Daily Thoughts

Layoffs Suck! How To Share A Bad Message In A Better Way

I don’t tend to read public emails on workforces being downsized.

But I was recommended to check this out by someone I respect and I’m glad I did. This is an email from Stripe’s CEO to all employees from late 2022 announcing changes across their organisation. 

Why am I sharing this here? 

Because this email contains many good lessons on best practices when difficult situations like the current macro environment arise and you have to communicate tough news.

You can read this in its entirety below, but I wanted to share some takeaways on what was handled well in this 

1/ Accountability and Responsibility.

This line says it all for me “For those of you leaving: we’re very sorry to be taking this step and John and I are fully responsible for the decisions leading up to it.”

This is an example of extreme ownership popularised by Jocko Willink. Leadership takes responsibility no matter what.

The announcement breaks down what went wrong and what has been learnt.

This is a prime example of learning from mistakes.

2/ Treating people like humans, not numbers

The section titled “How we’re handling departures” is a stand out here.

I don’t think I’ve seen any announcement that is so clear on this sucks to do but here’s how we’re going to support you long term. And this section is incredibly comprehensive and feels above and beyond what other orgs would do (my experience of course).

It’s easy to forget the human side of business. It has not been forgotten here though.

This sentence articulates it well, “There’s no good way to do a layoff, but we’re going to do our best to treat everyone leaving as respectfully as possible and to do whatever we can to help”.

It’s real, honest and facing the environment.

3/ Sharing context and hope

Whilst layoffs are never good news, getting some context to “it’s not you, it’s us can” be helpful.

This shows through this section from Patrick where he says

“Our message to other employers is that there are many truly terrific colleagues departing who can and will do great things elsewhere. Talented people come to Stripe because they’re attracted to hard infrastructure problems and complex challenges. Today doesn’t change that, and they would be fantastic additions at almost any other company.”

And building on this, the team talk about the roadmap going forward.

Layoffs are not only awful for those departing, but for those that remain too. It’s natural for people to start to panic about what could come next.

Acknowledging this and providing structured guidance with this early on feels critical here.

I’m not saying “this is the best way to do this” because I don’t know if it is. I hate that these things even have to happen but that’s life.

This feels like a good example of how to do this humanely and compassionately.

Something we can all do more of.

Before you go… 👋

If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.

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