Laid-off employees take to TikTok

Rather than taking job cuts personally, employees are sharing them publicly, Bloomberg reported Feb. 5. 

In the wake of the highly visible, large-scale tech layoffs that marked 2023, more employees are speaking out on how such cuts are handled. Company memos are screenshotted and shared to X; layoff conversations are recorded, then published to TikTok. 

In one notable example, Brittany Pietsch, former account executive at cybersecurity firm Cloudflare, pressed "record" as she joined a virtual meeting with two of the company's human resources representatives. She repeatedly questioned the reps, asking for specific examples of lackluster performance, which HR could not provide. The impersonal nine-minute interaction went viral on social media, gaining more than 2 million views on TikTok alone — and attracting a number of critics. 

Matthew Prince, Cloudflare's CEO, responded on X: "The video is painful for me to watch. Managers should always be involved. HR should be involved, but it shouldn't be outsourced to them, No employee should ever actually be surprised they weren't performing. We don't always get it right." 

He continued, "Any healthy org needs to get the people who aren't performing off. That wasn't the mistake here. The mistake was not being more kind and humane as we did."

Conversations that once occurred behind closed doors could now spread like wildfire, leading companies to zero in on layoff etiquette. The "layoffs logistics" startup Onwards HR told Bloomberg its customer base has grown 300% in the last year. 

"They're like, can you tell us how to do it so that doesn't happen to us?" said Sarah Rodehorst, co-founder and chief executive of Onwards HR. "With social media, everybody’s watching."

Some tips to handle job cuts gracefully, according to the publication: 

  • Use a "natural, warm and empathetic" tone of voice when delivering the news;

  • Offer a healthy runway from conversation to termination, allowing ample pay, benefits and time while employees ask questions and navigate next steps;

  • Handle the topic with genuine sensitivity, no matter the scale. As one executive put it on a tape shown at Hewlett-Packard in the '90s, "If you don't stay up all night sick to your stomach, then you're not doing it right." 

At least nine hospitals and health systems have laid off workers since Jan. 1. View the evolving list here

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