update: my company says it’s “best practice” to do layoffs over email

Welcome to “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager! Between now and the end of the year, I’ll be running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

Remember the letter-writer whose company said it was “best practice” to do layoffs over email? Here’s the update.

I wanted to send in an update about the “cartoon villain” 100% remote company I was working for that laid off 12 people over email and called it “best practices.” Thank you and thank you to the commenters for solidifying that the whole situation was bonkers — I felt genuinely gaslit (and I don’t use that term lightly) at that workplace, so hearing that my intuition was correct was incredibly needed. The commenters were also really funny about the whole thing — y’all made me laugh when I was basically stuck in an extended panic attack, so thank you!

Before I do a proper update, I want to name some things that happened at that company before those layoffs, just to paint a fuller picture of what everyday life was like:

  • We had layoffs (also done over email) in September 2022. On the same day, we were informed that all remaining employees would be taking mandatory furlough days, and therefore a pay cut. At the end of the company-wide meeting to discuss this, the meeting ended with the COO casually chatting to an employee about her children and remarking in front of the whole company, “You only have to worry about kidnappers if you have cute kids, no one wants to kidnap an ugly kid!” It was so jarring to be told “You’re getting a pay cut and your kids are ugly.”
  • At the end of 2022, the COO decided that the best way to announce that we would have no holiday bonuses or COLA raises was by putting it in the small print of a company newsletter.
  • During a management meeting, an employee remarked that her passport had her hair marked as gray. The COO said, “Well, you can just do what the Zoomers do nowadays and tell them you identify as blonde!” I was the only person in the room under the age of 30 and the only one who was gender non-conforming. When I told HR this made me uncomfortable, it was dismissed as a “personality thing.”
  • In a meeting with my manager and a few peers, we were told that after processing the most recent payroll, the company had less than $50 to its name. We were told to be grateful that the company was being so radically candid with us. When I pointed out that this was upsetting to hear, I was told that we should always work hard to choose and control the things that are upsetting to us. Yeah. I choose to be upset about the fact that my source of income may go under.
  • This same manager once berated me in a 1 on 1 meeting until I started crying because my team of 5 people was not producing the output that we had had a year ago….when our team had 12 people.

So … that brings us to the layoffs that I wrote about. Here’s a fun twist to that story: I had actually given my notice the week before the layoffs happened! The stories above plus much, much more bullshit made me decide to jump ship. When I gave three weeks’ notice to my manager, she said, “If you really care about your team, you’d stay six to eight more weeks to make sure they’re okay.” Which, um, hell no. She did apologize for saying this, but still.

Anyway. The company decided to move a manager who would have otherwise been laid off into my position, and they announced this at the same time as the layoffs — making it look like I had been laid off, too! I had already told my team, luckily, but I fielded messages from everyone else in the company apologizing for what had happened and hoping I was okay. Not a big deal, but it was so awkward to receive a dozen messages of condolence and have to explain that I’d actually quit!

Your letter was published while I was still at the company, and two of my colleagues actually sent it to me and said “WAS THIS YOU?!” (I owned up). Several other people at the company read this blog, so I imagine a lot of them read the letter as well. If I had been planning to stay, I may have been embarrassed, but what were they gonna do? Lay me off over email? Pff.

When I left, I thought that was more or less the end of it. But I stayed in touch with my old coworkers, and the last few months have been bonkers:

  • There was another round of layoffs in September, where the company laid off 14 people — including someone at director level — by sending out an email saying, “There will be layoffs in 30 minutes. If you are laid off you will be sent a link to a Zoom chat in 30 minutes.” Which I guess is better than just an email. Still feels shitty, though, especially because not two weeks before then, they had an all-company meeting where the COO and upper management boasted about how well the company was doing.
  • The two CEOs, who have not touched the company in almost a decade, decided to start running things again. This has gone about how you would expect.
  • The COO — the one who said our kids were ugly if they hadn’t been kidnapped — was laid off by the CEOs. He immediately posted about it on LinkedIn, so the majority of the company found out they no longer had a COO over LinkedIn on a Friday evening.
  • The CEOs are taking over the work of the COO and the finance department.
  • Two other department heads have been laid off, and the CEOs have taken over their departments as well.
  • Everyone still at the company was given a 3% raise for 2022 COLA. In October 2023.

I hesitated to send an update about this, especially since my first email was so brief, but I just have to put all this out there. If for no other reason than to remind myself that this was all real, and not a very strange, very tedious fever dream. The good news is I am at a new agency and much, much happier. And we have more than $50 to our names.

