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Lessons From a Viral Layoff
January 25, 2024

When Brittany Pietsch was let go by her employer, Cloudflare, she joined the thousands of  workers who experienced layoffs in the first few weeks of January. But Brittany’s experience was remarkable in at least one distinct way—she recorded and uploaded to social media her conversation with HR. The tense, nine-minute exchange has been watched by nearly 2 million people, and was followed by a response on X from Matthew Prince, the CEO of Cloudflare. "The video is painful for me to watch,” he wrote. “Managers should always be involved. HR should be involved, but it shouldn’t be outsourced to them.” 

The video and its aftermath are shining a light on the heavy toll that layoffs take on the laid off employees, HR teams, and those who remain in their jobs. Although there is no perfect method for handling layoffs, there are insights from mental health researchers that can imbue the process with fairness, respect and compassion. 

Clear coordination and communication among the CEO, HR, and managers is key before, during and after layoffs. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind: 


  • Let employees know early on that you are considering or planning layoffs. Speaking openly about the circumstances that have led you here will help prevent employees from feeling shocked by the bad news, and also allow you to quash rumors. 
  • Provide a timeline for updates, and stick to it so you don’t keep employees in a prolonged and open-ended state of anxiety. 
  • Assist managers with the information they need to prepare for layoffs, restructure workloads and offer updates without making promises they can’t keep. 
  • Let your teams “talk it out” with you—and listen actively to them. 


  • Your CEO should inform your entire workforce what steps the company is taking and how they’ll be affected, ideally in-person, with an opportunity for Q&A. 
  • On the day of a companywide announcement, you should have one-on-one conversations between affected employees and their direct managers—not a consultant. In a smaller layoff, these conversations should come first so employees get the news individually. 
  • If you must break the news by video conference, offer the opportunity for a follow-up in person.
  • Offer supportive benefits to ease the transition (ie., severance pay, an extension of health benefits, career coaching, access to recruiters). 


  • When layoffs are unexpected, people may not be able to process the news in the moment. Provide an avenue for the laid-off employee to ask questions, review support resources, etc. a few days or weeks post-layoff. 
  • Your remaining employees may be feeling destabilized. Address their questions head-on in an all-staff town hall and/or departmental meetings. 
  • Remind all your employees of available counseling services through your EAP, or even make a counselor available in person. Pay special attention to managers and HR professionals who were directly involved in conducting the layoffs, to help them decompress.

Go deeper with our Layoffs & Mental Health Resource, which is informed by psychological research and wisdom from real-world business leaders. 

Connect and Learn From Other Employers

At Health Action Alliance, we support and convene a community of business leaders, who champion the health and well-being of their workforce. Join one of HAA’s new Orientation events to meet like-minded peers and learn more about how HAA can support you and your company through today’s pressing health challenges.