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I know this sounds horrible but in the days of covid and working from home, what are companies supposed to do if they have to lay off large amounts of people?

Make them all risk their health to come to an in-person event, only to be fired? Drive to every employee's house to fire them in person?

It obviously sucks but I don't see how, in 2021, this is any different from the kind of thing that would happen all the time in mass layoffs.

The Zoom call part isn't really the issue, although individual Zoom meetings would have been better.

> In another email obtained by Forbes last year, Garg wrote:

> > ‘You are TOO DAMN SLOW. You are a bunch of DUMB DOLPHINS and…DUMB DOLPHINS get caught in nets and eaten by sharks. SO STOP IT. STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW. YOU ARE EMBARRASSING ME.”

The funny thing is that sharks are more likely to be eaten by dolphins (especially orcas) than vice versa. And sharks also get caught in nets.


I guess Garg is just as weak on marine biology as he is on leadership and business ethics.

Perhaps he's got some breakdown on how dolphin intelligence impacts those stats given his emphasis on them being dumb dolphins

I imagine it as a callback to some company wide training or team-building exercise or corporate culture story where the keynote/"message from our fearless leader" was some sort of dolphin parable.

But maybe I'm giving him too much credit.

Given that he threatened to staple his business partner to the wall and burn him alive, you are probably giving him too much credit.


I bet this dude talks a lot about alpha wolves too

He is the Sigma Wolf.

Correction: Omicron Wolf

to be fair, he was talking about DUMB dolphins.

Not to fixate but this is kinda interesting to me. I very much believe orcas will kill and eat sharks, but dolphins do too? I didn’t see a mention of it on the article.

Orcas are large dolphins.

Well that’s news to me, very interesting. But they’re a member of the dolphin family. When you say dolphin people think porpoise hence my confusion. Thanks for the info!

You are more kind than I would be.

Better.com CEO Threatened to Burn His Business Partner Alive. Now He’s a Billionaire.

Last fall, employees at one of America’s fastest-growing startups began making anxious phone calls. They believed that CEO Vishal Garg—a volatile entrepreneur with a history of disgruntled business partners—had been giving huge amounts of equity... https://www.thedailybeast.com/bettercom-ceo-vishal-garg-thre...

Nice, when we started playing with some financial engineering we also noticed that vesting could be any unit of time.

So we did grants with super low cost basis (it was very early there was nobody else to placate), and the recipients did 83(b) elections to recognize the income at the low cost basis, so when they exercised at fair market value soon after it wouldnt be income at that point in time, only capital gains when they sale (which is offsettable much more easily than income, or gets a lower tax rate if you hold it ling enough anyway). This just nullifies a big income tax bill.

Fun game, if you know what you’re doing. Expensive annoying game if you dont.

I don't think that was the point of the linked article

Pretty sure it was the threatening someone to burn them alive

oh, right, that.

it also presented the shareholdings and the compliant ways of transferring consolidated ownership in a negative light

You can't really fire 900 people on individual Zoom calls. After the first 10 minutes everyone will know what their meeting is about and it makes the problem worse. People will be texting their managers begging for information and the manager will have to lie for a day or two until they are authorized to say in the meeting.

This was done at my previous company near the beginning of the pandemic, where half of the company (about 1200 people) were laid off, entirely with one-on-one calls. It worked well and I appreciated it personally.

But the anxiety of waiting all day, as you watch your coworkers slowly drop, and send their farewell emails... wondering if you'll be next... I'd rather find out all at once.

> After the first 10 minutes everyone will know what their meeting is about and it makes the problem worse.

Huh? It’s not a surprise birthday party. I’m not sure why a key goal would be that each fired person is taken completely by surprise.

The reasons why may not be obvious if you're not a manager or haven't run a large organization before, but the simple truth is, "employees" are not a magically ethical bunch of people simply by virtue of being the underdog and poor and downtrodden and being all fired and stuff. You do not want a significant number of employees running around who are either uncertain they are going to be fired for a significant period of time, and even worse, you don't want a whole bunch of employees running around who have a pretty good idea they're going to be fired in a couple of days, because some fraction of them are going to take advantage of their access to wreck things up for the company. Wrecking things with technical access, wrecking relationships with companies... there's hardly anyone in a position in a company who couldn't do quite a bit of damage if they know they're out the door anyhow. All you have to do is be sure to keep it under the threshold where it's worth getting the legal system involved. (e.g., more "wreck relationships with customers" and keep the damage difficult to quantify and less "set the place on fire during peak business hours").

If a company told me they were going to fire me in two weeks, the worst risk the company would be taking is that I might just decide that they can't fire me in two weeks because I quit. I wouldn't do any other deliberate harm on the way out. Perhaps that's most people.

It certainly isn't all people, though.

Maybe it would be nice if we could all get along well enough to see being fired in some period of time as just business and not worth lashing out. Then again, maybe your sympathies lie with the employees lashing out. But in that case, the company has no choice but to get you out the door with as little warning as possible, to defend both itself as an abstract entity and all the rest of the employees.

This is one of those things that seems to be an institutional part of Americans quitting or being fired from jobs, but it's far from universal.

In Germany (and I believe most of Europe) several months notice is usual (three months minimum), and typically people keep working until the end of that time (aside from taking unused vacation). Sure, motivation suffers in that time, but don't think the cases of employees taking revenge on their employers is any higher here than in the US (in fact, I suspect it's less).

In some cases, you will be escorted off the premises immediately, then paid to stay at home until the end of your notice period. This is mostly for people with somewhat sensitive jobs, though (research, sales, some management positions) and probably more common in finance than elsewhere. And usually imposed no matter what side initiates the departure.

This is how it should be in the US

It’s literally extremely common for companies to inform people that they will be laid off weeks in the future. Companies often have entire facilities that get shut down with months of advance notice.

Not to mention that temporary jobs are also extremely common, so this explanation that the only thing ever preventing employees from sabotaging their employer is the hope that they will be employed there indefinitely is pretty clearly insufficient.

