Remote work

Friday Water Cooler: Zoom layoffs are here to stay

However, the increased use of virtual layoffs raises serious questions for HR.
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

HR Brew keeps you effective in the fast-changing business environment.

Here’s one side effect of the remote work revolution: When employees work remotely full-time, they tend to get laid off remotely too. Perhaps you’ve noticed that layoffs administered over Zoom (Better.com) or job offers rescinded en masse over email (Coinbase) have been making headlines since the pandemic began. And just last month, online auto dealer Carvana laid off 2,500 employees, some of whom were notified over Zoom.

Jill Hauwiller, an executive coach and owner and principal at the leadership consultancy Leadership Refinery, told Axios that remote layoffs aren’t likely to go away soon. “With distributed teams and hybrid workplaces, virtual terminations are likely to become more common,” she told the website.

Which raises the question: If your organization is remote and HR is faced with the necessity of carrying out a headcount reduction over the internet, how do you go about it in a way that won’t inspire laid-off workers to write scathing rebukes on Glassdoor or to share their experiences with friends, family, or, worse, reporters (wink, wink)?

There are clearly ways not to approach it: Better.com CEO Vishal Garg embroiled his company in a PR fiasco when he took to an “anonymous professional network” to accuse some of the laid-off employees of “stealing” because, he alleged, they were “working an average of 2 hours a day while clocking in 8 hours+ a day in the payroll system,” Fortune first reported. (He took leave from the company late last year but returned in January.)

Hedda Bird, an organizational consultant, told HR Brew last December that you don’t need to make a bad thing worse. Any “messages need to be given either one to one, or in very small groups,” she explained. One key approach is emphasizing that decisions are often catalyzed by broader, extraneous circumstances. “This [decision] is not about you personally, it’s not a judgment on you, it is not a statement about you.”

Hey you. Yes, YOU. There in the back. Has your organization discussed how you might carry out layoffs over video? If so, has there been any discussion about how to take the sting out of unwanted news delivered over video chat? Join the discussion right here on HR Brew’s LinkedIn page, or reply to this email with your thoughts.—SB

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Email [email protected] or DM @SammBlum on Twitter. For completely confidential conversations, ask Sam for his number on Signal.

HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

HR Brew keeps you effective in the fast-changing business environment.