Please spare a thought for mortgage lender Better.com CEO Vishal Garg, who is currently “taking time off” after the “very regrettable” experience of firing more than 900 employees on a Zoom call last week, the company’s board announced in an internal staff memo on Friday.
Garg, who founded the SoftBank-backed Better.com in 2014, was forced to endure the terrible plight of cutting 15 percent of his workforce over a video call. The ordeal was so traumatic that he evidently suppressed all signs of emotion just to get through it, telling his beloved employees in a reportedly monotone voice: “This is the second time in my career I’m doing this and I do not want to do this. The last time I did it, I cried; this time, I hope to be stronger” and “If you’re on this call, you are part of the unlucky group that is being laid off. Your employment here is terminated effective immediately.”
Not only did Garg have to perform the emotional labor of delivering this mass firing right before the holidays, but he then also received a wave of public backlash just for being a visionary who takes on the responsibility of making tough decisions when no one else will. In an effort to defend himself in the wake of toxic cancel culture, he started responding to criticism on an anonymous professional networking app, posting — under the username “uneducated” — that “at least 250 of the people terminated were working an average of 2 hours a day while clocking in 8+ hours a day in the payroll system,” Fortune reported. “They were stealing from you and stealing from our customers who pay the bills that pay our bills. Get educated.” You tell ‘em, Vishal — corporations are victims, too!
Despite his bravery, Garg was still bullied into backtracking. On Tuesday, in a letter to employees that was also published on the company website, he apologized for how he handled the layoffs. “I failed to show the appropriate amount of respect and appreciation for the individuals who were affected and for their contributions to Better,” he wrote. “I own the decision to do the layoffs, but in communicating it I blundered the execution. In doing so, I embarrassed you.”
Any hustlepreneur would know that Garg had nothing to apologize for: not for firing people during a pandemic, not for doing it over Zoom, not for cutting off the terminated employees’ computer access immediately after the call, not for essentially calling them parasitic losers on an anonymous messaging app. Actually, those workers should be thanking their dear leader for giving them termination packages and Christmas packages reportedly containing a trophy, certificate, and T-shirt branded with the name of the company that had just kindly laid them off. (One terminated employee’s wife told the New York Times that she intended to burn said T-shirt, which just seems like a waste of a good shirt.)
But this is not the first, nor probably the last, time that the Better.com genius has been misunderstood and misrepresented. In 2020, Forbes published a hit piece containing leaked motivational messages that Garg had sent his team, including, “You are TOO DAMN SLOW. You are a bunch of DUMB DOLPHINS and … DUMB DOLPHINS get caught in nets and eaten by sharks. SO STOP IT. STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW. YOU ARE EMBARRASSING ME” and “You need to press your [title insurance partner] to the point of breaking, then break them” and “Punish them. Punish them like they just stole candy from your little sister.” Some people just don’t understand that life is a competition, and this is what it takes to #win.