The head of a US company was criticized after firing around 900 members of his staff in a single Zoom call.
“If you’re on this call, you’re part of the unfortunate group that gets fired,” said Vishal Garg, chief executive of mortgage company Better.com, during the call, which was later uploaded to social media.
Comments on social media said it was “cold”, “tough” and “a horrible move”, especially in the run-up to Christmas.
“The last time I did it [this] I cried, ”Mr. Garg told the staff during the call.
“I wish the news were different. I wish we were thriving,” he said. This time his tone was measured and he referred to the notes on the desk in front of him.
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Mr. Garg said that staff performance and productivity and market changes are behind the mass layoffs of what he claimed to be 15% of Better.com’s workforce.
He did not mention the $ 750 million (£ 565 million) cash infusion Better.com received from Softbank, the Japanese firm and key investor, last week.
Better.com chief finance officer Kevin Ryan told the BBC: “Having to conduct layoffs is heartbreaking, especially at this time of year.”
He added, however, that having “a strong budget and a small, concentrated workforce” was necessary to address the “radically evolving home ownership market.”
Vishal Garg’s announcement to the staff
“Hi everyone, thanks for joining. I come to you with no great news. The market has changed, as you know, and we need to move with it to survive so that hopefully we can continue to thrive and fulfill our mission.
“This is not news you want to hear, but it was ultimately my decision and I wanted you to hear it from me. It was a really, really challenging decision to make. This is the second time in my career that I am doing this. and I don’t want to. Last time I did it I cried. This time I hope to be stronger. But we’re firing about 15% of the company for [a number of] reasons: the market, efficiency and performance and productivity.
“If you are on this call, you are part of the unfortunate group that is about to be fired. Your employment here is ended. Effective immediately.”
Ann Francke, managing director of the UK’s Chartered Management Institute, criticized the way the staff were laid off.
“Bad managers will severely fire people, virtually or in person,” he told the BBC’s Today program. “But the callous way it was conducted was just magnified by the fact that it was done in this kind of virtual and rather numb style.
“What we know in the pandemic is that empathy is important.”
Better.com, which aims to use technology to make the home buying process “faster and more efficient,” confirmed earlier this year that it plans to go public. A deal is likely to value the business – which Mr Garg founded in 2015 – between $ 6.9 billion (£ 5.2 billion) and $ 7.7 billion.
Ms. Francke suggested that the way Mr. Garg fired his staff could have an effect on Better.com’s future business.
“This is a customer-facing business, they’re trying to provide people with mortgages. I’m sure a lot of customers or potential customers are thinking, ‘Heck, if they treat their employees this way, I wonder how they treat their customers?’ . “
‘I could not’
After the shot, Fortune magazine said that Mr. Garg was the author of a previously written anonymous blog post accusing his company’s fired staff of “stealing” from their colleagues and clients by being unproductive and working only two hours a day, while claiming for eight or more .
Mr. Garg’s management style was also criticized before, after a email he sent to staff that was obtained from Forbes last year.
In the e-mail, Mr. Garg wrote: “You are TOO DAMNLY SLOW. You are a pack of SILLY DOLPHINS … SO STOP IT. STOP IT. BAST IT NOW. YOU’RE EMBEDDING.”
Reported by Business Insider that after firing 900 employees, Mr. Garg held a subsequent “town hall” meeting with the remaining workers.
Better.com had recruited a large number of employees during the pandemic. But Garg reportedly told his staff: “Today we recognize that we have hired and hired the wrong people and, in doing so, we have failed.
“I failed. I haven’t been disciplined in the past 18 months.”
Gemma Dale, a lecturer in employment law and business studies at Liverpool John Moores University in the UK, said “it’s not a way to lead an organization.”
A mass layoff like this would not be legal in the UK, he said.
“Just because you can do it in America doesn’t mean you should,” he added.
“There are ways to do these things that, even in difficult conditions, are empathetic and dignified.”
It could harm the company and its people, he said, as “existing employees will look at how the company treats people as a sign of how it will treat them in the future.”
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