Viral TikTok Video Of Cloudflare Employee Is A Lesson On How To Not Fire Workers


Brittany Pietsch, a mid-market account executive at Cloudflare, recently gained attention on TikTok after posting a video of her being let go from the tech company. In the video call, a member of the HR team and another individual informed her about the decision, citing performance-related reasons for her termination. Pietsch disputed their claims, highlighting her high activity and positive feedback from her manager. She also questioned not having her direct manager present in the meeting and requested specific metrics to justify the firing, as she hadn't received any negative feedback or been put on a performance improvement plan. Despite her pushback, the company representatives were unable to provide detailed explanations and assured her that she was not being singled out.

Pietsch expressed frustration with the lack of clarity and accused the company of causing distress to employees without proper explanation. She sought to understand the decision-making process and emphasized the importance of addressing her concerns before her dismissal. However, the HR professional indicated that the meeting was not the appropriate forum for a detailed discussion and promised to "circle back."

This situation has drawn attention to the practice of employees documenting their layoffs on social media and raises questions about transparency and fairness in termination processes.  

What Should Have Happened

“There were a few missteps here,” said Valerie Vadala, an experienced global talent acquisition leader who served in executive roles at Wells Fargo, Shutterstock, Invesco, OppenheimerFunds, Credit Suisse, and Lehman Brothers. “I think the biggest is that her manager was not present.”

Vadala herself has been in the difficult position of having to lay off people on her team and “it’s one of the most difficult things a manager has to do.”

She added, “It’s a sign of leadership to be present and to let the employee know that the company realizes it is personal. It’s incredibly painful to be laid off. To make it something cold and transactional is denying the reality that you have just gut-punched a person’s career trajectory.”

The HR executive said that Pietsch’s firing was “incredibly egregious” by making it performance-based. “If you are doing a companywide layoff, which this clearly was, don’t make it about performance.”

When a business conducts layoffs, that is typically an indicator that the company is not performing well—not the employee. To make it about the employee at that moment is cruel and unfair, she said. “Not to mention the fact that it sounds like it was untrue in this case anyway.”

Vadala, who has over 20 years of human resources and talent acquisition experience, shared, “This may not be a popular opinion, but I don’t love the trend that companies choose to blindside employees instead of at least giving them some sort of heads up that a potential layoff is on the horizon and that specific teams are likely to be impacted. This not only prepares people for the possibility but also allows them to get a head start in potentially finding another opportunity. That’s probably exactly what employers are trying to avoid, but it would be a far more empathetic approach.”

A Cloudflare spokesperson said in a statement to Inc., “Cloudflare did not conduct layoffs and is not engaged in a reduction of force. When we do make the decision to part ways with an employee, we base the decision on a review of an employee's ability to meet measurable performance targets. We regularly review team members' performance and let go of those who aren't right for our team. There is nothing unique about that review process or the number of people we let go after the performance review this quarter.”

Early Friday morning, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince posted on X that his company fired approximately 40 out of its 1,500 people in its market org, which he shares is a typical quarterly target. He goes on to say, “When we’re doing performance management right, we can often tell within 3 months or less of a sales hire, even during the holidays, whether they’re going to be successful or not. Sadly, we don’t hire perfectly. We try to fire perfectly. In this case, clearly, we were far from perfect. The video is painful for me to watch. Managers should always be involved. HR should be involved, but it shouldn’t be outsourced to them. No employee should ever actually be surprised they weren’t performing.”

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