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> Emails like this are usually riddled with corporate speak so I'm going to give it to you straight.

I tried rewriting his email to live up to this promise:

- - -


We're cutting our workforce to strengthen Twitter as a company.

The team has been deciding how to best streamline Twitter, Vine, and Periscope to put their focus on the projects which will have the greatest impact. Moments, which we launched last week, is a great beginning. It's a peek into the future of how people will see what's going on in the world.

We plan to cut up to 336 people. This was a tough decision, and we'll offer each person a generous exit package and help finding a new job. Product and Engineering are going to make the most changes. Engineering will be smaller but remain the biggest percentage of the organization, and other departments will be cut in parallel.

This isn't easy. We'll honor those who we're losing with our service to all the people who use Twitter. We'll do it with a more purpose-built team. Thank you all for your trust and understanding here. As always, please reach out to me directly with any ideas or questions.


Everyone should take note of this person's excellent structure: he put the decision first.

If you are writing a decisive message that can greatly impact many people's lives: write the decision first.

Don't "sandwich" the truth. Sandwiching only makes sense when the decision or the mistake is not of huge significance. Beating around the bush in matters of great import will always harm the sincerity of your words.

After you've stated clearly what the decision is, right after that, you can justify it however you wish.

> Everyone should take note of this person's excellent structure: he put the decision first.

Going by my twitter feed, they implemented the decision first, with people discovering they were locked out of their twitter accounts and RAS before the announcement was made.

It's a hard problem to solve, but given that many of the folks being dismissed are engineers with elevated access to Twitter's data and services, it makes sense from a security and privacy perspective to disable access first. There's no good way to lay off 300 people at once. Hopefully Twitter actually follows through on the separation package and job search assistance. That's far more important.

Do former twitter engineers really need that much assistance in finding a new job? I'd assume people will be clawing at them.

It may not show a lot of trust in their employees, but removing access is a prudent move considering the motive and opportunity for malfeasance. The timing should have been simultaneous however.

Legitimately asking: Do you have any evidence that this achieves certain goals better than how this email was phrased? Are you sure those goals are the same as those of the author of this email?

You're right that the CEO's goals may not be the idealistic goals I'm thinking of. The goals I had in mind were: be honest with your employees about something terrible and show them, don't tell them, that you valued their service to the company.

Judging by the contents of this email: the goal might be to confound or confuse counter-arguments to the decision, limit the damage PR-wise (and stock wise), and above all, insulate the new executive staff from a groundswell of anger/hatred from the bottom.

My instincts as a writer, and maybe a bit as a human being, is that you shouldn't try to fool the people who support you. If the author of the email (probably not Dorsey) was a stronger writer, and perhaps free of some pressures, I'd like to think he or she could have both been fair to those under him or her, and also protected from their wrath.

I too would be very interested in seeing historical examples of leaders forced to write messages explaining tough decisions. Would you happen to have any?

Let's be practical, and I don't mean this in a cynical way: The goal isn't to actually BE honest.

The goal is for the employees to feel as if you ARE being honest, and that they have something positive to focus on that is not just plain disappointment and insecurity.

Plenty of corporate drones take this too far and focus too much on the sugar-coating to the point that only other top corporate drones think the email is a good one.

But I think Dorsey's passes the b.s. test (Most people's reactions, even those being fired isn't going to be "what a load of b.s.")

Could he be more direct? Yes. But it would come at a risk of coming off as callous and incosiderate.

I had read a couple of books both of which said the sandwich technique is an out-of-date way of delivering bad news and it's significantly better to do it immediately to help not continue to build up to the bad news that the person on the other side knows it coming (because, let's face it, the sandwich is obvious from 100ft away).

Unfortunately I can't figure out what books I read and I'm having a hard time finding studies (just keep finding damn buzzfeed like article about using the sandwich). If someone else finds these sources or debunks them I would be greatly appreciated :)

While not scientific, the example I can think of is in How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (published: 1936). In the section dealing with how people read your messages, he lists an actual letter from a company apologizing about a delay [which reads just like any corporate e-mail].

Then he rewrites it focusing on what the person reading it is concerned about: themselves. The key was to focus on the questions a reader will ask, "How will this effect me?" and "What should I do?"