{ 185 comments… read them below }

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Seconding this! I only had to read the first bullet point before I started thinking “I hope the letter writer gets out of there!” so I was happy to learn you were already leaving on your own terms when you first wrote in.

  1. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

    I guess corporations really are people, if they can wear bananapants!

    1. Boris*

      Good news for this corporation/person: it doesn’t have to worry about being kidnapped because it’s extremely ugly!

      1. LabGuy*

        OK, I’m glad I have a private office with a door that closes, because that just made me laugh in a way that sounded like a seal barking.

        1. allathian*

          Luckily I WFH, so I can snortlaugh all I want. I work upstairs and my husband who works downstairs just came round and asked if I was okay.

  2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

    “ this was all real, and not a very strange, very tedious fever dream”

    I really like this phrasing.

  3. Spicy Tuna*

    “There will be layoffs in 30 minutes”…. OMG!!! I don’t know if that is horrifying or funny. Or both!

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        A bunch of us on a web production team (this was 2002) got laid off. We had t-shirts made that said “you’re fired, the nightmare is over”

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      I wonder how many people just skipped the zoom meeting since they knew they were laid off anyway? I mean I could just contact HR later to find out the out processing paperwork, no need to sit through a meeting with my fellow laid off employees.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Somehow, I am convinced that whoever sent that email thought that everyone would keep working diligently through the ensuing 30 minutes.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Instead of, I don’t know sabotaging the system. Honestly, the smartest thing is call everyone into a meeting and then cut off access. Because that prevents people from going back to their desk and trying to wipe the entire system. Yes most people won’t do that, but someone will be angry to do that.

        1. Reluctant Mezzo*

          If I were my Evil Twin, I would have spent that time copying the vendor list to a tiny little thumb drive on my key ring…

      2. ferrina*

        Anyone who thinks that sending this email is a good idea has no idea what a good idea looks like. Agree- they probably got confused that productivity dropped because they have no idea how humans work.

        1. Jaydee*

          This is what confused me the most. I’m assuming those 30 minutes involved exactly zero work being done because every employee had to assume they might only have 30 more minutes at their job. So they were probably frantically printing off important documents and forwarding important emails to their personal accounts, emptying their desk drawers, calling their spouses/partners in an absolute panic, huddling in groups with their coworkers and trying to figure out who might be gone and who might be safe and promising each other references and help finding a new job.

          And then at the end of the 30 minutes, everyone had to check their email and see if they got the Zoom link. And what if you thought you were fine but your email was just a little slow and the link arrived a minute after others got it?

          There is really no good way to do layoffs, but there are definitely bad ways to do layoffs, and this is terrible.

          1. Candi*

            This job was 100% remote according to LW, so the emptying desk drawers and huddling with coworkers likely doesn’t apply.

            They were probably printing important docs to .pdf and popping them onto USB keys or over to their personal devices, though, as well as forwarding emails and such.

      3. Busy Middle Manager*

        I notice that at any moment, 10% -20% of people are away from their desk, and same percent are on other calls. I think giving notice is more about making sure everyone sees the invite and even shows up, less about what they do while waiting!

    3. SHEILA, the co-host*

      Also, the whole “if you receive the Zoom link you’re laid off” kind of defeats the purpose of delivering the news over zoom – because your notification is effectively an email with the zoom link you wouldn’t have received if you weren’t getting laid off. So they’re still doing layoffs by email.

      1. Observer*

        Also, the whole “if you receive the Zoom link you’re laid off” kind of defeats the purpose of delivering the news over zoom

        Either that or it was deliberate.

        The COO is a coward, among other things, so I wouldn’t put it past him to do this deliberately.

        1. SHEILA, the co-host*

          Good point. Either way, the COO comes out as either stupid or even more cowardly – neither looks good.

      2. TeapotNinja*

        I would have had to resist a very strong temptation not to attend that Zoom meeting.

        What would they have done? Fire me?

  4. anonymous 5*

    Yowza. Sometimes shit hits the fan, and sometimes it hits a jet engine. Glad that you’re out of there!

  5. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

    WOW! The gaslighting is strong with that company. Count yourself lucky to have escaped.

  6. Orbital*

    “If I had been planning to stay, I may have been embarrassed, but what were they gonna do? Lay me off over email? Pff.”


