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After the Layoffs (42floors.com)
349 points by juanplusjuan on July 13, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 171 comments

Amazing how much of that post was about the CEO's personal relationship with the layoffs, considering the #1 bit of advice in every comment on yesterday's thread about layoffs was "whatever you do, don't make it about yourself." [1]

I don't know if it's good advice or bad advice, but the dissonance was strong.

PS: I still respect the CEO. The actions (severance, health care, references, etc.) speak loudly, even when the words, no matter how heartfelt and sincere, aren't always the right ones.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9876009

Contrasting view: I really enjoy hearing from this perspective than trying overtly hard to speak for lots of other people. I am glad he made this about himself because when you write a story such as this, it is much more authentic written from your perspective. And your perspective, at the end of the day, is a whole lot of "about yourself."

I think it's fine for the blog post to be about the CEO's feelings. I'm assuming that when he actually broke the news to the employees he didn't dwell too much on "you don't know how hard this is for me" and focused on doing right by the people he was laying off.

"I cried and many of them cried. It was emotional for everyone. Some were angry and some were already focused on what to do next."

I would lean to believing the other way given this comment, but it is not quite clear from the text.

Nothing about that indicates one way or the other, really. The whole thing is pretty emotional, moreso in smaller companies where everyone knows eachother and becomes a small family. The fact that he cried along with them really says nothing about how he had given the news.

Regardless of how people feel the post was handled, I appreciate this line: "These last few months have been incredibly painful for me, but at least I didn’t have to worry about how to pay the rent. They did worry about rent. I f* up and my employees paid for it." This is responsibility. No couching of the event in non-blame company-speak. He owns up to that experiment being a failure that it is on his shoulders.

Agreed - I think that advice is an empathy thing when dealing with the employees you're laying off. Basically when you're laying someone off there's a natural response to try and talk about how bad you feel having to do it too - maybe to try and relate or bond over a shitty situation?

It's an unfortunate natural response though because if you were truly empathizing with them you'd recognize that your feelings in that situation (since you're in the much better position of still having your job) don't make them feel better, but make them feel worse. I'd guess the problem is that comparing your state in any way to there's causes a more negative reaction because they're not in a place where they'd want to empathize with you - the approximate cause of their current lay off.

Outside of the interaction with the employees you're laying off (which I imagine is not the intended audience of this post) I think it's okay to talk about how it feels to have to do this. To the employees though, you can really only say that it's a bad situation and you'll do what you can to make it the least bad possible.

I think it's good to tell yourself "Don't make it about me" but in the end, he was a leader who had to let go of team members. Seems natural that he would feel things over it. It would be like saying "Startups die all the time. Don't make it about yourself." From what I read (and I don't know this person at all) he seems to really own his role as a leader.

I noticed is that he took responsibility for strategy though, which is refreshing to read every now and then.

"Don't make [public announcements] about yourself" is not the same as "Don't care about yourself or your feelings". The audience is relevant.

The advice was never "Don't make public announcements about yourself" it was "When you're telling the employees they're being laid off, don't talk about yourself". There is a very clear difference there. None of the advice talked about what to do or not do during public announcements.

Clearly that advice from yesterday was in regards to the conversation with the laid off employee. Self reflection on your own time is healthy and necessary.

The article is not the layoff. It's talking about what happened and how the CEO felt, but it wasn't the way the employees got laid off.

I don't want to be such a hater, but every time I see this company and this guy posting something, it's not about what they do, it's about the trials and tribulations of being a startup.

They don't seem to care - at all - about their industry, their space, whatever their value proposition to their customer is. They just care about being a startup. It's super annoying to be honest.

Weren't these the guys that famously wrote a blog post saying that culture is everything, and that people that come to interviews in suits are automatically denied?

> Weren't these the guys that famously wrote a blog post saying that culture is everything, and that people that come to interviews in suits are automatically denied?


Not automatically denied. That's only ding #1.

You also lose-- ahem don't win-- points for leaving the interview on time, neglecting to bring a fancy gift, and failing to obsessively read the company blog.

I think it's terrific that they post things like that so openly. If I were ever going to apply for a job again (and I hope never to), I would definitely read up about the company and read at least some of their blog posts. And if I found a post both so intensely dim and so offensively exclusionary as the one on archive.org that you link, I would immediately know that this was not a company for me.

My personal favourite bit is sneering at the guy for saying "you can never overdress for an interview" - I can just imagine the poor candidate sitting there in his suit, feeling horribly out of place amongst these imbeciles, trying desperately to make light of his situation with that remark (it's probably just what I would say myself, in fact) and unwittingly providing more fodder for their asinine blog.

It's interesting that they've removed that post from their blog. I just asked Jason on Twitter why they removed it: https://twitter.com/JackGavigan/status/620915571052412928

Now I feel slightly (only slightly) bad for using the word "imbecile".

I was once in that situation and my life-saver was: "Yeah, I'm a big Leonard Cohen fan". Turned out the team-lead was as well.

It got me through the awkward moment, but I didn't get the job.

That blog post could be a metaphor for 42floors foray into the brokerage market - the guy in the suit being 42floors:

"it’s totally fine to ask someone before you come into the office what appropriate dress means" = it's totally fine to understand the market before deciding to enter it

"He was failing the go-out-for-a-beer test and he didn’t even know it" = they just failed the go-into-a-new-market-beyond-your-means-test

Maybe Jason Freedman's lack of humility in the past led him to the idea that led to these lay-offs, and hopefully he now has some humility and focuses on the business not how much of a cliché he can make his startup.

But yeah do remember to check what you should wear/company culture before going to an interview :)

I remember back in the nineties when tech company culture was a reaction against the stuffy, seemingly irrational dress codes of older companies. The refrain used to be "we want people who can get the job done, who cares if they wear a tee shirt and jeans instead of a suit and tie?"

Perhaps we're going full circle and the people who want to tell their employees how to dress are back in charge. But now instead of getting a choice between a button-down shirt in white and one in light blue, the choice is between a tee with a funny picture on it and one with a vendor logo on it :)

I thought you had to be kidding about the gift thing.

