Twitter Gives It To Us Straight (Sort of)

Delivering bad new is always a tricky proposition.

In October 2015, Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, announced layoffs of over 300 people.  He says that he’s going to  “give it to us straight,” but it sure seems to me that he uses a classic indirect approach.

Please read carefully.  Though Jack Dorsey is in a position of power and therefore can “get away” with a bluntness that many of us can’t, there is much that we can learn from this message, I think.  But then, is he really being blunt?

I would love to know what you think – how would you feel about Jack Dorsey if you received this message?  About Twitter?  What techniques used in this letter would you emulate?  Or avoid?

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8 thoughts on “Twitter Gives It To Us Straight (Sort of)

  1. It is really fascinating to see that top level management from some of the most reputable firms in the globe. The Twitter CEO takes an indirect approach in addressing some of the problems that many companies around have to face on a realistic basis. Moreover, how else would one convey such a tragic occurrence within one’s firm? I admire how Jack Dorsey aligned strategic plans of Twitter with the circumstances that one has to move towards to accomplish firm goals. Twitter has a strong reputation in failing to deliver bad news in an admirable manner. The way Dorsey effectively showed an accurate balance between empathy, compassion, and understanding. I offer an article attached below describing how model leaders deliver bad news in an well-acceptable manner.

  2. Dorsey clearly used an indirect approach. He did not immediately break the bad news to the recipient. Instead, I like the way he explained his vision and direction for the company. This served as an explanation for why they would be firing people. He also was sure to show his appreciation for the employees they would be letting go. This is important because it shows the other employees that he truly cares for his workers and is not taking these firings lightly. Overall, I believe he did an excellent job breaking the news. I would emulate the technique of providing a vision for the company before breaking the news if I were to ever write a severance letter. This seems to be a very useful tactic that employees can appreciate and understand even if they do not agree.

  3. I think Dorsey does a good job of explaining the scenario and letting the employees know he cares about them and does not necessarily want to let them go. He tells them it is strictly a business decision, and that he will provide them a severance package and help them find new jobs. As far as “giving it to them straight”, he could have stated that employees are being let go earlier in the memo. I think it would have been better to start off with the bad news, and then go into a deeper explanation of the scenario. On the other hand, readers could have gotten upset and stopped reading after seeing that they may be let go. Overall, I think Dorsey did a very good job writing this memo, and did so in a professional manner.

  4. Jack did an excellent job conveying his message to his employees about their employment and the direction of the company. By using an indirect method he was able to express the reasoning for what the company was going to do before turning employees off from reading the entire email. After he did finally inform his employees of the bad news, he immediately goes into some of the efforts that the company will do to help the departing employees. This is important because he kept the bad news contained while reassuring employees, both staying and leaving, that Twitter won’t just hang their workers out to dry.

  5. If I would have received this message I would admire Jack Dorsey for taking a stance and committing the company to what ever it is that is in its best interest. At the same time, as an employee I would feel extremely uncomfortable going forward as I would constantly wonder when a mass lay-off is going to happen again. As a result I would most likely begin to pursue jobs with other companies. A technique that I would emulate in this letter is the thorough explanation of why this is happening. On the other hand I would avoid being so indirect.

    This link contains other strategies for delivering negative information.

  6. I think that Jack Dorsey is a very clever CEO and he demonstrated that by addressing this memo to all the Twitter “Team”. The switch from direct to indirect approach was so smooth and classy, that proved that he is skilled at corporate speak even though he said on the first paragraph “I’m going to give it to you straight.”.

    He provided explanations and examples for what he is going to announce. Then, he waited until the fourth paragraph to deliver the bad news.

    Since Twitter is not a big thing in South America, I don’t feel emotional about this mater and in business when you have to layoff workers is because you need to redirect the money that went to wages and invest it elsewhere. Like the CEO said “This isn’t easy. But it is right.” This type of decisions are always very controversial and can put on a bad spot if the decision maker doesn’t deliver the message like Dorsey did.

    if I would have received a message like this from Dorsey, I would feel anything but reflect on how well has been my performance in the business and if I am aware that I was not doing my job well maybe I will take the generous exit package and start somewhere else where I can be more productive and successful. However, in the other hand if I know clearly that I am a valuable asset for Twitter I will stay cool because there is nothing to fear.

    From this letter I would like to stimulate the approach the CEO used. I believe that being direct and straight forward is the best management style, because there is no misunderstandings and you can achieve to be very effective on your message. But I learned that you can be direct by also being indirect.

    Also In Ecuador I am not used to see a memo addressed to a company’s employees saying “Team”. That is a very good and strong word that motivates and make employees feel part of a community that they work for and not just a job that they might hate due lack of sense of belonging.

    – Diego Garzon

  7. Wow, Anthony, I couldn’t agree more. The clear evidence of ego and possible blindness to his own role in the “unfocusing” of Twitter makes the language about gratitude seem like mere lip service. Nice job uncovering the irony.

  8. As mentioned in class, the use of the direct approach in the first paragraph defines the purpose of the message and creates a personal connection to CEO Jack Dorsey. However, following the direct introduction, Dorsey continues with a more indirect approach to describe the situation. This flow from direct to indirect is rather interesting, but is effective for this situation.

    I admire Dorsey’s descriptive language of “the roadmap” and how this new revision to Twitter, Vine, and Periscope will help people use social media for world events.

    If I was a Twitter employee being laid off, I would not find the subject line appealing. By describing this transition as “A more focused Twitter”, I would feel that I am being laid off because I do not have the focus to be a part of the new “more focused Twitter”. Instead, I would be more inclined to show gratitude to the employees being laid off. I understand Dorsey shows his gratitude in the second to last paragraph, but the subject line is the first thing employees are going to see. And although this message is addressed to all employees, I still feel that acknowledging those being laid off would create a more personal and empathetic tone as is shown in the second to last paragraph.

    Does the world need a stronger Twitter? Well, I believe Twitter has a place in the social media scene since the application is used by many people to connect to world events. But the company is in a crisis. Dorsey stated outright that Twitter is parting “ways with up to 336 people from across the company.” And Dorsey is an active CEO of two different companies, Twitter and Square, which implies that possibly Dorsey has not been as focused as he should be in his role as CEO.

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