    1. OrigCassandra*

      I confess that in Toxic Ex-Job, once I knew for sure I was out the door in a matter of weeks, I read management for filth (borderline professionally, but still) during a conference presentation where they couldn’t talk back.

      It wasn’t like I was gonna get a good rec from any of those nimrods anyway… and a dozen years of excellent job performance later, I’ll never need one.

      No regrets. They had it comin’, they had it comin’, they had only themselves to blame.

  7. still not a developer*

    I think I may have a new blessing for a baby: “May your child be just ugly enough not to be kidnapped”. :)

    1. Butterfly Counter*

      As a crime researcher who has delved into issues surrounding kidnapping, there is SO MUCH I want to say about how this COO is completely wrong and completely awful. But he doesn’t seem worth my time so I’ll just *eyeroll*

      1. ferrina*

        I think we can safely say that COO is wrong about pretty much everything, and this is no exception.

        Also Butterfly Counter, your job sounds really tough.

      1. Seashell*

        Children are kidnapped every day, unfortunately. Either the comment is a problem all the time, or it isn’t. I would go with the latter, as it clearly wasn’t meant seriously.

    2. The Real Fran Fine*

      LMAO!! This was the best part of the update. I can’t believe someone actually said this out loud in front of people…

  8. Ho-ho-holey hose*

    Great update…although as someone who also got a 3% COS increase in 2023, it felt a bit like salt in the wound. Luckily my organization is otherwise great, and as we are a public/arms-length from government entity, I have to expect that our raises will be a lot more stingy than other sectors

    1. elizelizeliz*

      I thought the dramatic part was that they finally received their 2022 COL increase in October 2023–which i am going to assume, given everything else, did not include retroactive pay.

    2. Catwhisperer*

      If it makes you feel better, my company didn’t give any COL increases in 2022 or 2023, and I work in tech. People were told to be grateful if they got a merit raise, which was typically between 1% and 3%, and people whose salaries were on the higher end of their pay band didn’t get any raises regardless of their performance.

    3. Gia Gunn's Privilege*

      If it makes you feel any better, I’ve never received a COLA in my entire working life.

    4. allathian*

      I mean, I got a COLA raise of 1.5 percent for this year. Better than nothing, I guess, but that’s no consolation when inflation was at least 7 percent… No merit raise last year, because I got one the year before. *shrug*

      Our merit raises are dependent on the budget and very rarely more than 0.5 percent. With a former boss I basically quiet quit and pretty much never went above and beyond, after she told me in a performance review that my performance deserves a raise but she has no budget for it, and then she adjusted my scores to show that I’d only just met expectations. Right there at the meeting in my presence. And she took umbrage when I couldn’t quite keep my disappointment from showing in my face. I mean, I get it that she was a first line manager with minimal control of her budget, but I think it was inappropriate of her to expect me to manage her feelings of disappointment (at not being able to give me a raise) as well as my own.

  9. Pizza Rat*

    Yay! You’re out!

    The only advantage to being laid off via email is you have documentation to provide the Unemployment office. Still….

  10. Czhorat*

    So, what you’re saying is that the place didn’t *quite* land a spot on any annual the “top places to work” lists?

    And yeah, the “like the Zoomers and identify as blond” thing is horrible on multiple levels; it is ABSOLUTELY transphobic bigotry, but also a touch of really childish generational discourse that does not belong in a workplace.

    I’m glad you’re out of there.

    1. Ashley*

      It is said how many things that are bigotry get identified as ‘personality thing’. I mean if bigotry is an personality sure … and I personally don’t want to work near those people.

    2. Yes And*

      Yeah, my first thought on that bullet point was, “I guess this COO reads the Babylon Bee.” (For those who are lucky enough to not be familiar with it, it’s an attempt to be a conservative version of The Onion, but pretty much their only “joke” is variations on the theme of “Thing X identifies as Thing Y.”)

    3. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I don’t want to discount that this person is potentially transphobic (given all the other evidence that they’re terrible, the odds are very high!), but as someone with grey hair and who has been surrounded all her life by women with grey hair, the number of people who want to pretend you’re actually blonde (or they themselves are blonde) is absolutely staggering and that’s how I read this person’s “joke”.

