Layoff Etiquette: Microsoft, Others Showing How Not to Cut Jobs

There is no good way to eliminate thousands of jobs. But as recent layoffs in tech and banking have shown, there are better and worse ways to do it. That applies not only to the layoffs themselves, but also to what the company is doing at the same time.

Microsoft, for its part, came under fire this week for hosting an exclusive party in Davos where attendees were treated to a live performance by Sting on Tuesday night, as the Wall Street Journal informed. It’s unclear how much the company paid the artist, but $500,000 wouldn’t be a surprise.

The next day, the company announced that it would lay off 10,000 people. CEO Satya Nadella sent an email to employees when he broke the news, saying: “We will treat our people with dignity and respect, and act with transparency. These decisions are difficult, but necessary.” But Sting’s private performance taking place so close to the devastating announcement no doubt stung.

“I’m a big fan of Satya Nadella, but this is very bad executive symbolism.” tweeted Rita Gunther McGrath, a professor at Columbia Business School and author of The end of competitive advantage.

At Salesforce this month, staff were called into a general meeting a day after the company announced layoffs affecting 8,000 employees. However, many attendees were stunned when CEO Marc Benioff dodged questions about the layoffs, instead delivering a two-hour speech that many found rambling. In an internal Slack channel, Insider reported, an employee wrote: “Is Marc manipulating over 47,600 employees right now by talking in circles and avoiding the topic at hand?”

On Twitter, thousands were fired after Elon Musk’s chaotic inauguration. Many were sent an email signed only by the company that read, “We’re sorry to write to let you know that your role at Twitter has been impacted,” and then had to wait months for their official settlement agreements, which fell short of the What they expected Worse, the deals were emailed through a third-party service in what looked like a phishing attempt.

“You have to make tough decisions from time to time. Quick decisions too. But there must always be a place for humanity in the process”, Gemma Dale, founder of the human resources firm The Work Consultancy, tweeted after the Twitter layoffs.

At Goldman Sachs this month, employees who attended seemingly routine meetings, for which they had been sent calendar invites, instead found they were losing their jobs. As one worker told the New York Post From a colleague’s experience, the “meeting was put on his calendar under false pretenses.”

Asked about the tactic, the bank, which laid off 3,200 workers this month, shared a statement with Fortune reading: “We know this is a difficult time for people leaving the company. We are grateful for all the contributions of our people and provide support to ease their transitions.”

Fortune he also reached out to Microsoft, Twitter and Salesforce, but did not receive immediate responses.

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