The boss of a US mortgage company, who fired hundreds of his staff in a Zoom meeting has said he is “deeply sorry” for the way the lay-offs were handled.
The sackings were necessary said Vishal Garg, but he accepted he had “blundered the execution” and “embarrassed” them.
“I failed to show the appropriate amount of respect and appreciation for the individuals who were affected,” he said in a letter on the firm’s website.
Mr Garg was heavily criticised after he sacked 900 staff in an online meeting.
“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,” he said.
Mr Garg said he had realised “the way I communicated this news made a difficult situation worse”.
The firm, Better.com, a start-up offering mortgages, is based in New York.
“If you’re on this call you’re part of the unlucky group being laid off,” Mr Garg told staff in the call last week. “Your employment here is terminated. Effective immediately.”
A recording of the call was shared on social media, prompting comments that sacking people this way was “cold”, “harsh” and “a horrible move”, especially in the run up to Christmas.
Better.com, which aims to use technology to make the housebuying process “faster and more efficient”, confirmed earlier this year that it plans to float the company on the stock market. A deal is likely to value the business – which Mr Garg founded in 2015 – at between $6.9bn (£5.2bn) and $7.7bn.
How Vishal Garg told people they were fired
“Hi everyone, thank you for joining. I come to you with not great news. The market has changed, as you know, and we have to move with it in order to survive so that hopefully we can continue to thrive and deliver on our mission.
“This isn’t news that you’re going to want to hear but ultimately it was my decision and I wanted you to hear it from me. It’s been a really, really challenging decision to make. This is the second time in my career that I’m doing this and I do not want to do this. The last time I did it I cried. This time I hope to be stronger. But we are laying off about 15% of the company for [a number of] reasons: the market, efficiency and performances and productivity.
“If you’re on this call you are part of the unlucky group that is being laid off. Your employment here is terminated. Effective immediately.”
Mr Garg told staff he was grateful for their contribution.
“I believe in you, I believe in Better, and I believe that working together we can make homeownership better together,” he wrote.
A right way to fire staff?
“Organisations do have to make job cuts sometimes, it is a hard reality,” says Rachel Suff, senior policy adviser on employee relations at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
“But how they go about it and the humanity they approach it with can have a fundamental impact on how people deal with that shocking news.”
Ms Suff points out that the situation facing Better.com’s staff in the US would not happen in the UK. Legally, UK employers have to enter a consultation period with workers of at least 30 days, or 45 days if more than 100 people are being made redundant.
During that period “people should be given the right phrasing, eased into it, given warning, prepared for the news and explained the reasons why”, she says.
UK employers also have to look for alternative roles for workers. “An employer really needs to tell people that they’ve exhausted every possible alternative, it is the last thing they wanted to do – it is about being able to leave with your dignity and respect intact.”
Ms Suff adds that while a lot of focus regarding Better.com has been about Mr Garg using Zoom to fire staff, the approach is incredibly important.
“If you notice as well [Mr Garg] talks about the impact on himself. He says: ‘I cried the last time’. But who’s losing their job here? It was very rich, talking about the impact on himself – what about them?”