Leaders Want to Know How to Lay People Off Without Backlash

As videos of layoff experiences flood TikTok, corporate America is seeking guidance to navigate dismissals without provoking social media fury.

With candid videos dissecting every detail, from CEOs’ apologetic notes to awkwardly timed announcements, businesses, especially smaller tech firms, are attempting to avoid the repercussions of a public relations disaster, Bloomberg reported.

Related: Woman Goes Viral After Recording Her Disastrous Call With HR After Being Let Go: ‘They Tried to Gaslight You’

Onwards HR, a startup specializing in handling layoffs smoothly, including automating severance and promoting collaboration between HR, legal, and financial units, saw its customer base soar by 300% in the past year. “They’re like, can you tell us how to do it so that doesn’t happen to us?” Sarah Rodehorst, co-founder and CEO of Onwards HR, told the outlet. “With social media, everybody’s watching.”

And with nearly 25,000 tech workers laid off in the first weeks of 2024 alone, per NPR, there’s no shortage of content. In January, Brittany Pietsch went viral on the platform after her nine-minute recording of being let go from computer and network security company Cloudflare received more than 2 million views.

@brittanypeachhh Original creator reposting: brittany peach cloudflare layoff. When you know you’re about to get laid off so you film it 🙂 this was traumatizing honestly lmao #cloudflare #techlayoffs #tech #layoff ♬ original sound – Brittany Pietsch

When HR gave a vague reason for her dismissal, Pietsch pushed back, saying, “I disagree that I haven’t met performance expectations. I really need an answer and an explanation.” Social media users commended Pietch’s composure in the face of “gaslighting” and on “such little” notice.

Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince, who wrote on social media platform X that the company let go of roughly 40 out of 1,500 workers in Pietsch’s round, admitted that the company doesn’t always “hire perfectly.”

Digital media manager Joni Bonnemort’s layoff video, posted to TikTok last year, racked up 1.4 million views, with commenters lamenting the fact that she received “no severance” and that companies require two weeks’ notice while they can “fire you that day.”

@joni_ray Done and done. That was fun. Unemployment here I come. For now. #laidoff #laidofftiktok #corporatetiktok #corporatelayoffs #corporateamerica #capitalism #jobloss #recession2023 ♬ original sound – Joni Bonnemort

Related: Tech CEOs Are to Blame for Mass Layoffs: Analysis | Entrepreneur

Naturally, the way a company approaches layoffs can have a significant impact on its reputation.

“You don’t want those you just laid off to go now splatter all over Glassdoor or somewhere else how horrible you are,” Eric McNulty, associate director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative at Harvard University, told CNBC, noting that mishandled layoffs can also be detrimental to a company’s “alumni network” and future hiring pool.

Leaders navigating layoffs should be straightforward and transparent, communicate with empathy, give ample details, and bear in mind remaining workers’ concerns, the outlet reported.


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