How to word the invitation for a Happy Hour that's (partially) in honor of those being laid off?
May 18, 2009 2:24 PM   Subscribe

Some of my coworkers are being laid off. I'd like to send out an invitation to a Happy Hour so we have a chance to get together informally before "the end". How do I word the invitation?

I don't necessarily want it to be a bitch-fest because people who are being retained are also going to be invited. I intended this event as a way for us to get together after work for fun and socializing, taking advantage of the fact that we're all on the same side of town. Once people move on, it's a lot harder to organize something like this.
posted by parilous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You don't need to indicate in your invitation that the impetus is the layoffs. You could say something like:

You are invited to a Happy Hour

at Town Center Tavern

on Tuesday, May 19, from 6:00-8:00pm

Come join us for food, drinks, and fun.

Then, at the Happy Hour, raise a toast to your departing coworkers, by name (so, "let's all drink to Mark, Julie, and Lisa" rather than "let's all drink to the folks who are leaving").
posted by ocherdraco at 2:30 PM on May 18, 2009

Hmmm. I'm not saying that it's a bad idea, all I am saying is that while I've received many an email from a person leaving a job that said "hey, if you want to join me after work I'm going to be at X bar"... I've never seen a lay off "happy hour" organized by someone else. It might rub people the wrong way.
posted by moxiedoll at 2:31 PM on May 18, 2009

My coworkers who've been laid off (and there have been many lately) wouldn't have appreciated an outing which cost them money. They're unemployed now--while they might feel like drinking, they probably don't want to do it at a pricey bar. I'm not sure this is such a great idea, but YworkplaceMV.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 2:48 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Please join us for drinks to say goodbye to _______________.

(And those people shouldn't be paying for their drinks.)
posted by spec80 at 2:54 PM on May 18, 2009

Depending on the temperament(s) and sense(s) of humor of your soon-to-be-laid-off coworkers, you may find one of these someecards useful or inspirational.
posted by dersins at 2:57 PM on May 18, 2009

Think about doing this in person, with spoken words, rather than by email.

And definitely ask the still=employed people to help pick up the tab of the now-unemployed people. I second the note that the very first thing you do when you get the bad news is start panicking at the idea of spending unnecessary money.
posted by Miko at 3:11 PM on May 18, 2009

Are you sure the laid off people want the expense or the public parade of being laid off? If they are students mainly being supported by their parents and being laid off is seen by them as a bonus for more party time then yeah, go ahead. If they are adults with responsibilities and are now probably financially screwed by being laid off then I can't see them wanting to spend money on beer. Your heart is in a good place but I think your gesture may come off as tone-deaf.
posted by saucysault at 3:14 PM on May 18, 2009

One of my co-workers did this right after I got laid off last year. There was no time to do it before since we got zero notice (clean out your desk now!). He just sent an email saying, lets get the team together one more time. I think that most people would want a chance to say good bye and exchange personal email addresses and such.
posted by octothorpe at 3:30 PM on May 18, 2009

Another thing - when people lose their jobs and invite co-workers out for a drink? They definitely don't invite everybody - they invite the people they like. I cannot imagine that your laid off co-workers would want to go out with the people who made the decision, the people who knew about it before they did, etc. And a general invite to everybody makes it seem like a work-bonding-fun thing and they might not feel like it's even appropriate to attend. I hereby change my vote from "not saying it's a bad idea" to "saying it really is".
(I'm also not sure you understand how they'll be feeling - maybe they'll want to talk about their plans and say it's for the best... and maybe they'll want to talk about anything but that job and just hang out as people... and maybe they'll want a bitchfest, and isn't that their right? I think your dream that everyone will go out together and have fun times is really off base).
posted by moxiedoll at 3:33 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, a lot of people just want to be alone.

Also, a lot of people feel a real and sometimes personal resentment that they were canned while the rest of you chumps escaped the ax. There are some bad feelings around this kind of thing, so be careful about it.
posted by Miko at 3:39 PM on May 18, 2009

I believe the term you want is Pink Slip Party.
posted by theora55 at 3:41 PM on May 18, 2009

I think it's a good idea, as long as you: a) include all the lay-offs in the invite, b) don't invite the people who made the decisions to lay-off folks, and c) make sure that those who were laid-off don't have to pick up their tab
posted by doh ray mii at 3:42 PM on May 18, 2009

Best answer: Speaking as someone who did recently lose his job, I can tell you this. Two separate groups of people in my workplace asked me if I wanted to go out for drinks. I said yes to both, and we did two separate things (just went to bars). The first one was smaller and just for me. The second one was larger and was in theory for a few laid off folks, but I was the only laid off person who showed up.

