The best way to do a layoff is to cut once, cut deep, and do it quickly. And of course to not be an asshole and offer severance compensation to folks who were laid off.
No it's not and you're presenting a false dichotomy. They made the decision who to fire (to "cut once"). The question is email vs. having managers meet with their impacted direct reports which can definitely and is regularly done inside of one day.
Telling people "you may or may not still have a job, you'll get an email within the next 72 hours" is ridiculous. So what happens if it's Monday morning and I didn't get an email? Am I still employed? What if there was a glitch? What if I show up and I'm escorted out?
This screams of mismanagement.
To do this you would have to already have finalized this list of people to let go. Specifying that list beyond rough department targets to actual individuals probably requires involvement of many managers and might be what happened in those 72 hours, but I'd love to hear from someone with actual experience. Could larger organizations actually prepare that without leaking the layoff anyway?
You still have a job.
>Am I still employed?
>What if there was a glitch?
This seems rare, and it seems like people would double check to ensure this doesn't happen (and if it did, to re-send an email).
>What if I show up and I'm escorted out?
Sounds awkward at worst, but now you know.
Play that out a bit. Is the notification a scheduled slack message or email for those terminated? Or do you want each employee being let go to be notified in a face-to-face conversation with their manager and where the details of financial arrangements, healthcare continuity, and other aspects are prepared and with a chance for the employee to ask questions, and for HR and leadership to assess if they appear in a condition to commute home and offer other transport or acute support arrangements if needed?
I think the latter is more appropriate, but a series of those things takes time to execute [longer if managers or layers of managers are being eliminated], and the time between when the first such meeting ends and the last such meeting begins, people are left wondering.
But that is just my preference, others would prefer something else. Everyone though would prefer not to get laid off. Unfortunate for all involved.
I was a teenager in the 90s and my mother worked for IBM. My parents were divorced and I lived with mom. She came home every day exhausted and scared, not knowing when the axe would drop. It went on for years. No one knew the logic of which departments were next; solid performance reviews didn't protect you, seniority, skillet, being management: nothing made you safe. Everyone we knew went to work not knowing if they would make it to lunch.
It was horrible. I'm sure everyone would have much rather the SpaceX method than months or years of agonizing waiting.
If indeed everyone was told “check your email over the weekend to find out if you’re laid off or not”, that’s terrible. Tell people who are being laid off that they are being laid off, tell people who are not being laid off why there are layoffs and that they’re not a part of it, but don’t keep everyone in the dark - even if it’s “just” for a day or two.
And if it turns our I wasn't I'd like to know that, too, so I don't lose focus of whatever it is I'm doing.
To subject ALL your employees to the 50/50 prospect that they will have a job come next working day is tantamount to playing Russian Roulette with them using a gun with a 2 bullet chamber - one loaded. The psychological toll even on the 'survivors' will be brutal.
Have you ever sit across an HR person saying all the right things and putting an as empathic as possible face on, and telling you "it's not you, it's us"?
Personally I'd prefer the email, as long as, I have a contact to talk to for the next steps.
Also fire by email doesn't mean there isn't a definitive exit path or no financial support. The article itself states the email claimed a minimum of 8 weeks of pay for those laid off.
Also it's 90/10 not 50/50. If you were firing 50% of your workforce there is no avoiding a "brutal" psychological toll for the remaining.
If 90/10 from the company perspective. From the employee perspective, it sounds like everyone at SpaceX went home on Friday wondering "Do I have a job come Monday?". To each and every one of them, the prospect of having a job versus NOT having a job would have been 50/50 as they had no insight into the decision making process for the layoffs.
Sure, for an employee who may have known they had made a lot of mistakes or were obviously underperforming etc., their knowledge that the chances of them being fired could have been skewed higher, but I am willing to bet that there will be many people thinking "My work is mission critical and I am a hard worker, I think I will be safe..." who will still unexpectedly get the pink slip on Monday.
Space X seems to still trust everyone fully, most companies dont.
Just send me an email with all the options and terms and contact information for HR. If I need clarification, let me be the one that seeks HR out.
Also, HR exists to protect the company, not to be your friend. There aren't there to offer compassion. That's not how business or HR works.
But maybe it's because I'm from the younger generation who grew up with email, text, IM, etc. I can see older generations being used to and preferring face-to-face interaction.
What happens is you find out your department or wing of the building is next. You continue to try to do your job, meanwhile your manager starts walking towards you and stops at a couple cubicles down from you. You breath a slight sigh of relief. Meanwhile you and everyone else is prairie-dogging as others in the office start getting called out, and the VP strolls by and yells at everyone to "have some respect and quit gawking, get back to work". So now you keep your head down, and eventually get a tap on your shoulder from your manager.
