Imagine you're sitting at your desk at work on a Friday afternoon. You're shocked to receive an email stating that the company's CEO is resigning, but the chairman sends a reassuring follow-up email stating that some positive retooling is coming.
Then, on Monday, you and a lot of the other people in your office are laid off—with no severance pay.
It sounds outlandish, but that's exactly what happened to employees at Daily Voice, a network of hyper-local news websites in the Northeastern United States. According to Gawker, employees were told Monday the company would shutter 11 bureaus in Massachusetts. Many of the most experienced employees in its Connecticut and New York offices received layoff notices. Those sites will continue running with smaller staffs.
An employee told Gawker that employees were informed of individual meetings that ended up being termination appointments.
The text of Chairman Carll Tucker's email sent Friday made no indication of the coming carnage. If anything, it had employees wondering about the possibility of new perks.
"Monday morning we will share with you the news about where we're going and how we're going to get there," he wrote. "The news is good—but you'll need to sit tight while we finalize our plans. Check your email about our company-wide phone conference early Monday morning."
He closed the email with, "I am pumped about the prospect of working with you to build a great company."
[Related: JC Penney's traffic-light layoff system under fire]
No shades of gray
Jonathan Bernstein of Bernstein Crisis Management says the company flat-out lied to employees.
"There is no universe in which lying to your employees is acceptable," he says. "It only makes a bad situation worse."
Rick Amme of crisis-management firm Amme & Associates says the email to employees didn't seem aimed at employees at all. The only "good" news was for ownership.
"This is so beyond stupid that the only rationale would seem that management was thinking about owners or shareholders and considered employees disposable diapers," he says.
One Gawker commenter did look for the silver lining in the whole thing.
"At least they were able to enjoy the weekend," the commenter noted.