You can’t explain this as “managers/executives have no choice.” They have the choice, and they sometimes choose the option that they determine is easier for them. Not surprising, of course, but also not worth defending.

My understanding is that in those cases, the employees are generally offerred a significant severance package that is conditional on them not causing any problems until the day they are laid off. This way, the employee still has something to lose.

Most people wouldn't cause any problems, but a small fraction will cause trouble if they're put in a position where they feel harmed and can retaliate with no consequences to themselves.

In my previous work, people wanted to remain on good terms because they were good jobs they were hoping to return to once economic conditions were better. It also helped that they were unionized so they got a reasonable package to make ends meet in the interim.

> If a company told me they were going to fire me in two weeks, the worst risk the company would be taking is that I might just decide that they can't fire me in two weeks because I quit.

Maybe that's just a German thing, but here you'd (usually) be loosing the severance pay and some social benefits if you quit instead of being fired w/o direct cause.

In Canada/Quebec too.

The company could let employees in on key decision making and thus not create the environment of distrust and paranoia. Why is it ever a surprise how the company is doing? Solely, solely to keep employees ignorant of matters concerning their livelihoods. A company has the choices it cultivates for itself.

> because some fraction of them are going to take advantage of their access to wreck things up for the company.

These stories always float around, but this is quite rare and depending on what “wrecking” means, could end in jail time for the ex-employee. Most are capable of making that connection therefore most don’t. Yet the fear and treatment from upper management for this mostly fictitious hypothetical still runs rampant. There’s even a high profile case of an ex-Ubiquiti employee having a real good time because they wanted to extort their employer.

Right, some people will be jerks, so treat all employees like criminals. That's why I left my last job. Got tired of seeing people escorted out by security. Talk about a toxic work culture.

That is very American company thing. Non American companies dont do "escort you away the very same day" thing.

The goal there is to minimise the time spent waiting for the other shoe to drop.

After all, if you know layoffs are happening, and your boss schedules a confidential one-on-one meeting with you tomorrow, how well are you going to sleep tonight?

And what of the people who aren't getting fired - you can't really reassure them their jobs are safe before you've told the people whose jobs aren't safe. So you'll be keeping them in limbo too.

Of course, no amount of careful management is going to make people enjoy getting fired (except perhaps a generous voluntary early retirement package)

That's actually the goal in most firings so employees can't use their access to sabotage things on their way out. You have IT revoke their all their access once the meeting starts.

Obviously to spare the poor manager the hassle of being asked if they will have a job in two days or not

Have you never been at a company that has had layoffs?

I was at a company that did ~400 people layoff during pandemic. The place didn't even have a great culture but everyone, even people remaining (> half the company) got a one-on-one chat with their manager.

There was, of course, a company all hands later.

Sure people know what's up, but it's dramatically more human to have your manager call you and tell you a.) you are going to be okay or b.) we're very sorry this has happened, it's been a pleasure working with you, please use me as a reference anytime you need. We even personally called each candidate we were supposed to hire.

Company wide zoom as notice of layoffs is grotesque.

Not only is the all-hands layoff grotesque, but the guy spent a few minutes talking about how hard it is to fire people.

“I did this before and I cried”

Those logistics are no worse than the equivalent in person.

If the element of surprise is important, then you set up one-on-ones with all employees regardless of whether they will be laid off. Probably going to want to talk to the ones staying, anyway.

This is what seems right to me. It's not the virtual nature, it's the lazy mass group layoff that's objectionable and disrespectful.

If you're being laid off, you probably have a lot of questions. A 1:1 meeting would allow for that.

The problem is that 900 people is a lot of people. Imagine all managers scheduling meetings with their reports to tell them, then the managers themselves are probably being let go, in the meantime it would create A LOT of stress not knowing whether you will be called in for a meeting or not, just sitting there seeing people being let go around you 1 by 1. The whole process would take a week just to have a proper meeting and give everyone decent time to process and ask questions.

In a way, I think this is better - it's quicker, everyone knows where they stand, there is no uncertainty about it.

However, I do agree that

1) the communication from the CEO could be better

2) people should be given an opportunity to then still ask questions, either for HR or their managers(if still employed).

Imagine all managers scheduling meetings with their reports to tell them

I was in a company that had a mass layoff (well, it was getting bought for IP/assets and a few employees). I found out about it from my boss one morning, knew I was getting laid off, then scheduled meetings with my direct reports later that day. It was pretty easy to find time to schedule the meetings since it's not like anyone had any project work to do any more.

By mid day the cat was pretty much out of the bag and everyone knew what was happening, but I and other managers still held the individual meetings.

Managed to hire most of my my former direct reports at my new job.

Companies do massive layoffs all the time without large meetings to tell everyone at the meeting they are fired. It isn't that hard.

It can be done and it isn't hard for the company. I'm going to float a guess that you haven't experienced a mass layoff where they pop your coworkers one by one over the course of the workday. It's very painful and takes a very long time. Anybody who has been around for one would almost certainly take the mass layoff over 8+ hours of constant worry just to lose your job at the end anyway.

I have been around for a number of mass layoffs, and you are right it sucked. It will always suck, there is no way around it.

It doesn’t have to take all day. Managers meet with the people being laid off in the morning. If it is too large to do 1on1, you can do small meetings with a few people and their manager.

Point is that it should come from your direct manager (or the closest direct manager in the chain if managers are also being laid off).

For large US companies there are rules (Warn Act) about how you make people redundant

> Imagine all managers scheduling meetings with their reports to tell them, then the managers themselves are probably being let go…

Yeah, I imagined all of this and it seemed like exactly what a competent company would do.

Leave it to HN to argue that having a shitty mass layoff through Zoom is better than having a 1 to 1

It's absolutely not better than having a 1-1, and I never said it was. But I will argue that it's better than waiting a week to have your scheduled "mystery call" with your manager while you see everyone around you being laid off left and right. It would have been stressful as hell, and in that sense yes, finding out in a single call with the CEO is "better". I'd still like to have a 1-1 with my manager to discuss either way.

