Not every business is booming, so it's no shock that a company would have to lay off a significant portion of its workforce. Better.com CEO Vishal Garg recently announced a layoff of about 9 percent of his company's workforce, which amounted to around 900 people. Having not seen the company books, I can only assume that this is the right financial decision. But how he handled it is all wrong.
Should you ever have to lay anyone off, take Garg's example to heart. Here are five ways Garg messed up:
1. Mass notification
Losing a job can be emotionally traumatic, and that's before you factor in the financial and social implications. So consider the humanity of your approach, and do try to make moves on an individual basis.
Each of these 900-plus employees had a manager. The manager should be the one to deliver the bad news. One on one. If the manager is also part of the group, it should be the manager's manager. Yes, sometimes it makes sense to tell an entire team at once, but that would be one group of people reporting to the same manager, not everyone in the company.
2. Termination by Zoom meeting
"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," said Garg, according to CNN Business.
Terminations should always be in person when possible. It makes it more human. When people work from home, Zoom may be the most logical means, but again, it needs to be one on one or small groups at the most.
How did Better.com verify that everyone who was supposed to be there was there? What if someone was sick, or knew that their co-worker was going on the meeting and said, "Hey, Bob, I'm going to miss this meeting. Can you tell me what is up?"
Perhaps the company has great tracking and knew that everyone who was supposed to be there was there, but a massive Zoom meeting isn't set up for this. You need documentation that each person heard the news and understands it. You can't get that via a mass videoconference.
3. Focusing on the wrong feelings
"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," said Garg to the people he just notified.
Yes, laying off people is difficult. I've been involved in literally thousands of layoffs and they all suck. But when you tell someone their job is ending immediately, you don't get to pull the sympathy card and say, "This is so hard for me!" No. Focus on the people who don't know how they will pay their mortgage.
4. December layoffs
As I said, I haven't seen Better.com's books, but I have seen news reports that the company secured $750 million "sooner than expected" from its backers. Firing people right before Christmas is cruel--particularly when there is another option.
5. Calling employees dumb dolphins
Garg did not do this in conjunction with the layoff; he did it a year ago. But it is still a no-no when it comes to terminating people with compassion. According to an email obtained by Forbes, Garg wrote:
HELLO -- WAKE UP BETTER TEAM. 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.
If you have a problem with an employee's behavior or performance, you address that one on one. This email rant let the entire company know that Garg didn't care about his employees. That continued to play out as he focused on his trauma in laying people off rather than the trauma of what it's like to be an employee losing her job.