The chief executive at a U.S.-based mortgage company apologized for his manner of handling layoffs after a video of him firing 900 people via a single Zoom call went viral on social media.
“If you are on this call, you are part of the unlucky group being laid off,” Vishal Garg, CEO of SoftBank-backed online mortgage originator Better.com, told employees over the video streaming platform after convening them last week.
“Your employment here is terminated, effective immediately,” Garg said, according to a video posted online.
The mass sacking attracted social media fury and Garg came under intense criticism, with people saying his act was “cold” and “harsh.”
Garg said he had “blundered the execution” of communicating the layoffs and expressed remorse for the way he handled them.
“I realize that the way I communicated this news made a difficult situation worse,” he said in a letter dated Tuesday.
“I failed to show the appropriate amount of respect and appreciation for the individuals who were affected and for their contributions to Better. I own the decision to do the layoffs, but in communicating it I blundered the execution. In doing so, I embarrassed you,” he wrote.
In the Zoom call last week, Garg tried to justify his action, citing staff performance and productivity, and market changes as reasons behind the mass firing of what he said was 15% of Better.com’s workforce.
But he expressed some regret, saying, “This is the second 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,” Garg said, speaking calmly and glancing at notes.
Christian Chapman was among the 900 people fired from the company.
In footage shared by Reuters on Wednesday, Chapman was seen opening a package containing a mini trophy and a certificate. It arrived after what he described as his whole world crashing with just one “click.”
“It was like somebody sucked the oxygen out of the room and you start thinking ‘Am I hearing what I think I’m hearing right now? Is that really happening? Wait, is this for me?'”
“My world crashes and by that I mean they shut down our computer, shut down our Slack, shut down our mobiles with the Slack, shut everything down so the community that I surround myself with, what I would consider my family, my fellow trainers that we've worked with nonstop, we can't even talk to them,” Chapman said.
“When you’re completely shut out of your system, you’re Zooming, we’re Zooming and imagine, ‘Hey you’re laid off – click,’ there’s no resolution, there’s no grab your stuff from your desk. You’re still sitting at your desk. Nothing goes away, the laptop is still there. It’s just black.”
Chapman called the video firings a failure of capitalism and called Garg’s letter “PR.”
“I think it’s a lack of empathy. I think it’s the quintessential corporate top percentage saying ‘I’m choosing numbers over people’ and I think it struck a chord with everybody saying ‘Aha, see? I told you, they don’t care, they don’t care at all,’” he said.
Better.com said in May it would go public through a merger with blank-check firm Aurora Acquisition Corp, in a deal that valued it at $7.7 billion.
Earlier this month, the terms were amended to provide Better.com with half of the $1.5 billion committed by SoftBank immediately, instead of waiting until the deal closes.
Founded in 2016 and headquartered in New York, Better.com offers mortgage and insurance products to homeowners through its online platform.
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