      I think it’s been a bit better since the pandemic started and lots of people stopped colouring their hair and were very open and unapologetic about it, but I can’t count high enough the number of people who call individual grey hairs on an otherwise not-terribly-grey head “blonde streaks” or if you’re much, much more grey, just blonde in general. (Especially if your grey is a bit yellow, as can sometimes happen.) It is absolutely A Thing people do, whether because they think it’s funny (in the same way some people refer to old women as “young lady”) or they think it’s rude to compliment your hair while acknowledging its real colour or for any other number of reasons that I can’t begin to fathom.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I think they definitely made somewhat similar links between grey hair and blonde, but the word “identify” in the context of generational differences was fairly pointed.

        1. House On The Rock*

          Yeah, if they were just joking about Grey Is The New Blonde it could have been phrased so differently and without the “these kids these days with all their IDENTIFYING” phrasing.

      2. Random Dice*

        No. It really was transphobia.

        I used to enable racists by explaining (to BIPOC, eek) that that white person really must not have meant to be racist.

        But it WAS what it sounds like, and I was helping a system that shuts up the oppressed when they speak uncomfortable truths.

        This woman was making a transphobic joke, because she has a belief system that is incredibly vile to trans people.

        You don’t have to carry water for transphobes.

        1. Genadriel*

          If you want a term for what you were doing, so as to better explain it to others why you’re no longer doing it, I found a great one ages ago: Occam’s Big Paisley Tie, specifically the distracting waving thereof.

          As coined by (looks it up) Melissa McEwan at the Shakesville blog in 2013. Link in nested comment if I can manage it. The article is a really good explanation of how and why privileged people do this, in order to convince themselves their privilege doesn’t exist.

          “Around every axis of privilege/marginalization, there are marginalized people saying, “I just experienced this heinous bit of hatred because of my marginalized identity,” and privileged people saying, “Hang on, now. How can you be sure that it was because of your marginalized identity, and not just a misunderstanding, or a mistake, or a misspeak, or this thing or that thing or this other thing over here, because there’s surely a perfectly logical explanation for why this behavior that looks exactly like a million other bits of behavior that you and other people in this marginalized population have experienced is actually something TOTALLY DIFFERENT. Have you considered that maybe it’s just that you’re too sensitive?”
          If Occam’s Razor is the principle by which the simplest explanation is usually the correct one, this urge to exhaust every possible explanation—no matter how convoluted, remote, unlikely, or totally f***g absurd—is Occam’s Big Paisley Tie.

          A swirling vortex of elaborate designs when a simple pinstripe just won’t do.”

        2. Caramel and Cheddar*

          My comment was about something older people have said to me and people I know for years and years and years, not whether or not it was transphobic as delivered in this letter. As someone else said in reply, the key tell here is the “identifies as” part, which didn’t really ping me when I first read the comment. I fully agree we shouldn’t be giving transphobes the benefit of the doubt, and I’m sorry if that’s how my comment came across.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        If that was the point they were making, they wouldn’t say it’s what all the “zoomers” are doing.

  11. Velawciraptor*

    Admittedly, I’ve worked for government agencies for more than a decade and haven’t really worked outside the legal profession since working for a bank during W’s administration (and never in any form of corporate law/Big Law), but 2 CEOs? Is this a thing? Not the most bananacrackers thing in this email, but I found that a bit…off.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yep it’s a thing. The title is usually co-CEO but they could drop the “co” and both use the title

    2. Velociraptor Attack*

      Dinosaur minds think alike. Of all the awful things here (and there are a lot), I got oddly hung up on that one.

    3. Observer*

      but 2 CEOs? Is this a thing? Not the most bananacrackers thing in this email, but I found that a bit…off.

      It’s actually more common that people realize. One of the most high profile public company with that set up was RIM / Blackeberry.

    4. fhqwhgads*

      I’m assuming they’re pretty much the founders and call themselves whatever they want, given the whole “been hands off for 10 years” thing.

    5. Ally McBeal*

      Nah, several companies have co-CEOs or co-presidents. Salesforce famously had that arrangement for a few months before the original CEO (who’d added a co-CEO so he could split duties) changed his mind. Cruise, the autonomous-vehicle startup within GM, just let its founder/CEO go and the company installed two co-CEOs in his place.

  12. Slow Gin Lizz*

    We were told that after processing the most recent payroll, the company had less than $50 to its name.

    I call BS on that.

    1. Czhorat*

      If it’s true (and that’s a massive “if”) it’s actually the one thing that’s almost a positive; I’d rather my employer be financially solvent but, if they aren’t, I’d want to know so I can look for an escape plan.

