*Originally published in Forbes
Chaos has erupted at Twitter since Elon Musk took over. He fired top executives and laid off almost half of the company’s 7,000 workforce by mistake, then asked them to come back due to the importance of their roles. And other executives are quitting [not quietly]. Musk declared an end to remote work and warned of the possibility of Twitter's bankruptcy. Some are asking if this is the beginning of the end—even the start of the downfall of American social media.
Jenn Lim: The whole world got 2020’d, and we’ve been in different stages of trying to understand how that’s impacted us. According to Gallup’s latest State of the World’s Workplace report, anxiety and stress levels are higher than ever before, suggesting that many of us haven’t been able to process the toll it’s taken on us mentally, emotionally, and physiologically. In 2020 BC [before Covid], the trend was to manage the employee experience, but that needs to be expanded now. Work and life are more integrated than ever, and progressive leaders understand that the outcomes we wanted before—productivity, engagement, retention, and attraction of the right talent—need to be approached in new, more current, human ways.
The Great Resignation and quiet quitting are symptoms, indicating the way we’ve worked is no longer working. As leaders, we need to be supportive of the whole person, which includes mental, emotional, physical, relational, financial, and purposeful/spiritual realms of what it means to work. Wholeness in the workplace is about embracing employees' entire lives and providing psychological safety for them to express how they think, feel progress, and struggle. With the enormous losses we've collectively experienced, it’s more important than ever to remember everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about, so it’s more than just being kind to one another. We need to be human.
Lim: There are ways to make and execute tough decisions while prioritizing values and people. We should be more mindful of rolling out bad news with a lean into humanity. These layoffs could have been better if done with empathy and by creating psychological safety in the moment. During these difficult times, values and humanity should be at the core from the moments that led to this layoff decision to sharing the news with ACTion [alignment, clarity, and transparency]. Anonymous employees have been reporting how it’s been “chaos” since the layoffs. Imagine the difference if ACTion was taken.
Lim: California has policies in place that detail how corporations should handle layoffs—specifically that at least a 60-day notice must be given to both the state and employees. Given the fact that Musk took over just a week prior to the layoffs, the state claims they haven’t received notice, and lawsuits are starting to pile up. It appears that the law might have been violated. However, if Twitter pays 60 days of severance to laid-off employees, the law technically will not be violated. But, whether legal or not, it’s missing the point. The impact will reverberate for a while because of the insensitive way it was handled.
Lim: Layoff announcements shouldn't be done over social media, locking employees out of systems without notice, or inviting hundreds of people to a Zoom call without context they’re about to lose their job [hello Bird 2020]. Layoffs should be done in a direct human-to-human way, which means providing support like severance, referrals, job search assistance, and an empathetic ear with psychological safety in place.
Lim: There is a right way to do such a difficult thing. Airbnb was forced to lay off 25% of its team, and the CEO, Brain Chesky, was transparent and empathic. He made it clear that the layoffs were in no way a reflection of the great work his team was doing. They even provided generous severance packages, which included pay and health care coverage. Parts of the internal HR team were tasked to help laid-off employees in their job search. By holding true to their value of human connection in times of good and bad, they’ve now weathered the storm and recently experienced their most profitable quarter to date.
Lim: As leaders make these tough decisions, it’s tempting to take the emotion out of it. Psychologically it can be a salve to soothe an uneasy conscience. But conscious leaders take the opposite route. During Covid, these leaders put aside titles and office politics and put on their empathy hats, knowing what was at stake in how they’re impacting livelihoods. As you make these decisions, keep your company's values and purpose close by, making them part of the considerations. Leadership should start with why these choices are being made and then how they level up to the values and purpose of the company. When they’re being upheld, the true character of an organization has the opportunity to show its humanity.
Lim: As a leader, how you act during challenging times will be a part of your living legacy.