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CEO shares 'vulnerable' confession after laying off employees: 'The toughest thing I've had to do'

'I know it isn't professional to tell my employees that I love them. But from the bottom of my heart, I hope they know how much I do.'

CEO shares 'vulnerable' confession after laying off employees: 'The toughest thing I've had to do'
Cover Image Source: LinkedIn

The CEO of a company that specializes in optimizing LinkedIn posts sparked a major debate online after posting a selfie of his tear-streaked face alongside an announcement that he had laid off some of his employees. Braden Wallake, who runs the Ohio-based business-to-business marketing agency Hypersocial, took to the social media platform earlier this week to take responsibility for the layoffs. "This will be the most vulnerable thing I'll ever share. I've gone back and forth whether to post this or not," he wrote on Tuesday. "We just had to lay off a few of our employees. I've seen a lot of layoffs over the last few weeks on LinkedIn. Most of those are due to the economy, or whatever other reason. Ours? My fault."


"I made a decision in February and stuck with that decision for far too long. Now, I know my team will say that 'we made that decision together,' but I lead us into it. And because of those failings, I had to do today, the toughest thing I've ever had to do. We've always been a people-first business. And we always will be. Days like today, I wish I was a business owner that was only money-driven and didn't care about who he hurt along the way. But I'm not. So, I just want people to see, that not every CEO out there is cold-hearted and doesn't care when he/she have to lay people off," Wallake continued.


"I'm sure there are hundreds and thousands of others like me. The ones you don't see talked about. Because they didn't lay off 50 or 500 or 5000 employees. They laid off 1 or 2 or 3. 1 or 2 or 3 that would still be here if better decisions had been made. I know it isn't professional to tell my employees that I love them. But from the bottom of my heart, I hope they know how much I do," he added. "Every single one. Every single story. Every single thing that makes them smile and every single thing that makes them cry. Their families. Their friends. Their hobbies. I've always hired people based on who they are as people. People with great hearts, and great souls. And I can't think of a lower moment than this."


Wallake's post quickly went viral, racking up more than 35,000 likes in two days. However, it also ignited a heated debate among people in the comments, with some calling the post "cringeworthy and tacky" and criticizing the CEO for making the layoffs about him. Meanwhile, others defended him and celebrated Wallake’s vulnerability and willingness to own up to his past mistakes. Speaking to VICE, Wallake revealed that his company laid off two employees on Tuesday evening. According to him, both the former employees were "over-the-top nice" about it and "assured" him they were "going to be okay."


Wallake explained that he decided to post about the experience on LinkedIn in hopes of showing the emotional difficulties leadership faces when companies go through layoffs. "I was just sitting here at my desk, just kind of crying, I guess, and decided to make the post because I have seen a lot on LinkedIn recently of how awful business owners and CEOs are for laying off their employees and that they're laying off employees while they're getting their third house in the Bahamas or wherever," he said. "There's a lot of other business owners out there who are letting people go. And it's not because they're padding their own profits, but it's how their business is. And they may have done a lot and I just wanted to kind of put it out there that it's not all just profit-hungry, rich businesses who are making layoffs, and there are normal people behind many layoffs as well."


The CEO revealed that he attempted to make sacrifices before going through with the layoffs, reducing his pay to zero from the original $250 a week he had been paying himself. While Wallake accepts that he was sharing his own personal experience of the layoffs, he did not mean to imply he had it tougher "than what they're going through." Rather, he believed in "a level of transparency" on LinkedIn and wanted to share the difficulties of being a small business owner. However, in the aftermath of the criticism he's received this week, Wallake admitted that he too now finds the photo of him crying cringey. "I've laughed at people on other social media platforms who have posted pictures of themselves crying. And then I did it," he wrote in response to one comment. "I have no doubt this post can be a useful tool to either keep those employees or help them find better positions."

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