Yesterday in the Executive Communication Report, to which you should subscribe because it’s useful and free, we reported on the case of one Braden Wallake, CEO of HyperSocial, a little B2B marketing agency where, according to the website, “We put our clients first. We own up to our shortcomings and celebrate the heck out of our successes. We throw dance parties, live in vans, tell our team to take time off when they need it, and most of all, we treat and see our clients in the same way that we see ourselves: as awesome humans.”
At any rate, Wallake posted the following on LinkedIn this week, and divided the platform in half (between the LinkedIn leadership foamers and the still somewhat sane):
This will be the most vulnerable thing I’ll ever share.
I’ve gone back and forth whether to post this or not.
We just had to layoff a few of our employees.
I’ve seen a lot of layoffs over the last few weeks on LinkedIn.
Most of those are due to the economy, or whatever other reason.
I made a decision in February and stuck with that decision for far too long.
Now, I know my team will say that “we made that decision together”, but I lead us into it.
And because of those failings, I had to do today, the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do.
We’ve always been a people first business. And we always will be.
Days like today, I wish I was a business owner that was only money driven and didn’t care about who he hurt along the way.
But I’m not.
So, I just want people to see, that not every CEO out there is cold-hearted and doesn’t care when he/she have to lay people off.
I’m sure there are hundreds and thousands of others like me. The ones you don’t see talked about. Because they didn’t lay off 50 or 500 or 5000 employees.
They laid off 1 or 2 or 3.
1 or 2 or 3 that would still be here if better decisions had been made.
I know it isn’t professional to tell my employees that I love them.
But from the bottom of my heart, I hope they know how much I do.
Every single one. Every single story. Every single thing that makes them smile and every single thing that makes them cry.
Their families. Their friends. Their hobbies.
I’ve always hire people based on who they are as people. People with great hearts, and great souls.
And I can’t think of a lower moment than this.
And then he posted this:
I’ve written about crying before—what it means, and what it doesn’t. I’ve said that crying at a wake is a less important expression of your feeling than showing up to the wake in the first place. The authenticity of Wallake’s tears came into question the moment it occurred to him: “Hey, I should get a picture of me crying, so those laid off employees can see what this has done to me!”
But to me, the message is worse than the photo. I’m compelled to reply to the message on behalf of the “1 or 2 or 3” laid-off employees at HyperSocial:
Braden, as a leader in a tough time, you need to be brave. If you cry in front of the people you have let down through the bad decision-making you’re taking responsibility for, we want it to be an accident—not a photo op. Shouldn’t this be about our upset, not yours?
No, it’s not professional to tell your employees that you love them. It’s professional to show your employees you love them—yes, by taking rhetorical responsibility for your mistakes (that was good) … and by doing your best to share in the consequences. (We hope those severance packages are as fat as your tear drops, Hoss!)
And finally: Strange to have to remind you of this, but HyperSocial is not the only place in the world to work. Sure, it sucks to be laid off, but life actually will go on. We still have our families, our friends and our hobbies, after all.
And as we look toward our professional future, we’ll hope our next boss isn’t a narcissistic, sniveling crybaby, like the last one.