Need to Fire 900 People? Maybe Don’t Use Zoom
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- There are few good ways to lay off a bunch of people, but there are many, many bad ways. Firing 900 people over Zoom is probably one of them.
In the third season of “Silicon Valley,” Gavin Belson, fictional founder of the tech giant Hooli, calls an all-hands meeting and opens his remarks by saying, “I didn’t think it would be this hard, but goodbyes are always hard, especially when I am the one saying goodbye.” It sounds like he’s gearing up to announce his own resignation, but instead he lays off an entire division. He adds, mournfully, “It is I who must remain and bear the heavy burden of their failure. It is my fault. I trusted them to get the job done.”
Compare and contrast this mass sacking with the one performed last week by Vishal Garg — CEO of Better.com, a real-life fintech mortgage unicorn worth an estimated $6.9 billion — who called a hasty Zoom meeting with 900 employees to invite them all to no longer work for the company.
“It’s been a really, really challenging decision to make,” Garg says at the start of a video posted to TikTok (content warning for many curse words). “This is the second time in my career that 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.”
After getting the important matter of his own feelings out of the way, Garg says he is laying off about 15% of the company “for a number of reasons: the market, efficiency [pause] and [longer pause] performances [a pause so long you think he might have fallen asleep] and productivity.”
This was apparently just the prow of a submerged ocean liner of emotion Garg felt about the laid-off employees. These were revealed in an anonymous blog post, in which Garg called them a bunch of slackers who only worked two hours a day and were “stealing” from the company, according to Fortune. In a post-firing meeting, Insider reports, Garg told remaining employees he should have canned the others long ago.
In fact, anybody working for Garg might have first gotten a clue about his judgment of their skills last year, when Forbes reports he emailed them: “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.”
Maybe it’s just me, but if I ever got an email from my boss calling me a DUMB DOLPHIN, I might just keep my resume updated from then on, maybe make some LinkedIn connections with Sea World.
Anyway, after the “reasons” came Garg’s real gut-punch: “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.” Please see the linked TikTok video above for a flavor of the employee response (again, so many curse words).
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Mark Gongloff is an editor with Bloomberg Opinion. He previously was a managing editor of Fortune.com, ran the Huffington Post's business and technology coverage, and was a columnist, reporter and editor for the Wall Street Journal.
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