As Facebook works on developing the Dislike button, Twitter might want to think twice about following suit, after recently cutting their workforce.
Twitter CEO Jack Densey, has announced staff cuts of 8% of their workforce, affecting about 336 of the 4,100 people who work at Twitter, or Tweeps as they call themselves. In an All Staff email about the future direction of Twitter, Jack Densey tried to provide a compelling reason for the dramatic changes. But unfortunately, some of the affected employees got a very different message.
When former employee, Bart Teewisse, logged into his Twitter account, he saw the following message:
This is how he found out he was no longer a Tweep. Bart was no longer a part of the Twitter Tribe. He was kicked out in a way almost as brutal as those Survivor contestants on TV. But for Bart, it was no laughing matter. Grant it, he also later found a voicemail that had been left for him. But isn’t it interesting to see a company like Twitter, with the global profile, brand and social agenda treating its people this way?
What is perhaps more interesting is that an innovative, global technology company was using outdated technology like voice mail to do its dirty work. While I am sure the HR team did its best to reach people personally to share the news, in some ways it would have been better for Twitter to have well, tweeted the news, at least in Bart’s case, he might have found out before he was locked out of the company systems. Relying on people to check their voicemail for a message this important just isn’t good enough.
A few days after the news broke in the media, CEO, Jack Densey announced he intended to give away one third of his shares in Twitter, some $200 million or nearly 1%. These funds will be donated to the employee share pool in order to provide more employee incentives and hopefully re-engage the remaining Tweeps.
I find it interesting though, had Twitter spent just half of 1% on a comprehensive, and well planned communication, change and transition process announcing these layoffs, they might not have needed to spend the other 99.5%! The program should have addressed the needs of all employees, remote, on annual leave, paternity as well as those remaining at Twitter. It should have ensured that the message was delivered to people in a timely, and considered manner, and finally it should have provided options for people to access support such as counselling on the day the news was broken.
Employees at companies like Twitter are often told they are part of a special group, and that they are joining the “flock”. Their employee value proposition claims that the colleagues you work with are one of the biggest draw cards for joining and staying at Twitter. So when people are forced out of this group, it can have much broader implications than just the loss of an income. It is sometimes the loss of one’s identity, one’s sense of belonging, friendships, networks and sometimes, one’s life purpose.
For an organisation like Twitter, to not have understood this and not managed the process in a more thoughtful and respectful way is disappointing to say the least. To provide people with access to a coach, or counselor, is a critical part of the healing process after redundancy. It is also important to ensure people are supported and told such news in a safe and supportive way., Learning you have lost your job by having your access to your company Twitter account cut off, isn’t the way to feel respected by your former employer.
Just because we work with technology and communicate with a screen for most of the day, it doesn’t mean it is also okay to ignore our need for meaningful, personal dialogue on the things that really matter. Regardless of the advances in technology which make communication so much easier in many ways, people are still people, with complex emotional needs and complex responses to dramatic new like job loss.
You can never predict how people will respond to this kind of news. Some will take it well, maybe even happily, especially if financial compensation is adequate, but for others, this kind of news is overwhelming, stressful and can even trigger more extreme responses, including self-harm. These outcomes are always sad and regrettable, but can be addressed by a thorough and comprehensive support program that includes qualified career and counselling experts to help identify and mitigate some of these risks.
Ironically, #Twitterlayoffs which was set up to provide support for laid off workers has become a recruitment site for other companies in the tech sector wanting to hire the former Twitter staff. So fortunately, many ex-Tweeps will be joining other tech startups and hopefully creating new and exciting services for us all to enjoy. But Twitter and other companies should remember, former employees don’t just fade away, they continue to be customers, shareholders, suppliers, competitors and brand reference sources as well as boomerang employee who will work for you again in the future. How they are treated on the way out can have a massive impact on their long term view of your business.
I bet Bart and some of his other former Twitter colleagues, might think a Dislike button on Twitter may not be such a bad idea after all.