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Company Lays Off 406 People in 'Chilling' Fashion

One Bird employee says 'it felt like a Black Mirror episode'
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 11, 2020 10:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – There are many ways to lay people off—and then there's Bird's way. "It should go down as a poster child of how not to lay people off, especially at a time like this," says one employee. Similar quotes are rippling through a dot.LA article about the scooter company's chilling announcement last month. The workforce was already working from home amid the coronavirus pandemic when many received a Zoom invitation called "COVID-19 Update." According to memos and a recording of the event, invitees were greeted by five minutes of silence and a dark grey slide reading "COVID-19." Then came a voice that dot.LA calls "robotic-sounding" and "disembodied." It clearly didn't belong to Travis VanderZanden, the 41-year-old former Uber exec who started Bird three years ago.

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"This is a suboptimal way to deliver this message," said his messenger, who explained that COVID-19 had forced the California-based company to make "painful decisions"—including the elimination of "a number of roles at the company. Unfortunately your role is impacted by this decision." In mere minutes, the $2 billion company had laid off 40% of its workforce. Employees' company-issued MacBooks suddenly locked, and some workers who missed the webinar only learned about the news on TechCrunch. "It felt like a Black Mirror episode," says one. VanderZanden, who doesn't tweet much, wrote that "in retrospect, we should've made 1on1 calls to the 100s impacted over the course of a few days." Click for dot.LA's full article. (Incredibly, health workers are also being laid off.)

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