Layoff Sympathy Cards

October 21st, 2011 by Andrea Bennett

Hallmark aims to comfort the unemployed with a new line of greeting cards.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

With the unemployment rate surpassing 9 percent in the U.S., almost all of us know the uncertainty and anxiety associated with losing a job, either through our own experiences or those of friends. Now, Hallmark is offering six separate “layoff sympathy” cards to apply to such situations. Sold online and at select retailers, the cards are written with individual outlooks on job loss in mind, from snarky to sentimental to inspiring.

For instance, one card reads: “Don’t think of it as losing your job. Think of it as a time-out between stupid bosses.” Another card takes a softer stance: “Losing a job is just plain painful. So I want you to remember I’m in your cheering section.”

It’s not unusual for greeting card companies to take advantage of emotionally charged moments in history. According to Hallmark, based in Kansas City, Mo., their cards have traditionally dealt with such challenging issues as the military draft in the 1960s, nuclear warfare and the Great Depression. They offered greetings to members of the military during the 1940s and to those who lost someone they loved on September 11th.

Hallmark’s Creative Director Derek McCracken recently told NPR’s All Things Considered that most card consumers are seeking a lighter look at layoffs. “The ones that offer more moral support, but maybe with a little humorous twist in a more encouraging fashion are doing very well,” he said. “We’re publishing more of those.” Meanwhile, spokeswoman Jaci Twidwell told the Chicago Tribune that issuing these cards allows the company to take a cultural snapshot of people’s concerns. “We know these job-loss captions are not going to be the strongest performer,” she said. “But they are meant to meet a relevant and niche consumer need for many who are looking for it.”

One proponent of the greeting cards, psychologist and CBS Early Show contributor Dr. Jennifer Hartstein, said they give people license to talk about an uncomfortable topic: “The more you talk about something, the better off it can be.”

But not everyone relishes the thought of dealing with layoffs through pre-printed cards. There are entire advice columns on how to diplomatically support your friends who have lost their jobs without patronizing or interrogating them on their latest leads. One such column from the Public Relations Society of America suggests keeping in touch after termination, paying for lunch, and not throwing surprise “going away” parties. Nowhere do the columns mention greeting cards.

Furthermore, as Gothamist columnist Christopher Robbins notes, a recipient of one of these cards could feel that a fluffy message undermines the significance of losing a job.

Robbins criticizes a specific Hallmark card that reads, “Your job is not who you are. You have many great qualities, and that’s what really matters.” Robbins responds: “It should be noted that ‘good qualities’ cannot be used to pay down a mortgage, credit card debt, or student loans.”

What do you think of layoff sympathy cards? Would you choose one for a friend or family member? Or do you have a more traditional method of empathizing with a friend who has recently lost his/her job?