      If at the end of the year the messaging is “no bonuses this year because we didn’t have as much profit as we’d hoped” that’s disappointing. If it’s “no bonuses because we’re hanging on by the skin of our teeth and can barely make payroll” then it’s time to run, not walk, to the exit.

      The fact that they had multiple rounds of layoffs and furloughs of those remaining hints that they weren’t in great financial health, even if they weren’t literally down to their last fifty bucks,

        1. MassMatt*

          I was wondering this. I would be looking to bolt this company ASAP if I saw even one or two of these many MANY red flags. Anyone with options would be looking, if not quitting on the spot. Their turnover must be through the roof!

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            It’s pretty sad how sometimes workers think that this is how all companies run and don’t realize that they could leave for much greener pastures. I hope the good people still left at this company realize this and get out asap.

            1. ferrina*

              This. I was one of these people. I knew my company and boss were dysfunctional, but I thought that the benefits made up for it. I had also struggled to get a job in the first place (Great Recession hit me hard), so I thought that I couldn’t do any better. Bonus was that my family of origin had drilled into me that I was a burden who should be grateful when anybody put up with me (FOO was really toxic). AAM was a big reason why I am where I am now; I realized that I had way more power than I realized, and that I deserved a sane place to work. It also taught me how to quantify my value, and of course, the amazing resume and cover letter advice helped me communicate my value.

              1. Random Dice*

                Oh. Imagine me as Sandra Bullock at the end of Miss Congeniality, tearing up and flapping her hands.

                That’s so powerful.

                And your FOO is full of shit.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Now I’m wondering if they really did only have $50 in the payroll bank account but had a bunch of money lying around in some other account, so maybe that person was indeed telling the truth after all….

    2. AliceInSpreadsheetland*

      I’d also guess it’s not true but this seems like a company that would lie to its employees to get “sympathy”- ‘if we tell them we only have $50 after payroll they’ll feel grateful to us and not ask for a raise!’
      They don’t sound like they were doing very well financially though so who knows.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, I’m guessing they were trying to throw out the sympathy card too. I wouldn’t be surprised to know they weren’t doing well financially but it seems entirely unlikely that a company would really only have $50 and not be in the process of shutting down.

        I’d give almost anything to know how much those CEOs are getting paid.

    3. econobiker*

      $50 left for payroll in the payroll account; $1.5million for the two CEO’s quarterly bonuses in that other account.

  13. Emmy*

    With so many layoffs, how many people are left? If I had dodged the layoffs, I’d still be extremely nervous to work there and would be actively seeking other employment.

    1. Bear Expert*

      The financial instability is wild to me.

      If I think my company is struggling, I am actively seeking other employment. A friend of mine had their company literally bounce payroll checks on a Friday and project managers were holding project update meetings on Monday?

      If I’m in a room where no one is getting paid, the meeting I’m running is a group resume update and review session. We can return to doing company project work when the checks cash.

      1. Critical Rolls*

        That’s incredible! One of the really worthwhile lessons I learned in my retail/temp days was: no pay = no work. No more work until there is pay.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        > bounce payroll checks on a Friday and project managers were holding project update meetings on Monday?

        There could be a few explanations for that though:

        Get your head down with work and don’t think about it
        Faith that the pay will come through so don’t want to delay the project
        The company is in trouble and definitely will not pull through if people don’t continue with projects
        If I show I’m dedicated I might be spared from layoffs


    2. Czhorat*

      If that last $50 thing was true (even if it’s just $50 in cash reserves and there are other assets) that’s WILD. That’s so much closer to just not being able to pay their bills than most people would want to be, much less an actual company with employees. If I believed that was even CLOSE to the truth there’s no way I wouldn’t be aggressively shopping my resume to pretty much anyone willing to look at it.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Right? I don’t know how to run a company but my gut tells me that you have to have a certain amount of $$ in reserve. That’s why I called BS on it in another thread (that I see you also commented on), because it’s absolutely WILD to me that a company that has only $50 is still in business all these months later.

        1. JustaTech*

          I know a non-profit that once had to delay payroll by a day to make sure that the paychecks didn’t bounce, and they’re still around (and doing better), so it’s possible (unlikely in this case) that it’s a cashflow issue and that they do actually have more assets than $50.

      2. Antilles*

        Right? $50 for a business, even a small one, is absolutely nothing. That’s so thin that the company is basically telling you they’re bankrupt and just hasn’t yet finished the formal paperwork.

