“This will be the most vulnerable thing I will ever share,” she began, in a lengthy post, accompanied by a photo of herself. Wallake wanted to own up to his mistake, he said, and reach out to other business owners who were “feeling the pain” behind their tough decisions. I wanted them to feel less alone.
“I just want people to see,” he wrote, “that not every CEO out there is cold-hearted and doesn’t care when he has to lay people off.”
The post quickly went viral on LinkedIn and beyond, as many accused Walla of being insensitive and “belittling”. with more than 68,000 employees With layoffs taking off so far in 2022, many read Wallack’s post as privileging the CEO’s pain as employees let go.
“It comes off as tone-deaf, self-indulgent and somewhat inauthentic,” said one commenter. “Maybe you could post about the people who influenced your decisions instead of about yourself?”
“If only my boss had posted a picture of me crying about getting fired without giving me zero forgiveness [angry]” said another.
But comments and messages of support also came from fellow executives and others who praised her for showing vulnerability and humanity.
“Thank you for sharing this and restoring my faith in the business world again,” one DM wrote.
“When I see this post – I see a guy literally trying his best,” said one commenter. “This guy cares about his employees — I decided to process some of that online. Could he have tagged the employees and told them how awesome they were – sure, but did he expect this post to blow up like that? Probably not.”
Walla did not. Once I realized what was going on, I reached out to the two affected employees to show them the post and let them know that her “hard journey” was no worse than theirs. He shared about the job opportunities the post is already creating. Both are still taking time to think about their next steps, he said.
As the economy cracks, tech start-ups are among the first and hardest hit, with massive layoffs ravaging the industry in recent months. The industry has served as a kind of canary in the coal mine, where growth has slowed, with executives such as Tesla’s Elon Musk and Google’s Sundar Pichai among the early voices of fears of a recession.
Other executives have made headlines for their approach to layoffs. Vishal Garg, CEO of online mortgage company Better.com, sparked outrage after he was laid off 900 employees Zoom calls last less than three minutes in December.
“If you’re on this call, you’re part of the unfortunate group that’s being laid off,” Garg announced over Zoom, according to reporting from National Mortgage Professional. “Your employment here is terminated effective immediately.”
Days later, Garg wrote in the letter Apologized to his staff, admitting he had “embarrassed” them.
“I own the decision to lay off, but I executed it in communicating it,” Garg wrote. “I realize that the way I communicated this news made a difficult situation worse.”
Wallake said he knows the public has an image of wealthy executives who are “just taking layoffs to pad their own pockets.” He lives in a van with his girlfriend, who is his business partner, and their dog, Roscoe. On his LinkedIn profile, he mentions that he is a “5x college dropout”.
In some ways, Wallake said, his post was meant to push back against the idea that CEOs are supposed to be “brave.”
“Being a business owner and letting people go, I know it’s not fun on the other end,” he continued. “But we are human too, and we feel we are losing a friend.”