Unlike when someone is being fired individually, in mass layoffs there simply are no individual answers to questions - any questions are either relevant to everyone and should be communicated in a mass manner, or they are questions which are not answerable at all. Any proper questions that have a reasonable answer would absolutely deserve that answer to be made to everyone else in the exact same manner, even if they don't think to ask that question.

Any questions about "why" are reduced to essentially "your individual job performance and role does not matter, it's just that this business unit ceases to exist as of yyyy-dd-mm". Any questions about "what next" are answered by "Here's the details on the severance conditions for you - the exact same as for the other 899 people".

Disagree. Why make the HR team go through 900 individual calls? At the same time this will leak and other employees will learn that they might get fired before they get their own call. Recipe for disaster. Just rip off the band aid.

I think it boils down to leadership is really about managing relationships. This method is just too impersonal for most people, just like breaking off a romantic relationship via text is generally considered weak and frowned upon.

I suspect it is rare, though I suppose not impossible, that anyone needs to break off 900 romantic relationships at once.

I understand your point, but if there aren’t subordinate leaders below the CEO who can perform this function, I suspect they have organizational structure problems.

I believe a good approach would be to have those first line leaders (who actually have that relationship built with their subordinates) break the bad news and then the CEO speak to everybody and own the decision.

Why would you need to text?

Surely after seeing your relationship status change on Facebook, they would understand?

Wait, you're not supposed to break up over text? Since when?!?!?!

I'm almost certain this is a joke. Right?

Yes. My apologies, I thought it seemed obvious.

Each manager would have to make that call to their laid-off reports, or the next manager in line if the manager is being laid off too. Maybe after that it would be ok for HR to have larger meetings with those affected to sort out the details.

“or the next manager in line if the manager is being laid off too“

What if the whole chains are axed? Recursive "or the next manager" could easily lead to exactly what happened: a CEO lucky to have a pandemic voiding all expectations to do something like that in person.

> Why make the HR team go through 900 individual calls?

The entire reason companies have hierarchical power structures (in theory) at least, is so that information can be passed along with the log of the company size.

Having every manager have 10 min call with each direct report, or in the worse case a team meeting, would be much more human and could accomplish the task of notification in roughly the same time window as an all hands firing.

You got it right up until the point where you think it’s to pass information from top to down. It’s not. It’s to pass information from the bottom up.

Presumably the 900 people already had leaders that could talk to them.

> It's not the virtual nature, it's the lazy mass group layoff that's objectionable and disrespectful.

Is it? I can plausibly make the other argument that not having to do it yourself and offloading it to middle managers/HR is also "objectionable and disrespectful".

I've been on both sides, but yes, just my opinion. On the other hand, this is newsworthy because it's unusual. I suspect it's unusual for a reason.

If the CEO didn’t want to seem like he was passing the buck, he could have had an all-hands meeting afterwards and explain it was ultimately his decision.

Hell, 10:1 would be okay and 1/10th of the price.

Tbh from the quotes it seems Vishal Garg is not only incompetent, but also a bit of a shitgibbon. Not sure if 1:1 meeting would help in anything here.

Ah, I didn't mean a 1:1 with the CEO. A 1:1 meeting with your leader or an HR person.

I know this looks bad but I generally appreciate manage giving clear warnings like this before firing. I have seen firings in companies where employee had no clue that the manager was not happy with him. I know this type of warning is the thing that would get published in the press by disgruntled employee and so managers couldn't give negative feedback and in the firing speech managers just tell that someone is not a good fit for the company or some other HR shit.

"You're moving slowly and dropping tasks. That is impacting the business and we are losing customers. This needs to change by next month/quarter/whatever."



Massive difference.

The former is a warning rooted in a sincere desire to lead the org/employee towards positive change. The latter is verbal abuse that accomplishes nothing but placating the ego of the abuser.

It's possible to be really clear without going ad hominem. Reality is usually already harsh enough. I'd prefer the first with a clear indication that the company will probably not be able to continue keeping to employee since they need to save a lot of costs. So the person can get a new job in time. IMHO it should be the minimum standard for anyone working in management to maintain a respectful and clear communication.

The context here is the mortgage market is declining as rates rise. These are people who mostly were performing but there's no longer a market fit.

I think you can warn people about their performance without using abuse.

Abuse? Really? Is a single email where someone vents frustration for 2 lines actually abuse?

Yes, in my opinion it is. Think about abuse in other contexts to put it in perspective. If a teacher in the middle of giving a homework assignment had said the same thing, would that be okay? What about a police officer who pulled someone over during a traffic stop? What about a customer at a drive thru saying this into the speaker?

This is not a random person on the street corner shouting at other random passers by. This guy is in a position of power over the people he is communicating with.

Absolutely right. You can smash a good relationship in a few seconds, even if it was one that took years to build.

> Think about abuse in other contexts to put it in perspective. If a teacher in the middle of giving a homework assignment had said the same thing, would that be okay? What about a police officer who pulled someone over during a traffic stop? What about a customer at a drive thru saying this into the speaker?

Calling a group of people "DUMB DOLPHINS" on an email chain ... Inappropriate, un professional, dis-respectful all seem like a better way to characterize it.

Its like the reverse of when Prince Andrew described Jeffrey Epstein behavior as "Un-Becoming". There is probably a better way to characterize it.

I dunno. Seems clearly abusive to me from someone in a position of power. This wasn't said among friends at a bar or by or about someone unrelated to the people in question. It was their boss, or bosses boss.

my heart goes out to all the victims of abuse, but not the ones that one time were on an email chain and their bosses-boss called the team they were on a bunch of "dumb dolphins"

Say a couple has a good relationship. One day, Partner A has a bad day at work. A comes home and screams at Partner B: "you're dumb! you're slow! why isn't dinner ready? you're a dolphin!"

