2022 has been a year of big change for social media when it comes to staffing, with both Meta (led by Mark Zuckerberg) and Twitter (now led by Elon Musk) going forward with extreme readjustments to the companies, resulting in substantial numbers of workers being laid off.
Handling large scale changes, and staff reduction is a necessity of business life, no matter how uncomfortable it may make you as a CEO – but it should be handled delicately, respectfully, and with due consideration given to the staff who are the human casualties of a business redirecting.
Have Meta and Twitter handled their layoffs in the right manner? The media certainly have mixed opinions on this. Zuckerberg has claimed that the Meta layoffs were to make the company, “leaner and more efficient”, and Musk states that for Twitter that there is, “no choice when the company is losing over $4M / day.”
Meta layoffs have been largely factually reported, with very little in the way of opinion or commentary from media platforms or discussion on social media – which suggests that their approach was successful.
Twitter on the other hand, has been plagued with negative press, lawsuits (such as the most recent filing that claims 57% of women were laid off compared to 47% of men, and that the female employees were unfairly targeted), and backlash across social media.
It also doesn’t help that Twitter has been fluctuating back and forth on promises of what the platform will do and stand for, high profile users being reinstated and then banned again, and functional parts of the site being activated, deactivated, and then activated again – which the media has generally reported as being a clear indicator that the CEO has no idea what he’s doing.
There have also been a number of disgruntled former employees publicly ‘calling out’ the CEO on comments, and these people aren’t mincing their words – claiming that he’s directly lying about certain facts or situations.
What Can We Learn?
As we mentioned, no one enjoys laying off workers and causing disruption to a business, but sometimes it has to be done.
Looking at the actions of the social media sites Meta and Twitter, the key lessons we can take away from this are:
- Have a structured plan, and clear understandable reasons for your decisions
Both companies have approached their downsizing very differently, with Meta taking what seems to be a more structured approach, and Twitter making what appears to be spur of the moment changes.
This may be one reason why, despite Meta removing a larger number of individuals (11,000 compared to 7,500), they have not captured the public and media attention (and ire) in the way that Elon Musk has.
- Don’t be reactionary with responses
One of the things people mention about Elon Musk a lot, is that he’s very outspoken and quick to comment – which we’ve been seeing regularly over the length of the media coverage of the firings. However, Musk does seem to tweet without thinking through what he’s saying – and a number of his tweets have then been highlighted as being false and has caused even more negative coverage and added to a lack of confidence in the business.
On the other hand, Zuckerberg made his announcement for Meta, and there has been no further announcements or reactions from him since.
When making your decisions, be factual, understanding, and decisive – then leave it at that. You may need to make a few follow up comments where appropriate, but by and large, it’s best to not keep making comments or trying to justify your decision as it just weakens your position from an outsider’s perspective.
- Carefully choose your timing and make sure to give notice
Some changes do come quickly and need to be addressed as they happen, but where ever possible you need to give your staff a reasonable period of notice, and take into consideration life events (such as festive holidays and times of additional expense).
Twitter staff were planning on suing Musk for not giving them enough notice, and this is something that could have easily been avoided by consulting the employment terms and abiding by them.
- Treat your staff and team with dignity as you inform them of the losses
The Twitter staff were warned by internal memo that job cuts were imminent, and that staff who were losing their jobs would receive an email to their personal account, and those staying would be notified on their work account.
When the Twitter layoffs happened in Ireland, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath, TD was quoted as saying that it’s, “disappointing to hear the manner in which this has been done.”
There are ways and means of delivering your decision, ones that remain respectful of your staff and their dignity as both employees and people.
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It remains to be seen how Meta and Twitter will handle the changes to their businesses, and the fallout from their decisions – and how this will affect consumer consumption and investor confidence going forward.