There are several situations at work that require us to use our social skills. These are easy when interacting with co-workers we are friendly with. It’s when dealing with those who are mere acquaintances that awkwardness creeps in.
When a colleague…
Gets engaged or married: With a genuine smile, wish them warmly “Great News! All the best!” While it is expected that you will inquire about the wedding plans/future spouse, refrain from asking inquisitive questions about their economic status/in-laws. Offer no free advice on marriage!
Gets pregnant: Wait for the colleague to announce it before you congratulate her. A simple “Congratulations!” is adequate. Again, no horror stories about labour, free medical advice or stories about how babies can turn lives topsy-turvy!
When a colleague miscarries/loses a loved one: In such grievous situations, sympathy is best expressed by a warm handshake and a genuine “I am really sorry to hear about this”. Never say “At least the suffering is over” or “It was a blessing/God’s will”. As these are tough losses, it may need weeks before your colleague bounces back. The best help is continued support and help with their office work while they come to terms with the loss.
When a colleague gets divorced: Listen to their anguish and help them move on with life. For example, helping file their tax returns/claims, referring them to a support group or just being there to listen to their problems as they come to terms with their new life.
When a colleague is fired: Don’t waste time analysing the reasons for getting fired; instead motivate them by listing their unique talents, helping them update their resume and connecting them with friends/head-hunters from your network.