Partner A was just venting frustration after having a terrible day. Is that abuse? YES! Unequivocally, yes.

There is no excuse for insulting, yelling, or otherwise treating other human beings as lesser than. It's abuse, always, even one time. And frankly if it happens once, it's very unlikely it isn't a repeated pattern of behavior.

If you think allowing someone with a massive power differential to call you dumb and degrade you is not abuse then you have been working and some pretty terrible places and I hope you find somewhere better.

I knew you would get downvoted. HN is a weird mixture of professionalism and childishness. Getting angry at two lines without context/relationship with manager is all I could expect from here.

In what context would it be OK for a CEO to send ENTHUSIASTICALLY YELLING e-mails to employees telling them they are SLOW DUMB DOLPHINS and to STOP EMBARRASSING ME STOP IT STOP IT RIGHT NOW...?

Also how would our knowing more about the CEO/employee relationship here improve our perception? The most "positive" thing I can think of is, the employees are so used to it they would tell us something like "oh, that's just CEO, he communicates really passionately". That's not actually positive, though. It's Stockholm Syndrome. [1]

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_syndrome

> I knew you would get downvoted

Hold on though. You don't have the full context/relationship between GP and the people who downvoted them. It would be irresponsible for you to jump to conclusions about Hackernews or those commenters based on just a one-line grayed out comment.

I didn't know verbal/emotional abuse requires a minimum word count! Please tell, what is the magic number that serves as the threshold?

Agreed, to characterize it as such is a dis-service to people who have suffered abuse in the workplace.

Yes name calling - 'dumb'.

In what way is that message "clear"? It reads like a temper tantrum from a pre-teen, not a manager providing negative feedback to an employee.

What warning? 900 people were let go without any warning best I can tell.

This dude is embodiment of why we created agile. What a childish way to look at engineering.

Product: "What are you working on?"

Engineering: "That is up to you. What is important? The answer can't be everything."

Product: "Why is it taking so long?"

Engineering: Here is what the developers expect it to take. It will almost certainly take longer. When are we supposed to get X project done with our current workload? What falls off? If we crunch we will lose our best talent who will leave to go do the same work for more pay somewhere else.

Got his metaphors wrong:

"The Dark Secrets That Dolphins Don’t Want You to Know"


assuming they did a 20 minute meeting for each employee thats 233 hours or 29 business days to fire all 700 of them...

That's the cost of doing business, you keep the profits and in exchange you don't treat your employees like fucking garbage.

He didn't even need to lay them off, according to the article. He just wanted "a fortress balance sheet going into the holidays"

From the employees' perspective, who wants to sit around in angst for a month while your friends and colleagues are dropping like flies, wondering if you're next?

One and done is the way to do it in my opinion. Dragging out bad news seldom works out well.

You can pass out layoffs across the whole company in a couple of hours through the same infrastructure you use to pass out work items, KPIs, and paychecks

This reads like a solution to a twisted elementary school math problem, but:

Assuming 1 manager for 10 employees, that's 90 managers each doing a 3h20 minute block of 20 minute meetings, allowing all to be fired in one morning.

What if the manager is also getting fired?

Your unspoken assumption: A company of 6000 employees only has 1 manager/HR rep capable of talking to pink slip recipients.

Exactly. Hire 20 extra HR people to make that firing faster. Then fire the 20 HR people. It's simple.

Just over 233 person-hours of work isn't 233 hours of work. Assuming team sizes average 20, that work can be spread across 35 managers, requiring less than a business day to complete. Even assuming 900 people as mentioned in the headline, that's still less than a day's work. Larger-than-average teams may require more time, but this could still be easily accomplished over two business days.

Now do the math on all the less important meetings that you have every day.

he would have to fire 1000 people to cover the cost

That is very surreal to read, for some reason.

Now this is just moving the goalposts. Can someone please help me understand what I’m supposed to be outraged about? It seems to be a confetti of grievances meant to evoke an emotional reaction.

I guess your ok with the CEO of the company you work for calling you a dumb dolphin? Lol

Is there a link to this?

At the end of the article

It's in the posted article.

Sadly, no. There is a quote from a section of it in the linked Forbes article, though.

We'll have to wait for it to show up on https://twitter.com/TechEmails

Each person being laid off deserves a private meeting with their manager where they are told this. The fact that they hired 900 people they now no longer need is a failing of the CEO by itself. If they work remotely, it can be a zoom meeting.

Being told in a meeting with 900 people by someone you don't know is rude and tells me that anyone in leadership in this company are people I would not like to work for. The fact that he was more concerned about his feelings than the feelings of the 900 is even more evidence that this person has absolutely no empathy and managing people is the wrong job for them.

If you’re letting go of 900 people, for the average person their manager is also being let go. In a good amount of cases, probably their manager’s manager.

I think it was a good call for the CEO to do it instead of outsourcing to HR or a COO. He didn’t try to hide behind another exec. Anyone being let go - especially at the holidays - is going to be pretty pissed about it, and it was the right thing for the CEO to take the slings and arrows for it instead of an underling.

Part of the 1:1 meeting basis is to address any concerns and address return of assets or information.

In the Before Times, there might be a group meeting, that would typically be for a department or site. It would be followed by a 1:1 with a manager (whomever is left standing in the chain of command), or (fairly frequently) with an outsourced consultant (see the film Up in the Air for reasonably accurate depiction of this).

Better did ... Worse.

> I think it was a good call for the CEO to do it instead of outsourcing to HR or a COO.

There was actually a movie about these outsourced "downziser" organizations/consultants.


Yes, but even there the consultant made a point about making the transition as smooth for the fired person as possible. The whole point was not to stir up negative emotions, which by their very nature are unpredictable.

Sure, but the client still pays the consultant for economic reasons: soften the emotional blow to the employee being let go in order to soften the reputation blow to the company. If the employer does not care for reputation (or, what seems more likely in this case, key persons might actually like that particular type of reputation), why would they pay?

