Airbnb vs Uber Layoffs: How to Let Employees Go the Right Way

Airbnb is letting 1,900 employees go due to the coronavirus. That’s a quarter of their entire workforce.

Company’s CEO Brian Chesky sent an email to their employees delivering the bad news last week. And it’s a masterclass in corporate empathy. It provides a great example that even firing employees can be done in a right way.

Take Uber, for instance. They didn’t handle their crisis communication that well. But more on that at the very end of this article.

Let’s take a look at the example of how it’s supposed to be done. What does it look like when a company lets people go correctly?

airbnb layoffs

1. Preparing the ground for it

Nobody wants to be laid off in a three-minute Zoom call (yep, that’s what Uber did). If the employer can see it coming, so should their employees.

From the very first sentence of Chesky’s email, it’s clear that this is the seventh time he’s talking to his employees. Therefore, it seems like he’s been constantly updating his employees about the situation and has prepared them for the worst-case scenario in advance:

“This is my seventh time talking to you from my house. Each time we’ve talked, I’ve shared good news and bad news, but today I have to share some very sad news. When you’ve asked me about layoffs, I’ve said that nothing is off the table. Today, I must confirm that we are reducing the size of the Airbnb workforce.”

airbnb

Courtesy of Waya

2. Explaining the why

It’s not easy for any manager to let his or her employees go. But this isn’t about the manager or the company. It’s about the employees. They’re the ones who will be left without a job soon. If nothing else, they deserve an explanation.

Again, Chesky’s email does this very well:

“Let me start with how we arrived at this decision. We are collectively living through the most harrowing crisis of our lifetime, and as it began to unfold, global travel came to a standstill. Airbnb’s business has been hit hard, with revenue this year forecasted to be less than half of what we earned in 2019. In response, we raised $2 billion in capital and dramatically cut costs that touched nearly every corner of Airbnb. …. While we know Airbnb’s business will fully recover, the changes it will undergo are not temporary or short-lived. Because of this, we need to make more fundamental changes to Airbnb by reducing the size of our workforce around a more focused business strategy.”

airbnb

Courtesy of Quartz Africa

3. Severance package

Being compassionate really matters. If you’ve been laid off and your company truly cares about you, it will assist you with things like resume writing, getting references, job search or provide career transition consulting.

Aside from offering severance, equity, healthcare and job support, Airbnb will also let their laid-off employees keep their Apple laptops:

“Our goal is to connect our teammates leaving Airbnb with new job opportunities. Here are five ways we can help:

  • Alumni Talent Directory — We will be launching a public-facing website to help teammates leaving find new jobs.
  • Alumni Placement Team — Recruiters that are staying with Airbnb will provide support to departing employees to help them find their next job.
  • RiseSmart — We are offering four months of career services through RiseSmart.
  • Employee Offered Alumni Support — We are encouraging all remaining employees to opt-in to a program to assist departing teammates find their next role.
  • Laptops — A computer is an important tool to find new work, so we are allowing everyone leaving to keep their Apple laptops.”

airbnb

Courtesy of Vanschneider

4. The art of apology

It’s one thing to apologise, but it’s another thing to really mean it. That’s what Chesky does in his final paragraph:

“To those leaving Airbnb, I am truly sorry. Please know this is not your fault. The world will never stop seeking the qualities and talents that you brought to Airbnb…that helped make Airbnb. I want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing them with us.”

5. If you’re a survivor, you want to feel motivated

Layoffs are difficult not just for those who have been let go, but also for those who stay behind. Imagine that your company is downsizing. You’re worried about your job and don’t know whether you’re going to be the next. It really helps if your employer encourages you:

“I am thankful for everyone here at Airbnb. Throughout this harrowing experience, I have been inspired by all of you. Even in the worst of circumstances, I’ve seen the very best of us. The world needs human connection now more than ever, and I know that Airbnb will rise to the occasion. I believe this because I believe in you.”

Needless to say, if an employer treats leaving employees fairly and with compassion, it sends a very positive and reassuring message to other employees as well.

uber layoffs

Courtesy of Uber

How it shouldn’t be done

Ok, we’ve talked about how laying off employees should be done. But what about how it shouldn’t be done?

They easiest way to find out is to read Uber’s email to its employees.

Here’s what’s bad about it:

  • No preparation: Team Uber, I wanted to let you know that we just announced the elimination of around 3,700 roles in CommOps and Recruiting, and the closure of 40% of our Greenlight locations. You can read the emails that were sent to those teams here.”
  • Too company-centric:With the reality of our Rides trips volumes being down significantly, our need for CommOps as well as in-person support is down substantially. And with our hiring freeze, there simply isn’t enough work for recruiters.”
  • No empathy: “And while it’s easier said than done, we have to keep our heads down and keep executing, because that—and nothing less—is what will keep Uber going and get us to the other side.”

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