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The "How" Matters

In the past three weeks, the tech industry has seen significant layoffs.

Meta, Amazon, Shopify, Stripe, Opendoor, Salesforce, Zillow, Peloton, Snapchat, Carvana, Robinhood – have all announced major reductions in staff.

These were companies that have been on a consistent upward trajectory the last decade, with incredible growth during Covid.

With an evolving economic landscape and the depths of the pandemic mostly behind us, staff reductions like this are painful but understandable.

There is one company, though, that has received the lion’s share of negative coverage for its own layoffs: Twitter.

Twitter’s situation is complex (and exhausting). But the disparity in coverage demonstrates one thing above all else:

The ‘How’ matters

Let’s examine two examples: Meta and Twitter.

Meta, a company that is increasingly unpopular, laid off over 3 times the employees that Twitter did. But you probably didn’t hear that much about it. And that was on purpose.

Meta leaked their announcement beforehand, a risky but ultimately successful move that made the official announcement of layoffs less newsworthy. They made the official statement the day of the midterm elections – when the news (and the entire country) would be completely distracted. They offered fair compensation to terminated employees, covering their bases on doing both the right thing and the smart thing because it gave the media less to cover. Their rollout was remarkably buttoned up.

Then you have Twitter. Twitter laid off 3,700 employees. They continue to attempt to fire the existing leadership team for cause (which is a dodgy and doomed effort to avoid compensation packages). They shifted directions almost immediately after starting their layoffs and decided to reverse some of the termination decisions. They even had a widely believed joke emerge (viewed 14 million times) about laying people off via meme. And – our favorite part – during this entire disruptive and business-critical time, they also laid off the entire communications staff.

Business decisions can be painful. They can be unpopular. But they can also be managed.

Twitter’s reputation and credibility have taken a potentially irrevocable blow, in sharp contrast to Meta. Those layoffs could have been difficult but necessary. But because of how Twitter went about its terminations, the story has spiraled out of control. And Twitter may never recover.

Reputations are fragile. The How matters.

Insights by Brian Stephenson, Vice President and Media Strategist, Alta Via.

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