That's exactly one of the examples I was thinking of! Thanks!

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz specifically mentions it being terrible.

I agree the email overindulges in euphemisms ("streamline", "restructure", "nimble", "change how we work") and filler phrases ("working around the clock", "moving forward").

But for the most part it does lead with the decision being communicated, i.e. that there will be a "restructuring of our workforce", commonly understood to mean layoffs.

The euphemism "restructuring of our workforce" (versus more direct and explicit language) is the exact type of corporate speak he disclaims. It's dishonest.

People interpret things differently. It's better to err on the kinder side of language and minimize the possibility that someone will interpret your attempt to communicate efficiently as simple crass disregard for the lives affected by the significant decision announced.

I think Dorsey's email is pretty crap-free. I think to the extent that he employs long forms or euphemisms, it's intentionally intended to communicate compassion.

Management is hard, because people are going to read any interpretation that they want into your actions, and there's almost always the potential of reading in a negative interpretation. You truly can't please everyone. All you can do is try to do the best, most reasonable thing, and keep as many people on your side as possible while doing it. There's probably a lot more people that would see "we're cutting" as crass than there are people that see "we're reorganizing" as patronizing.

I agree it's corporate speak (to a degree; there are certainly worse examples). But the claim in this thread is that he didn't put the decision first. He at least did that.

I think it may be fair to expect that when a representative of a large corporation disclaims anything, that corporation is somehow engaging in the behavior that it is disclaiming.

There would be no reason to make disclaimers otherwise.

It's a form of the, "I'm not a racist, but...", style of argument.

No, giving people a free pass ("may be fair") to lie is not acceptable, even if lying is expected and commonplace. It's still dishonesty and is supremely unprofessional.

We can still recognize it as being dishonest and unprofessional. One must meet the criteria of being dishonest and unprofessional before we can label it as such.

The fairness is in the labeling (we do not want to unfairly label those who were not actually dishonest or unprofessional; sometimes mistakes do occur), not in the response to the behavior.

To me, this is the worst email i have ever read about layoff announcement.

It did not assure me that there will be no more cuts in the near future. It will put fear in all twitter employees and they will be looking for work elsewhere.

"and other departments will be cut in parallel" what other departments? layoff announcement should be complete. This is an incomplete email about an incomplete decision.

"336" wtf, this email should talk in percentage, like, We plan to cut up to 1.4% of our workforce.

Complete bull (IMO)

He was speaking more about the STRUCTURE and not the CONTENT, as you are pointing out.

I thought I was one of few who thought this way; this is a good thread. "Front-loading" messages, especially company-wide emails, give the reader confidence. And by getting to the point, ironically I want to read the whole thing instead of have my eyes glaze over after the second sentence.

Bravo, all!

> Everyone should take note of this person's excellent structure: he put the decision first. If you are writing a decisive message that can greatly impact many people's lives: write the decision first.

I'm sure the guys being laid off appreciate their boss' rhetorical prowess.

An honest "I'm sorry, you're being laid off" is a hell of a lot better than "we're making structural changes that may or may not impact you over the next six months".


we thought we would grow very fast and we hired accordingly. Turns out we didn't grow that fast so now we're firing accordingly.

Please don't be mad at us! If things work out as we hope they will with Moments and all the rest, we may want to hire you back in the future because you folks are not so shoddy after all.


That is part of the startup world. Companies stall, and companies fail. If stability is required, it should be worked into the employee agreement.

I don't know what is meant by "generous exit package", but it may be enough to tide the employees over to their next job.

Startup world? This is a public company with thousands of employees who can get rid of 336 of them. It's pretty far from the startup world. This is the corporate world, and it happens to companies with long histories when their environment changes.

To counter, Twitter is a growth stage company and while public, it's value is priced exclusively on future value. It is only a 9 year old company working out product market fit and has only had a few profitable quarters, I only noted feb 2014 but there are likely a few more.

So is it a startup? Idk wtf a startup is but Twitter isn't a blue chip.

To counter, Facebook has been around the same amount of time, and would you call them a startup? Are you saying if a company is successful, they are not a startup, and if they aren't, we'll just keep calling them a startup until they die off like most other startups?

Twitter is still a "startup"?

Startup is just a code word for "tech company" anymore.

