Cloudflare Employee Firing Goes Viral- Provides Valuable HR Lesson

By: Georgia | Published: Jan 28, 2024

A recent event has brought to light the evolving landscape of workplace dynamics and the power of social media.

Brittany Pietsch, an employee at Cloudflare, shared her layoff experience on TikTok, sparking widespread discussion.

The Rise of Workplace Trends on Social Media

Social media, particularly TikTok, has become a platform where employees are sharing their experiences, including layoffs.

A spacious office setting filled with rows of desks and computers. Multiple professionals are seated at their workstations, focused on their monitors

Source: Arlington Research/Unsplash

Brittany Pietsch’s TikTok is part of a broader phenomenon where workers document significant workplace events online.

Brittany Pietsch's Viral Layoff Video

Pietsch, working as a mid-market account executive at Cloudflare, gained widespread attention after posting a video of her being laid off from the tech company.

A split-screen image of a woman in a red sweater, looking off to the side with a contemplative expression. On the left, the woman appears to be listening intently, and on the right, she seems to be bracing for impact with a text overlay that reads 'I had about 10 minutes to compose myself before it was my turn.'

Source: Brittany Pietsch/TikTok

The video captured a significant moment, showcasing the personal and emotional impact of corporate decisions in the digital era.

Pietsch Challenges Cloudflare's Decision

Forbes reveals that in the video, Pietsch challenges the company’s reasoning for her termination.

The reception area of Cloudflare's office featuring a modern design. The company's logo, a stylized orange cloud with the word 'CLOUDFLARE' in capital letters, is prominently displayed on a wooden wall. In front of the wall is a curved wooden reception desk with a computer monitor

Source: Wikimedia Commons

She states, “So, I started Aug. 25th. I’ve been on a three-month ramp, and then it was three weeks of December and then a week of Christmas, and then here we are. I have had the highest activity amongst my team.”

The Absence of Direct Management in Layoff Process

Business Insider notes that Pietsch highlighted the absence of her direct manager during the layoff process, questioning why they were not part of the meeting.

A man stands presenting at a team meeting in a contemporary office setting, with exposed brick walls and an open ceiling revealing wooden beams. The room is filled with colleagues seated in casual furniture, attentively watching a presentation

Source: Austin Distel/Unsplash

This lack of direct managerial involvement raised questions about the company’s approach to handling such sensitive situations.

Pietsch's Response to Corporate Jargon

In her video, Pietsch directly addressed the lack of clear reasons for her termination, asking, “So am I getting let go for no reason?”

A split image of a young woman with long brown hair wearing a red sweater, appearing emotional and on the verge of tears. On the left, she is seen wiping a tear from the corner of her eye, and on the right

Source: Brittany Pietsch/TikTok

Her straightforward approach in confronting corporate jargon and lack of specific metrics to support her firing brought attention to the need for transparency in corporate communication.


Pietsch's Claim of Sudden Termination

Forbes reports that Pietsch claims she had not received any negative feedback.

Two professional women engaged in a discussion across a wooden table. One woman is holding a tablet and gesturing with her hand, explaining something to the other, who is attentively listening

Source: Amy Hirschi/Unsplash

She also reveals that she had never been put on a performance improvement plan (PIP) before her termination.


HR's Evasive Response and Lack of Details

Business Insider notes that the HR representative’s response to Pietsch’s questions was noncommittal, ending the conversation with a promise to “circle back.”

A young woman with blonde hair, wearing a navy blue suit and a white blouse, is attentively listening and looking slightly upwards towards someone out of the camera's view. She is in the middle of a business meeting with at least two other people, indicated by parts of their bodies in the foreground

Source: Tim Gouw/Unsplash

The vague ending left many questions unanswered and highlighted the need for more forthright communication in such scenarios.


Expert Opinion on the Firing Process

Valerie Vadala, an experienced global talent acquisition leader, criticized Cloudflare’s handling of the situation, telling Forbes, “There were a few missteps here … I think the biggest is that her manager was not present.”

A woman with curly hair, leaning on her elbow, appears engaged in a serious conversation during a business meeting. She is facing two colleagues whose backs are to the camera, in a modern conference room with a large flat-screen monitor on the wall behind her

Source: The Jopwell Collection/Unsplash

Vadala continued: “It’s a sign of leadership to be present and to let the employee know that the company realizes it is personal. It’s incredibly painful to be laid off. To make it something cold and transactional is denying the reality that you have just gut-punched a person’s career trajectory.”


Cloudflare CEO's Admittance of Imperfection in the Firing Process

After the video was posted, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince acknowledged the imperfections in the company’s firing process in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

A man with light-colored hair, dressed in a grey blazer and a blue checkered shirt, is seated and speaking into a microphone headset at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference. He has a relaxed posture with his hands clasped in front of him, and he appears to be in mid-conversation

Source: Wikimedia Commons

He admitted, “Managers should always be involved. HR should be involved, but it shouldn’t be outsourced to them. No employee should ever actually be surprised they weren’t performing.”


Pietsch's Perspective Post-Viral Video

Pietsch, in reflecting on her decision to share her layoff on TikTok, expressed no regrets about bringing her experience into the public eye.

Two side-by-side images of a woman with a concerned expression looking off to the side. On the left, text overlaid on the image reads 'My coworkers have been getting random 15-min cal,' suggesting a conversation about unexpected brief meetings. She is wearing a red sweater and has long brown hair

Source: Brittany Pietsch/TikTok

She shared with The Wall Street Journal, “I don’t regret sharing that. I have received so many messages of people telling me, ‘I wish I would have stood up for myself the way you did.’”


Rethinking Corporate Approaches to Layoffs

The incident involving Pietsch at Cloudflare has led to broader discussions on how companies handle layoffs.

This image shows an office setting with three employees all focusing on their computer monitors.

Source: Arlington Research/Unsplash

Vadala, who has more than 20 years experience in talent acquisition and human resources, commented on the situation to Forbes: “This may not be a popular opinion, but I don’t love the trend that companies choose to blindside employees instead of at least giving them some sort of heads up that a potential layoff is on the horizon and that specific teams are likely to be impacted.”