There is no need to do any special invitations or wording or anything like that. In fact, I definitely would not. Everyone I'm sure knows there are layoffs going on - just send a casual email inviting people to a bar. (I have to admit I do not like ocherdraco's wording at all - "food, drinks and fun" would have irritated the hell out of me at a time like that.) Or you can take Miko's advice and invite people in person.

Also, as moxie says, keep the guest list relatively small - limit it to people who the laid off folks knew and liked. I would say that unless you are dead certain it would be okay, don't include any management (esp. management responsible for these decisions). In my case, it was simple - I was at a law firm, so my friends only invited associates, no partners. If your situation is more complicated - for example, you work for nosy, irritating, clueless people who would be offended if they were left out even though they just were responsible for the firings - then reconsider doing this event at all. Or just take your closest buddies out for a personal beer sometime.

Finally, other people have mentioned this, but I'm going to be more absolutist about this. You simply have to pay the tab for the fired people. You can't ask them to contribute even a dime. I was hardly hurting for money when I was laid off, but I would have been upset had people not offered to pay (which they all did). Find a way to make sure the affected people will know they don't have to open their wallets. If you're worried about making sure the employed people will foot the bill, then again, reconsider doing the event at all.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 3:50 PM on May 18, 2009

Ouch. I was recently laid off and I would have reacted badly to such an invitation; for someone still employed to do this might make it feel like pity, particularly if the laid-off people are either private, proud, or both. E-mail address exchanges are less relevant in this LinkedIn/Facebook era.

Plus, no matter how well you plan it, someone who's socially tone-deaf and uninvited might learn of it and either get huffy or show up unannounced. I know a person who was laid off, then invited to a party like this, at which his manager (who crashed it) had a few too many, banged on a glass to get everyone's attention, and then handed my acquaintance $100 "for groceries now that you're unemployed".
posted by catlet at 4:24 PM on May 18, 2009

Best answer: I'm keeping it low-key. I just sent the handful of folks an e-mail saying, essentially, "I'd like to buy you a drink. I wouldn't presume to send this around to folks; I'll leave that up to you. Feel free to invite your friends/significant others, too."

I think it conveyed what I was going for without getting overly formal.

Thanks for the help, folks.
posted by parilous at 4:31 PM on May 18, 2009

I first read your question and was a little perplexed about having a "Happy" hour for laid off workers as well as retained workers. I didn't like the idea at all.

I for one think you did the right thing and how your doing it. Buying drinks for laid off workers can be heartfelt. And I'm sure your gesture will be taken that way. They'll remember that and you. IMHO

Maybe a camera would be nice too. Group photos. Then send them copies perhaps?

Good for you!
posted by Taurid at 6:48 PM on May 18, 2009

This may be perfectly not what you're looking for, since it's a group being let go. But those being let go are all individuals, so maybe it applies.

When I got let go from a job six years ago at an ISP, we'd all been required to use a particular IM program as a means to type at each other while dealing with clients on the phone. When I was home unexpectedly afterward, I got invitations to get taken out to lunch or drinks or "bring you and the kids over for dinner at our place" or bring drinks and a movie to my place or whatever from the folks who wanted to help me out afterward via that same IM program. There was a lot of overlap of friends and none of that ickiness that results from management showing up. I even got an invitation to lunch from a person who'd butted heads with me on the job, but knew I pulled my weight, and that meant a lot.

All of that personal care helped me a LOT. It was individuals, not the group thing. It was "I miss you being here every day, because you rocked at the job."

There was no "happy hour."

I also got asked for my private email and gave it to the people I wanted to have it with no pressure. In a group setting, that might get weird.

As a result, I even got invited to be the date of a former coworker to the next annual Xmas party. I got to give peace of mind to the guy who handed me my walking papers. He hadn't wanted to and still felt bad. That guy was a good guy and all but cried when he was required to fire me. And, since I was doing better at the time than when I left, I got to thumb my nose in a way, but not rudely, at the people who had designed the policy that got me fired (attendance, small children, single mom, too much illness) and have a great dinner, a few polite drinks, and be on the arm of a handsome younger man. It was great for the ego. I've rocked at my current job since then and have a boss with a decent, family-friendly outlook.

Granted, mine was an individual firing about a specific policy, but it's the personal attention that we all remember in the long run.
posted by lilywing13 at 2:07 AM on May 19, 2009

If you are close enough to the laid off person(s) to care enough to get them drunk, then you should have a good idea of whom to invite. In many cases those that are laid off are immediately shut out of their work email and work computer, so don't forget to include their non-work email when sending invites.

Unless the laid off-ee is extremely bitter they will appreciate the opportunity to get everyone together to exchange contact info, job hunting tips and leads, and to grouse about how incredibly stupid management is.
posted by Gungho at 6:56 AM on May 19, 2009

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