"Anymore" is just a word used to mean "now" anymore. (I kid, but seriously, I've searched for analysis on the use of the word 'anymore' in the positive (eg, as something other than part of a 'not...anymore' clause) and haven't been able to find anything. Any links would be appreciated, I am legitimately curious as to when and how this became a thing).

Ranks right up there with 'infer' for 'imply' in usage changes which I will go to my grave hearing foremost as a brazen signal of incomplete education.

Kids: do not use either if you care about the judgment of your elders.

Bonus protip: until you vest, you should care.

"usage changes" which have been around since long before you were born. Are there other long-established regionalisms/dialects you have a bug up your butt about?

It might be pragmatic to care about the judgment of one's ignorant elders, when the ignorant have power over you, but in no other sense should one care about such opinions.

The first person to write "should of" and "could of" instead of "should've" and "could've" was certainly incorrect, because they misheard someone's speech and wrote it out phonetically in a way that no one had ever done before. At what point does the incorrect usage become so popular that we ignorant fools start teaching "should of" and "could of" as correct English to our kids?

I have family in the southeastern US who use "anymore" like the person you're responding to did (and they have for decades). I don't think it simply means "now". There's a slightly different connotation that seems somewhat negative. Kind of like: "It used to be like this, but now it's like this... and I'm not sure I approve".

That's an astute observation. It always strikes me as jarring when the speaker leaves off the "not" in the clause.... but on the rare occasions it happens, it's always about a chance in society/convention which is clearly not considered a positive.

Correction, startup is a code word for "tech company that doesn't make enough money to justify its valuation"

Or if you're a VC, it's "tech company whose current valuation is based on future value"

Reminds me of "indie" rock with big name bands being signed to big labels.

Any company that has yet to operate on a consistent business model is still a start up :-). But in twitter's case that is stretching it. Both ad funded and public I'd say they are a 'small cap company' rather than a startup.

That said, it's clear they are struggling to stay alive and that is a trait of many start ups.

So at what point does a company stop being a "startup" nowadays?

> So at what point does a company stop being a "startup" nowadays?

Wikipedia defines startup as a new business in the form of a company, a partnership or temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.[1]

Not sure where an exact "point" is (if one even exists) but would seem that Twitter (a nearly ten year old company with revenues of $1.4B) no longer fits that definition.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Startup_company

I heard that Twitter has no revenue only loses.. is that changed recently?

You're confusing revenue (money coming in) with profit/income (money left over after expenses). In 2014 they had revenue of $1.4B[1].

[1] https://finance.yahoo.com/q/is?s=TWTR+Income+Statement&annua...

Maybe everyone else just calls their customers "investors" for some reason?

They may not have turned a profit, but they certainly have revenue.

A (what-if-the-news-broke-via-Twitter) translation:

Fam, Shit got real, gotta drop, 336 deep. Mainly ingenieros. Don't get shook, all drops get $. Keep keeping on. Questions? Holla @ur boy. -J

Needs hashtags for full authenticity

True, but there wasn't any room left. But we know in real life, that would have been taken care of within the next tweet to rally the troops. That would probably be the most retweeted tweet of all time, based on all the fellow HQ Tweeps hoping not to be dropped next:

Keep ya heads up and Eyes on the prize fam. Stay woke & drop a RT/fave so I know its real. #TweepsGoDeep #GottaGoLeanToRegulate

No room for "Moments #FTW" unfortunately.

Checked Twitter. You're 1 character over the limit. Funny nonetheless.

It's exact now. Meant to and thought I did drop the extra space.

Dear Twitter,

They're going to let me be CEO again, but as part of the deal I had to fire a bunch of people. Mostly engineers since I'm told there are many of them who cost too much and don't seem to impact the top line. Please let's all be nice about the whole thing, so it doesn't turn into a PR disaster.


Let's be honest (and no offense to anyone who got fired), but twitter probably had some dead weight to shed. Sadly, I'm sure some quality engineers got the ax too. Way of the world.

Quality engineers and dead weight are not exclusive. Great people who are burnt out and unmotivated become dead weight to a company. When planning layoffs, it's normal to put people who are checked out, coasting, and/or clearly planning their next move at the top of the list. That doesn't mean they are not high quality professionals.

