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Viral TikTok Layoff Videos: What You Need to Know

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So, you’ve seen or heard about these viral TikTok layoff videos, but you’re unsure how concerned you should be? 

Is it simply a temporary, addictive-to-watch trend that will blow over? A Gen Z thing that you don’t need to concern yourself with? 

Or, is it representative of a deeper, transformative work problem that you need to pay attention to? 

In this article, read about what you can learn from this content, and how it should impact your company’s HR practices.   

What is the viral TikTok layoff video trend?

Here’s the lowdown. 

Employees (or ex-employees, as it were) have started documenting their layoff experience on social media. Some of these videos have gone viral, raking in millions of views. 

Employees share HR emails, global company announcements, 1:1 exit interviews, and more. They share their raw and, sometimes, rather emotional reactions. A number of employers have found themselves being thrust into the limelight and seen their processes put under much scrutiny.

Indeed, not only are employees putting this content out there, others are engaging with it. Users are sharing their own stories, commenting and debating on the way things were handled, and forming opinions of the related events.

6 examples of viral TikTok layoff videos

  1. Watch me get laid off from my job at Indeed 

The company: Indeed

The gist: ex-Indeed employee shares real-time, emotional reaction to being one of the approximately 2200 people laid off from Indeed in march 2023. She shares snippets from the global announcement, as well as her 1:1 interview with HR and with her direct manager.  

Number of views: over 747.8k

  1. It’s the least I deserve ok!!!!!

The company: TikTok

The gist: ex-TikTok employee films as she goes into the NYC office for the last time. She shares images of different office areas and steals “company assets”, i.e snacks! She pokes fun at the experience in a light-hearted way.  

Number of views: over 3M

  1. I’m having mental breakdowns every 26 minutes someone lmk if this is normal 😭

The company: Disney

The gist: ex-Disney employee shares her “soon-after” reaction to being let go from Disney. She doesn’t share any of Disney’s official communications, however she explains the process and shares some of the concerns and questions that came up. She also includes small clips of her in tears and says “It honestly feels like a breakup that’s one-sided”. 

Number of views: over 2.2M

  1. This is me 5 hours before I think I’m gonna be laid off

The company: unknown

The gist: Employee shares the countdown to being laid off in a rather sarcastic and unfiltered way. She shares the signs and clues (odd meeting invites and reporting requests, for example), and a clip from the termination interview. 

Number of views: over 3.9M

  1. Pour one out for the homies who got laid off at @Discord @Google @Twitch @Audible in the last 2 days 🍷

The company: Discord

The gist: Former Discord Product Manager shares her “real-time” reaction to being let go. She shares the different communications received (global announcement, email telling her that her role has been impacted…). She voices over the actual announcement. She shares a screenshot of the email she receives, describing it as “Breakup text, through email… this is how I’m gonna go?!”.

Number of views: over 5.2M

  1. When you know you’re about to get laid off so you film it 🙂 this was traumatizing honestly lmao

The company: Cloudflare

The gist: Ex-Cloudflare employee films her termination interview as she is let go for “not reaching performance expectations”. She films the exchange as she pushes back and demands a data-backed explanation of the decision. She also addresses the fact that the people delivering the news are people she has never met before and critiques the fact that her direct manager has not been involved. She shares her disappointment, hurt and dismay in the face of this difficult situation.

Number of views: 2.5M

What to take away from the viral TikTok layoff trend

“Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.”

– Thomas Jefferson

The TikTok layoff videos serve as a reminder to employers that their policies and actions have real impact on people’s lives. 

Difficult business decisions must be made. It can’t be helped. However, you have the power to handle the worst situations, in the best possible way. 

Here’s our advice: 

  1. Be transparent and organized

“Social media is holding companies accountable. If an employee exposed your people processes, would you be ashamed? Can you stand behind them, or would you go and hide under a rock?”

Ask yourself, if your termination process was exposed, could you stand behind it? Do you have anything to hide? If the idea makes you uncomfortable, why? 

Pinpoint the areas of discomfort or disagreement and address them. If you think changes are necessary, make them. 

If need be, build a case for your executive team. Share examples and data, explain the risk of a badly handled termination process (lowered workplace morale, retention difficulties, security breaches, weakened employer brand, legal retaliation, sabotage…) and put forward your suggestions on how to handle things. 