You can't help but fight back tears, as you get lead to the conference room where an HR drone explains the package, benefits, and next steps. You are handed a box, escorted back to your desk, and put your personal belongings into the box while being watched like a hawk to make sure you don't do anything stupid. Some things you aren't allowed to put in the box until they are thoroughly examined. A forever half finished document is on your monitor. An email you were about to reply to is still visible, and will go unanswered. Your laptop is shut down, your accounts already locked.
Now you start on the walk of shame carrying the lonely box out to your car, start driving, and then your family wonders why you are home from work so early. But the look on your face tells the whole story, with the look of concern on your wife's face and the look of horror from the kids (of course, being kids, they start asking questions about how this will affect them). "Hey, kids, looks like we will be taking that camping trip a bit early, got some saved up for it, will figure out tomorrow when it gets here. It will be alright."
Also they fired 10% so there was a 9/10 chance they would be keeping there jobs.
No matter the method its done, everyone emerges from a layoff knowing that they are just a line item on a spreadsheet. Its unfortunate but true.
The big lesson I try to pass on to everyone. Don't ever assume you will have a job next week. Be polite to any headhunters, assuming they are the professional kind, keep your resume up to date, network like crazy, have a few side project plans, don't be afraid of small jobs on the side, and most importantly keep a 3 - 6 month emergency fund. That fund doesn't have to be what you make in 6 months, but at least what your bare bones expenses are (mortgage, utility bills, minimum credit card payments), and try to keep your have-to recurring monthly expenses lower (mortgage / car payments, etc). That doesn't mean you can't spend on extra stuff, just make sure you can cancel them at any time.
You are most likely an at-will employee. You or the employer can terminate the relationship immediately giving any reason or no reason. Just have money saved up and don't be afraid to quit without notice to something better if you need to.
We don't know the content of the all hands, they could have outlined the support plan there.
None of which is available to the employee in a 'fire by email' scenario.
I prefer email over HR walking past all the cubicles praying they won't stop at mine.
Having gone through many layoffs, there is no way to do it where it doesn’t suck for everyone involved (those that stay or go).
However, doing it in a way that show management understands the gravity of the situation goes really far in reducing how unpleasant the experience is.
On top of that, there are security concerns with hanging onto employees and letting them have access to company property during a time that they know they will be fired. Especially for a company that performs services for top secret government projects.
The easiest (though you won't catch me arguing that it's the best) way is to hold a staff meeting, and then let corp IT churn through the 6000 person list over the weekend and remove access.
SELECT * FROM employees ORDER BY last_performance_review_score LIMIT 600;
On top of the lame SQL reference this diminishes the true severity of firing 600 real people. We have no reason to think the firing was this nonchalant. This diminishes the work and humanity of everyone involved.
It appears to be a weak reference to stack ranking.
Do you have any reason to believe this is probdbly how they identified people to be let go?
How is it 50/50? It is 10%.
However, it sounded like every employee at SpaceX went home on Friday thinking "Do I still have a job come Monday??". Because no other information seemed to have been imparted as to the selection criteria for the redundancies, every single employee wouldn't have known if they would keep their jobs or not.
Unless they knew they were blatant underperformers or had lots of black marks against them on file, their chances of keeping their jobs was the same as the chance they could be on the 'hit list' for redundancy. 50/50. I am willing to bet that even employees who thought their job was as safe as houses and that they were considered good employees would find them self on the 'let go' list.
2. Schedule the "Town Hall" meeting for an important announcement at 4pm on Friday
3. Start the meeting by talking about the company, vision, challenges, recent wins, etc. [Insert a positive announcement here]
4. Tell everyone at 4:20pm that the company will be laying off 10% of the workforce, explain why, etc.
5. At 4:25pm, as you prepare to wrap up the town hall meeting, tell everyone that they will receive an e-mail either letting them know they will be laid off or that they will remain with the company. Thank everyone for their hard work for the company.
6. [Insert another brief, unrelated positive announcement about the company].
7. At 4:31pm, as people walk out the door, have IT send all of the e-mails at the exact same time to everyone who's being laid off. Review the list of employees compulsively beforehand to ensure no mistakes are being made.
8. Together with step 7 send another e-mail to everyone who remains with the company ensuring them they are not being laid off.
Big news like that takes a while to process. I believe I've read before that if you are firing someone, you are supposed to tell them and then not say anything else until they do. That seems unnecessarily cruel to the person getting the bad news since it puts them very emotionally on the spot.
But I've never been on either side of that, so who knows.