And at some places, the people who get laid off are the people who aren't friends with the right people in management. It has nothing to do with dead weight.

I have seen this exact thing happen in a company I used to work for. It was the catalyst that made me look for another job.

I'm not saying this is the case with Twitter, I don't know anything about Twitter as a company.

I doubt Twitter is making deep cuts so they can keep their friends. But it does help to like the people you work with.

Part of being a good software engineer is being tolerable to other software engineers. ;)

I think you misunderstood what I meant, people are less capable technically, but more capable from a "relationship building" standpoint will often spend as much time becoming friends with management so they are not laid off.

This probably doesn't happen in smaller startups, but I've worked in several medium and large size companies and have seen it happen.

It doesn't matter if you're getting along with your coworkers, they aren't the ones making the layoff decisions.

This is dead on. I think the biggest reason quality engineers turn unproductive is that they feel their efforts are wasted (pointless meetings, org policy requiring some inferior tooling/platform/language, etc.)

Those engineers are usually fairly vocal about obstacles. Managers should learn to interpret this signal, suss out the root cause (usually easy) and eliminate it (usually hard).

Twitter might actually be better served by promoting some set of the folks that landed on the cut list.

> suss out the root cause (usually easy) and eliminate it (usually hard).

Well in this case it maybe what happened. They are eliminating the root cause -- the actors ;-)

Basically always think twice and watch your back. HR is not your friend to confide in, being disgruntled and pointing to issues need to be done carefully. In an irrational organization it will backfire -- you are labeled as a disgruntled trouble-maker.

Or hell, great people who work on projects that get axed may not have been as visible from outside the project.

They might have written some of the best code in a feature that management doesn't want anymore (Twitter API anyone?) but that doesn't necessarily translate in being part of those that are kept.

Maybe the dev lived in a town where they are closing the whole office and relocation is too much $$$ compared to a package. Maybe she just hasn't been with Twitter long enough to shine outside of her immediate team (who're all being cut). Maybe the folks drawing up lists had to make some concessions to keep some of their friends employed (consciously or otherwise.)

Similarly I was laid off once as they decided to get rid of the whole department. This was a very large company so a department was quite a few people. No one survived, there was no judgement on if you were a start contributor or not. I feel no shame in talking about being laid off in that case as there was literally no indicator of my personal quality wrapped up in that.

Not really its the ones who wont make a fuss and the easy targets they tend to target - this is from experience at British Telecom

I'm always surprised people can never seem to see these things coming. If I was working there, I would've started looking two or three months ago.

Maybe they had some stock options or something they were holding onto??

Maybe they have families and don't want to upset the status quo until it's absolutely necessary.

I wonder if there are any risk metrics for one's primary employment. We apply sophisticated risk models to our investments, but I've never heard of anyone doing the same to their employer.

As a logical exercise, if we assign some risk to your employer terminating you (I imagine especially for publicly traded companies one could come up with some more-accurate-than-guess-formula), then there would be a point at which the risk of your current employer would outweigh the risk of leaving to find another job. Or, another way, the risk-reward between two different jobs could be measured (e.g. working at risky Startup X vs stable Retail Bank Y).

Links welcome!

Someone posted an algorithm to determine the likelihood of bankruptcy on here a while ago, you could modify that I guess.

http://www.stern.nyu.edu/sites/default/files/assets/document... "Estimating the Probability of Bankruptcy"

One of the things companies do when growth stops and they want to increase profits is lay people off (it's kinda a classic MBA move).

Most people don't apply the even the crudest risk model to their investments nor their primary source of liquid capital, their job.

Which then in most cases is too late, and you're left in the lurch behind the 8-ball.

Case in point - Target's acquisition of the Zellers leases on their locations.

I had over a dozen people I know who were offered pretty lucrative jobs there. I know another half dozen who balked at their offers (including myself). The people who went were only there about 6 months. Right away, there were signs this was doomed.

For several months all I heard and read was stories about how this was not going very well at all. Two of my friends who took jobs started looking as rumors swept through their departments. They both found employment in short order, right before the roof collapsed and Target announced over 1,700 layoffs.

If you decided to wait it out, you were now entering a market were you had a lot of competition for your same job at any number of businesses in the area. Thus, reducing the likelihood of finding something quickly. I have several friends who still haven't found a job six months later.

