Better.com boss fires 900 employees during three-minute Zoom call

midian182

Posts: 7,448   +67
Staff member
WTF?! Getting fired is one of the worst things that can happen to a person, but imagine losing your job just before the holidays, along with 900 other people, and being told about it via Zoom. That’s the method Vishal Garg, CEO of mortgage firm Better.com, used to let staff know they won’t be having a very merry Christmas.

Starting with the understatement of the year, Garg said, “I come to you with not great news.”

“If you’re on this call, you are part of the unlucky group being laid off. Your employment here is terminated effective immediately.”

Garg blamed staff performance and productivity as well as the changing homeowner market for the layoffs. “Last time I did [this] I cried,” he told the now-unemployed workers, which doubtlessly elicited plenty of sympathy for the boss of a company that received a $750 million cash infusion from investors last week. Thankfully, the CEO was remarkably adept at keeping his emotions in check on this occasion.

Nine percent of the company’s employees were laid off, including its entire diversity, equity, and inclusion team.

Garg is no stranger to controversy. In an email sent to staff last year obtained by Forbes, he wrote, "You are TOO DAMN SLOW. You are a bunch of DUMB DOLPHINS... SO STOP IT. STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW. YOU ARE EMBARRASSING ME," he wrote. Bottlenose dolphins are considered one of the most intelligent animals in the world, so maybe he should have chosen a different creature.

Fortune reports that Garg wrote posts on professional network Blind after the firings that accused many laid-off staff of stealing through their laziness. “You guys know that at least 250 of the people terminated were working an average of 2 hours a day while clocking 8 hours+ a day in the payroll system?”

“They were stealing from you and stealing from our customers who pay the bills that pay our bills. Get educated,” he added. Garg later confirmed he posted the messages. “I think they could have been phrased differently, but honestly the sentiment is there,” he said.

Better.com’s chief finance officer, Kevin Ryan, told the BBC: "Having to conduct layoffs is gut-wrenching, especially this time of year." He added that “a fortress balance sheet and a reduced and focused workforce together set us up to play offense going into a radically evolving homeownership market.”

Former employees on the call describe it as lasting “three minutes tops” in an interview with the Daily Beast. “They dumped us like trash. We were there since the beginning and worked hard for the company and for our roles,” another said.

Update: Since the story became widespread, Garg has posted a message on the company website apologizing for the method he used to fire the staff.

"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," he wrote.

"In doing so, I embarrassed you. I realize that the way I communicated this news made a difficult situation worse. I am deeply sorry and am committed to learning from this situation and doing more to be the leader that you expect me to be."

Permalink to story.

 

BobDoleStillAliv

Posts: 23   +27
Reminds me of a Simpson's episode where homer is helping bart write a break up later to Edna (whole story there..)

Dear Edna, Welcome to dumpsville! Population, You!

Pretty anti-classy method of dumping ~10% of your workforce
 

Toju Mikie

Posts: 261   +259
Sounds like another case of stack ranking.
Fire the "bottom performers" periodically and give the remaining employees the rest of the work.
This can backfire though, especially now with a declining younger population. This is what Amazon is experiencing right now where they go through employees so fast (150% turnover) either through performance firing or employees quitting, and then exhaust the whole local labor force in some areas and eventually can't find people to work there.
 

Goamist

Posts: 28   +43
Sounds like another case of stack ranking.
Fire the "bottom performers" periodically and give the remaining employees the rest of the work.
This can backfire though, especially now with a declining younger population. This is what Amazon is experiencing right now where they go through employees so fast (150% turnover) either through performance firing or employees quitting, and then exhaust the whole local labor force in some areas and eventually can't find people to work there.
That and also the bad publicity of how the layoffs were handled will hopefully reach the best outcome - the guy getting sacked, as well.
 

GLenn63

Posts: 148   +54
TechSpot Elite
Some people were not only goofing off, That so-called “Zoom **** incident” might have cost Jeffrey Toobin his New Yorker gig, but the now-infamous legal journalist still has CNN. Toobin returned to the network, where he serves as chief legal analyst, on June 10, after having been put on leave in response to news that he had masturbated on-camera during an October New Yorker video call. Lol, can't make this stuff up.
 

TheBigT42

Posts: 607   +604
Click Bait title
"Laid Off" is not equal to "Fired"

Fired = employee has done something wrong to loose their job or are incompetent
Laid Off = The company is downsizing or can not afford to keep the employee(s)

Both do result in no job but being "Laid Off" entitles the person to un-employment and does not look bad on a resume.
 

Goamist

Posts: 28   +43
Click Bait title
"Laid Off" is not equal to "Fired"

Fired = employee has done something wrong to loose their job or are incompetent
Laid Off = The company is downsizing or can not afford to keep the employee(s)

Both do result in no job but being "Laid Off" entitles the person to un-employment and does not look bad on a resume.
Garg did said afterwards that those people were "stealing" from the company by not meeting their working hours quota - so, from this point of view, they were fired.
 