Office Space, anyone?

Doing this hierarchically is already a solved issue:


Taking the slings and arrows for it by entirely protecting himself with a one way call?

Nice meme

"As your manager, I'm sad to tell you this, but you are fired. But so am I! It's not you, it's the company."

Counterpoint : this is going viral. The aftermath of that is going to be hard to measure in simple terms.

While true, you could do it in waves - task low level managers to inform their directs, then task the senior managers to inform the middle managers, and so on...

That's how you make all your most hireable employees leave ship first. If you want to retain some those are usually the ones you'd want to keep.

Lets think it through.

Even if each person is given 5 minutes of personal time with the person doing the firing, at 8 hours per day assuming no breaks, that's 5 * 900 / 60 / 8 = 9 days. Almost two business weeks. That means that 900 people will have a zoom meeting scheduled two weeks ahead of time, and while they wait they see that everyone who goes into that meeting is fired.

Does this sounds like a better way of doing it, to you?

Your algo can easily be parallelized by increasing the number of people firing.

If they have to fire 900 people, you think they only have the bandwidth for 1 person to fire them? 10 People its down to a work day, 20 is half that again..

This was horrendous optics, basically asking to get shared virally and draw more attention to the bad situation the company is in. The CEO made it about himself / the company, that's all people are going to get from Google searches for a time to come. Managers could give them the news en masse as efficiently and infinitely more humanely.

Heard many stories of it being done this way. Extreme anxiety for everyone as people wait to see if they get called in.

My point exactly.

No, that doesn't sound like a better way, but it does sound like you aren't particularly grasping what they are proposing.

Taking the time to do it with respect for the individuals, rather than treating them all like interchangeable fodder?

Yeah, that seems better to me.

Not to mention the CEO spent more time talking about how this is impacting HIM. When you're laying people off, this isn't about you. Noone cares about you, this is about the people getting laid off. You need to be concerned about their feelings, what you're going to do to help THEM.

I've worked for multiple companies that have had major reductions in force at times. When folks get laid off in a group, it has never been done 1:1. Usually the group getting let go is told all at once separately from the rest of the company. It's done per team or per department, so if you're a software engineer getting cut, you're told at the same time with the other software engineers getting cut, but yes usually the guy that runs the department will be present.

The CEO doesn't really pass the "fit and proper person" test does He

No. At mass layoffs it's better to do it instantly and en masse because otherwise you cause massive anxiety in everyone, including those who will stay. It's also why multiple rounds of layoffs are a bad idea. Just do everything at once and move on.

Usually people still need to do something in the period before they are actually laid off. With these kind of calls it's scorched earth from there onward and I would question everything everyone does which is counterproductive.

Not for these roles, I don't think. You can just lock their laptop and call it a day, which is what they did. This is fungible labour.

Isn't that 'employee privilege'? People who are in business for themselves often lose clients without notice. Employees easily forget how much they are shielded from the market.

Well… yes? Employees trade lower revenue for greater stability

But, the query wasn't about stability. It was about emotional support.

yes, of which you expect more when you enter an employee-employer relationship than when you are independent

I'm not sure that's wise.

I know that the zeitgeist is to say “your employer doesn’t care about you, don’t care about them etc”, but honestly in my experience the employer-employee relationship is much more stable and human than a contractor-client one

It's a buffer against the market. Nice when it works, but you can't count on it fully. Sometimes the outside world leaks through. I don't think anyone wanted to fire 900 people at once in this situation.

>The fact that they hired 900 people they now no longer need is a failing of the CEO by itself

How so? Business circumstances are constantly changing

You don't hire 900 people over one Zoom call. At some point, you have to figure out if you are hiring too many people, so you don't end up in a situation like this.

I was wondering that too. I think ideally you would have a 1-1 video chat with someone. But at such a big, 900 employee, layoff, maybe that wasn't easy to do.

I think the CEOs affect on the call made it worse. It was very strange to hear him say stuff like "last time I had to do this, I cried. I hope to be stronger this time." It felt like his focus when laying off 900 people was too much on how it made him personally feel uncomfortable.

I imagine 900 1-on-1s could not be done quickly and word would spread very fast that firings were ramping up around the company. This would cause a whole lot of stress for those not being fired, just waiting for a call.

Given the alternatives, the 900-wide bandaid-ripping-off method seems best.

I think I agree with this. For one thing, if it's 900 1:1 meetings, the job of coordinating their loss of access with IT would be impossible. Mistakes would be made, you'd have people with access to chat and email after they were fired, people realizing they were fired because they lost access, rumors flying around, in some ways it would be just a more chaotic version of what actually happened. At least in the Zoom call everybody could see that nine hundred other people were sharing their fate.

On the other hand, the CEO sounds like an asshole and seems to have been using some kind of intrusive work surveillance technology to blame employees for the layoffs:

> “You guys know that at least 250 of the people terminated were working an average of 2 hours a day while clocking 8 hours+ a day in the payroll system? They were stealing from you and stealing from our customers who pay the bills that pay our bills"

A fine point if true, but how does he know which people were working two hours per day? And who else should be blamed if it was such a widespread practice? The answers to those questions won't reflect well on him.

I was curious and did some math. A five minute zoom call is not realistic; you probably need 15 minutes per person. If my math is correct, and if no one was even a minute late, it would take 225 hours to lay those people off sequentially, assuming 24/7 meetings. If you had 15 managers making those calls, it would still take 15 hours to complete all calls. Let's call that three business days, during which no other work gets done anywhere in the company.

I once worked at an employer who performed five rounds of layoffs in the space of a few months. I cannot recommend that method.

I agree with you, the 900-wide bandaid was the only practical option.

Is it realistic to have just 15 managers for a 6000 employee company? That would mean 400 employees per manager.

I freely admit that I pulled numbers out of a hat, just to help me visualize the problem.

