Letter to the editor
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This week, a letter by an employer in California, US, to his staff who were laid off amid the coronavirus pandemic, went viral on social media for all the right reasons. In the letter, shared on medium.com on April 15, not only did Henry Warda, the CEO of a Silicon Valley-based tech company, Carta, apologise to the 161 people he fired earlier this month, he also thanked them for their service.

Tweeps said his letter showed some much-needed compassion and empathy that employers lack while firing employees.

Warda wrote that he was sharing the letter to help other CEOs or managers going through a similar situation. He wrote: “Today we announced layoffs at Carta of 161 people. Below is the announcement I made to the company at our all hands this morning. I’m sharing in the hope that it will help other CEOs as they think about their layoff programs.”

In the letter that received close to 9,000 claps on Medium and a lot of praise on Twitter, Warda started by apologising for his “matter of fact tone”. He went on to explain the process of creating a list of staff to eliminate.

He then wrote: “Once the lists were created, they were sent to me for approval. It is important that all of you know I personally reviewed every list and every person. If you are one of those affected it is because I decided it. Your manager did not. For the majority of you, it was quite the contrary. Your manager fought to keep you and I overrode them. They are blameless. If today is your last day, there is only one person to blame and it is me.”

Many people shared it discussing how laying off was one of the hardest things to do, especially, in the current situation.

Tweep @joshelman wrote: “One of the most human and transparent expressions of a hard situation. Thank you Henry for setting a strong example.”

And @evansjia tweeted: “Been there before, it is one of the most challenging things I did in my operation career. Easy to deal with things, hard to do this to people [who] fought for you.”

In his letter, Warda pointed out the two perspectives CEOs must consider when making lay-off decisions: "The first is the shareholder perspective where reducing costs and protecting cash are what matters most in a recession. The second is the employee perspective where nothing is more important than saving jobs and helping employees as the world heads into unemployment levels the world has not seen since the Great Depression."

The next part of the letter detailed some benefits that were being given to the employees as a relief. All employees would also receive stock in the company, regardless of tenure, and would be added to a Carta alumni network.

Henry’s words to his departing employees hit a chord with many. He wrote: “First, I am very sorry. I’m sorry that we are going through this as a company. And I am sorry that all of you are going through this as Carta employees, Americans, and human beings. It is a scary and sad time. I remember 2000 and 2008 and how much fear people felt. This is worse. I hope all of you connect with your friends, family, and support networks. This is not a time to self-isolate. This is a time to ask others for help.

“Second, I want to say thank you. I am privileged to have worked with all of you. Thank you for having been a part of our company. Thank you for being a part of our lives. Thank you for coming to Carta. We are all better for it.”

The coronavirus pandemic has caused mass layoffs across the world and threatens a potentially shattering recession, according to economists. The International Labour Organisation’s director general, Guy Ryder, reportedly said: "Workers and businesses are facing catastrophe, in both developed and developing economies.”

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In the US, the world’s largest economy, more than 26 million jobs were lost over the last five weeks. The country’s unemployment rate of 4.4 per cent in March was the highest since August 2017, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics.

The US is not alone in dealing with rising unemployment. Australia and South Korea also registered an uptick in unemployment rates, with some economists warning that the situation could become worse.