The corporate layoff is a communications trap for leaders. It makes them insecure, so they they adopt HR bullshit and talk about “reduction in force”, “rightsizing”, “eliminating positions.” But they don’t have to. Here’s how Jack Dorsey told Twitter he was letting a big chunk of the company go:
From: Jack Dorsey
To: All Employees
Date: October 13, 2015
Subject: A more focused Twitter
We are moving forward with a restructuring of our workforce so we can put our company on a stronger path to grow. Emails like this are usually riddled with corporate speak so I’m going to give it to you straight.
The team has been working around the clock to produce streamlined roadmap for Twitter, Vine, and Periscope and they are shaping up to be strong. The roadmap is focused on the experiences which will have the greatest impact. We launched the first of these experiences last week with Moments, a great beginning, and a bold peek into the future of how people will see what’s going on in the world.
The roadmap is also a plan to change how we work, and what we need to do that work. Product and Engineering are going to make the most significant structural changes to reflect our plan ahead. We feel strongly that Engineering will move much faster with a smaller and nimbler team, while remaining the biggest percentage of our workforce. And the rest of the organization will be streamlined in parallel.
So we have made an extremely tough decision: we plan to part ways with up to 336 people from across the company. We are doing this with the utmost respect for each and every person. Twitter will go to great lengths to take care of each individual by providing generous exit packages and help finding a new job.
Let’s take this time to express our gratitude to all of those who are leaving us. We will honor them by doing our best to serve all the people that use Twitter. We do so with a more purpose-built team, which we’ll continue to build strength into over time, as we are now enabled to reinvest in our most impactful priorities.
Thank you all for your trust and understanding here. This isn’t easy. But it is right. The world needs a strong Twitter, and this is another step to get there. As always, please reach out to me directly with any ideas or questions.
Here’s what this does right:
- Be honest. This email promises honesty, and then delivers it.
- Be short. The whole email is 344 words long. There’s not much space wasted here. Rather than go into detail about the new engineering priorities or the challenges, Dorsey comes directly at the issue — the layoff — and provides just enough context for it.
- Give a clear reason. This email is very clear about the need to streamline product roadmaps and engineering teams to get rid of efforts that are not central to the experience. You may not agree with this if you’re losing your job, but you can at least understand it.
- Don’t sugar-coat things. “We plan to part ways with up to 336 people.” I wish this wasn’t “up to,” but I bet something isn’t quite final in the count. That said, this isn’t buried deep in the email, it’s right there with a clear explanation of what’s happening and why.
- Be appropriately sensitive. The brief parts about exit packages and gratitude and honoring those who left show that Dorsey is not a monster. You can screw this part up by doing it too long, or insincerely. I think Dorsey hits the right balance.
Next time you have to share bad news with a bunch of people, use this courageous email as a model. Terrible things happen in the business world. If you can hold your head up and talk straight about it, we’ll all be better off.
Added later: On this announcement, Quartz tries to be withoutbullshit.com.