A Termination Broadcast on TikTok Reveals Failures All Around

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An ex-Cloudflare sales employee recorded her employment termination and posted it to TikTok. According to the Wall Street Journal, the 27-year-old employee is receiving a lot of support after her post went viral. The employee had heard that others were being let go from the San Francisco-based cloud networking and cybersecurity services provider. So when a 15-minute call appeared in her work calendar, she suspected that she was likely next to go.

The employee was working from home when she entered the video conference with two human resources representatives from the company; the employee’s supervisor was not on the call. The HR representatives started the conversation by telling the employee that she failed to meet 2023 performance expectations. The employee cut off the representatives and countered that she had only received positive feedback from her supervisor. The employee had only been with the company since the end of August 2023 and said that she was ramping up.

The Company Failed

The termination was a failure for everyone involved. After the video went viral, Cloudflare’s CEO responded on X that “The video is painful for me to watch. Managers should always be involved. HR should be involved, but it shouldn’t be outsourced to them. No employee should ever actually be surprised they weren’t performing. We don’t always get it right.”

The CEO was right when he said that employees should not be surprised if they are terminated for performance reasons. Performance concerns should be identified over time. And employees should be given clear feedback and guidance on what they need to accomplish to be successful. Performance is an ongoing conversation and employees should not only know what is necessary to succeed but also how long the company will give them to meet those expectations.

But that was not the company’s only failure.

Terminations Have a Real Human Impact

The employee responded to the HR representatives by saying, “It must be very easy for you to just have these little 10-minute, 15-minute meetings, tell someone that they’re fired, completely wreck their whole life and that’s it, with no explanation.” She noted that the experience is “extremely traumatizing for people.”

She was right when she pointed out how traumatizing being fired can be for employees. There is no good reason to ambush someone with a termination and blame their performance. Even if the employee was not meeting her goals, employers should be mindful that, without any prior notice, the termination is the employer's responsibility, not the employee’s. Humanely handling performance issues entails fully discussing expectations and any failures to meet them with the employee and terminating only after several check-ins have proven that the employee will not succeed. Otherwise, if an employee has not been given feedback to be successful, the employer is ultimately responsible for poor performance.

But the employee failed too.

Employees Must Appropriately Manage Their Actions

Recording a conversation without consent in a two-party consent state is not forthright, may be unethical, and—most importantly—is illegal. The employee may have exposed herself to significant liability. By surreptitiously recording company representatives, she also trapped other employees who were likely simply carrying out a directive from their superiors.

Further, if the employee had any claims of her own against the company, such as discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, an illegal recording could put those at risk. And posting the conversation on social media creates additional risks for everyone implicated.

The company is exposed for what looks like a pattern of cutting sales employees without prior feedback or notice of expectations. And, although the employee says that she has no regrets, prospective employers will the video and hear that the company cited performance as the reason for her termination.

Although the employee’s post has opened up a conversation on how to properly conduct terminations—and, of course, how not to—it also created risk where there didn’t need to be any. If nothing else, this #TikTokTermination should remind both employers and employees to conduct themselves in a way they would be proud of should their actions become public, and in a way their future selves will look back on with satisfaction.