When Better.com’s CEO fired 900 workers over Zoom at the end of 2021, the backlash was swift and fierce.
However, the concept of mass Zoom firings has since become a commonplace in today’s distributed workforce. For instance, Carvana recently fired 2,500 employees via Zoom and email, while fintech firm Klarana laid off 700 staffers using a pre-recorded message.
The sudden wave of layoffs comes just months after corporations went on hiring sprees to meet skyrocketing demand in society’s self-proclaimed post-pandemic era. But now that demand is waning due to inflation’s burden and companies’ profit margins are slimming, leaders are realizing they may have overhired.
As a result, virtual layoffs have slowly become the norm despite many employees’ viewing them as cold and callous.
“A quick Zoom call attended by all the people a company is targeting to lay off takes five or 10 minutes, compared to other approaches that would involve more individualized meetings and in-person,” said Jennifer A Chatman, associate dean for academic affairs at Haas School of Business at University of California, Berkeley.
“Of course, the key here is ‘short-run’. While companies might see this approach as somehow advantageous from an efficiency perspective, it is problematic in all sorts of ways.”
While virtual layoffs may certainly be part of a remote or hybrid company’s culture moving forward, there is still a way to approach these firings with more personalization.
For instance, informing a group of employees about restructuring could be the most efficient way to relay this message, but it’s essential for managers to have one-on-one meetings with workers who are impacted. Offering them an explanation and even recommendations for their next step is critical during virtual layoffs.
“Hiring, training and working with people is always personal – we never have mass hirings,” said Nicholas Bloom, professor of economics at Stanford University. “Firing and layoffs should be the same.”