Theinsanegamer

Posts: 3,019   +4,862
I dont see the issue here, he's just being COVID-19 safe! If his people got OMICRON 69 and were sore for a few days it'd be a national emergency.
Nine percent of the company’s employees were laid off, including its entire diversity, equity, and inclusion team.
So nothing of value was lost.
I wouldn't be surprised it the layoffs were a condition of the $750 million cash infusion. In addition, there could be more later for all we know.
Why does an online mortgage company need so many people anyway? Everything is online. A lot of these "tech startups" have tons of employees they dont need. Better is not the first nor the last to figure that out. Outside investors likely pointed that out.
Fortune reports that Garg wrote posts on professional network Blind after the firings that accused many laid-off staff of stealing through their laziness. “You guys know that at least 250 of the people terminated were working an average of 2 hours a day while clocking 8 hours+ a day in the payroll system?”
The miracle of working from home, the tracking tools dont lie like middle management does. If I had people working 2 hours getting paid for 8 I'd be pissed too, or happy I found a huge innefficient section that could be cut to save money.

When you work virtually, you dont need nearly as many people. We warned this would happen. Technology brings about huge increases in efficiency, and cuts deeply into overhead (human labor). Welcome to what the working class dealt with after factories becan moving to mexico and china last century. If you're an office worker that screws off most of the day, you are a resource that can easily be cut.
Sounds like another case of stack ranking.
Fire the "bottom performers" periodically and give the remaining employees the rest of the work.
This can backfire though, especially now with a declining younger population. This is what Amazon is experiencing right now where they go through employees so fast (150% turnover) either through performance firing or employees quitting, and then exhaust the whole local labor force in some areas and eventually can't find people to work there.
If abused it's terrible, but once in awhile you need to cut the chaff off. Seeing as most of these employees were working remotely, exausting his supply of workers is highly unlikely.
 

bviktor

Posts: 613   +985
So the guy says he's responsible for the decision, so he wanted to talk directly to these people, before handing them over to HR. He takes responsibility for his action, admits the decision.

... and he gets shat on by the Internet.

Alright then?
 

p51d007

Posts: 2,948   +2,332
Sounds like another case of stack ranking.
Fire the "bottom performers" periodically and give the remaining employees the rest of the work.
This can backfire though, especially now with a declining younger population. This is what Amazon is experiencing right now where they go through employees so fast (150% turnover) either through performance firing or employees quitting, and then exhaust the whole local labor force in some areas and eventually can't find people to work there.


Wouldn't surprise me if they try to use H1B visas, to get their "labor".
 

kiwigraeme

Posts: 745   +543
Ha this reminds me of the late 1990s - remember the metrosexual - the new age young guys in tune with their feelings and their boyfriend/girlfriends - we were the bad one ones .
Then all the stories came of break ups by texts , farcebook status change .
Just like us - ghosting, being bad , lazy boyfriends so our girlfriends did the breaking up
 

shark975

Posts: 51   +55
"Nine percent of the company’s employees were laid off, >>>>including its entire diversity, equity, and inclusion team.>>>>"

So at least some good came of this! Ba dum tish.
 

mbk34

Posts: 236   +154
Is it really any better to be told face to face and then escorted out the building by security guards while carrying a cardboard box? Cyclical economies often mean companies hire and fire to meet expectations and jobs for life are just a part of history now. Sometimes it's just a part of a companies standard operating procedure to annually cull the lower performers and overpay at the top (I've been on both ends).
 

DukeJukem

Posts: 266   +282
Click Bait title
"Laid Off" is not equal to "Fired"

Fired = employee has done something wrong to loose their job or are incompetent
Laid Off = The company is downsizing or can not afford to keep the employee(s)

Both do result in no job but being "Laid Off" entitles the person to un-employment and does not look bad on a resume.
you can be fired for doing nothing wrong. laid off is just a nice way of saying you suck but we dont dislike you.....but you cant stay here.
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 2,017   +2,373
TechSpot Elite
None of the words that I have to describe a sub-human like Vishal Garg are appropriate for this forum. I wouldn't shed any tears if he were crushed by a bus tomorrow.
 

Stiqy

Posts: 96   +113
"However, as much as I sucked at the most basic aspects of my job, I do not want to see this come up on my performance review by the board, nor will it impact my multi-million dollar bonus payout for being an awesome leader this year."
 

Stiqy

Posts: 96   +113
Outside investors likely pointed that out.
Yup. The article even mentions the new cash round they received. Virtually guaranteed that cash was conditional on cutting costs via the work-force. It's the same dynamic at work when a company like GM fires 5% of their employees and their stock immediately goes up 8%. Everyone knows the efficiency gains from firing the dead wood.

I've seen half a dozen "work from home" surveys during Covid that all say the same thing. Basically about 30% of people had been fired for lack of productivity, and other 30% admitted to working far less hours and/or working a different job while clocking hours on their salaried job.

Work-from-home that is actually honest and productive requires a certain kind of people/work-force, that apparently at least 65% of the present workforce is NOT cut out to be.

If you shift your company to work-from-home, expect to fire at least 30% of your people who just don't have the integrity or discipline to make it happen.
 

TsVkK

Posts: 73   +41
Simpler than having 900 personal 3 minute zoom calls. That would take him weeks to do everyone personally. Not sure what people want when they are being fired. A hug maybe? It's not exactly going to change anything in any way.