A fired Better.com employee's work email and messaging were cut off so fast after the Zoom mass firing he had to quiz ex-colleagues via Facebook

·3 min read
  • A former Better.com employee said the company pulled access to his work email shortly after firing him.

  • He told CNN he had to message ex-colleagues on Facebook to ask for details about the mass firing.

  • "It was a surreal moment," said Christian Chapman, a former underwriter.

One of the Better.com employees fired in a now-infamous Zoom call said he had to message his ex-colleagues on his personal social media to ask about the mass firing because the company had already pulled access to his work email and messaging.

In a three-minute call, Better.com CEO Vishal Garg on December 1 told 900 employees they were being laid off, "effective immediately."

Christian Chapman, a former underwriter at the digital-mortgage firm, told CNN that, after the call, he started messaging colleagues in company Slack channels to ask what was happening when his screens went black.

He told CNN that he had lost access to his company computer, phone, email, and messaging.

Chapman said he had to turn to Facebook Messenger to contact ex-colleagues.

The shutdown had other effects, too. During the call, Garg said that the company's human resources would send follow-up emails to staff who were being laid off. But Chapman said that, because he'd lost access to his company email, he had to wait hours before it was sent to his personal email.

Chapman, who is the sole provider for a family with five children, told CNN that he hadn't expected Garg to announce layoffs in the call.

"It was a surreal moment," he said. "It was one of those things that you don't believe it's going to happen."

"My heart just sank," Chapman told the BBC.

"It was very callous," he said later, also calling the experience "excruciating" and adding that he'd had a positive performance-review call with his manager the morning the layoffs were announced.

Chapman told CNN that he'd worked in the mortgage business for almost 20 years and had been laid off by three other mortgage companies in the past but said that none of the layoffs were as "obtuse and dispassionate" as this one.

In a leaked video shared with Insider, Garg told remaining staff in a livestreamed meeting just half an hour after the firings that he was trying to create "Better 2.0," with a "leaner, meaner, hungrier workforce."

The company had hired the "wrong people" and had lost $100 million the previous quarter, he said.

"We should have done what we did today three months ago," Garg added.

Garg told the laid-off staff that it was the second time in his career that he'd had to make an announcement like this.

Garg also said that "at least 250" terminated staff members had been stealing from the company by working just two hours a day, Fortune first reported

Garg told Fortune that the company's management had reviewed productivity data to help determine which staff to let go, including the number of phone calls answered, missed, and placed, as well as client-meeting attendance.

He later apologized to remaining staff, saying he had "blundered the execution" of the layoffs.

Even before the shock of the mass layoffs, Garg's management style had been heavily scrutinized. The Daily Beast reported in August that Garg had once threatened to burn his business partner alive, while Forbes reported in 2020 that he had told staff they were "dumb dolphins."

Since announcing the mass layoffs, Better's top marketing, PR, and communications executives have resigned, Insider reported.

Better.com didn't respond to CNN's request for comment and did not immediately reply to a request for comment from Insider made outside of working hours.

Do you work at Better? Do you have a story to share about working there or insight into its layoffs? Contact reporter Alex Nicoll via encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 (646) 768-4772 using a non-work phone, email at anicoll@insider.com, or Twitter DM at @AlexONicoll.

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