          1. MassMatt*

            This is reminding me of a priceless Monty Python skit. In a board meeting the lengthy financial report reveals that the profits, after all the many expenses, amount to… a shilling. And the accountant embezzled it.

      3. pope suburban*

        I worked for three years for a terribly dysfunctional construction business that was in that boat for a while. We never quite got down to $50, but we weren’t far from it for a while. If I hadn’t been so good at playing the shell game with checks, we would have gone into the red. We pulled out of it with zero thanks from my boss, who had been born into privilege and bought a business he knew nothing about with his golden parachute from a large bank (Doing IT, notionally, but he didn’t know what a host file was and I ended up doing most of our troubleshooting, sometimes with help from an IT vendor…man, connections must be awesome! :’D), and was not good at managing money because he’d never had to do it before. I started trying to leave that job pretty much as soon as I got hired, but when we had less in our bank account than you average working adult, yeah, I was cranking out resumes in an absolute panic.

        1. The Dude Abides*

          I was in a similar boat several years ago – the owner/founder had passed away a year before, and the founder’s wife/Secretary and company president were in charge.

          Trying to get the president to pursue collections on multiple 5-figure invoices was like pulling teeth, even when we were playing shell games with the various companies (there was one overarching company that had three distinct companies under the umbrella). Tack on the fact that the office environment and processes were straight out of the 1980s (OKI dot matrix printer with check leads, electronic typewriter for typing out invoices in triplicate), within six months I was spamming resumes.

  14. LCH*

    Wow, sounds like that company was being run by many incompetent assholes. Congrats for finding something better!

  15. Salty Lamp*

    Yikes. I thought my company’s layoff’s were bad (where I also happened to have put in my resignation just prior to it). The higher up’s went to each city separately over a week or two, so the news had spread between markets that layoffs were happening and each one just had to patiently wait for their turn. It had even been reported in our industry’s news sites before the layoffs were complete. But at least they made an attempt to do it in person I suppose.

    1. ENFP in Texas*

      I’ve been with my company for 15 years, and we usually have an annual cycle of layoffs (ah the joys of Corporate America), but they ALWAYS do it in person, either via phone call or face to face.

      Claiming that “doing it via email is a best practice” is only one of many ways in which that COO is a piece of garbage and a coward.

      I’m glad for the OP that they got out.

  16. a raging ball of distinction*

    My jaw literally dropped while I was reading this. I am…. impressed? by your old company’s ingenuity at doing everything in the worst possible way.

  17. LCH*

    Also, I wondered, is this Twitter? Which I see someone also wondered in the original post. Maybe this company thought if Twitter could act like this, so could they.

    1. Was At Twitter*

      This is not Twitter. Twitter was much, much more dramatic, speaking as someone who was there and unfortunately in a position to know way too many of the horrors.

  18. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

    Yowsers, glad you’re out and can start to recalibrate back to normal.

    “When I pointed out that this was upsetting to hear, I was told that we should always work hard to choose and control the things that are upsetting to us” <- Someone has, perhaps deliberately, misunderstood basic therapy techniques. Your feelings are real. You were right to be upset! You can't and shouldn't try to control your feelings. What you can control is how you *respond* to those feelings and you did that very professionally. I guess you also could have said, "Yes, and I choose to be upset that you chose to nearly run out of money."

    What they obviously meant was "don't say out loud that you're upset because then we have to acknowledge our actions and that makes us uncomfortable, which is obviously the most important thing". Kind of how the whole company runs, really.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I find this whole trend of weaponized therapy terms almost dystopian. “We wanted them to go to therapy and it only made their BS stronger”.

    2. Jaybeetee*

      Yeah, I’ve encountered some people in my life who think the phrase, “You are responsible for your own emotions” means “I’m not upsetting you by (cheating on you, insulting you, stealing your baby, etc), you’re responsible for your own feelings and you’re choosing to be upset.”

      As it happens, an aspect of being responsible for your feelings involves giving a wide berth to people who callously hurt them.

    3. MassMatt*

      The funny thing is the best way to “work hard to choose and control the things that are upsetting to us” is to leave ASAP and find a better employer, but the cognitive disconnect with the management of this place is too strong for them to ever understand that.

    4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      It’s unclear what sort of response they wanted to the $50 statement…

      I rarely say things to people without some idea of what the expected / hoped for response is.

  19. goddessoftransitory*

    The actual hell?? This is not a company, it is a lemonade stand run by delusional clowns.

    Congrats on getting the hell outta Dodge!