Does anyone else see that as odd?

You're not trying to date the company, nor are you family. Don't get me wrong - being enthusiastic and passionate about your work is important. You don't know these people though - any form of gifting just seems like an opportunity to make things really awkward.

I work at a big corporation, and the stuff he said is literally against the rules. The intro, the gift, how could you give someone of a different culture and from a different area a fair chance if people are getting bonuses for that?

Bribery and reducing your net compensation -- what's not for a company to love?

HN submission and discussion on why the attitude expressed in that blog post is harmful: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7930430

Thanks for posting that. It led me to the best comment I've ever seen on HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7932261

I'm pretty sure these tell-all blog posts about running a startup are a key part of their marketing strategy. Their product is largely targeted at startups (or, at least it was, maybe they're expanding). I suspect there are more startup decision-makers interested in reading about running a startup than reading about trends in commercial real estate. Being a little over-the-top now and then - or just brutally honest - only gets them more attention.

I always confuse these guys with Vooza.

This right here. This encapsulates the view of why my company never gave them a second thought. The leadership was not the kind of people we ever wanted to do business with.

> I don't want to be such a hater

Then don't be. What on earth is wrong with transparently talking about the difficulties of starting a company? What is wrong with writing about the people side of things?

In my experience there's nowhere near enough of that stuff. I don't get the sense they're just trying to be a startup. But they're talking about what it's like to run a startup. I really appreciate that.

I've been at the receiving end of a layoff before. I guess I'm more rational than most, because when it happened I went in and said, "yeah I'd lay me off too, the current strategy here isn't working". I know the boss took it hard -- he couldn't come back to the office for months afterwards he was so depressed.

I'm glad that 42floors was decent enough to provide what sounds like a great transition -- health care, severance, job placement, etc. That certainly helps soften the blow and it's really only fair to those who basically changed their lives to partake in the experiment with you.

I think it's totally fine to do an experiment that may end up with you having to let people go, as long as you acknowledge that and take good care of them. And plan accordingly. Don't call it off when you have no money left and then use that as an excuse to screw everyone.

I had to lay off two people when a failed venture ran out of funding by surprise (the angel investor had committed to $x dollars per month for 6 months, but went back on the contract at month 4 - even though we had launched the product exactly on schedule.) we were launching and raising funds when our runway turned into a brick wall.

I felt mad because my team and I had worked crazy hours to pull off a miracle and the reward was everybody lost their job literally 1 week after the launch. I totally understand that raising capital has more uncontrollable variables than programming - I have to admit I was a bit angry that the other end of the company didn't meet the ass-kicking standard of the tech side.

I referred both guys to other jobs, one of whom took one of the offers. The other was a master UX guy so I was extremely bummed to not have him on a team with me anymore. He could get any gig he wanted in the blink of an eye, so it was no great loss to him.

It really does suck on both sides.

I'd say you had a valid excuse for not paying severance.

Also, I suspect you've learned your lesson to never accept investment in payments, or alternatively, unless it's in the bank it doesn't count. :)

That was a pretty dick move on the part of the angel. Did they say why they stopped paying?

I was in the loop, but not personally involved in the financial details. I actually didn't know we were being kept on a leash like that. We suspected it was a turn of fortunes with the investor - some negative stock stuff had happened in their area (oil). We had a contract but, it's not like we were going to sue them with no money.

You'd think with a contract and a legitimate investor that you're ok, but it really is all hot air until the money is in your account.

> and it's really only fair to those who basically changed their lives to partake in the experiment with you

Couldn't you describe any employee that way?

Yes. That's why anyone you let go should get a severance unless it was for gross negligence.

You could also argue the opposite: Having a job this week is no indication that you will have a job next week, and that without a specific contract with a specific term in it (good luck), the "at will" clause in your contract or state law means that you should always plan to be laid off at any time and have a few months of savings on hand.

If you run a company like this, don't be surprised if your employees take it to heart.

Hmm... I think people have misinterpreted what you said. It seems to me to be prudent advice (of course, I've been in companies going through layoffs more than once).

Despite best efforts on everybody's part, sometimes (I might be tempted to say "often" wrt startups) your job dries up. Even if it's obvious that the company was in trouble when you look back, for a variety of reasons you are never going to be given any kind of notice that things are not going to continue as they were.

Sometimes companies are very forward thinking and plan well. In that case they let you go while there is still money left to pay a severence. Sometimes they grind the company into the dust and there just isn't anything left. Often the business people are hoping beyond hope for a miracle to happen and when it doesn't there isn't any money that can be earmarked for severance. As pointed out, the law allows companies a fair amount of leeway here.

Don't leave it up to your employer to look after you. Make a plan. What am I going to do if I loose my job tomorrow? Make sure it is a viable plan. If it isn't, do what ever you need to do to make it viable as soon as possible.

>I know the boss took it hard -- he couldn't come back to the office for months afterwards he was so depressed.

well, you either give good severance and everybody on both sides if not happy than at least not depressed, or, well, you give small severance, if any, and a lot of hard feelings around.

This is a FAR better situation for the people being laid off here than in an ordinary scenario. The CEO did what's right for the company, nothing wrong with that, but at least he tried to do it in the right way.

My experiences of layoffs are:

1. A job in a huge software house. The company didn't hit the 12% profit margin it had promised it's shareholders, making a "measly" 10%. People knew when they were being laid off when the person going round with some fold up boxes dropped one at your feet and said, "pack your stuff". I wasn't laid off at that time but plenty of people I worked with were.

2. A minimum wage job when I was 19 years old. The owner calls us in and sacks a bunch of us in one go, with a big fat "sorry". I asked what the severance package was, since no-one else wanted to ask. He said, "erm, er....", and when it became clear there wasn't one because he hadn't enough empathy to even consider the proposition I said, "you can at least give us some money to go to the pub." He laughed, others nervously laughed. I said, "12 of us multiplied by a tenner each is £120". I eventually got £60 off the miserable excuse for a cunt who had his new Aston Martin parked on the carpark directly outside the window. (Yes I made sure everyone who got laid off got an equal share of that £60 at the pub).

