Wired’s story about the Fintech startup Revolut forcing 62 of their employees to choose being fired or choosing to leave hit a nerve with me.
Per the piece, Revolut allegedly forced employees to pick being fired or a ‘mutual agreement’: “Elena was asked to pick between two documents: one said she was being terminated for underperformance, the other, a “mutual agreement”, offered her a small severance and stated she was choosing to leave the company of her own accord. She was shocked: two weeks earlier, she says her manager had assured her that her job was safe and that she was performing well.” The kicker? Elena allegedly had 30 minutes to decide. Revolut disputes this point saying there is no evidence and gave this second statement via email when asked to directly address the allegations; “In Poland, some employees may prefer to separate from the company by mutual agreement to protect their future employability, avoid the stigma of dismissal and protect their access to benefits. No employee is forced to sign such an agreement and employees were given time to consider if they preferred this option.”
The statement jars with Wired’s story detailing quotes from other Revolut employees – speaking under the agreement of anonymity – saying the company has backlogs of customer issues. Something that makes sense with lockdowns being reduced and online shopping increasing. Revolut has been asked if the employees were offered to be retrained into any of the other 155 roles currently open on Revolut’s job site but had not responded at time of publishing.
In a first statement sent by a Revolut spokesperson, Revolut wants the world to focus on how small this number is and that the company tried everything before resorting to the firings: “As in many companies, Covid19 necessitated cost cutting across our business and, in the last resort, we made 62 redundancies globally, representing less than 3% of our staff. Revolut strives to create a positive culture with a workforce that is motivated to achieve the best they can for our customers. Where employees leave the business as a result of redundancy or performance we aim for this to be as painless as possible and, in every case, we fully comply with local labour law requirements.”
The reason that I closed my account is simple. The ‘either-or’ nature isn’t great or best practice and could be interpreted as a bully tactic. You’re a company, make a decision. The numbers are small and companies need to protect the greater whole but not at the cost of rough practices. If you’re firing someone for poor performance – do it. If you’re not, then offer them a severance package and thank them for their service. You have options, what you choose defines you and the company. Don’t overthink or confuse firing’s because – even if this scenario isn’t true – you look bad and people talk, especially relevant for companies with chequered histories in workplace practices.
FinTech in general hasn’t had the best of weeks. Monzo had notable layoffs and others are finding the coronavirus pandemic a rough time. Beyond COVID-19, the world has a lot of huge issues surfacing right now and businesses need to find their voice to address customer concerns. Beyond this, companies need to speak with their actions and not words or statements. Hire better, fire better, be better, do better because your customers and the world are watching.