  20. Wordnerd*

    Man, as someone whose university forked up their layoffs and restructure in all the ways I thought possible, at least they didn’t do *this* badly…

  21. MissGirl*

    Sadly, I now have a “how not to do layoffs” story. My company laid off a 1/3 of the company back in January. People Ops sent out 15-minute Zoom invites to the affected workers first thing in the morning so it was easy to see who was going and staying.

    Fast forward four months. People Ops sends out another round of meeting invites on a Wednesday AM. Those of us who didn’t get one hopefully assume that means we’re safe. The CEO sends out an all-company meeting invite for 4 pm that day. He tells us there will be more layoffs the next morning with all invites going out at 5:30 am Thursday. Why the heck they hold off on sending out invites so we have to wait all night is beyond me.

    But wait, it gets better. Someone logs into their stock options and sees they no longer have access to a certain part. They ask their coworkers if they can log in. Some can and some can’t. Within an hour, Slack is on fire with the news and everyone is checking. Yep, I found out I was being laid off by my stock options.

    I finally get the invite the next morning but for a afternoon meeting, leaving me seven hours to wait. After logging into the Zoom, the first person asks me how my day is going. “Not great.” They went on with their script and asked if I wanted to take a few minutes to process it. Thinking I’ve had all night and all day to process, I just ask to get it over with. Fun times!

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      My department was laid off once, one at a time, starting with our manager. So by the time it was my turn, I knew exactly what was about to happen when the poor HR rep* walked up to my desk. When I walked into the conference room, the Director had the audacity to ask “how are you today?” I looked him square in the eye and said “why don’t you tell me what I know you’re about to say, and then I’ll answer that question?”

      *I found out from a friend later that the HR rep didn’t know anything about the layoffs until the Director (who worked in another state) walked into her office at 8am that morning!

      1. MissGirl*

        I had to keep reminding myself in the call the HR person had nothing to do with the situation and how badly botched it was. I told myself to channel Neutral Janet from the Good Place.

    2. Busy Middle Manager*

      My past job dragged it out for months, new managers didn’t show up for interviews for the “new” roles, they made it obvious you were competing with each other to stay, new management forgot who you were after meeting you multiple times, etc. I hated it. These quick zoom firings sounds like a dream in comparison.

      1. MissGirl*

        We’d all been expecting it since the first round and then doubly expecting it when they brought on the new CEO. He pretty much said layoffs were coming about three weeks before they did. I was there almost six months and don’t think I had a good night sleep after the first.

  22. Jess R.*

    “The two CEOs, who have not touched the company in almost a decade, decided to start running things again. This has gone about how you would expect.”

    Obviously all of this is awful, and also, this deadpan bullet point is absolutely killing me XD

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Same. I also wonder what the CEOs were doing when they weren’t involved in running the company. And as I mentioned in some of my other comments, I wonder how much they were getting paid for that.

      1. Random Dice*

        I love how they just kept on adding jobs that have a huge requirement for specialized knowledge and experience.

  23. Jaybeetee*

    So I fully get why the names of these companies are never divulged on this blog. But sometimes I really wish we could know the names of these companies. Holy crap what a goat show.

  24. Observer*

    The COO — the one who said our kids were ugly if they hadn’t been kidnapped — was laid off by the CEOs. He immediately posted about it on LinkedIn, so the majority of the company found out they no longer had a COO over LinkedIn on a Friday evening.

    This is the only thing that doesn’t bother me. This COO deserved to be laid off. And is there is a single person who had their weekend disturbed by the thought? I mean not having a COO is not great, but it’s not worse that having one who is actively terrible. And in fact, I suspect that some people had their weekends *improved* knowing that they would not have to deal with this jerk ever again.

    1. econobiker*

      Obviously the company (meaning the 2x CEOs) did not internally communicate that the COO had left which is pretty significant if that person had been running the company’s daily operations.

  25. Thinking*

    Did you miss a severance package due to giving notice? I guess this could be another drawback of giving notice.

    1. Email Layoffs LW*

      I wasn’t on the list to be laid off when I quit. If I hadn’t quit I would have just stayed and inherited the laid-off team’s work.

  26. Timothy*

    > Thank you and thank you to the commenters for solidifying that the whole situation was bonkers — I felt genuinely gaslit (and I don’t use that term lightly) at that workplace, so hearing that my intuition was correct was incredibly needed.