Did you really expect a severance package for a minimum wage job as a teenager or were you just being cheeky? It's a sincere question. Here in Canada at that age and wage-band I wouldn't even have considered the possibility.

Good point. At the time I think I wasn't aware of the actual law, and because he'd done a good job of keeping it quiet until that moment, we were all in the room and got the news all at once so hadn't had a chance to look it up. Mainly I think I just had a feeling that he was screwing us over somehow and so asked all the awkward questions I knew he didn't want to hear. I particularly took offence to having to look at his NEW car outside the window as he delivered the news.

This was 20 years ago though (man, that's depressing!) and nowadays I would have spotted the warning signs a long way off and planned my exit strategy / final negotiations much better.

I still think he was screwing us over, though. And I still think he was a cunt :)

> and planned my exit strategy

That's the sad part about layoffs: Until your 30ies, not only you get screwed over but the experienced ones are long gone and aren't part of the battle [1].

[1] battle or discussion, depending on whether you need the job.

It was twenty years ago? Don't feel so bad his Aston Martin was really a Jaguar XJS[1] in a frock.

[1] First released in 1975.

1975 is a little more than 20 years ago.

I think 'spitfire is alleging that a new Aston twenty years ago was more or less a 1975 XJS.

Correct, an Aston Martin DB7 used the basic body from a Jaguar XJS. The body was first used in 1976. Ancient.

The engine at least in the straight six version was a warmed over Jaguar AJ6 engine. This was however very good.

what year do you think this McFly? 1995?

Flux capacitors are standard on Aston Martins in 2055.

I'm pretty sure most provinces in Canada have mandatory severance after a certain number of months of service. The mandatory part isn't tied to age, just the option parts covered by common law.

Whether you expect the package or not, there's no harm in asking. :)

Well, whether he expected it or not - he did actually get one.

" I eventually got £60 off the miserable excuse for a cunt who had his new Aston Martin parked on the carpark directly outside the window. "

Why does owning an Aston Martin make someone a cunt? I am American and unfamiliar with British cars.

I wouldn't go so far as to call one of my former bosses a "cunt" but he owned a Porsche 911 and would park in the best spot all the time. Hearing him talk about how there was no budget for raises while seeing his $100k car outside was definitely a bit of cognitive dissonance. I know it's his company and it's not a charity, etc etc, but the impact of being told you can't have more money despite the job you're doing while seeing the fact that the person telling you this makes a LOT more than you definitely stirs up some emotions. They may not be entirely rational, but they're definitely real.

This is why if I ever own my own company I may just get something like a Ford Escape to drive to and from work and keep the toys at home.

Or maybe not a be a cunt of a boss and give a little shit about the people who work for you... I mean, you expect them to give a shit about their job right? Mutual benefit. Care about your employee, they'll most likely care more about you and the job and not run off when stuff starts going bad.

What I would have personally done in the situation would be to sell anything I had that I didn't need, to keep the company afloat, and my employees paid, because I know if we can weather it, it'll pay off in the end.

But a lot of people are assholes and don't give a shit about their employees... And that's why they have a revolving door and churn through employees like no tomorrow.

I feel like you're yelling at me over a hypothetical situation that hasn't occurred yet.

Welcome to the internet :)

This is why i like contracting, no one gives a shit about their company and no company gives a shit about the workers - if you think that is not the case you are misguided.

Contacting (in the uk at least) is much more honest, you work you get paid, you want to have a sick day, you don't get paid. If your crap you go, if your good they try to keep you.

Even better, ride a bike.

It's OK to own nice cars. If the company is doing well, drive it to work.

If things are not good, it would be good form to at least drive a camry to the office.

"It's OK to own nice cars. But, if your company isn't doing well, the respectful thing to do is buy yourself even more cars."

"but he owned a Porsche 911 and would park in the best spot all the time. Hearing him talk about how there was no budget for raises while seeing his $100k car outside was definitely a bit of cognitive dissonance"

Maybe. But most employees don't seem to care that:

1) the boss may have gotten the money to buy the car before owning the current company. Most people in business have had multiple businesses throughout their lives. Even if it's not, they risked everything to create the company that now employs you.

2) The boss probably lost much more than the employees. When an employee loses a job, it sucks. But they can often times get unemployment and find another job (I've worked for plenty of companies that went under over the years).

The boss loses: money (if they are a co-owner, they probably invested money), reputation, and credit is possibly damaged.

Yes, I'm aware. Which is why I added disclaimers about knowing the emotion was not entirely rational. I know the entire situation around his purchase of the car, etc. It's all water under the bridge at this point so I won't rehash it.

Still, when you're a leader, it is good practice to lead rather than make excuses to flaunt your lifestyle in others' faces.

EDIT: Don't mean you personally. :)

Owning an Aston Martin does not necessarily make one a cunt.

Laying people off who are on minimum wage with little more than a sorry whilst having your fancy car on full display outside the window does, however.

can we stop using that word? please and thanks.

So this is legitimately interesting. I know that word has a very strong negative connotation in some parts of the world (US), but other parts of the world don't really seem to treat it as more than just another four letter word. I'm not commenting either way on my own feelings regarding the word, just being fascinated at (very small) culture clashes online.

I don't mind profanity at all per se, but the tacit misogyny of that one does bum me out. I'm from the US, if it matters.

Yeah, using a crude name for a specific gender's genitalia as a pejorative is a bit of a dick move.

Unless it's "dick" or a close equivalent, which no one minds in the same way. I wonder why that is.

There is a profound difference between a powerful contingency using the genitalia of a less represented one as a curse and vice versa.

In the states, it's been used much like the N word; but towards women. It goes beyond cursing which I, frankly, don't give a crap about.

There is no misogyny behind it because there is an equivalent word for men which also carries a negative connotation.

My apologies for that. It was just a one off line but now the thread is discussing how/if the guy deserves the title and I appreciate it seems a little verbose.

Sorry for any offence caused.

Thank you for your considerate reply.

No we can't. This is the part where I politely call you a douchebag to prove a point. :)

There is a misogynistic quality to that particular word that connotations a disdain for women. I realize that it is utterly unintended on the part of GP but that should not prevent me from kindly asking for its disuse.

