What is the Human Cost of Layoffs?

Often when we talk about layoffs, we talk about why this has happened, how many people have been dismissed and what it means for the company at large. What we often fail to consider, is how being laid off or fired affects the now ex-employees.

Layoffs at Twitter

Firing someone as well as getting fired, can be a complex, confusing and emotionally charged process. There are many guides advice available online, coaching both parties on how to best follow through with and recover from firing someone. They offer advice on anything from how to conduct exit interviews, to making sure you cover all the critical steps when firing someone. There are also many resources online for those who have been laid off; offering guidance on how to emotionally bounce back and return to the job search.

The Do’s and Dont’s of Firing Someone. Source

 It is generally agreed that the proper way to fire someone, is to do it in person. Most other methods of communicating a layoff, be it email, or even via zoom call or text, are generally looked down upon and seen as cowardly or unprofessional. Leaving the now ex-employees without an exit interview, or even the opportunity to truly say goodbye to their former co-workers, can leave them feeling resentful and disgruntled, normally something you want to avoid.

This is clearly not the case in the recent sweeping layoffs at tech companies like Meta and Twitter, which have had layoffs in the thousands, with the latter even slashing approximately half of its workforce. Its clear that in the weeks since his installation as CEO, Elon Musk has already caused irreparable damage to Twitter’s workforce. Not only has he instituted company-wide layoffs, in some cases dismantling entire teams, but the layoffs have been handled incredibly badly. Many ex-employees reported receiving emails about their firing in the middle of the night, others were simply logged out of their company laptops and slacks remotely – their only indication they were no longer employed by Twitter.  

The finality of getting fired

“I went to the office yesterday just because it could have been my last day. I wanted to say hello and goodbye to my co-workers.”

Unnamed Twitter employee to the Wall Street Journal, Source

Many twitter employees took to social media platforms, Twitter ironically among them, to post about their negative experience of being laid off, but more often, to share their positive memories of working there. On LinkedIn many also took the opportunity to ask for new opportunities, directly advertising they were now again open for work.

Being so abruptly laid off, many felt there was no closure or communication from the company. With so much uncertainty about layoffs as well as the future of the company itself, many who did not get laid off may have preferred otherwise. One employee even spoke to the Wall Street Journal, stating that being fired would have given everything a kind of finality. But reading the testimonies from those who were laid off, by email or by being remotely logged out, it seems like there is often no finality, but rather confusion. Especially considering that some people who were laid off were asked to return shortly afterwards.

Either way there is no doubt that getting, or seeing others get fired this way leaves a bad taste in your mouth. But looking at social media, the tone is generally hopeful. Many posters seem intent on taking a brief break from work, while others are already searching for new opportunities, and trying to move onto better things.

There are resources on how to hire those who have recently been laid off. Empathy towards their situation, and emotional delicacy are often advised in those guides, but also the knowledge that people may be keen to move on to new opportunities, and available to start immediately.

Impact on the Market

There are arguably right and wrong ways to fire someone. But ideally, an organisation should strive to minimise bad blood between themselves and those they are laying off, as well as the employees conducting the layoffs, and the co-workers of those being let go. If done poorly, this kind of resentment, both internal and external might fester, and drive employees and potential candidates away.


Laid-off Twitter staffers speak out on LinkedIn

4 tips for reaching out to recently laid off candidates | Wellfound

A Twitter Employee’s Account of Surviving Layoff Day | The New Yorker

Getting Fired by Text Message | FlexJobs

Hiring laid-off employees: 8 tactics for 2022 and beyond

Laid Off by Twitter, Then Tweeting About It – The New York Times

Laid-off Twitter employees reveal their fates: ‘8 months pregnant’

Layoffs Sweeping the US: Amazon, Meta, Twitter Making Cuts

Twitter Engineer Fired On Twitter Calls Musk’s Team ‘A Bunch Of Cowards’

Twitter layoffs: Former employees reveal how they got fired – Los Angeles Times

Why you should consider hiring laid-off employees