Here’s a case of bad decisions becoming a public relations problem for Twitter. The fast-growing technology company decided to make layoffs – which is a fact of life in business – yet the way they notified – or rather, did not notify – those being laid off was handled terribly.
He tweeted they were being fired – with a link to a letter, and noted “We are doing this with the utmost respect for each and every person. Twitter will go to great lengths to take care of each individual by providing generous exit packages and help finding a new job.”
That’s nice of them, but some of those affected found out they were no longer employed by being unable to access their Twitter email accounts – where interestingly enough, they were notified about impending layoffs – not necessarily about their own layoff.
One employee, Bart Teeuwisse, posted a picture of his email account not being available and said he was apparently laid off – he later said the company had left a voicemail message about that too. But even if the employees got the email or the phone call, that’s still a highly impersonal way of letting people know you are upending their lives.
Teeuwisse works from home; on his LinkedIn account he’s listed as a Senior Software Engineer working at Twitter since 2011. His public posting served him to some extent as he’s received several employment offers in reply to his post on Twitter. The press, of course, is all over this story, several of them posting on Teeuwisse’s Twitter account wanting a chance to talk about what happened. That’s not a good sign for Twitter.
When people are losing their jobs – over 300 of them in fact, it does not equate to the “utmost respect” to let them find out in such impersonal ways. And when you extend that to a company that is built around getting messages out, it sends a negative message about the abilities of the company as well.
Obviously a company does not lay that many people off without taking some time to make decisions, set things in motion, etc. So what went wrong? What could have been done better or differently? It might have taken a bit more time and effort on the company’s part, but they could certainly have notified people in batches – arranging for video conferencing sessions with a few of the work from home employees at a time, answering questions and other overtures of respect. The severance package is great, but making this kind of move is not just bad for your public image. It’s also bad for employee morale.
Some of those employees remaining surely feel shaky and even if this move was a one-time decision, and assurances are made, time will be needed before all of the rank and file recuperate from this poorly communicated decision.