When Emillie Mendez was axed from her accounting job late last year, she took to TikTok.
“I’m pissed and I’m sad and I’m scared,” she said in a two-minute video, which was viewed 40,000 times and has 280 comments.
Losing a job used to be a career low that was largely kept private, one that workers sometimes fretted even telling their families about. Now, as the viral video of one tech worker’s firing shows, it’s often fodder for a social-media post.
While technology allows companies to deliver the bad news in more depersonalized ways, such as through Zoom or email, workers are taking it personally. For some, publicizing losing their job is a form of therapy and an effort to control the narrative of how they became unemployed. The flood of sympathy, or outrage, helps relieve the stigma, they say. Plus, it might just help them get a new job.
“Getting laid off, especially remotely, is a very disempowering experience and often leaves employees feeling shocked and helpless,” said Moshe Cohen, senior lecturer at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. “What can people do to take back some power when they feel completely disempowered? One thing is to go public with what happened to them.”
Mendez, who worked remotely from her Miami home, said she was told she was being let go on an online video call. “I was crying the whole time,” said the 31-year-old.
She was home alone the next day, and needed to vent. Inspired by other layoff video posts she had seen, she turned to TikTok.
“Talking about getting laid off is way more open today than it was,” said Mendez, who started a new job this month. She said the response from strangers made her feel less alone. “A few years ago, I probably would have never ever talked about it publicly, especially not on the internet,” she said.
Brittany Pietsch, the tech employee who went viral last week, went a step further than Mendez. She recorded her actual firing from tech company Cloudflare. In the video she posted to TikTok, Pietsch asked the two Cloudflare representatives why she was being let go and why her manager wasn’t on the call, without getting answers.
Pietsch said she didn’t intend for her video to go viral, and didn’t mention her employer by name in the caption of the video. But someone else took the video, added her name and her ex-employer’s, and shared it on X and other social-media sites. It has since generated millions of views.
One viewer was Cloudflare’s chief executive, Matthew Prince, who said in a post on X that the video was painful to watch, and that the company will learn from it.
Cloudflare didn’t make the other people in the video available for an interview.
Pietsch said she has received a flood of comments from people, including potential employers, about her video.
“I don’t regret sharing that,” she said about the video.
@brittanypeachhh Original creator reposting: brittany peach cloudflare layoff. When you know you’re about to get laid off so you film it 🙂 this was traumatizing honestly lmao #cloudflare #techlayoffs #tech #layoff ♬ original sound – Brittany Pietsch
The openness about getting canned comes as companies are still cutting jobs in an effort to be more efficient, even after the larger-scale layoffs that took place last year. Companies including Amazon, BlackRock, Citigroup, Google, Macy’s and Xerox this month have announced plans to trim their workforces.
Chloe Shih went public about being laid off from internet-messaging platform Discord, which said earlier this month it was cutting 17% of its staff. Shih talked about losing her senior product manager job on TikTok, X and LinkedIn. Her messaging on each platform demonstrates how these announcements can be tailored for different audiences.
On TikTok, where Shih has more than 76,000 followers, she was more emotional and unfiltered, filming her reaction to reading an email about the layoff in real time.
She gasps, gawks, holds her hand over her mouth, nervously smiles, laughs in shock and shouts, “Oh my God” while also using vulgar language. She featured Discord’s name in the video caption, which she also put on X.
Discord declined to comment.
Her posts on LinkedIn, where people post and look for jobs, were generally more subdued. At one point, though, she did post a video of her telling her parents about the layoff, prefacing it with “not sure if this belongs on LinkedIn, but wanted to spread some [emoji for sunny] vibes during this absolute bloodbath of a layoff season.”
Her parents don’t seem too concerned, with her mother saying, “Isn’t it very normal? A lot of people get laid off.”
Shih wrote in the same post that she has received a lot of positive feedback. “Real talk though – the amount of support I’ve received has been tremendous.”
In an email, Shih said things had “been really hectic lately” and didn’t think she could commit to a phone interview. She didn’t return a follow-up email with questions.
Some commentators have criticized her layoff-reaction video as being a stunt or unprofessional. Sometimes commenters are divided, like in Pietsch’s case, on whether the company representatives handled themselves well.
Anyone thinking of posting a layoff video should think twice, said Cohen of Boston University. Some employers could view work oversharers as loose cannons, he said, especially if the employer is considering two candidates with similar credentials.
“It’s likely they’ll go with the safer bet,” he said.
Andrea Darrow wanted to empower herself and others in a LinkedIn post after she and her team were laid off in December.
“I’m not ashamed of what happened,” she said, referring to being laid off from her remote role in Tampa as a senior manager of quality and compliance for a Michigan-based company. She was inspired to write the post because “I felt like I wasn’t the only one and not a lot of people feel empowered to talk about their feelings as far as getting laid off, so I wanted to share my thoughts with others.”
She said she isn’t worried about how potential employers might react to her post.
“I’m very straightforward, and will tell you like it is,” she said.