“Gone are the days where you can keep things like this ‘contained’. Social media means every constituency is an investigator reporter with a distribution platform. This means making good decisions. The first time is imperative, and being prepared to be out front immediately when things go astray.”

Jeremy Tunis 

We also suggest you document as much of the process as possible. Keep track of communication and reasons for dismissal. This will not only provide extra clarity and transparency, but will also serve as a legal safeguard. 

  1. Show empathy and offer support

Empathy in this type of situation should be a given. But we know that things can slip in the midst of a high-volume, high-pressure layoff.

Strive to be sincere and compassionate. Polish your message to avoid using any insensitive or vague language.

Don’t make empty promises, but offer any additional support and assistance you can. On top of your typical severance package, you may want to offer a letter of recommendation, a reduced deal to purchase equipment like laptops (this can facilitate an impacted employee’s job search), a LinkedIn recommendation, a resume review, etc.

“I’ve been laid off a few times. 

The things that were the most helpful to me were setting my last day at the beginning of the month, so that I had the full month of health insurance covered. Most employer-sponsored health insurance in the US cuts off at the end of the month of your termination. So if you are laid off on the 30th, in a day or two you are left without coverage. COBRA coverage is very expensive, especially if you are suddenly without income. Having a few weeks of healthcare coverage means you can get in a few needed appointments, instead of being left high and dry. I have a friend who had had wrist surgery, and was then hit by a surprise layoff a few days later at the end of the month, and lost health coverage immediately. It had big implications for her follow-up care and rehab. 

I also appreciated having some time to say goodbye to my coworkers and put together anything I needed for my portfolio, including pulling performance metrics from my work or quotes/testimonials about my work that would help me land my next role. Immediately cutting off people’s access is extremely cold. 

And lastly, both my boss and the CEO apologized for putting me in this situation and acknowledged responsibility for the business decisions that led to it. Even though layoffs aren’t typically based on performance (and mine wasn’t) you can still feel like a failure. That message went a long way towards helping me internalize that this wasn’t my fault, and I didn’t have anything to be ashamed of.”

– Meredith Kucherov
  1. Anticipate what you can and come prepared

As a company, aim to limit the element of surprise. Transparency on goals, budgets and results will contribute to this.

In any event, performance-based decisions should never come as a surprise to employees. 

“[I don’t understand] why I’m being let go, despite constant positive praise from my manager, great meetings that I’m having, the amount of activity that I have had, it’s all been positive. I have not received any negative inclination. I have not been put on a performance improvement plan, nothing. […] Can you explain what those performance metrics are? Or is that just a vague term to give to everyone that you’re speaking to today?”

– Brittany Peach, extract from her termination interview shared on TikTok

When layoffs inevitably occur, make sure to come prepared. 

Make sure you’re properly equipped to deliver a reasonable explanation for the decision to let people go. These are not easy conversations, but it is an injustice to not give impacted employees tangible reasons for termination.

If this is a high-volume action, preparing an F.A.Q could be an effective way to answer employees’ recurring questions. A “What should I do now?” document can also prove reassuring and useful. 

As part of your preparation, be sure to inform and include the right people in this exchange. You want to avoid employees receiving this news from someone they have never met or heard of. Include the manager in this conversation whenever possible (and in 100% of performance-based departures!). 

  1. Provide a smooth offboarding experience

Offboarding an involuntary departure is just as important as offboarding a voluntary departure. Build a structured offboarding process to make sure that everything is handled in a timely, professional manner. 

🔖 Related read: Offboarding Checklist: How to Offboard an Employee

In the case of an involuntary departure, it may have to be a judgment call as to whether or not you organize an exit interview.

  1. Manage your online presence

Monitor your presence on both social media and review sites (Glassdoor, for example). 

While you can definitely take some things with a pinch of salt, knowing what’s being said about you as an employer will provide you with the necessary insight to adjust your processes.  

Plus, although not all content will warrant it, it may be necessary to respond. Be very careful to think before you speak, especially in viral situations with lots of visibility. You don’t want to make things worse!

🔖 Related read: How to Respond to Negative Online Employee Reviews

It’s not just layoffs

On a final note, remember that it’s not just layoffs. Any of your HR processes and policies, from screening to remote work, have the potential to be scrutinized online and made public. A few examples:

As much as anything, these trends are a reminder that the work you put in to make your HR processes fair, transparent and engaging is important, impactful and appreciated.