I think it's unlikely that people didn't already know something was coming.

Last time I got laid off the CEO said that he knew it was hard for me, but also wasn't easy for him.

Which is true: firing people is one of the hardest managerial tasks, but it's tone deaf and disrespectful to make it about the manager's feelings. Shows a lack of maturity.

idk, some people might take small comfort in the fact that an actual human feels bad about it. who knows?

imo all this "right/wrong way to fire people" is mostly bikeshedding. by far the worst part of being fired is the part where you don't have a job anymore. letting affected employees know as early as possible and paying severance are the only material ways to alleviate that.

It's not inappropriate to be apologetic or sympathetic. But saying "this is hard on me" is basically asking for sympathy from the person you are putting in a very stressful situation.

Even more so when the sentiment is literally "You know, last time I had to do this kind of thing I cried. This time, not so much."

I’ve been in mass layoffs. Having bosses arbitrarily come up to desks and then having that person return fifteen minutes later and repeating that for the entire morning is much worse. It’s anxiety inducing, even if you didn’t get the ax. I’d rather have an all-hands and get it over with quickly.

Same here. Never as big as 900 people, but I've been both laid-off and still-employed following maybe a dozen events. I have been laid off four times, both done as part of an en masse event and as a series of 1:1s. It's probably just a personal preference but I think the impersonal nature of the mass layoff is TONS less stressful. Just rip off the bandaid.

One time I was in a meeting during a "series of 1:1s" event, and a colleague opened the door and said "It's all done." and left. We weren't sure for a minute if he meant the whole company was all done, and we should pack up and go home, or if they were done with the layoffs and we weren't getting let go. It could have realistically been either one, but we ended up still having another couple years worth of paychecks.

My first time was at a startup; maybe 80 people. We had an all-hands meeting on a Friday afternoon, and everybody got an envelope on the way out. Some people's envelopes were fatter than the others. Friday afternoon was perfect timing -- most of us ended up at the brewery across the street. Fortunately in 1998 everything in tech in the area was super hot so we all landed on our feet pretty quickly.

The worst I have heard was a VP coming down to the bullpen and had workers stand up , count off in ones and twos. Twos were instructed to grab a box and clear their desk in 15 minutes, while security guards loomed.

Off topic but this might be the first time I've seen someone use the noun affect correctly.

emotion or desire, especially as influencing behavior or action.

I had to look it up, I wasn't even aware affect had a noun definition - I had believed it was only a verb. TIL

I heard it a lot in psychology classes in college. People can have a "flat affect."

If you can hire 900 people with personal interviews, you can lay them off with one too.

That is probably the simplest, best, clearest answer to this whole mess I have heard. Nicely put.

Same with calling people "the unlucky group", that felt really disrespectful.

I mean, I get firing employees on a Zoom call. It may be one of those unfortunate necessities. But the way this person did it is terrible.

> “This is the second time in my career I’m doing this and I do not want to do this. The last time I did it, I cried; this time I hope to be stronger,” Garg says early in the video, before noting that he is laying off "about" 15 percent of the company’s workforce just before the holidays. More than a minute into the call, Garg says, “If you’re on this call, you are part of the unlucky group that is being laid off. Your employment here is terminated effective immediately.”


He's prioritizing his feelings about firing people when talking to people who just lost their job. As a billionaire, he's hoping he doesn't cry while talking to people who hope that they can find a new job before their savings dry up and they can't pay their bills or eat.

What an out-of-touch asshat this CEO is.

There is no right way to layoff 900 people simultaneously, in the same way there is no right way to break up with someone who doesn't want to break up with you. There are just bad ways and worse ways.

If you try to give everyone a 1:1 zoom call with their manager, the inevitable outcome is that the rumor mill starts turning and everyone spends the day terrified for their job, because the layoffs happen in a drip feed rather than all at once.

I say this as someone who was laid off remotely during covid, as part of a large layoff of hundreds of people. I was told I was laid off by slack message, with a follow up zoom call later in the day with my manager and their manager. My manager had four or five such calls to make that day, each lasting at least 30 minutes.

I was an unpleasant process, but I understand why they made the decisions they made.

This Better.com layoff in particular sounds awful not because it happened over a Zoom call, but because the CEO is being incredibly unprofessional and badmouthing 900 former employees. That decision is not only in awful taste, but also has a likely strong negative effect on the ability of those 900 people to find new jobs easily.

Yes but what if the CEO is right and people were really tracking 8 hours of work a day and working 2? Isn't this a reason to be upset?

Not really because this isn’t your biggest problem then. Leadership must be exceptionally poor at this company if you hired almost thousand employees who don’t care.

To me this story is more about the CEO's poor leadership and lack of empathy. Laying people off is something companies will have to do, and in this time of WFH companies will fumble around trying to consolidate on the best way to do it. But the CEO consoling himself in front of everyone whose lives he's upending is completely tone deaf.

It's rumored that he followed up this call with an all-hands to instill fear in the remaining employees. And he also admitted to going on a Blind tirade to shift blame for the outrage onto all of the individuals who were let go.

I would never want to work for this dude.

I think the virality of it comes from this guy's general tone, e.g. a prior email in which he wrote:


but I agree that there's nothing obviously good about being fired in person. I prefer my difficult conversations to be as impersonal and private as possible. I remember being flabbergasted when a firm once scheduled a call with me to tell me about the outcome of my interviews -- the outcome was that I did not get the job! -- and wondering why it couldn't have just been an email. Ditto with a part-time job for which, on my final day, I was called into the office for a morning meeting in which I was let go; this which happened to take on 03/02/2020 in midtown Manhattan.

What a weird turn of phrase. Comparatively a dumb dolphin is pretty smart still.

IMO the issue is that this is right after a funding round.


That seems like an odd argument to make. They probably only got that funding because they agreed to slim down their workforce.

Probably a condition of the deal

That would probably be the case. Its not unknown for companies to get funding on those sorts of conditions.