There's a point at which this ends right?

Like I completely agree with where you're coming from, but adhering to your particular worldview, what words can I use?

Does jerk eventually become a taboo term as well?

I realize this is contrived but I think it is a relevant question to ask.

Where does this societal need for political correctness fall apart?

Why do I have to go around trying to not be crass at every single turning point? If I'm always trying to be completely inoffensive how can I possibly hope to make meaningful statements when so many of those statements are reliant on offensive ideas??!?!

I want to be a good person m8. I'd also like to be genuine.

What if I'm genuinely offensive? Seek to make changes in my nature I guess?

No, it does not ever end, that's the whole point.

If words to blacklist or be offended by ran out, new ones would need to be invented to keep the fervor alive. There is now a large culture built on being offended all the time.

I guess in answering your excellent question I can only think to ask another question: Do you use the N word?

Douching is medically harmful. A tool used to harm someone makes a perfectly fine insult. A part of the female anatomy, less so.

Are you fine with calling rude people dicks though?

Not really. It is similarly foolish.

Why? Does the owner owe a share of the car to his employees? They didn't earn it, he did. A business is not a charity.

It's a very expensive car and the sentiment here is that the person had no empathy at all. Drove up in a car that cost as much as people's houses and fired a bunch of people without any thought beyond just the dollars saved (at least that's the impression I'm getting from the story).

Owning an expensive car doesn't make one a cunt. Displaying wealth and hesitating to make one nice, small monetary gesture to people who you just laid off, this might make people think of that person as a bit cunty.

Aston Martins are expensive, it's just a way to show the guy had a lot of money and he still had to pry the £60 out of his hands.

Probably the combination of the price of the car and no severance/ bar money, in this case.

They're $80,000 cars. Having one means you spent $80,000 on a vehicle.

Way more than that. The current cheapest model, with UK fees and taxes, at today's exchange rate, is $134,860.

If you want one with a V-12 (Which, if you're buying an Aston you do), you're looking at $200k, minimum.

Maybe a used V8 model from 6-8 years ago. New ones go in the mid 100's to start.

Do British cars not support leases or loans? It seems odd to look out the window at the car park and think you can judge somebody's whole financial situation, and from that extrapolate how they should handle other peoples' money.

People don't think about how little a car can possibly cost. In San Francisco, it seems that every third car you see is a BMW 3 series. If I asked the majority of my friends/coworkers who know nothing about cars what they thought about the owner's finances, they would state that that person is probably well-off. A used 3 series can be had for less than $15,000, around $12,000 if you get a much older one, less than the cost of a new, say, Mazda 3.

The 2005 Ferrari F430 your boss drives may have cost as little as $100,000, and your boss may have financed part or most of it. Good credit + an above zero net worth will get you very nice finance terms. If you looked at the car alone, you might deduce that your boss is quite wealthy, but in reality their net worth could be less than $25,000.

Even if you are into cars, a person's choice of vehicle is probably not going to give you any meaningful insight into their personal finances. Many people just like status symbols because they communicate how the person wants to be seen, not how they actually are.

Flashing status symbols in front of people who can't or don't realize they could obtain them is uncouth, though.

> The 2005 Ferrari F430 your boss drives may have cost as little as $100,000

Only $100K?! Holy fucknozzles, I'll take five of them!


That is about 1/3 of what its out-the-door price was at time of introduction. The $15,000 BMW 3 series is around 1/3-1/4 the original price, too. People generally assume brand new price = price that was paid by current owner. This contributes to the "flashy car = very wealthy" outlook, despite it not always being the case.

Well, $15K for a BMW? I'll take ten!!!1!

[eyes nearly roll out of head]

I guess you've never actually priced a car?

Low end for okay new cars is $10->30k. Most BMWs are quite nice, reliable cars with low maintenance costs. Acquiring a used one for the price of a new lesser car is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

Now, if you're snarking at spending $15k on something, I'm not sure what I can tell you.

If you've never spent $15k or more on something in a year, I guess you've owned neither a vehicle nor a house, and don't rent in a highly desirable part of a metropolitan area.

"Most BMWs are quite nice, reliable cars with low maintenance costs."

I like mine and it's reliable, but 'low maintenance costs', that I wouldn't say...

> I guess you've never actually priced a car?

Your guess is absolutely incorrect. The difference is that I don't consider $15K to be chump change.

By all means, though, do continue your condescending snobbery. It just makes everyone around you look all the better.

I drive a car with a current value of about $2500. The other family car is worth about $1500.

We're getting pretty close to trading up the lower-valued car for a 5-to-8-years-used one with around 100k miles on it, costing us about $13000-17000. That requires planning and savings, and maybe a bit of financing. $15k is serious business to a middle class household, and we would expect that purchase to last us at least another 5-8 years, whereupon we can pawn it off on a kid as their starter vehicle. We want to ride it all the way down the depreciation curve, then take whatever is left in it as a charitable tax deduction.

It definitely is not chump change, but it isn't entirely out of reach for the middle class, either. It is, however, well beyond the ken of lower-paid employees.

The range of $10k-30k for new cars is completely bogus. You are looking at a bare minimum of $12k for a glorified go-kart and $16-18k for a decent sedan with automatic (or CV) transmission. Those used B-Mers going for $15k are probably about the equivalent of a year-old Honda Civic. If you can afford that, you are well off, and very much above the median household income for the US.

Ancestor post shows a serious lack of knowledge of the economy outside the Bay Area. For huge numbers of people, the value of that car is still well above anything they might be able to get for themselves. Deprecating $15k as not being all that much money is somewhat insulting to all those people for whom such an amount would exceed their entire net worth. By that perspective, the guy driving the $100k car in to work, to fire some people, is lucky that so many people in the US respect other people's property, even if they are hugely self-centered assholes. $100k can buy an entire house in some places, complete with rooms, floors, and indoor plumbing.

Furthermore, if anyone with a net worth of $25k is driving a car valued at $100k, they have no business whatsoever making business decisions at any company that employs me. If they make shit decisions in their personal life, they will probably make worse decisions with other people's money.

