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Then came the conference call. Carvana held more than one to notify workers of layoffs.

“It was just, like, ‘You’re fired.'” Here’s your severance package. Tracy said to Protocol. “There has to be a little more human element, to make him feel like he feels bad about it.”

A Carvana spokesperson told Protocol earlier this week that the company had “as many conversations in person as possible,” and that less than half of the 2,500 layoffs were announced via Zoom. But Tracy still felt “terrible” about being fired on a conference call, a sentiment that resonated with a number of her Twitter colleagues.

Layoffs are always tough, and the era of telecommuting and co-working poses more challenges when announcing staff cuts. As the market turns and more tech companies announce cuts, it’s worth asking if firing employees en masse over Zoom — a tactic and TripActions used before Carvana — is ever acceptable.

Is zooming good?

TripActions made headlines in 2020 in its layoffs round, though company spokeswoman Kelly Soderlund noted that those cuts came at the start of the pandemic, when offices were empty and remote layoffs were uncharted territory.

“Basically, we were the first to get the hit in the press on that, which is a good thing,” Soderlund said. “But the layoffs we were forced to do in 2020 look very different from the layoffs that companies are enacting now.”

Now, companies have more — and more precedent — options when it comes to how to handle big cuts.

Betsy Leatherman, global head of Leadership Circle Advisory Services, an executive coaching and assessment firm, said she would avoid mass Zoom layoffs “at all costs.” Instead, Leatherman said, managers should notify employees directly.

“It’s going to be an hour and a half or two hours of chaos,” Leatherman said. “But I bet you can do that.”

Even laying off employees in groups of five or ten is much better than telling dozens or hundreds of them at once, Leatherman said.

The former CEO who spoke to Protocol on the condition of anonymity agreed that mass layoffs on Zoom is never the right approach.

“That was barbaric. The former CEO said of the Better layoffs.” “You get told on a conference call, and then all of a sudden, it’s spreading like wildfire – I don’t think that’s the right way to do it.” did not respond to Immediately request for comment.

But not everyone agrees that the Zoom layoff is necessarily a false mistake.

Sandra Soucher, a Harvard Business School professor who has written “The Power of Trust: How Companies Build It, Lose It, Get It Back,” said it might be a good idea to announce layoffs in a group email or on a big phone call. This is an important opportunity for the CEO or other business leader to apologize for the layoff, explain why it happened, and take responsibility for the decisions that led to it.

When companies go this route, Soucher said, employees should speak directly with their managers.

“It gives people a chance to connect with those they know best — even in a remote work environment — and hear the news on a personal basis,” Sawyer said. “It also gives people a chance to ask questions.”

Carvana didn’t do any of this, according to Tracy.

“If I could talk to someone for at least 10 minutes, just to get a little clarity,” Tracy said. “We weren’t even told why we were really laid off. It was a ‘restructuring’, but it obviously just meant they hired way too many people.”

Don’t overemploy

Conservative hiring is one of the lessons Khalid Hussain learned when he laid off nearly half of his staff at Tilt, the fintech company he sold to Airbnb in 2017. Tilt was able to easily raise funding — at one point reaching a $400 million valuation — Hussain said And they “drank Kool Aid” drove them to hiring faster than the company was growing.

This kind of overstaffing is a common story in the past couple of years. Many companies are finding that the massive surge in growth during the pandemic era leaves them with little room to run.

When job cuts can’t be avoided, Hussain — co-founder and now CEO of hiring startup Betterleap — said it’s essential for leaders to make themselves available to their employees.

“In those moments, every CEO wants to hide. It hurts. And this is when you need to do the exact opposite: You have to be very available,” Hussain said. “You have to have questions and answers, you have to be there, and you need to have all the questions answered.”

Open avenues of communication when possible

Tracy said that in Carvana’s case, the Zoom chat functionality was disabled and employees had no way of asking questions.

“We could have at least opened up about questions in the end,” Tracy said. “I felt like it was very transactional.”

Even without an open Zoom chat, Hussain said, Carvana could have offered another way for employees to submit questions, such as a Google Form. Hussein said the denial of contact was “painful.”

“I understand emotionally what they want to do, they want to avoid pain,” Hussain said. “But the best way is to just go through it.”

Individual leaders are key to handling these processes well. The former CEO said the company should have involved human resources, or at least some outside help, “in every aspect.” The CEO said the company didn’t have much of a HR team.

How much notice?

Sawyer recommends giving employees advance notice of laying off rather than firing them immediately. She said some of the companies she studied have given up to six months or a year of notice, but that’s in an especially stable business environment.

Giving advance notice is not uncommon, but Sawyer sees it as an “obvious best practice” in that it allows employees to prepare.

“The idea that you owe people advance notice is a humane, respectful and responsible way of managing,” Sacher said.

Leatherman is more sympathetic to immediate layoffs. She said financially motivated job cuts should take place as soon as possible, while layoffs for other reasons — closing a production line or selling part of the business, for example — could deserve more advance notice because it gives employees time to transition to another group.

But in cases where employees leave the company, news of the layoff can damage morale and lower employee motivation, Leatherman said. The performance of has reportedly been hit by the morale blow the string of layoffs has taken. In these situations, it probably makes sense to break off ties sooner.

“Even really, really, hard-working, great, and driven employees can make a change,” Leatherman said. “You don’t want to contaminate the culture before they leave.”

What about the class?

Tracy is receiving four weeks of severance payments from Carvana, which she said has been fair, though she is concerned about her colleagues who support families. She is also concerned about when she will receive the termination, because Carvana will not issue it until the employees have recharged their equipment. She said Tracy hasn’t received her shipping box yet.

“They are notorious for not sending boxes on time, so the money will be late for me,” Tracy said, noting that she had to postpone her start date by a week because Carvana was late sending her gear. “And financially speaking, I kind of need that money now.”

Late or short severance payments can salt workers affected by layoffs. One notable example occurred at, where laid-off employees accused the company of underpaying severance payments.

If financially feasible, Hussain recommended letting laid-off employees keep their computers, helping them find other jobs.

“especially [in] Low-paying jobs, this laptop means a lot more to that individual than the company as an asset,” Hussain said. “It goes back to the core principle of empathy.”

This story was updated May 13 to include a statement from TripActions and to clarify the circumstances of Carvana’s layoffs.

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