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Layoffs on Zoom: Is there a better way?

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. Today: Allison Levitsky on how to fire people remotely, Lizzy Lawrence on why your video meetings don’t have to be so lame and a survey on the key to employee retention.

— Michelle Ma, reporter (email | twitter)

Are Zoom layoffs ever OK?

It’s true: Layoffs are spreading in Silicon Valley. As companies that over-hired break tough news to a workforce that’s largely remote or hybrid, layoff etiquette has never been more confusing.

With 2,500 layoffs this week, Carvana is the latest company to fumble its layoff announcement with a mass Zoom call. A spokesperson said that fewer than half of its employees learned of the layoff this way, but those who were on the call still weren’t happy about it.

  • “It was just, like, ‘You’re fired. Here’s your severance package. Have a good day,’” said Knela Tracy, who was still in training to work in Carvana’s underwriting department. “There needs to be a little bit more of a human element, to make it feel like they’re actually feeling bad about it.”
  • Tracy said she had no opportunity to talk to her manager about the layoff. An email Tuesday morning announced the layoffs, and a few hours later, she was locked out of Gmail and Slack.

Personal follow-ups with individual managers are the key to making a Zoom layoff less painful, said Sandra Sucher, the Harvard Business School professor who wrote “The Power of Trust: How Companies Build It, Lose It, Regain It.” The mass Zoom call or email gives the CEO or business leader an important platform to apologize and take responsibility for the decisions that led to the layoff, she said.

  • “That gives people a chance to connect with whomever it is that they know the most — even in a remote work environment — and to hear the news on a personal basis,” Sucher said. “That also gives people a chance to ask questions.”
  • The Zoom chat was disabled on the call where Tracy was laid off, giving employees no opportunity to even ask questions on the call.
  • “If I was able to just talk to someone for at least 10 minutes, just to get a little bit of clarity,” Tracy said. “We weren’t even told why we were being laid off, really. It was ‘restructuring,’ but obviously that just means they hired too many people.”

Others disagree. A former executive described that company’s Zoom layoffs as “barbaric” and “inhumane.” Large Zoom calls aren’t the right approach to layoffs, according to that exec.

  • Betsy Leatherman, global president of Consulting Services for Leadership Circle, an executive coaching and assessment company, agreed.
  • Instead, companies should either let workers know in groups of five or 10, or hold one-on-one meetings over the course of a couple of hours.
  • “It would be an hour and a half or two hours of chaos,” Leatherman said. “But I bet you could do that.”

One regret many companies are bound to have: Don’t over-hire in the first place. That’s one lesson that Khaled Hussein learned when he laid off almost half of his employees at Tilt, the startup he sold to Airbnb in 2017.

  • When funding is abundant, it’s easy to “drink the Kool-Aid” and hire faster than you’re growing — a mistake Hussein now admits he made.
  • But when you do have to cut jobs, don’t hide from your employees, he said.
  • “In those moments, every CEO wants to hide. It’s painful. And this is when you need to do the complete opposite: You need to be very available,” Hussein said. “You need to have the Q&A, you need to be there, you need to answer all the questions.”

Your video meetings don't have to be so lame

The distributed workforce isn’t going anywhere and neither are our video calls. Google is trying to make them better with AI, but a former Evernote CEO is trying something a little different. The company that started in 2020 focused on helping people who cared deeply about creating impressive video presentations is now courting the casual user. Mmhmm has launched a web-based product that lets people record, watch and talk over video together, combining the synchronous (live video) and asynchronous (recorded video) parts of the product to fit the ever-evolving needs of hybrid life.

Read the full story.


100% of C-suite staff surveyed by Workplace by Meta said that frontline workers were a strategic priority for their business in 2022, but nearly two in three of them said that keeping their frontline staff, who bear the brunt of the stresses of the workplace most acutely, had only become a priority since the pandemic hit.

Learn more

What do you hate about work?

According to survey data from Kizen, a software startup based in Austin, Texas, the biggest drivers of dissatisfaction in the workplace are office culture, money and a bad manager. But when asked what they disliked most about their jobs, the majority of workers (24%) answered “nothing.” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  • Culture: 19% of workers said “culture (how things are done)” was a key reason they disliked their job.
  • Paycheck: 19% said their paycheck was what they liked least about their job.
  • Horrible Bosses: 16% said having a bad boss was the biggest driver of dissatisfaction.

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How do you calculate work-from-home carbon emissions? Depends on who you ask.


Businesses are starting to turn to workplace communication tools. Such tools enable frontline workers to feel more connected to the rest of their business, to raise concerns and to provide feedback on potential pain points or points of improvement. By bridging that divide, companies can unlock new savings and efficiencies, and build a business that can last for the long run.

Learn more

Around the internet

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Starbucks workers are inspiring Amazon’s union organizers

The key to retaining younger workers? Better onboarding.

The expert who coined the term “The Great Resignation”: “We’re not going back.”

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to Have a great day, see you Tuesday.

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