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Workers fired on Zoom: Here’s how to navigate a ‘devastating’ experience and come out on the other side

It can be hard enough for employees to hear the words, “You’re being let go” or “Your job no longer exists” from a manager or a supervisor in a conference room or in an office.

But even tougher in today’s remote and hybrid work environment is hearing — via a Zoom video call through a personal device — “You’re being downsized.” 

In recent months, scores of people have taken to LinkedIn to share their tough job news and describe their disappointment, frustration and upset over losing their positions via Zoom calls, whether those Zoom meetings were large group calls or one-on-one situations.

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“I started noticing something happening on LinkedIn late last summer and early fall,” said Amy Keller Laird, the New York-based founder of Mental, a platform about mental health issues.

“Instead of a flood of people posting their [job] accomplishments,” she told Fox News Digital, “there was an avalanche of people openly writing that they’d been part of mass job layoffs. This struck me because, in the past, people didn’t typically share this kind of information publicly for fear that companies wouldn’t want to hire them or that they’d somehow ‘look bad.'”

Added Laird, “But the response was pretty incredible: Others amplified their posts by tagging hiring managers and commented from a real place of compassion, either sharing in the difficult situation or offering words of support.”

Laird noted that “layoffs are always tough, with research showing that being unemployed can increase your risk of depression.” 

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She said, “Then we’re in this remote-working landscape, which itself is isolating. And because work-from-home situations have turned your couch into your office, getting laid off by Zoom is particularly jarring because you wake up the next morning in your ‘office’ but without a job.”

She added, “Home is no longer an emotional respite.”

Also, she said, “it seems that, with a lot of these mass corporate layoffs, because they’re digital, people are being cut off immediately [from their devices or other work platforms] or at the end of the day, rather than getting a couple of days to process [the news] and tie up loose ends.” 

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She said, “In one minute, you’re part of a team — the next, your access to Slack and email is removed. It’s like you’ve been digitally erased from your workplace. It’s a recipe for depression.”

In a recent post on LinkedIn, Tanya Biyani, a product management analyst based in Dallas, Texas, wrote on the platform that last Wednesday, “I hopped on a Zoom call for a regular 1:1 sync with my manager — only to find my [managing director] patiently waiting on the same bridge.”

She added, “In that moment, I knew this was not our normal feedback session.” 

She said that she had just heard, prior to her Zoom meeting, about some coworkers at Goldman Sachs being laid off — and wondered if “this could be related to the layoffs, though I desperately hoped that it wouldn’t be me.” 

Then, “in the next few minutes (what felt like eternity), I gathered words like ‘headcount’ and ‘severance’ and ‘being let go.’”

She wrote that she felt “shock, sadness and confusion. All I could think about was how I had a job — and now I didn’t. I rushed to say my goodbyes and offhand my responsibilities, knowing my access would be removed at any minute.”

She also shared on LinkedIn in her compelling post, “It is crazy how fast things can change. You watch the news about the market and mass layoff fears looming within the industry, but you never really think that it’s going to be you. You aren’t taught how to navigate your emotions or the future or even the process of leaving. You just learn through experience.”

In a phone interview this week, Biyani told Fox News Digital that she’s talked to a lot of other people who have also been laid off — and she recognizes that many people are in very tough financial straits right now, without their jobs. 

“It’s a learning opportunity for me,” she said, looking to the future, “and I’m open to new challenges.”

Fox News Digital reached out to mental health experts and others for advice and insight on “remote firings” — and what people should know.

“It can be embarrassing to get fired in a group Zoom. It may feel as though your boss doesn’t care and you aren’t valued, despite the contribution you made to the company,” said Amy Morin, a psychotherapist in Marathon, Florida, who is also the author of the book “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.” 

She added, “Many employees are loyal to their company, so being fired in a group Zoom feels like a major betrayal.”

Denver, Colorado-based Niki Jorgensen, director of service operations with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources, said that when employees are laid off as a group via Zoom or any virtual platform, the experience can feel highly impersonal and uncaring, for several reasons.

“Employees cannot have a direct conversation,” she said. “Historically, employees are laid off in one-on-one conversations with HR or management.”

Yet “when employees are laid off as a group, personal explanations or assurances are absent. Employees will also feel less comfortable asking questions and expressing themselves in front of a group, if they receive the chance at all,” added Jorgensen.

She also said, “Employees can feel blindsided. While many employees are aware of layoffs in a group Zoom, the practice remains unpopular.”

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She said that “unless management has shared the content of the call ahead of time, employees will be caught by surprise when what seems like a typical team call becomes a group firing.”

With today’s remote work setups, more and more crucial conversations are taking place over Zoom or in a virtual space, noted Jorgensen. 

“Pre-pandemic, these conversations typically took place face-to-face, but the business world has now embraced video calls as an effective way to communicate about job offers, HR updates and more. These factors have forced disciplinary action to also occur via Zoom.”

Jorgensen distinguished between Zoom firings in group settings — and dismissals via Zoom that are one-on-one.

She said that today, “for fully remote employees, layoffs or firings must take place on Zoom or similar platforms.”

She also said, “Managers can have difficult conversations via a video call, but it is important for employers to recognize the value of one-on-one communication around this topic.”

Employees can “remind themselves that a company’s choice to fire someone over Zoom is a reflection of them, not you,” Morin said. 

Jorgensen, for her part, said that ideally, the employer has been transparent about the state of business. 

“When employees are aware of any challenges the company is facing — which have been exacerbated by a variety of other global factors — they need to be realistic about what could happen to their job role.”

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She added, “When an employee realizes layoffs could be on the horizon, it is the ideal time to reconnect with past colleagues, update resumes and begin to look at job postings. This prep work allows employees to jump back into the job market quickly if layoffs should occur.”

Jorgensen also noted that the way employers handle layoffs is important. 

“When handled correctly, the organization has a pool of candidates to pick from when hiring resumes,” said Jorgensen. 

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“Additionally, those who are still within the organization remain engaged. When layoffs are poorly executed, it can negatively impact the reputation of the company, the current work culture and the opportunity to reengage past employees.”

Amy Keller Laird of Mental said she recently came “across a fascinating study showing that staying connected to former coworkers isn’t just good for networking, it can actually help you integrate better into a new job.”

Laird said, “The study authors wrote that keeping up with old colleagues helps you ‘navigate through newly encountered social structures.'”

Laird added, “To combat the loneliness and feelings of isolation from this situation, experts talk about what I call a series of Ss.” 

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These “Ss” are as follows, she said. 

“Stay connected — to friends, family and your work network; self-compassion, by treating yourself gently, allowing yourself some rest and realizing you’re not alone and there’s no shame in what’s happened; and structure, by lining up a to-do list for your days.”

This can include, said Laird, “small steps like reaching out to two people in your network every few days or scheduling 30 minutes for running or your favorite podcast.”

Deirdre Reilly of Fox News Digital contributed reporting. 

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