- Mortgage startup Better.com went viral recently for laying off 900 employees in a three-minute Zoom.
- But not everyone lost their jobs. One employee told Insider the remaining staffers were “on edge.”
- This is their story, as told to writer Fortesa Latifi.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with a Better.com employee who wasn’t included in the company’s recent 900-person layoffs. They spoke on condition of anonymity to protect their career, but Insider has verified their identity and employment. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
After Better.com CEO Vishal Garg laid off 900 of my colleagues, he pulled the rest of us into a meeting.
“You’re the lucky ones,” he told us. Garg said the people he laid off had been low performers — and then he set the bar even higher for those of us left, telling us it was time to work even harder than before. It was pretty scary to hear that from someone who had just fired 900 people. (Editor’s note: Multiple employees, speaking on the condition of anonymity, independently corroborated the claims in this paragraph.)
This wasn’t my first time being at a company going through layoffs, but this one was different. There was absolutely no warning, and in the aftermath, Garg belittled the laid-off workers to the rest of us and told us there would be no second chances from now on. The whole thing was demoralizing.
Since the layoffs, everyone has been on edge. We’re all looking behind our backs, expecting to get fired next. It’s not a healthy environment.
Our managers are assuring us there aren’t more layoffs coming, but how can we trust them after 900 of our colleagues were fired? I don’t think it’s malicious, but they shouldn’t be making blanket statements like that after a period of such tumult.
From the perspective of Better employees I know, it feels like the reason for the layoffs is overhiring. That, to me, is more of a leadership mistake — but instead of holding those people accountable, they’re firing lower-level people. That’s where people get bitter.
The whole thing was even stranger because Better just received $750 million in cash from investors. Even though those of us left are obviously glad we weren’t laid off, it’s not the same environment as it was before. Ninety percent of the people I’ve talked to have already found another job or are on their way out. It’s getting dark.
As for me, I’m on the fence. It would have to be the right opportunity for me to move on because I gave up so much for this job and moved to a new city.
Morale is super low right now. There’s just so much distrust and bitterness. Managers are trying to keep the ship afloat, but it feels like it may just sink.
I’m feeling slightly more hopeful with the news that Garg is “taking time off” in the wake of this mess. It does feel like if he’s forced out and the right person replaces him, we could make it out of this alive.
But that requires investment in current employees, who are scared and halfway out the door or being scouted by recruiters. It would also be difficult to rebound from this because now the Better mortgage name is associated with these callous actions.
It’s really hard to regain trust in the mortgage industry, especially for a young company with a small market share. For Better to survive, a lot of things have to go right. Our reputation may just be ruined by this. But if Garg is out of the way for good, I think our reputation is repairable.
Even though I’m still working there, I’ve had interviews for other positions. I just want to be prepared in case more layoffs are coming next month. I’m trying to be proactive. There’s no certainty at this point; I feel like I’m gambling. Unless Better shows me they value me and our workplace environment in the next month, I think I’ll probably move on to a different company.
The mood has lifted a little bit since Garg’s break was announced, but everyone’s still scared. They’re scared of getting in trouble for talking to the press. They’re scared of being laid off — we’re all just walking on eggshells. There’s also a lack of transparency among leadership, and that’s the biggest thing hurting us right now.
It’s hard to see people saying that Garg did the right thing by “laying off lazy employees.” I know a lot of the people who were laid off. They weren’t lazy, and they weren’t unproductive. And even if someone wasn’t as productive as they could’ve been, they should’ve been given a chance to improve.
Even though we’ve been told to send media requests to our communication team, I decided to speak out because I’m so tired of being treated as expendable in this industry. I’m dedicated to my work, yet every place I’ve worked has treated their employees like garbage.
If we want that to change, we have to tell the truth about it.