>$15k is serious business to a middle class household

>If you can afford that, you are well off, and very much above the median household income for the US.

Agree on point #1, disagree on point #2: one of my points is that you don't need to have 15k cash-on-hand to drive a car worth 15k, but driving said car makes you appear to be much wealthier than you are.

>Ancestor post shows a serious lack of knowledge of the economy outside the Bay Area.

Not at all. SF is just a good example because of the prevalence of "luxury" cars and "rich" people who don't actually own their surprisingly low-cost cars outright.

>If they make shit decisions in their personal life

This was my point exactly. Appearances can be massively deceiving, and in many cases, they actually are. Judging someone's financial situation based on the car they drive doesn't factor in their income, how much they're willing to spend each month on a car, and how much debt they're willing to take on for it. People do silly things. I think the combination of easy access to credit (i.e., debt) and "keeping up with the Jones" is to blame.

And a great point it is.

Given the nature of financing, and the nature of an automobile as an asset, I have to question the sanity of anyone obtaining a loan to buy any new car, which drops in resale value the instant you drive it off the dealer lot. If the car in question, new or used, retails for more than $25k, I no longer need to question; at that point, I know the person is insane.

If you can make a $25k down payment on a $100k car, you could pay cash for a $25k car and own it outright. The only reasons anyone should be taking a loan to buy a car are as follows:

1. Owning the car would increase that person's potential to earn disposable income to a greater extent than the loan costs would reduce it.

2. The person has no realistic means for saving up for the purchase price of any acceptable car without having such a car already.

The traditional, rational means of buying a new luxury car is to first buy the best beater you can afford at that moment, run it into the ground, and repeat that step until the money saved by driving beaters and junking them is enough to buy a reliable car that can eventually be resold. Then, you continue saving and trading in your old vehicle until you finally achieve the quality of vehicle that you desire. The best trade-in point is right at the end of the flat part of the maintenance cost bathtub curve for that car, at which point you buy the best car you can afford that is still a few years/miles away from that point.

In that light, all those people buying used BMW 3-series instead of new luxury cars are showing themselves to be somewhat prudent car buyers. But you still don't know if they gradually built up to it, paid in cash, or took a loan.

Even so, just about everyone middle class or lower will look at someone driving an obviously expensive car and instinctively think, "what an asshole." It's probably related to the deep-rooted primate instinct for judging fairness in social interactions. All the other monkeys hate the monkey that gets more bananas and doesn't share. That's really the primary reason to avoid ostentatious displays of wealth in public, especially in the wrong social contexts.

If he financed the whole car, hes paying ~ $1,400/month usd. Thats a mortgage payment for some people, and a months salary for for some people.

It's a conspicuous display of wealth either way; people can and do lease luxury cars, but only if they're trying to look richer than they are, which is still a cunt move.


> you're ignorant, unimaginative and small-minded

I'm sure you know that personal attacks are not allowed on Hacker News. Please don't do this.

Did you friend lay off a bunch of people making minimum wage while his luxury car was parked right in front of the workplace? If not, then it's not actually comparable.

Obvious troll is obvious.

I drive an expensive car. I've also put 40x the cost of the car into a company in order to pay people their salaries. The expensive car barely registers as noise on this budget. If I had to lay people off, that would still be true.

Someone who's never run a business can't understand that. I mean, they can 'realize', at a rational level; but they can never understand. Just like I can never understand what it's like to be a single dad (or mom, although that'd be physically impossible for me...) working a minimum wage job or whatever. (I guess this opens me up to be jumped upon with 'cry me a river, being a single parent is much harder than having a business' or whatever, which I have no interest discussing or grading; my point is that some (most?) things cannot be understood until one has lived them)

I've been through this same exact scenario before, twice. Once as a manager having to cut half my staff, another time as the leftover manager two years later. Both times for the same reason. The company got expand-itis, and started grabbing for more, more, more, and "hey let's be the pipes instead of servicing the stuff coming in and out".

This is a classic example of overextending a company. If this new vertical was that risky, then it should have been said every day to those people hired to do this job. "This is a new venture for this company and if it fails we can't support your role. Are you still interested?"

Oh, and the "I feel terrible" bit, as much as you may feel terrible, comes off as insulting to those you are sending home - good severance packages or not. If you really care about them, you give them complete transparency in what's happening WHILE it's happening, and give them the chance to correct the ship for you or get out. Holding on until you can hold on no longer and have to do a massive layoff is a huge failure.

>if you really care about them, you give them complete transparency in what's happening WHILE it's happening

To be fair, sometimes it's not always obvious that it's "happening". It can be a pretty tricky timing thing, and sometimes you try to hold on a bit too long, hoping to turn it around. But, maybe I missed a nuance in the post that you gleaned, which gave a better picture of the timing here.

On another note, maybe I'm old school, but a CEO dropping a bunch of f-bombs in a public forum just isn't professional, IMO. I think it's cool for companies to be edgy and non-corporate, but using language that is generally considered offensive shows a certain lack of appreciation for your position as a representative of your company, board, partners, customers and other stakeholders. This, as well as a lack of respect for an audience whose sensibilities almost certainly vary.

And, the repeated use of it in the phrase "I f*ed up" comes off as overdone to the point of disingenuousness and, oddly, maybe even a little narcissistic.

> The night before the layoffs, after talking with my cofounders and the Board, I called up each of the people who were going to be invited to remain with us and told them what was about to happen.

So the people who were not getting laid off found out before those who did? And they knew who was getting laid off too? That seems kind of wrong to me. Like I get that managers would know that, but why would everyone know that? I think the people affected by the layoffs should be the first to know, right?

When executing layoffs like this, the hardest thing _for the company_ is to make sure that the negativity from laying people off doesn't destroy the company completely.

Ben Horowitz has some interesting insights on this in this blog article: http://www.bhorowitz.com/the_right_way_to_lay_people_off

I think this is essentially just a better way to make sure that the people 42 floors really wanted to keep knew personally that they were important to the future of the company.