Right, sounds like an attempt to do a PR stunt.

As others have pointed out, the Zoom part isn't the big problem here. The delivery is.

Just for starters, within under a minute he's made the whole thing about him. Comments like, "Last time I cried," and, "I hope I'll be stronger this time," are grossly inappropriate. Nobody gives a shit how he feels, nor should they. This isn't hard for him, it's hard for the people he's firing. He shows a complete lack of respect for his now former employees by making it all about him. He should have made it about them. He should have showed them some compassion and respect.

Then there's the framing, the room, and his body language. He's miles away, barely looking at the camera, and constantly referring to notes printed out on paper. Not to mention he looks casual to the point of shabbiness, both in his dress and his demeanour, and there's distracting clutter around him. This is not hard to get right: sit directly in front of your laptop, and close enough to show head and shoulders only; look directly into the camera; have your notes on the screen and aligned with the camera so you don't have to keep looking away to refer to them; above all, STOP TALKING ABOUT YOURSELF.

I could go on but the short version is that the way he handled the situation - a situation which for many of those losing their jobs would probably put them in dire financial straits - was extremely unprofessional and disrespectful.

This guy is a narcissistic asshat of the lowest calibre when you look at his online presence. This is entirely in character for him.

Yeah, funny you mention that. I did a bit of digging after I'd written that comment and, well, he's certainly said and done some quite unsavoury things.

It should probably be handled one by one via Zoom with the persons immediate manager and a representative from HR.

No, because once you let the first person know on their 1:1 meeting there will be miscommunication / rumours, and everybody is going to be somewhat aware. However some people are going to have 1st party information, and others have heard of the rumours, and those people will feel offended to not have been made aware like everyone else.

This is how it happens normally in non-covid world. There is no reason you should fire everyone publicly by the CEO, likely someone the employee never interacts with. The person also needs to know the next steps, for instance if they'll get paid of for vacation days, how to sign up for Cobra (if in the US), etc. You can cut off access prior to notice. Ideally they would all be done within a short period.

I've been around when a firm did a mass layoff. It's unpleasant and of course there are rumors and of course people are offended, but this is the correct way to handle it.

> This is how it happens normally in non-covid world

Not for me. I have been a part of two layoffs - the first one in 2010 - and witnessed multiple more since then. It's always been an "all hands" conference by the CEO to let everyone know then afterwards followed by a 1:1 to tell you about severance options (if any), Cobra, etc. Not the other way around.

When this happened to me, we knew ahead of time in general, and waited for individual meetings, and it all worked out. As it is, there's still miscommunication and rumours while all the now-locked-out people meet with HR and return computers and such.

Ideally yes, but 900 people? Before you’ve reached the end of that list you’ll have created a lot of fear among the remaining people.

I worked for a company that did individual firing with a manager and HR, it was no where near 900 people, and it still took the better part of a day. It was absolutely terrible for everyone, not just those who where to be fired.

Goldman Sachs regularly lays off 5% of their 40k workforce every year. It all happens in a short period of time. They somehow manage to do it.

That's still almost half the number Better.com fired (9%), and Goldman Sachs has a procedure, if they do this every year.

Which would take days while rumour flies and chaos reigns.

But think of all the money saved by the company! /s

I was thinking same but apparently the CEO is a complete arse [0] - perhaps the reaction is because of the messenger not the act itself.


doing it over zoom isn't the problem. see airbnb https://news.airbnb.com/a-message-from-co-founder-and-ceo-br...

overall just more thoughtful, 1:1 with their senior leader, made an employee job board to help get hired, severance, equity, etc.


Here is what will happen next

I want to provide clarity to all of you as soon as possible. We have employees in 24 countries, and the time it will take to provide clarity will vary based on local laws and practices. Some countries require notifications about employment to be received in a very specific way. While our process may differ by country, we have tried to be thoughtful in planning for every employee.

In the US and Canada, I can provide immediate clarity. Within the next few hours, those of you leaving Airbnb will receive a calendar invite to a departure meeting with a senior leader in your department. It was important to us that wherever we legally could, people were informed in a personal, 1:1 conversation. The final working day for departing employees based in the US and Canada will be Monday, May 11. We felt Monday would give people time to begin taking next steps and say goodbye — we understand and respect how important this is.


I was subject to a mass layoff in spring 2020. They did individual vid calls with all affected individuals. It was only a 10m call, with two people from a couple levels higher in the org than me, and an HR rep, but I appreciate that they took that time.

Airbnb laid off 25% of the workforce, that has widely been regarded as a model for layoffs 1. Every employee had a zoom 1:1 2. Employees were given several months of pay, benefits, and allowed to keep their laptops 3. Employees were allowed to vest their stocks for the next window 4. Airbnb created an alumni, portal, slack channel, and a resume book to help them find next jobs 5. Founders hosted several zoom calls for impacted and non impacted employees. The last one was a 10 min standing ovation to departed employees 6. Airbnb also created a policy with a right to first job to former employees

This was the right way to do layoffs

> in the days of covid and working from home

I don't see how covid plays into this, unless this is suggesting that, pre-pandemic, it was common practice for CEOs to call 900 people into a single auditorium just to tell them that they're all fired. That sounds like a great way to end up hanged from the rafters on your own necktie.

Not uncommon in these circumstances? Everyone gets an all-hands invite, some people get room A, some get room B. Then the only uncertainty prior is which side is which.

Call them individually. It's not the fact it was done by zoom that's surprising/unusual, it's the fact it was done en masse.

And they had to hear the CEO say he cried the first time he did this, without knowing what it is about. Why is he talking about his feelings? Perhaps his assistants were fired too so there weren't anyone to check his speech? Crazy.

I think it is just that the upper management doesn't value the time or feelings of their employees. They could have done the meetings virtually on an individual basis or in smaller groups. They just didn't want to spend the time to do it

No , use email and don’t use corporate speak.

