Days hadn’t been ordinary at the online mortgage lender Better in months. But they became confusing for some and then tragic for many on Tuesday, as a group of now-former staff learned that they were among 3,000 employees let go.
Many had felt that layoffs were coming. The company was openly reporting bad financial news, and Better insiders told Inman in early February as many as 30 percent of the workforce could be let go in the late winter or early spring.
The stage was set for yet another round of mass layoffs at Better, a company made up of about 9,000 employees before today’s events. They just didn’t know whether or when the shoe would drop.
“They told us that there would be no more layoffs and to not worry,” an employee who was one of the estimated 3,000 people let go from the company told us on Tuesday. At the same time, the employee was hearing otherwise.
“I kept getting screenshots from an anonymous [message] board called Blind and people were telling us we were getting laid off,” the employee said, referring to a website where employees can anonymously share information about their companies.
The employee learned they’d been let go when the bank notified them of a pending deposit, which turned out to be severance pay.
The company that has been mired by bad publicity following a round of mass layoffs four months ago is again in the limelight for the same thing.
Tuesday’s mass layoffs amounted to 35 percent of Better’s staff. The company acknowledged some staffers found out ahead of time that their employment was being terminated, but said the number was small.
A handful of Better employees took to social media to describe an emotional day that for some started with strange bank deposits and ended with thousands jobless.
Unexpected severance and locked computers
For Wes Bergeron, a sales and people manager, that process began when he checked his bank account and saw an unknown deposit coming his way.
“I saw a huge deposit going into my account tomorrow and got kinda curious,” Bergeron wrote.
He wasn’t alone. Multiple employees reported discovering they’d lost their job when their severance check — worth between 60 and 80 days’ pay — hit their payroll app.
Kiana Brown, a home advisor, also discovered via her banking app she was being laid off.
“I would say that I am shocked but I am more heartbroken than anything else,” she wrote. “I moved as a single mother to a new city for this opportunity all on my own.
“I understand layoffs happen,” she added, “what I don’t understand is how the company communicated the news.”
Better is in the process of seeking to go public through what’s known as a special purpose acquisition company. The company has been under intense scrutiny since late last year when Garg laid off 900 employees on a Zoom call that went viral.
This time around, interim company president Kevin Ryan sent an email at 9:14 a.m. to say the company was shedding thousands more people.
That notice didn’t come in time for some.
“My laptop shut down and roughly 45 minutes later [I] got a copy and paste email saying we have some hard news,” wrote Brandon Stadler, a sales associate with the company.
“I did not find out through our payroll system, my bank account showing a severance check, or a phone call from HR,” wrote Amanda Bullard, an agent experience partner at the company. “My computer just shut down in the middle of me responding to one of my clients.”
Third time. Most harm?
Layoffs hit teams across all specialties. The company, which didn’t respond to a request for comment on the complaints by employees, cited market conditions as the reason for the layoffs.
“We do not take this decision lightly and want to let you know about the important steps we are taking in the coming days to support the transition for coworkers leaving Better,” Ryan said in his email to staff.
In a written statement, the company acknowledged some employees discovered the layoffs ahead of schedule.
“Despite careful planning, a small number of employees were unintentionally notified of their separation from the company ahead of schedule when severance payment information was made available through either our internal payroll system or their financial institutions,” the company said. “This was certainly not the form of notification that we intended and stemmed from an effort to ensure that impacted employees received severance payments as quickly as possible.
“Personal, one-to-one calls will continue today in the U.S. and through tomorrow in India to provide every person affected by layoffs with information about this announcement and the significant financial, healthcare and transition support Better will be providing.”
Lending activity throughout the country dropped shortly after Better ballooned in size to 10,000 employees, primarily in the U.S. and in India.
And while numerous employees said they understood the rationale behind needing to conduct layoffs, many took issue with the execution.
“This is my third layoff that I have been a part of,” said Amanda Vasquez, an agent experience partner. “I can say without a doubt this has been handled the worst.”