And reading the article again, all they told people is that they were staying, and what was going to happen the following day. They didn't say that the people staying were told who was going to actually get let go.

I think in the context of a pivot away from a failing business model, this move seems smart, not wrong. People affected by the layoffs are being let go - their happiness, in some sense, is definitely going to be impacted by the layoffs. But for those people staying, it seems like they really needed to go through some stuff, and I'm sure they all appreciated the heads up.

They probably wanted to know if the people invited to stay on would accept/reject. That would influence which persons were laid off.

Its basically call employee A and tell him/her. If A rejects the offer to stay then call employee B with the knowledge that B would have got fired if A had accepted.

Why? Seriously. Why do you feel that way?

It's already going to be a bad day for the people being laid off, why make it a nasty surprise for the people who are not being laid off as well?

I think I feel that way because my job status is incredibly personal information. For the person sitting in the desk across from me to know that I'm not going to have a job at the end of the day before I do strikes me as incredibly invasive. It also gives them an opportunity to tell people outside of work and to use that information against me before I even know about it should I happen to be in a dispute with them for any reason. I should know before someone not in my reporting chain that I'm going to lose my job, not after.

They're going to know one way or the other very soon. The focus of the CEO in this situation is continued operation and minimizing disruption - the people they plan to keep are more important for that and it's often necessary to get them on board before they start seeing their ashen-faced friends and coworkers collecting the stuff on their desks. It's not optimal for anyone but despite what this particular CEO wrote, the reality is the remaining people are the top priority.

This is pedantic, but there are lots of people outside of your reporting chain that will probably need to know about you losing your job before you... HR of course, but also IT and facilities, perhaps, if they need to have anything prepared for when you are let go.

Do you think some of the people who got the call might have talked with some of their friends who work at the company that didn't get the call? We are not talking about isolated silos.

That's a good point. My experiences might be unusual but for me it was quite normal to have some kind of communication channel that is not controlled by the company that includes all/most non-management employees. Or, for a bigger company, one per clique.

Layoffs or rumours of layoffs make that channel blow up with speculation and comparing notes.

Yeah I agree,

I saw a round of layoffs go by at a company I worked at that caught me by surprise. It always felt extremely disrespectful to me that I wasn't alerted beforehand. A simple heads up the night before would have done wonders.

They only knew they were staying not who was going..

How would the person sitting across you know you are not going to have a job... unless you talked...

Except for close friendships it is quite unlikely Person A who is staying knows who isn't.. no where did Jason mention that he volunteered info on who is going...

They were closing down a line of business that failed (the brokerage unit). It's not a stretch to think that people working on that project would be overwhelmingly more likely to be let go than those that weren't.

Nevertheless, I agree with a CEO giving the heads-up to the staff that's staying, in effect saying, "Look, we're having layoffs [tomorrow or later today] and I just want you to know that your role is safe and we value your continued contributions." That takes the anxiety away from that person without making any meaningful change in the privacy of the affected employees, especially if it's same-day, but evening before is also OK if timing doesn't permit same-day.

I've gone through a few at different places (including financial services post-LTCM and post-9/11) and there is no perfect way to handle it. People are losing their jobs; Americans have this weird tie-up between their job and their identity; when a bunch of people are losing their job for reasons other than incompetence/ineffectiveness, there's going to be a lot of butthurt. No way around it, and the CEO has to balance optimizing for those leaving with the ongoing health of the remaining business (lest more rounds follow). Everyone focuses on those leaving, which is normal, but if you don't leave a healthy company at the end of it, you might as well close it all down and lay more people/everyone off.

I think that these layoffs were made significantly less burdensome because of who was laid off -- i.e. real estate brokers.

Almost all real estate brokers in the non-tech world work as 1099 contractors anyway, paid completely on commission -- no salary and no benefits. This has always been the "standard" in real estate, and pretty much everyone gets into the brokerage business knowing that. Sure, there have been some innovative exceptions over the last couple of decades (limited-service residential brokerages like HelpUSell or Assist2Sell, for instance), but full-commission is the general rule.

So... you are a broker and you take a salary or semi-salary job with a tech start-up... You ought to realize that you are stepping outside the way your business normally operates. You are much more likely to be standing on shaky business ground, much more likely to be discarded when the boss changes his mind about the deal he signed (which happens in real estate all the time!).

Laid off from that company with the snazzy HN post "42 Floors is Hiring!" from a short time ago? If you are a competent broker, you have a career path available that has always been there and will be there for the foreseeable future-- back to being a commissioned salesperson. If you can produce sales, you can get a new spot quickly and without much hassle.

If it were any other demographic, the boss would have had a harder time.

I've survived layoffs 3 or 4 times (depending on how you count them).

I survived because I had some specific value to the company that the laidoff employees didn't have. This was a plus.

I now knew that I was a better candidate for better jobs.

So as soon as layoffs started, in my mind, I was already out the door, only now I had time to look for a better, more stable, job.

Each time, I found such a job and quickly left.

Side note: the first time I went through layoffs, people were zombies afterwards, even though most of the people who were gone were dead weight. There were enough people who were also let go who were covered under contract that we knew that there was the chance of more to come.

So it made sense to look for someplace else to go.

I've survived also, but deep down feel cheated of missing the incredibly generous severance. Oh, to be incompetent ...

Wally, the Dilbert character, was inspired by an engineer trying to get laid off.

> Wally was inspired by a coworker of creator Scott Adams at Pacific Bell. In Seven Years of Highly Defective People and What Would Wally Do, Adams explained that his co-worker at Pacific Bell had made a bad judgment call, so management froze him at his position and pay scale rather than fire him. Then Pacific Bell started offering a generous severance package for the lowest ten-percent of workers, so the coworker, knowing management had hinted that he should leave the company and knowing it was better to leave with money than without, had an incentive to become a low performing worker. Adams was inspired by this co-worker's serious dedication toward this goal, and the concept of a completely shameless employee with no sense of loyalty became Wally.


Generous severance, hilarious. At one gig I worked they gave the dead weight something like 6 months pay 4 months medical and quite a few refused it while some of the more competent employees were volunteering to take it, and being denied the opportunity. It was a SNL skit situation.

