Bosses should absolutely show both sympathy and empathy in this situation, but not make such awful, shocking news about themselves. Unfortunately, Garg didn’t get this memo, and we all got to see him lament – in this unprofessional-in-every-way presentation of sorts – “This is the 2nd time in my career I’m doing this, and I do not, do not, want to do this. The last time I did it I cried. This time I hope to be stronger,” he went on to say, with literally no emotion whatsoever. We’d bet that collectively 900 people screamed in their heads either “JUST TELL US!!!” or “OH!! YOU CRIED?! REALLY, DUDE… I’M PROBABLY LOSING MY JOB AND YOU’RE GOING TO TRY NOT TO CRY?!” because they could probably already tell what was coming.
“If you’re on this call, you are part of the unlucky group being laid off. Your employment here is terminated effective immediately.” Conveying terrible, unexpected news that these 900 workers are now without an income, delivered in a massively public way that can be recorded and shared with about 5 mouse clicks or screen taps – which it most certainly was – is not the way to go. We wonder what the odds are that just 1 out of 900 people would think to record it, but even without the chances calculated, common sense dictates that it would be very likely to happen. As almost anyone could guess, the Zoom recording was put on social media and went viral shortly thereafter.
The speed and ferocity of the backlash was so intense that just 3 days after the call, the CEO issued an apology; and 2 days after he apologized, it was announced that the board asked him to take some time off immediately, and would be initiating a review of the leadership and culture of the company. Oddly enough, that news was delivered via email (as far as we know), but we really hope that the board of directors learned a valuable lesson from the Zoom debacle and actually called to speak with him personally as well.
In another example of Garg being no stranger to controversy, he sent a rather weird email to employees that Forbes obtained and published in 2020. It reads: “HELLO — WAKE UP BETTER TEAM. You are TOO DAMN SLOW. You are a bunch of DUMB DOLPHINS and…DUMB DOLPHINS get caught in nets and eaten by sharks. SO STOP IT. STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW. YOU ARE EMBARRASSING ME.” We don’t know how you feel about it, but the first all-caps “stop it” would get the point across, so certainly the 2nd one was unnecessary and the 3rd one was downright ridiculous. Besides, dolphins are beloved sea-going mammals and actually quite smart, being able to learn very quickly, and have shown scientists they have self-awareness and empathy, as well as demonstrated their problem-solving and teaching skills. Garg has also been known to have outbursts and made some employees feel forced to quit. His unprofessional behavior is most definitely not limited to awkward Zoom calls, and his dolphin reference to insult his employees blew back on himself in a major way.
Vishal Garg is a self-professed “serial entrepreneur”. What’s kind of perplexing is that after the mass layoff Zoom call went public, it was revealed that an investment of $750 million was infused into Better.com the week prior, $7.7 billion was the valuation just 7 months earlier when it planned to go public after a merger with Aurora Acquisition Corp, and the company was financially backed by the Japanese banking giant, SoftBank. Does anybody else wish they were a fly on those corporate walls to understand how things went from looking so rosy to laying off 10-15% of the organization’s workforce in such a short time? Perhaps “serial” had something to do with it, and the “entrepreneur” in charge was desiring to move on to the next shiny business object.
Whatever happened, what we know for sure is that 900 people lost their job in a way that can be compared to breaking up with a significant other by text. Yuck – so insulting and disrespectful. You may have noticed that we used the word “unprofessional” a few times in this article too. Yes, it was a massive job to let 900 people know they were immediately out of a job, but clearly, the wrong way to go about it is the way Vishal Garg, CEO of Better.com, went about it.