January 23, 2022

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Better.com CEO belies company name by laying off 900 workers in a 3-minute holiday Zoom call

The new remote workplace is also the new being-fired workplace.

Summoned to a Zoom webinar on Wednesday, 900 employees of digital mortgage lender startup Better.com – including the firm’s entire diversity, equity and inclusion recruiting team, according to CNN – were summarily told they were losing their jobs amid the holiday season.

No sooner had the $7 billion mortgage lender startup been pledged a $750 million cash infusion than CEO Vishal Garg delivered the grim news, informing employees in a one-way call that they would be receiving an email from human resources with details of their severance packages.

“If you’re on this call, you are part of the unlucky group that is being laid off,” Garg told his soon-to-be ex-employees, reported CNN, citing a recording of the call. “Your employment here is terminated effective immediately.”

He also fretted about his own feelings.

“This is the second time in my career I’m doing this and I do not, do not, want to do this,” he said, according to TechCrunch. “The last time I did it, I cried. This time, I hope to be stronger. We are laying off about 15% of the company for a number of reasons — the market, efficiency and performances and productivity.”

On the call, Garg said it was 15% of the workforce, but TechCrunch later clarified that it was 9%.

That didn’t stop one of those employees from blurting out, “F— you, dude,” in a clip that was posted online. “Are you f—-ing kidding me?”

A couple of days after that Zoom call, Garg let fly on an anonymous professional network, accusing those employees of “stealing” and working just two hours a day, reported Fortune.

The company employs 835 people in Charlotte, N.C., 587 in Orange County, California and 546 in the San Francisco Bay Area, according to The Sacramento Bee, plus a smattering in New York City, Texas and India.

“Having to conduct layoffs is gut wrenching, especially this time of year,” CFO Kevin Ryan told CNN. “However a fortress balance sheet and a reduced and focused workforce together set us up to play offense going into a radically evolving homeownership market.”

That’s a completely different sentiment than the one Garg expressed toward employees under the username “uneducated” on the professional network Blind last week, Fortune reported on Friday.

“You guys know 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?” he wrote Thursday in posts later confirmed to Fortune, explaining what went into determining who would be laid off. “They were stealing from you and stealing from our customers who pay the bills that pay our bills. Get educated.”

After the layoffs, Garg didn’t lay off. In a follow-up call, he told the remaining lucky employees that he would be scrutinizing their productivity, some of the participants told Fortune. Two of those employees told Fortune that he had actually used the word “bloodbath” to describe the coming year.

“His tone was extremely harsh and threatening,” a current employee who asked to remain anonymous told Fortune.

“It was just very strange,” said another. “The comments were disturbing.”

While Garg told Fortune that his bloodbath comment had been a description of the mortgage market and thus been taken out of context, he also said that the company would be paying close attention to productivity.

He had made similar comments a year ago, vilifying employees in November 2020 in an email obtained by Forbes at the time.

“You are TOO DAMN SLOW,” he wrote. “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.”

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