Ottawa·Point of View

Fired over Zoom

Joanne Gallop describes what it was like to be let go through a mass layoff of 200 employees at Smiths Falls-based cannabis company Canopy Growth.

Spoiler: This story of a virtual layoff does not have a happy ending

Chelle Lorenzen was on staff at Canopy as an Illustrator/Graphic Designer, and was fired that same April day via Zoom. She created these images of her and Joanne's experience (Illustration by Chelle Lorenzen)

Until one day in April, Joanne Gallop was creative lead for Canopy Growth, working out of the cannabis company's Kanata office. She writes about the day 200 employees were laid off, many of them virtually.

So OK, Zoom is having its moment. This nifty little piece of tech has been the source of endless faux pas. (The naked-spouse-walk-by? Nice one, Denise. Embrace your exhibitionism.)

Yes, it's offered pure bliss to fans who finally get to share a screen with a Wookiee without judgment. And yes, it's allowed us to continue doing our office jobs while at home for what feels like the rest of eternity. 

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But wait, there's more. Zoom is also a handy way to rid yourself of excess staff — allowing you to conduct a mass layoff from the comfort of your kitchen table. Amazing.

It would be funny if it wasn't so, well, not funny at all.

What it’s like to be fired over Zoom

3 years ago
Duration 1:34
Joanne Gallop was let go from Canopy Growth through a mass layoff of 200 employees — via the video chat platform Zoom. Illustrations by Chelle Lorenzen.

Losing a job you love, virtually

Wednesday. 9 a.m.

You receive an 11am meeting invite. It's titled 'Team Update'. This kind of meeting is never good. 

9:15 a.m.

You start to get messages in your team Slack channel. What is this meeting about? Wait. Some people are invited. Some are not. Cue the sinking feeling.

You realize that, in the not-too-distant future, you are likely to be fired. Sacked. Laid off.

9:30 a.m.

Daily Team meeting. Everyone is discussing the invite, trying to discern which group is getting fired. Am I lucky to be on the call? Or unlucky? 

10 a.m.

Bigger team meeting. Everyone pretends things are normal. What no one realizes is that each has been invited to their own "team update" meeting. This is a mass event. 

11 a.m.

You join the Zoom meet. There are 92 others on the call. HR is the host. Any small sliver of hope you had is gone. 

You weigh your options: Do you leave the camera on? If you're going to get fired via Zoom, the least they can do is look at your face while they do it.

The host shuts off mics and cameras. Apparently, they do not wish to look you in the eye as they show you the door.

Your underwhelming boss starts to speak, clearly reading a script. "Effective today, we will no longer have a role for you with this company."

It takes just 50 seconds, then nothing. The on-screen names of your now ex-colleagues start to fall away. 

If you're going to get fired via Zoom, the least they can do is look at your face while they do it.- Joanne Gallop

IT remotely cuts off your email. People frantically share personal contact info in Slack until it, too, is cut off, ending the sad string of goodbyes and "you guys are the best," mixed in with a few confused "what just happened?" posts.

Finally, the computer screen shuts off completely. 

Joanne Gallop worked at Canopy Growth until she was laid off in a mass Zoom call in April. (Submitted by Joanne Gallop)

Virtual layoff, virtual commiseration

With no local bar to gather in, you find yourself in an "ex-employee" group on WhatsApp. Because a virtual sacking calls for virtual commiseration among the 200 shell-shocked souls. 

For a while, it's completely addictive. These people get you and your situation so much more than the "I'm sorry to hear that" comments you get IRL. But after a few days, you disengage from that cesspool of rage. What kept you afloat at the beginning is now starting to pull you under.

The question keeps bugging you. Could it have been done another way? Probably. But to be honest, this is the way companies have been doing this sort of thing all along. Maybe not on Zoom, but out of the blue, swiftly, and with a dash of indifference.

People always say that mass layoffs aren't personal. They're just the company "right-sizing". Those people are wrong. 

Someone made a choice about who stays and who goes. Someone placed value on attributes, skills, experience, personality, seniority — someone placed a value on you. And decided you weren't valuable enough. 

So yes, it is personal. Incredibly so. This is your hard work and time spent away. It's the people you spent your days with, who shared success, worked through failures and laughed through frustrations.

After being laid off, Chelle Lorenzen joined the same WhatsApp group as Joanne Gallop. Their virtual commiseration is represented in this image, paired with a glass of whisky. (Illustrations by Chelle Lorenzen)

In the days that follow, you go through periods of sadness, anger, and writing nasty emails you later delete.

But you realize your city is small, your industry new, and you are now in the position of having to look for a new job.

Ah, the salt in the wound. After suffering the indignity of losing a job via Zoom, you now have to get ready to face the stress of interviews — now being conducted on the very platform used for your demise. Not to mention, your hair, 13 weeks into lockdown, has never looked worse.

One day, a box arrives from Purolator with instructions to "pack your laptop, phone, and Amex carefully, so they're not damaged in transit." With that, no handshake, and no well wishes, you're done. 

Today, with a bit more time between you and this calamitous event, you're more Zen. Life happens, this is just the next opportunity, and all that therapy stuff.

At least now, for the time being at least, you're liberated from Zoom. The host has left the meeting. 

Joanne Gallop is a creative director and copywriter. She is currently figuring out what's next.