    Oof .. that sounds like a remote company that I worked for a decade ago. I kept thinking, “Am I being stupid, or is it really impossible to learn a 300K line code base in 2-3 weeks?”

    I was not being unrealistic. It was what in the trade we call A Big Ball Of Mud. When my manager started my 1:1 with the comment, “This is going to be a difficult meeting”, right away I got that this was a termination meeting. Good luck finding a replacement, Tex!

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I prefer calling something like that a “Piece Of Software”, although some people just use the initials.

  27. Stopgap*

    What does the COO think kidnappers’ goals are? As far as I know, it’s usually ransom and/or extortion, not decoration. Does he assume that no one would pay ransom for an ugly child?

    1. Seashell*

      I think it’s the same mentality as a person who thinks only attractive women are/can be sexually assaulted. A very clueless mentality.

      If I recall correctly, the majority of kidnappings are committed by a non-custodial parent.

    2. Dinwar*

      It’s worth noting that the vast majority of child abductions in the USA at least are actually child custody disputes. The sort of random abductions that the COO was referring to are a small percent of the total, and the odds of a child being kidnapped are vanishingly small.

  28. K*

    I’m gonna have to go against the hive mind here. I would prefer to get bad news in writing partly because I have a record of it but also so I don’t get emotional in front of another person, especially a person who evidently already does not like me. I would feel put on the spot getting fired in person. I’d feel as if I was being expected to act graciously in a situation where I’m probably not ready to do that. Id’d prefer to get the news in writing with the option to set up an in-person meeting, with my union rep, on my own terms.

    1. econobiker*

      A place like that is far away from anything organized and absolutely is not involving any union presentation ever…

  29. Ink*

    Well… I guess “You’re getting a pay cut and your kids are ugly,” is better than “You’re getting a pay cut and I find your kids very kidnappable.” Little victories…

  30. 653-CXK*

    I once got an offer to interview for a 100% remote company in Arizona, where they would send me the laptop and a camera. I went to Glassdoor, saw all of the negative reviews about said camera/monitoring, and noped my way out of that interview, telling them that I did not want to be contacted ever again.

    OP’s now former company’s artistry on gaslighting and other sociopathic behavior should be a bellwether for other employees who are still stuck there. I’m very glad they got the hell out of Dodge.

  31. rollyex*

    ‘Your letter was published while I was still at the company, and two of my colleagues actually sent it to me and said “WAS THIS YOU?!”’


  32. Gender Menace*

    “In a meeting with my manager and a few peers, we were told that after processing the most recent payroll, the company had less than $50 to its name. We were told to be grateful that the company was being so radically candid with us.”

    Man, I had a boss do this when I was one of three employees at a small business, and I had to FIGHT myself not to tell him that this was the opposite of motivational and did more to demonstrate how awful he was at managing the store’s finances.

    That sucks you had to hear that too.

        1. BubbleTea*

          Ants are pretty cooperative! I feel like they wouldn’t compete against each other, they’d just team up to set world records for largest item ever lifted or longest conga line.

  33. Fluffy Fish*

    Yikes on all the bikes. Such a good example of how toxic places can make us question normalcy.

    Glad you saw it for what it was and peaced the heck out.

  34. Tricksie*

    “There will be layoffs in 30 minutes. If you are laid off you will be sent a link to a Zoom chat in 30 minutes.”


  35. LucyGoosy*

    “There will be layoffs in 30 minutes. If you are laid off you will be sent a link to a Zoom chat in 30 minutes.” is definitely the most stress-inducing email a person can ever receive. What on earth do you do with that? Just sit and stare at your inbox?

    I was laid off from my first job out of college. At the time, we were called one-at-a-time into a meeting with the CEO and HR where they very nicely but firmly explained that we were being let go. They then asked us to leave the office right away without telling anyone else what was happening. That in and of itself isn’t weird. But then, my coworker whose job was spared told me that at the end of the day, the four people who were left were called into the board room and told, “You are all that remain”…like it was Survivor and everyone else had been voted off the island.

  36. RuledByCats*

    Our Director was in the middle of doing layoffs. My boss was acting office manager that day and he came up to her to apologize for how loud one of them had gotten. She said it was fine, it was a lot better than my coworker was dealing with at another location because the sales team wasn’t taking it well.

    Anyway, that’s how my Director found out his daughter was laid off. He followed a few rounds later.

  37. Antigone Funn*

    “No one can make you feel bad about your paycheck bouncing without your consent.” –Eleanor Roosevelt, probably

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