"For those of you who choose to take it, the severance package will be...."

"Wow. Can I take it?" says I.

"No, you're a co-op."

I left a job to go back to grad school, and then less than a year later, they closed the office and gave out extremely generous severances that would have probably paid for a year or more of school. Boy, did I feel like an idiot. I'll probably never get over that horrible timing.

The last time I survived layoffs, it took me longer to find a new job than my laid-off peers.

I'll always be grateful to have a place to go that sends me a check for the privilege of my company, even if I hate going there.

It always feels bittersweet. I recently switched jobs, but just before I left the company laid off 40 people. We all knew it was coming, so I've been searching (though really more like making a decision, i had about 4 offers to choose from) for a few months at that point. A large part me was pretty disappointed when my project was the only one out of 3 to survive the cuts. I ended up leaving 2.5 weeks afterwards.

The brokerage model failed because the brokerage model itself is inherently flawed as a business model. Nowhere does this become more apparent than in the real estate industry. Its natural inclination is toward Bernie Madoff-like pyramid, where consolidation and cartel-like cooperation among "a few" (the Brokers and Agents) hurts "the many". Agents are forced into paying brokers for the "privilege" of association and access to the MLS... agents pass those costs on to clients by forcing those clients to sign on the dotted lines ("closing the deal"). Clients end up paying inflated commissions, as each person (or entity) up the chain takes their cut in larger and larger portions.

42Floors was trying to be the Redfin of commercial real estate? Well of course that doesn't solve the problems created by the existence of brokerages, especially when we're talking about renting or leasing a space, where ROI is already ridiculously negative from the get-go. Where commissions are just unnecessary garbage expenses. Why would it ever have been a good idea to involve brokerages at all?

We’re going to step decisively away from that model now and focus only on providing a great search experience. We’ll leave the deal closing to the professionals.

Over time, we’ll develop our new business model, which will be based around premium listing opportunities for those that want greater exposure to tenants

So the idea is to package the potential client list from a "better search engine" and sell it to those poor, struggling brokerages like it's insider information? Sounds like the MLS on steroids. Doesn't make much sense.

Extending health care coverage for three months was extremely nice of him to do for the people he had to let go. I can't imagine being in that situation.

Great thing about having an EU passport is that this situation doesn't even come up.

Yeah, that struck me the most of this. It's one thing to talk on and on about how it sucks you have to lay people off, it's another to actually give them something, like a meaningful severance.

The part of this story I liked the most was the team's reaction; gathering up their desks into one part of the office, and breaking down the old desks that were now unused. Seems like a kind of mourning process, and makes me feel like this team must be really special to be a part of.

Couldn't help but notice that after such a serious post, he still ended with a link to the homepage that's entirely for SEO purposes.

(The link to the homepage in the final paragraph is phrased intentionally to boost search rankings for keywords like "search for office.")

A always, B be, C closing

Linking / link-text from your own domain doesn't yield any SEO benefit, so he's really just trying to redirect traffic from the post to folks interested in office space (or exploring the site).

Yes it does. Pages are ranked based on both the domain's merit and the individual page's merit.

I love the transparency here, especially for the situation. Maybe this could be good for the people who were laid off (closure?). Taking good care of your employees even after they are gone/admitting your mistakes goes way farther in marketing than some think.

I work for a company of 41 teleworking employees, and we have avoided 42Floors.

We think they offer a great service, but we disagree with the CEO's attitude and view of his employees, and the world. This concern kind of began with the black hole phone number for recruiters. It seemed like overkill, and kind of a dick thing to do.

Sometimes just because a company offers a great service is not the best reason to use them. We disagree with the CEO and his attitude, so we chose not to ever use their service.

Same here, when we were looking for a new office last year, I knew about 42 floors but the limited information I knew about the ceo and the company was enough for us to steer clear of them. Im still not sure what great service they actually offer, its basically Craigslist for offices, not any different than Craigslist itself.

We've had great luck finding both our offices on CL and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for office space then have to stroke this guys ego anymore.

He should have spent time talking about the severance. Honestly, if I was going through a layoff, that's all I'd care about at that point.

spent time talking about the severance.

Often severance can be negotiated on an individual basis. Typically you start with some base amount (4 weeks + 2 weeks for every year at the company), but that can vary for different roles. e.g. when a CEO is fired, they typically get larger severance packages than bottom-of-the-org-chart employees (because, try putting out a job request: "Will be CEO for food." World doesn't work that way.)

Also, severance payments+benefits aren't some magic gift from a company—it's a legal contract giving you monetary compensation in return for things like not disparaging the company in the future. Any time a company tries to bind your future actions outside of employment, you have room for negotiation.

How do you negotiate your severance? I don't see the personbeing terminated as having much leverage. Are companies really that afraid that you'll bad mouth them? I'm struggling to imagine that conversation:

"Here is 8 weeks compensation, in return for signing this non-disparagement agreement"

"No, I want 12 weeks compensation or I won't sign your agreement"

Yup, basically right. It is still a legal document too. Typically severance documents will have a deadline to be signed which is after your official termination date. You're fully entitled to not sign anything at your termination so you can consult with counsel. If the stakes are high enough, a proper employment lawyer can advise you on proper next steps given your severance documents (what you're entitled to for their asks (non-competes? confidentiality? agreeing to company-run arbitration in any future matters?, etc).

But, once you counter, they have the option to re-consider their entire offer, including perhaps withdrawing it completely if they consider the transaction no longer worth it. Then you're still dismissed and get nothing.

All of this is assuming policies under american at-will employment. Any other contracts or government regulations can alter matters. Some countries even have mandatory severance of a year or more when fired, but those countries tend to not have great economic growth prospects (that's where Mitt Romney once said "I like being able to fire people" with the implication of otherwise dead weight just sits around knowing it can do nothing and still get paid).

I got hit in the layoffs at Halliburton here in Houston back in January, and at no time was "don't disparage the company" ever made a condition of accepting severance. In fact, the only thing I had to sign said "I've returned all of the company property I might have", and that was it.

