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A year later: 3 timeless employee experience lessons from Better.com’s Zoom layoff

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December 6, 2021. A day that will live in infamy for 900 Better.com employees laid off in a Zoom call.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? Watch this 142-sec video.

Yep, we thought the same thing when we saw it too. 💔

But let’s not dwell on the past. What can you learn from CEO Vishal Garg’s mistakes a year ago? Here are 3 lessons from our employee experience experts.

1. Don’t accuse or blame your employees for poor company performance… Duh

Just a day after his disastrous appearance on Zoom, CEO Vishal Garg doubled down in a tirade against the outgoing employees (yes, the ones he just laid off).

“You guys know that at least 250 of the people terminated were working an average of 2 hours a day while clocking in 8 hours+ a day in the payroll system? They were stealing from you and stealing from our customers who pay the bills that pay our bills. Get educated.”

He also threatened remaining employees and said he’ll be watching their productivity closely.

Yep, you read that right. The situation almost seems out of a movie, doesn’t it?

For most company leaders like you, it’s common sense not to do what Garg did. Not only is it unnecessary, but it’s nasty.

If you have the displeasure of laying off employees, do so gracefully. Even if you let them go for reasons, many of your remaining employees are close friends with them.

Don’t drive a wedge between alumni and current teammates. Most companies can’t handle an internal culture war – let alone any divisions – while growing.

Hopefully, this lesson goes without saying.

2. You can’t “lead by fear” & expect employees to follow blindly

Something wasn’t right.

The onslaught of events caused Better.com investors to suspend the CEO and review his leadership style – but just for a month.

During his timeout, more employees came forward to share their experiences with Garg. One worker said he would “threaten employees to work harder, faster and not be lazy. But there was never clarity on what the consequences might be.”

Ufffpphhh.

 

Leadership is being clear on your mission and company values. And rallying the troops who share the same vision for the future.

Leadership is not scaring your followers into behaving and working a certain way.

3. Have sympathy for those losing their livelihoods

Change is hard. Your response to it may be even harder. But please, for the love of goodness, have some compassion.

Garg’s emotionless approach to layoffs rightfully ticked off employees – and the rest of the world.

Compare his approach to the masterclass that was Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, in 2020. As the pandemic took hold, the short-term home rental platform laid off 1900 workers – 25% of the company.

It was Chesky’s supportive attitude that got the headlines this time.

  • He bridged the gap – He encouraged remaining employees to thank, celebrate and support the laid-off employees. He didn’t allow a wedge to form between those affected and those remaining.
  • He was grateful – Chesky thanked employees for all their work and reminded them the company’s performance wasn’t their fault. Noting the company’s success, he acknowledged Airbnb wouldn’t be where it is without their contributions.
  • He was helpful – He offered a plan to help employees find a great new job. Connecting alumni, linking resources and allowing those laid off to keep their computers, Chesky genuinely wanted them to find new employment that satisfied them.

Now that’s employee experience done right. From the very top.

Need help refining your employee experience to better match your missions, vision and values? We’ve got you.

Collabo XD has helped institutions large and small, nonprofits and community groups create memorable employee experiences. We can help you too.

Get started by contacting us.

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