- Spotify is laying off about 6% of its employees, CEO Daniel Ek announced in a memo.
- Ek said the changes at the company could allow him to do his best work and focus on the future of Spotify.
- Leadership experts said that comment could come off as tone-deaf and unsympathetic.
“Hello, it’s me, the kind CEO of your neighborhood with a net worth of about $2 billion who is set to benefit from some changes that could include losing your job.”
This may well have been the message Spotify CEO Daniel Ek shared in a memo announcing layoffs at the company.
In the memo, which was posted on Spotify’s website on Monday, Ek outlined what would happen now that the company had announced plans to lay off around 6% of its workforce. That would come to around 588 employees based on the global workforce the company reported with its third-quarter earnings.
Ek wrote about the upcoming changes to the C-suite, later saying, “Personally, these changes will allow me to get back to the part where I do my best work, spending more time working on the future of Spotify, and I can’t wait to share. more about all the things that we have to come”.
His enthusiasm seemed at odds with the announcement that came a few paragraphs later: “We have made the difficult but necessary decision to reduce our number of employees.”
Spotify joins a wave of high-profile tech companies that have carried out mass layoffs in recent months. Memos from the CEOs of these organizations announcing the layoffs have ranged from empathetic and self-flagellating to sparse bordering on callous.
Otherwise, Ek’s memo is unremarkable. Mention the support Spotify will provide to departing employees and express confidence in the future of the company, for example. But leadership experts say Ek’s note on the career opportunities offered by the C-suite shakeup is inappropriate in this context.
“People want empathy and sympathy and a focus on what happened to them” during layoffs, said Adam Galinsky, professor of leadership and ethics and associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion at Columbia Business School.
On Ek’s comment about doing his best work, Galinsky said, “That’s just completely lost here.”
Ek’s comment about his own career opportunities may come off as undertones.
In the memo, Ek wrote that the layoffs and reorganization of Spotify’s C-suite would help the company become more efficient, make more effective decisions and save money. He took responsibility for the situation and reassured the remaining employees that the company was stable, two elements of a layoff announcement that experts say are critical.
“In hindsight, I was overly ambitious in investing before our revenue growth,” Ek wrote. “I take full responsibility for the moves that brought us here today.”
He added: “I think because of these difficult decisions, we will be better positioned for the future.”
But letting employees know how their work will improve when you can focus on the future of the company is a deaf ear, experts say.
“Talking or putting yourself in the center in some way like ‘what’s in it for me’ is not appropriate in these types of stories,” said Coco Brown, CEO and founder of Athena Alliance, an executive development network for women. she wrote in an email to Insider.
“This is a powerful example of toxic positivity,” Brooks Scott, executive coach and CEO of Merging Path Coaching, wrote in an email to Insider.
“Focusing on ‘personally, me, myself and me’ detracts from what employees are going through,” Scott added. “What people are looking for is recognition of the hard work they’ve done in the past and some empathy for the present.”
Galinsky said the “subtext” of Ek’s comment about his own career opportunities was: “I want to go back to being the visionary that I can be.” Instead, Ek could have commented on how the reorganization would give the company as a whole “the resources it needs to be able to help those who are going to stay at Spotify, create a better organization that is going to grow and maybe hire more people.” in the future,” Galinsky added.
The standard CEO memo announcing layoffs can seem formulaic, Galinsky said. You make the announcement, express regret, and tell customers, investors, and remaining employees that the company is in good standing. It is possible (although Galinsky cannot be certain) that Ek wanted to deviate, even slightly, from these conventions.
Still, “the formula exists for a reason,” Galinsky said, adding: “The formula is to express remorse and regret at having to take this action, but the actions ultimately support a brighter future for this company.”