Good point. At large companies, sometimes they don't include it for non-executives. At smaller companies, it should probably fall on everybody since each voice carries more weight and everybody would have more insight into the actual workings of the company.

It's all about making a legal guard against employees trying to "retaliate" over being suddenly released from employment against their will. At large employers, edge nodes in the employment graph can't do much harm to the overall company because they probably don't have insight into the deeper machinations of what's really happening outside of their compartmentalized roles (employer->employee power dynamics are fun).

I just have to say, 4 weeks + 2 weeks per year at the company would be amazing. I get one week per year.

If I worked 11 years, I get 11 weeks. Under your plan, I'd get 26, aka half a year. I think I need to find a new job.

"and we supported them all the same."

What does this mean?

"I wouldn’t fault them if they chose to leave."

What would it mean if you did?

Nothing, it just sounds good.

I don't get all the bad sentiment. It's written respectfully and he clearly assigns blame to himself. I completely disagree with the whole "it makes people that got layed off feel worse so don't post it"/"this is too selfish" line of reasoning. He's a human being, too. It's probably therapeutic to post his point of view.

And personally I'd rather read this blog post after being layed off than nothing at all.

+it seems like they handled the layoffs pretty well

    > he clearly assigns blame to himself
I found the amount he said "it was all my fault" over and over again to make the whole thing sound insincere, but I guess there's no pleasing everyone.

I've only fired people before, never laid people off, but where I'm from the process is long and drawn out, and you have many many meetings that need to focus on a person's failings. Being able to say "it's not you, it's me", and sending someone on their way with generous severance sounds like a bucket load more fun than having to document - in excruciating detail and face to face - why someone you like as a person is incompetent and needs to go.

That's a different dynamic. Consciously managing someone out is very different than taking potentially star performers and laying them off for nothing you can attribute to them.

This is a great way to handle a bad situation.

tl;dr summary: "We figured out that we will still need to hire in the future, so we crafted this post to get the message out that it's ok to still come work for us- should things not work out again, you can rest assured we will feel bad again."

I went through a layoff round once. The company was about 40 people and I worked in a small room with 3 others, including my supervisor to whom I reported. Everyone being laid off got notified in a private meeting at once.

Everybody but me in that room got laid off and the next day I was in the office by myself with no instructions, no tasks and nobody to report to! I was a young guy without a ton of experience so it was bizarre and I didn't know what to do.

I did busywork for about 2 months until I joined one of my former co-workers at a new place. Two weeks later the former company shut down, letting everybody know by posting a sign on the front door that the business was closed.

Were the employees aware of the risks of their role? Did they know that success was uncertain and that failure would mean termination? Did they know their severance package when they agreed to take on the risky role?

If the answer is yes to all of these questions, than no wrong was done. It's just business, and they knew what they were in for. The company did the right thing.

I've both had to lay off people and been laid off myself. The former, believe it or not, is much harder than the later.

I know what is going through his mind when he spoke of breaking down desks because I've had a similar experience.

If there's a bigger gut punch for an entrepreneur, I don't know what it could possibly be.

While this sentiment and gesture is appreciable, this is also a potential example of rackless irresponsible hiring. When you hire people, you better damn make sure there would have something to do for them in foreseeable future as much as possible. Otherwise, go hire contractors. There is always some risks involved for employees however you don't want to bring in ton of people just to execute on one specific strategy with no backup plan if that strategy failed. Hiring should be sustainable in the sense that company should be making enough money to support all that extra hiring. If project A failed, we can start working on project B and so on. If that is not the case, candidates should be informed at the interview that if the project that they would be working on fails then they would be out of job.

FYI you're probably getting downvoted because of gratuitous negativity, an ungenerous reading of the situation, and unsubstantiated moral claims. It's pretty hard to read the future and the CEO in question fully admits he fucked up.

But don't forget, when you write a piece about one of the hardest times in growing your business, for the benefits of a community of people who could really benefit to learn from those who have been through it, when it's possibly the hardest thing you could ever write but you do it anyway because it's important, nevertheless, someone on HN will shit on you for doing it.

It's one thing to be "negative"/"shit on it" and quite another to be direct and objective. I feel there is a new fashion in our industry where "I screwed up" emails are becoming quite common. In fact it is being expected from every leader who made mistake like Japanese want CEOs to publicly cry. The problem with this whole new fashion is that these tears/"I screwed up" emails are often empty and/or has no objective value other than asking for forgiveness. These emails are starting to almost look like template without any actual retrospection about real root causes and what someone else should do differently in future. In 42floors post, that's exactly the problem: there is absolutely no retrospection about what he could have done differently or what others should do differently. It's just plain and simple "I screwed up/it was the hardest thing/it hurts my heart" template. It's almost as if these leaders are suggesting that it was just bad luck, here's my tears and now let's move on. While all these regret and emotions are commendable, I fail to see single thing that CEO has mentioned as his learning on what he could have done differently. From his post my interpretation was that they hired whole bunch of guys to execute on single strategy, without long term feasibility and without disclosing the risk that failure of that one strategy would mean loss of jobs. Now that's something they could have done differently.

No way. Three 'standard' lessons:

1. When you hire, what's the likelihood that you'll want to pay for the skillset 1-2 years from now (= the startup's runway), and does the budget support it?

(Corollary: experiments are planned. A 3 month experiment that results in mass firings is either flawed, not actually an experiment, or sociopathic.)

2. Communicate #1 during the hiring process.

3. As an employee, ask about the above.

I hope that everyone went in with eyes wide open with respect to the above questions. If that was the case, this shouldn't have been so bad. If it wasn't... I'm curious what the board meetings were like.

> I cried and many of them cried. It was emotional for everyone. Some were angry and some were already focused on what to do next.

I don't find this behaviour particularly galvanizing in a leader. Your feelings and tears aren't worth much to me but your business acumen is. I'd prefer you spent more time analyzing the business strategy that apparently lacked careful scrutiny and cold logical evaluation so we could have avoided this situation altogether. Give me the Steve Jobs and Larry Ellisons of the world so we can stop the group crying/healing session and get back to work innovating and generating wealth.

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