If you are a supervisor considering terminating a younger employee remotely, it may be wise to prepare for potential public exposure. As members of the generation that grew up with social media, some Gen Z employees have begun recording their own dismissals and sharing them on platforms like TikTok.
According to Jason Dorsey, author of “Zconomy” and president of the Center for Generational Kinetics, there is a trend of videos showing people getting fired or reacting to being fired. These videos feature workers from various industries, such as fast-food, office jobs, and teaching. While some of the videos are staged for comedic effect, many are genuine.
“We are witnessing this trend in every sector,” he stated. “Most of the instances are authentic. Individuals are recording their layoffs, capturing their walkouts, and even taking snacks as they leave.”
A viral TikTok video by Brittany Pietsch, a technology worker in San Francisco, captured the moment of her termination from her job at Cloudflare, a cybersecurity company. The 9-minute video, shared in mid-January, shows Pietsch visibly anxious as she prepares for a virtual meeting with an HR representative and a company director. In the captions, Pietsch mentions that her colleagues had been receiving unexpected 15-minute calls throughout the day and that her close coworker had been let go just 30 minutes prior, causing her to anticipate a similar fate due to her age of 27.
Next comes the worst.
“I apologize, my name is Rosie,” said a HR representative with a sorrowful tone, who was the first company representative to join the call. Shortly after, another company representative, referred to as “an unfamiliar male director” by Pietsch in the captions, begins the termination process.
“You did not meet Cloudfare’s performance standards,” he states. “Therefore, we have chosen to terminate our partnership with you.”
Despite receiving positive feedback from her manager, Pietsch, who had only been employed in sales for four months, is defending her performance and requesting clarification for the negative review.
The HR representative states that neither Dom nor I will be able to provide the clarity or answers that you are expecting, Brittany. Later in the video, she offers to follow up with you privately and provide the calibrated data. She mentions that she will need to speak with revenue leadership to obtain that information for you.
Pietsch is among the numerous employees in the technology sector who have lost their jobs in the past year, often right after being hired. Terminations have been common in the industry.
Companies in the media, retail, and technology industries are looking to reduce expenses by downsizing following excessive hiring during the pandemic, while also allocating resources towards artificial intelligence.
The TikTok layoff videos not only bring attention to a normally private event, but also demonstrate how younger employees are using social media to speak up against their bosses when they believe they are being treated unjustly.
I have dedicated a significant amount of time and effort in the past four months to this job. Being unexpectedly dismissed by a company that I strongly admired is like a major disappointment, as expressed by Pietsch in a emotional video to Cloudflare representatives. The video has been watched by over 23 million viewers on X, according to a report by Business Insider.
Matthew Prince, the co-founder and CEO of Cloudflare, addressed the video in a post on X, stating that it was difficult to watch.
“We have recently terminated approximately 40 sales employees from our team of over 1,500 in our marketing department. This is a typical occurrence for us. Through effective performance management, we are usually able to assess the success of a sales hire within three months, even during the holiday season. It’s important to note that being let go does not automatically mean the employee is not capable; they may excel in a different environment.”
Intimate matters exposed to the public eye.
The response from the public regarding Pietsch’s video has been varied. Some individuals on Glassdoor criticize Cloudflare for presenting what they perceive as financial layoffs as being based on performance. On the other hand, some commenters describe Pietsche as being confrontational and negative, with one person stating that her decision to film and publish the video was not wise. In contrast, on X, a platform, numerous comments show support for Pietsche. Many believe that she deserved a transparent explanation from Cloudflare.
Cloudflare did not provide an immediate response to a comment request.
According to Dorsey, who studies the distinctions among generations in regards to business, Gen Z considers it normal to share intimate details with thousands of followers and discuss typically private matters in public.
“It is significant that a lot of the younger generation who frequent TikTok have been raised on the platform. They have openly discussed their challenges and their successes, which may include a romantic breakup or being accepted into university,” he stated.
He stated that for a lot of people, this is their initial experience with being let go from their job. Therefore, they naturally want to inform everyone and then await feedback to determine if it was the correct choice.
Dorsey suggests that the primary reason why numerous young individuals post about their personal struggles and challenges on social media is to receive feedback, rather than for monetary gain.
The speaker explained that individuals often have difficulty having open and honest conversations face-to-face, so they turn to technology as a means of communicating their vulnerabilities. The speaker also mentioned that parents have shared with him that their children are more likely to share meaningful and vulnerable information through text rather than in person. This is considered a common and accepted form of communication in today’s society.
There is definitely a financial opportunity for individuals who are able to gain a significant amount of followers on popular social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram. This can elevate them from being just a regular user to becoming an influencer.
“Yes, the truth is that not only has a generation been raised to share everything, but we have also placed a high importance on being an influencer or social media celebrity. This means that instead of just getting 5 minutes of fame, you now have the potential to receive millions of likes or hearts. Our research shows that for many in Generation Z, being an influencer has become a legitimate career path, so it’s no surprise that they are pursuing it.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, individuals who have a large following of fans can make deals with brands that range from $30,000 to $150,000.
According to the BBC, individuals who share videos of themselves being fired from their job, regardless of their status as an influencer, may face consequences such as violating their severance agreements. Additionally, these videos can have negative consequences if viewers perceive them as spiteful or unprofessional.
In essence, these actions have both positive and negative consequences. According to Ben Voyer, a professor at ESCP Business School and creator of the Gen Z Observatory, the research on whistleblowers, who publicly expose unethical behavior, reveals that individuals often face stigmatization for their actions. This was stated in a recent article by Business Insider.
“Typically, society does not acknowledge those who engage in actions that may be viewed as disloyal. Sharing such content on the internet serves as a means of seeking moral support while also seeking retribution,” he stated.