I went through the first dot com bust with two startups. Because of that scary experience, I've always been leery of my continuing employment anywhere. I'm become somewhat adept at reading signs and realizing when something is about to go tits up. As such, I interview constantly, and always have an exit strategy for any position I take, whether its a perm gig or a contract gig. I constantly look over my shoulder and its served me well.

All of the engineers laid off could have job offers this week if they wanted, so this is not exactly like that situation. There may be people whose skills aren't in as high demand, but these are the folks that are often the last to see the writing on the wall.

Since the stealth layoffs last year at the same time, Twitter has been bleeding engineers left and right. The writing has been on the wall since August 2014.

Of the people I knew well when I worked there, the more talented ambitious has been gone for 6 months already.

I would imagine that rapid growth meant that twitter had a lot more tail (hr building services) than it needed.

Interesting that they call out hard to recruit engineering roles specifically - I bet every recruitment agent who has twitter guys and gals in his list is cold calling the ones still remaining.

This made me chuckle. I'm sure Twitter has made some missteps, but it's tough to let people go. They are putting just as much trust in you as you are of them. It becomes more tough as you grow, but the sting is still there. You want people to feel like they are worth something. And when you fall short it's a hit to everyone including management. I've been on both sides of these and people move on. This too shall pass.

Dear Team,

What do you say... you do here?


A decent human being always has perfect foresight and never has to make tough decisions that impact people.

If anyone is ever fired or laid off, the CEO should be immediately replaced.

Or alternatively, no one should ever be fired.

I can't tell if you're being serious or facetious? If you're serious you live in a Utopian fantasy world :) If you're being facetious, well played.

I don't know how you could read "a decent human being always has perfect foresight" in any way that isn't sarcastic.

Well, I can't disagree with the suggestion that if a layoff needs to happen, the CEO has failed and needs to be replaced.

Dear human resource,

Twitter no longer requires the services of 336 current employees. Twitter must do what is best for Twitter and what will lead to optimal financial measures over the next 12 months.

The executives of Twitter chose who to fire based on the belief that the remaining employees will lead to the best products and therefore greatest profits.

HR will provide people getting fired with a list of open positions elsewhere. Twitter will give fired employees some money to help them survive and make non-fired employees feel better about their own situation.

Firing people is unpleasant for the executives of Twitter.

Please believe that you can affect the decisions that are made by executives at Twitter.


Am I the only one who doesn't see much difference between your version and his?

It's removed all the fairly meaningless corporate buzzwords like:

    structural change
And many more.

While they may be jargon, they're not meaningless. I mean, roadmap? Is there anyone who has worked at a tech company that doesn't know what a roadmap is, and why it's important? Is there anyone who doesn't know that nimbler means better able to react to changes in the marketplace?

They're jargon as well as buzzwords. They mean things, but they're unnecessary.

"Roadmap" -> plan, strategy

"Structural change" -> internal reorganizing, lay-offs

"Nimbler" -> fewer employees, which we hope will make us become more agile

"Streamlined" -> ambiguous and essentially meaningless by itself

"Impactful" -> revenue- and/or growth-generating, maybe "important"

You're suggesting we revert to Chaucer's English because linguistic drift is bad?

I'm as much a hater of overuse of jargon as the next person, but for his intended audience I don't think this is an example of that. If one doesn't know what any of those words mean, then "Hello, welcome to Hacker News."

No, it's simpler English. It's not trying to put artificial distance between speaker and audience. There is a power component to these language queues.

It's like the difference between legalese and regular English.

* cues

But I'd argue that the "jargon" version is more precise in most cases. I mean, to me, roadmap means a very specific thing about lining up high-level features with milestones, while plan and strategy mean something more generic. Same with "nimbler" - seems like just an easier way to say more agile.

I'll give you "structural change" though, which I think is just a euphemism for layoffs.

> But I'd argue that the "jargon" version is more precise in most cases

Legalese is also more precise, but also violates the "give it to you straight" principle.

Isn't "agile" more buzzwordy than "nimbler"?

Only if referring to "Agile" methodologies. I believe here the usage is "able to move quickly and easily".

