified” emails from work that illustrate how B-O-R-I-N-G the 9-to-5 is. “Just got an email from HR about keeping the office kitchen clean—again! I bet you’re at home doing something really creative or on the verge of doing so! Miss you!” Forward. That’s all.

NO. Do not do this. Because while you think you’re being cute by pointing out how silly the corporate lifestyle is, you are subtly suggesting you are better than the person receiving this message because you have to put up with it. If we want to be reminded of how wackadoodle corporations can be, we can watch reruns of “The Office.”

4 thoughts on “How to Really Deal with an Unemployed Person

  1. These are great, and so true. Having been [f]unemployed many times (the longest stretch was almost a year), I completely agree with all your counterpoints. I did find myself guilty recently of sending Craigslist job postings to an unemployed friend. He owes me money, though, so I was simply looking out for myself.

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