Getting laid off, especially amid a pandemic, can be as heart-rending as a breakup. It’ll keep you up at night, trying to find answers to the questions, "Why me? Is my best not good enough? Where do I go from here?"
However, that doesn’t mean letting go was a piece of cake for your employer. Take it from Braden Wallake, the chief executive officer of US-based marketing agency HypeSocial.
On Tuesday evening, US time, Wallake’s firm retrenched two out of its 17 employees. In an interview with VICE, the 32-year-old executive revealed that he performed one of the layoffs, while the other was carried out by his “girlfriend slash business partner” while he watched.
Saddened by the circumstance, Wallake posted a photo of his teary-eyed self along with a lengthy guilt-ridden caption on LinkedIn.
Wallake wrote, “This will be the most vulnerable thing I’ll ever share. I’ve gone back and forth whether to post this or not. We just had to layoff a few of our employees.”
He said that it was a result of a decision he made in February “and stuck with that decision for far too long.”
“Days like today, I wish I was a business owner that was only money driven and didn’t care about who he hurt along the way. But I’m not,” he continued.
“So I just want people to see, that not every CEO out there is cold-hearted and doesn’t care when he/she have to lay people off.”
Wallake added that although it seems “unprofessional” for a boss to tell his employees that he loves them, he hopes they know how much he does.
“And I can’t think of a lower moment than this,” he concluded his post.
Wallake’s agency is focused on developing sales and marketing campaigns for companies, with LinkedIn as its major client. Wallake is quite a LinkedIn influencer himself, having over 32,460 members following his bio.
His recent post, however, has drawn mixed reactions from netizens and led him to dubbing himself “the crying CEO.”
One user who identified herself as a mental health professional said, “This post throws up a number of red flags for me. Accountability is great, it’s crucial for any kind of growth and recovery. This, though, is not accountability, but rather emotional manipulation. The selfie is truly next-level manipulation tactic. I see this sort of behavior among abusive parents who want their children to pity them for the abuse they commited.”
Another one said, “Yikes. I was just laid off — along with many others. If my CEO sent this, I’d probably lose my mind. You’re crying? I’m crying. We’re crying. You still have your job.”
“’I’m so sad, worst day ever,’ but first let me get a selfie,” one user chimed in. “Get a grip mate — and maybe a good PR now.”
Another one said, “Braden, you are not equipped to be a CEO. You are a narcissistic, emotionally immature quat. Hey, why not deflect your inability to take tough decisions and assuage your guilt by… making it all about YOU!”
Others came to Wallake’s side, pointing out that the CEO was just being human on his post.
“Regradless of his intent, it’s important for us to remember that he’s human. We all make mistakes. We all screw up. We all do things that don’t look good to others. It’s how people react that can make a big impact,” one user said. “Why did this go viral? To find jobs for the people that were let go, or bash a man for an unorthodox post?”
Another member of the professional network added, “Making the decision to lay off isn’t easy. I was just impacted by a layoff and while I’ve gone through several emotions… I have compassion for the folks who made the tough decision. Everyone losses when it comes to layoffs. Remember that we’re human first.”
One user pointed out that Wallake seems to be a good leader for “owning his mistakes.” The comment read, “I haven’t seen any leaders of famous companies making any public post on expressing their ‘sadness’ for laying off so many people… I haven’t met Braden in person but after checking his previous posts, I saw how he supported and empowered his team and shared posts on his failures as well, so gives me a positive impression about him.”
Instead of letting the negative comments get the best out of him, Wallake said he has been directing his attention to fellow CEOs who personally reached out to him, saying they can relate to his situation.
“There’s been a lot of backlash, but there’s also been a lot of support,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg. “What no one sees is all the direct messages this has started, of CEOs reaching out saying they are in similar place. And that to me is what matters.”
He also said in a separate post the following day, that it was not his intention to highlight himself. At the same time, he would like to improve the situation by using his new post to find jobs for those who need it.
“Hey everyone, yes, I am the crying CEO. No, my intent was not to make it about me or victimize myself. I am sorry it came across that way,” Wallake wrote.
“What I want to do now, is try to make better of this situation and start a thread for people looking for work,” he continued. “Here it is — comment away. This is for YOU to start a new future. To highlight YOU.”