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Microsoft and others are showing us what not to do when eliminating jobs

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There is no good way to eliminate thousands of jobs. But as the recent layoffs in tech and banking have shown, there are better and worse ways to do this. This is true not only for the layoffs themselves, but also for what the company does at the same time.

Microsoft, for its part, came under fire this week for hosting an exclusive party in Davos where attendees watched a live performance by Sting on Tuesday night, as the Wall Street Journal reported. It’s unclear how much the company paid the artist, but $500,000 wouldn’t be surprising.

The next day, the company announced that it was laying off 10,000 people. CEO Satya Nadella sent an email to employees with the news, saying: “We will treat our people with dignity and respect and act with transparency. These decisions are difficult but necessary.” But Sting’s private performance being held so close to the devastating announcement undoubtedly stung.

“I’m a big fan of Satya Nadella, but that’s really bad executive symbolism,” tweeted Rita Gunther McGrath, professor at Columbia Business School and author of The End of Competitive Advantage.

At Salesforce this month, the team was called into an all-hands meeting the day after the company announced layoffs affecting 8,000 employees. Many attendees were surprised, however, when CEO Marc Benioff dodged questions about the layoffs and instead delivered a two-hour speech that many found rambling. In an internal Slack channel, Insider reported, an employee wrote: “Is Marc obstructing over 47,600 employees now by talking in circles and avoiding the issue at hand?”

‘Room for humanity’ in layoffs

On Twitter, thousands were laid off in the aftermath of Elon Musk’s chaotic takeover. Many received an email signed only by the company that said, “We are sorry to write to inform you that your role at Twitter has been affected” and had to wait months for their official termination agreements, which fell short of what they expected. Even worse, the agreements were emailed via a third-party service in what appeared to be a phishing attempt.

“Tough decisions need to be made from time to time. Quick decisions too. But there must always be room for humanity in the process,” Gemma Dale, founder of HR firm Work Consultancy, tweeted after the Twitter layoffs.

At Goldman Sachs this month, employees who attended seemingly routine meetings — to which they received calendar invites — found they were losing their jobs. As one worker said to new york post from the experience of a colleague, the “meeting was placed on their calendar under false pretenses”.

Asked about the tactic, the bank, which has laid off 3,200 workers this month, shared a statement with Fortune reading: “We know this is a difficult time for people leaving the company. We are grateful for all of our people’s contributions and are providing support to ease their transitions.”

Fortune also reached out to Microsoft, Twitter, and Salesforce, but did not receive immediate responses.

“Firing people happens,” said Dale commented. “How you do it is everything. You follow the policy, you follow the law. That’s the absolute minimum. The rest is about decency, empathy and compassion. Treating people like human beings. How would you want to be treated if that happened?” for you.”

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