I don’t blame him, as our employer has walked out 25 year employees with no notice.
The end result is the same and either way it sucks but certainly doing it in face to face seems to generally be considered more personal and perhaps less cowardly.
We don’t know the details, employees may have known before walking out the door.
Obviously. It's still a shitty thing to do.
> We don’t know the details, employees may have known before walking out the door.
Huh? We have multiple SpaceX employees on Reddit saying they were told to go home and wait for emails. Some took hours, some are still waiting.
ANYTHING is better than telling the entire company "go home and compulsively refresh your email all weekend to see if you get to come to work Monday"
It would have been far more practical to quietly go into each department "Jane, Jack come with us we're putting together a team" "Sally, Quan come with us we're putting together a team" take them all to an area "we're very sorry but we have to lay you off, we have counselors that we can refer to you if you need to talk to someone. We've also got some headhunters we can recommend. It's not personal, we just have to cut costs, you'll find that your company accounts were deactivated at the start of this meeting. We will be more than happy to ask your supervisors to write you letters of recommendation if you'd like, just put on this form where you'd like them sent for your records. Please think of anything that you are in the middle of and type it out in this word doc on the laptops over there".
Not "Hey everybody, go home and wait to see if you get to come in Monday".
Start the process with a lie finish it with asking them to do some work?!
You've just been sucker punched with new team yay! wait not really you’re fired! Now please finish that document you were writing and GTFO.
What? Please think more carefully than this if you are ever in the position of influencing layoffs or delivering the news.
The right way to lay off varies culture to culture.
I worked on a trading desk. 1:1 personal lay-offs followed by security cleaning out your desk seemed unnecessarily cruel. An e-mail out of hours—and an offer to schedule a phone call—seemed far more gentle. In other cultures, the human touch matters. Given SpaceX’s results-oriented culture, their approach seems appropriate. The goal was to prevent those not getting laid off from seeking new jobs while keeping those being laid off from panicking those staying. Letting everyone go home, finish their after-work schenanigans, and then—before recruiters have a chance to nip—deliver the news is a good balance for the relevant parameters.
FAR less 'cruel' to give them an opportunity to plan their exit and give them the psychological space to get used to the fact.
EDIT: In light of the 'read the article' responses and downvotes, I wanted to clarify that my comment here is directly addressing the question "what is a less cruel way of laying people off" against the purported scenario above of people being told on Friday to go home and check their emails to see if they still have a job on Monday.
So SpaceX is giving employees two months to focus their full efforts on finding their next job. This seems less cruel than telling them they will lose their jobs and then expecting them to keep working.
Not requiring them to do any work whatsoever for that time is beneficence.
My response above was to do with the fact that employees who were NOT terminated were also subjected to the psychological trauma of spending the weekend guessing whether they had a job come Monday. Not the best way to keep morale high.
Acting like people are just gonna sit around and mope is not only highly disingenuous but is also a good way to fuck over the people having to fill in the knowledge gaps.
Better just to cut ties as quickly as possible. They were given 8 weeks of severance and if they are really friends with the people, they can call them on the way home. They are not banned from communicating with their past co-workers.
I know it sounds harsh but there is no nice way to find out you were fired. This way mitigates the companies risk, provides decent (not great) severance for the employees and time to find a new job while being paid.
The only winners in a layoff are the shareholders.
So I suppose you can consider me highly skeptical when a commercial company makes the excuse that they're doing it for security reasons. Because to me, that sounds like pure bullshit designed to cover for shitty practices.
I honestly hope you never work in HR because your sort of attitude is genuinely disastrous to this industry. Acting like treating your employees with respect is a 'risk' is terrible.
Also, if I were laid off, why would I want to continue working for them for two more weeks? I don’t care about the company’s success at that point. I’m already getting two months severance; it’s much better to focus entirely on finding a job as quickly as possible. Half a month’s paycheck is not worth the emotional pain of seeing your non-laid-off colleagues continue to live their normal life, but act all awkward around you.
In fact, I’ll go ahead and say: I think your attitude that requests laid-off employees to keep working is disastrous. Nothing about making them come to work is respectful or beneficial to them.
As for the logistics, each member of staff can be talked to by their immediate manager, making it scale easily. Matter of fact, this once happened to me, and my boss was as clearly upset to let me go as I was to leave. But everyone being let go was informed and given their notice as soon as the workday started, so there was no uncertainty or delay.
Employment is a business deal. If you consider your relationship with your manager to be personal then you have an unhealthy view of your job.
How would you do it?
To drag it out another way would leave the company and its operations highly exposed to those individuals leaving in my opinion.