'It was callous,' says man laid off with 900 employees on Zoom call
Christian Chapman, Texas father of 5, among workers let go from Better.com
Christian Chapman is still reeling after his boss fired him and about 900 of his colleagues in one fell swoop during a company Zoom call last week.
The father of five from Allen, Texas, was busy at work facilitating training sessions for the U.S. mortgage company Better.com when he and his co-workers were sent an unexpected link to a Zoom call with CEO Vishal Garg.
"We were all laughing, getting ready for a holiday party, and we jumped on the call, Vishal's call, and it was like the air was sucked out of the room," Chapman told As It Happens host Carol Off.
"It was surreal. My mind was having a hard time processing the words coming out of Vishal's mouth."
'I come to you with not great news'
The two minute and 33 second call was leaked on YouTube this weekend, where it's been viewed more than 900,000 times. In the video, Garg begins the meeting with: "I come to you with not great news."
He went on to explain that the real estate market had changed, and that Better.com was laying off 15 per cent of its workforce in the name of "efficiency" and "performance."
"It's been a really, really challenging decision to make. This is the second time in my career that I'm doing this, and I do not, do not want to do this. The last time I did it, I cried. This time I hope to be stronger," he said.
"If you're on this call, you are part of the unlucky group being laid off. Your employment here is terminated, effective immediately."
He thanked the employees for their work, promised they would get an email from HR shortly, and ended the call.
WATCH | Footage of Better.com's Zoom meeting leaked online:
Shocked, Chapman immediately tried to reach out to his colleagues, but the company had already logged him out of its software and shut down his work computer remotely.
"Before I could even process what happened, my computer went dark," he said. "And I mean it completely just shut down."
Better.com did not respond to a request for comment from As It Happens, but Garg issued an apology on the company's website Tuesday for the way he "handled the layoffs."
Though the company initially defended the move in statements to other media outlets, the CEO said in his apology that he "failed to show the appropriate amount of respect and appreciation" for those affected by the layoff.
"I own the decision to do the layoffs, but in communicating it I blundered the execution. In doing so, I embarrassed you. I realize that the way I communicated this news made a difficult situation worse. I am deeply sorry and am committed to learning from this situation and doing more to be the leader that you expect me to be," the apology reads.
I've been in the mortgage industry for 20 years and it blew me away. I've never seen a layoff handled that way.- Christian Chapman, former trainer at Better.com
Chapman says he didn't see it coming. Business, he said, was booming.
The company received a $750 million US ($950 million Cdn) cash infusion last week from the Japanese company SoftBank, its key investor, as it announced it was going public.
On a more personal note, Chapman says he was given a promotion and raise in October, and had recently completed a one-on-one with his manager in which he received rave reviews for his work.
"And then just to be dismissed, I was completely — it just hurt on the inside. I don't know how to explain it. It was like I got kicked in the gut, and I didn't know what to do," he said.
"I thought of my five kids and my wife and the conversation I needed to have with her, and how that was going to work."
The promised HR email didn't come for several hours after the Zoom meeting, Chapman said.
"For 3.5 excruciating hours, we didn't get anything. We were left in the dark."
At the two-hour mark, he left his rented workspace, drove to a Starbucks and called his wife. Christmas vacation plans and the kids' school tuition are now up in the air.
"We agreed that we'd pull through this together, that we weren't going to tell our kids right away," Chapman said. "We don't want to create instability in them, the same instability that had been given to us."
He says he broke the news to his kids, who range in age from five to 14, on Sunday.
CEO reportedly disparaged workers after call
After the Zoom call, Fortune.com reported that Garg wrote disparaging remarks about the laid-off employees on a professional networking message board called Blind.
"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? They were stealing from you and stealing from our customers who pay the bills that pay our bills. Get educated," he reportedly wrote, using the username "uneducated."
The website is anonymous, but Garg confirmed to Fortune that he made the comments, and stood by them, saying: "I think they could have been phrased differently, but honestly the sentiment is there."
Chapman, meanwhile, is trying to move on with his life and his career, but he says he's still stunned by what happened. He says he's been laid off twice before, but never like that.
"It was callous. It was cold. It was premeditated, I mean, for everything just to shut down like that," he said.
"I've been in the mortgage industry for 20 years and it blew me away. I've never seen a layoff handled that way."
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Chris Harbord.