Its meaningless because no one has official corporate goals of becoming less streamlined, or less nimble, or a less clear roadmap.

Content free filler might be a more polite way to put it.

I could demonstrate the uselessness of content free filler by inserting (VLM took a breath here) (VLM fixed a typo here) all through my post above, but all it would do it boost word count and water down the core message, kinda like .... yeah.

There is another story on the front page at this moment about training a neural network to generate clickbait... I'd like to see a trained NN that eats CorporateSpeak and outputs English. It smells simple; at least at a low performance level it just has to pattern match and eat "content free filler" or whatever you want to call it.

They are euphemisms.* People react poorly to euphemisms when hearing bad news, because it feels like it's spin. Which it is.

*Perhaps with the exception of "roadmap", which is actually a better word choice than "plan" or "strategy" as it connotes a long journey ahead.

If those offend, you should try reading any financial research articles that delve into details or PR wire announcements. ;)

That is of course assuming that you like being offended.

I'd hire you to fire me any day.

They say any employee you hire is someone you have to imagine being able to work for.


We're cutting 336 people from our workforce to strengthen the company.

We are deciding how to streamline Twitter, Vine, and Periscope to focus on projects with the greatest impact.

Moments, which we launched last week, is a great beginning. It's a peek into the future of discovery.

We'll offer each person a generous exit package and help finding a new job.

Engineering will be smaller but remain the biggest percentage of the organization, and other departments will be cut in parallel.

Thank you all for everything. As always, please reach out to me directly with anything.


We're cutting 336 people from our workforce. Sorry for that. We'll offer each person a generous exit package and help finding a new job.



336 people will be fired. We hope it brings our stock price back up.


This is like corporate email golfing, I love it. I propose "Hey" instead of "Team".


Stock in the dumps, 336 chumps are fired.


Plus side: would definitely fit in a tweet.

@jack: "just slimming down my twttr"


336 people out. We'll compensate.


employees -= 336

Twitter's Servers are running autonom. We just do not need you anymore... Thanks... AI

    Error: No payroll records for your username. ("We fixed the glitch!"

That's not far from reality either: https://twitter.com/bartt/status/653946266938818561

> I've been impacted by $TWTR's layoffs. This is how I found out this morning.

[screenshot of iOS account showing inaccessible @twitter.com account]

<3 office space

at least make it rhyme!

Hey, Stock in the dumps, firing 336 chumps. Jack

In this particular example, whats important is keeping the character count under 140, so your proposal wins 1 point. (insert golf clap). I will see your "Hey", and counter propose "Yo". That frees up two characters for use elsewhere vs the original "Team".

That one's a proper improvement.

It could have been a lot worse. People on here seem to confuse being polite with corporate speak. Yes, he could have summed it up in a single sentence: "I'm firing 336 people." It would also have been a hell of a lot more rude.

I would change:

> Moments, which we launched last week, is a great beginning.


> Moments, which we launched last week, illustrates the problem. It missed the mark.

I honestly don't think Jack or Ev think Moments, in its current incarnation, embodies what Twitter is or should be.

Now try to write it again in 140 characters ;)

You missed a couple.

* "Reach out" - I doubt that Mr. Dorsey wants people literally reaching out to him.

* "Streamline" - literal physical air flow is probably not involved here, and it's not even a particularly good metaphor.


Some of the weasley language you'd propose cutting is likely there for the people staying at Twitter, not those whom are getting laid off. E.g.,

> "Engineering will be smaller but remain the biggest percentage of the organization"

As an Engineer, you don't want to hear that corporate is slashing just your team, and that it's affects the entire company. You're right, it doesn't matter to those who were laid off, but it does to the people who aren't.

> "Thank you all for your trust and understanding here"

Same thing. You're right that someone who is being laid off doesn't care or want to understand. They're probably really asking those who are staying on, and losing their colleagues, to understand why those people are leaving and that it isn't a statement about a perceived lack of value in the engineering team in general.

I'm all for eliminating corporate euphemisms a meaningless talk, but…

Some of this is just human. Not wanting to hurt people's feelings is real. Wanting to get that across is human.

I mean, you have this kind of thing in everyday life, without lawyers and CEOs. Want to hang out after work? Sorry, my wife would kill me. Little lies & euphemisms are human.

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