Going off at a tangent better.com issues mortgages and just got a $750MM cash infusion and they are still looking for jobs to fill. Make what conclusions that you can possibly have.

In addition to that, I find it respectable that the CEO made the announcement himself directly to those concerned, although the way he communicated it might not have been that great.

He could have delegated to the direct managers of those concerned and HR.

Do it the way AirBnB (or most other companies) did it: announce that large scale layoffs will be happening due to X and Y reasons, and that the individuals losing their jobs will be contacted over the next week. Then someone phones/zooms them individually and answers questions and lets them know right away what'll happen.

This isn't about Covid, this is about the CEO making this easier on himself. I'm guessing he expected that if the video leaked, he would look sympathetic because he did it personally and talked about how hard it was for him.

Spend a week waiting if you get a call or not? I'd prefer the mass zoom call to that shit.

The nice way to do it would be to send an email to everyone immediately telling them whether they are layed off or not, and schedule a personal one-on-one call with a manager or an HR person to answer any questions.

Agreed. You give employees a heads up that the layoffs will be occurring, which both sets expectations with those who are affected AND also allows those who aren't affected to understand what's going on.

Then you take one of two approaches: If the CEO feels strongly that the news should come from them personally, you do the Zoom call, and then affected workers immediately meet with their managers for individual communication. Or you skip the Zoom calls and have the managers deliver the news.

Obviously, you want the time between the "heads up" meeting and the meeting with the affected individuals to be short, maybe a day or less, so workers aren't spending too much time in dread mode. But it reduces the feeling of having been blindsided.

How is waiting days for a potential meeting to be scheduled in better?

That would be the most unpleasant week of my career, regardless of the outcome. I'd get nothing done and probably be interviewing by the end of it.

Probably the least worst way of doing it, but still creates an enormous amount of stress for everyone, regardless of their ultimate status...

I have been part of a mass layoff via Zoom. You’d be surprised how easy it is to do with empathy and respect.

When it’s handled with empathy and respect - much less likely to make HN front page though.

This CEO violates all the rules of communicating bad news. It needs to be short and to the point, and should definitely not include self pity ("last time I was crying").

> Make them all risk their health to come to an in-person event, only to be fired?

“Risk their health”?

Grocery store workers have been coming into their office the entire time and I don’t see them dropping like flies. Same with Home Depot employees, and any other “essential” business.

It requires a hell of a lot of privilege for tech workers to think they are entitled to stay home “to protect their health” while all these other people go in. It’s treating people like they are expendable…

> I know this sounds horrible but in the days of covid and working from home, what are companies supposed to do if they have to lay off large amounts of people?

This isn't about a Zoom call.

This is about companies taking massive, quick capital to rapidly expand head count at such a rate to which this inevitably occurs.

It lacks responsibility, care, empathy, or even the slightest bit of concern for those that have invested their opportunity cost of being a part of your company.

I agree that you outline why its hard to layoff so many people.

Let's asume you were just laid off, you and everyone else now have 5-10 questions that are specific to you that you want answered right away.

How do you do that in a 500 person zoom call?

With one on one meetings, this is trivial.

Now you've setup a situation where you still need 500 individual meetings. I"m not sure a global zoom call did them any favours or helped them at all here.

> I"m not sure a global zoom call did them any favours or helped them at all here.

the benefit is that everyone knows upfront whether they were fired or not, rather than having rumors swirl around the office for a week.

Yeah if they brought them in and someone (depending on how many it could be inevitable) had COVID... just to fire them.

I'm not sure I see that as being better.

The company I used to work for, made us all drive into the office and then fired us all last November. It was just after a lockdown here in the UK

A few years ago a German telco company did that to their uk subsidiary:

1 First made the uk subsidiary bankrupt and went into administration

2 Called every one to a mass meeting said your redundant

3 oh there's no £ - pick up the RB2 form to claim statutory redundancy from the UK tax payer.


In my mind it wasn't as much the large group vs individual. It's how he did it. He made it about himself, which is rule #1 no no about firing or laying people off. No one cares about how you feel and if you cried last time. You're not the one losing your job. Put on your manager pants and be there for the employees.

This CEO has the audacity to de-anonymized himself from a toxic comment on Blind, imagine that.

He is made to be controversial

He could have just sent an email. I would rather that than a zoom call. Or have your immediate manger let you know. I watched the video, it seemed more like he was looking for sympathy at how hard his job firing people was. No one cares, they care that they just lost their job.

Drive to every employee's house to fire them in person?

No, but like the sibling commenter said -- you can at least aim for a bare minimum, of, you know, class.

Like an individual phone call. 10 minutes should do it.

Really, it's not that hard, or expensive.

It is likely there were HR reps or even managers of the fired individuals. Those managers could have spoken with the people. There doesn't need to be a zoom meeting of almost a thousand people getting fired.

TBH this looks like a toxic place to work at. If i had such a CEO i would look for another job. I hope that they all find a new and better jib and the toxic CEO gets what he deserves.

If the comments in this thread is any indication, you can't please everyone. Do it in mass and some people will be pissed off. Do it 1:1 and others will be pissed off.

This is a good point. At least they got a face to face. I had members of a team just get a slip in the past.

I think one of the bigger issues was that the CEO made it all about him on the call.

Should’ve taken notes from Carta’s CEO when they did a RIF. Took ownership, and expressed both remorse and gratitude for the folks let go, instead of making it about themselves like a narcissist.

I find it strange that the CEO gave no one any warnings or any second chances. if that many people were doing what he claimed there was obviously a culture created to allow that.

I personally think he's trying to lay off expensive workers and outsource them and this is a lame excuse attempting to gas light and blame the employee.

Isn't biggest issue in this debacle is that Better tracks its employee's activities? To quote the CEO: “You guys know that at least 250 of the people terminated were working an average of 2 hours a day while clocking 8 hours+ a day in the payroll system? They were stealing from you and stealing from our customers who pay the bills that pay our bills. Get educated,” "

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