This CEO posted a photo of himself crying over layoffs on LinkedIn.


If he had thought about it longer, Braden Wallake might not have posted a photo of him crying LinkedIn.

But Wallake, the 32-year-oldchief executive of hypersocial, a marketing start-up, had just laid off employees for the first time, he said in an interview with The Washington Post. He had tried not to shrink his small team. He had cut his salary and made other business adjustments. In the end, however, he had decided to let go of two of his 17 employees.

“This will be the most vulnerable thing I’ll ever share,” he began, in a lengthy post paired with a photo of himself with visible tears. Wallake wanted to acknowledge his mistakes, he said, and reach out to other entrepreneurs who may be “feeling the pain” behind their tough decisions. He wanted them to feel less alone.

“I just want people to see,” he wrote, “that not every CEO is cold-blooded and doesn’t care when he/she has to fire people.”

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The post quickly went viral on LinkedIn and beyond, as many accused Wallake of being callous and “cringe”. With more than 68,000 workers in tech laid off so far in 2022, many read Wallake’s post as preferring the chief executive’s pain over the workers being laid off.

“This comes across as tone-deaf, indulgent and a little inauthentic,” said one commenter. “Perhaps you could have posted about the people who influenced your decisions, rather than yourself?”

“If my boss had posted a picture of himself crying because they had to fire me with no apology, I would be [angry]’ said another.

But comments and messages of support also trickled in from fellow executives and others praising him for his vulnerability and humanity.

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“Thank you for sharing and restoring my faith in the business world,” read a DM.

“When I see this post, I see a man who is literally trying his best,” said one commenter. “This guy cares about his employees – he decided to process some of this online. Could he have tagged the employees and said how great they were – sure, but did he expect this post to explode like that? Probably not.”

Wallake didn’t. Once he realized what was going on, he contacted the two employees involved to show them the position and let them know that he wasn’t meant to make his “tough journey” seem any worse than that one. theirs. He talked about the vacancies that the post already produced. Both are still taking time to think about their next steps, he said.

As cracks appear in the economy, tech start-ups are among the first and hardest hit, with widespread layoffs that have ravaged the industry in recent months. The industry has served as a kind of canary in the coal mine for slowing growth, with executives such as Tesla’s Elon Musk and Google’s Sundar Pichai among the early voices of recession fears.

Other executives have made headlines for their approach to layoffs. Vishal Garg, CEO of online mortgage company, sparked anger after his firing 900 employees in December in a Zoom call of less than three minutes.

“When you’re on the phone, you’re part of the unlucky group that’s getting fired,” Garg announced via Zoom, according to reporting from National Mortgage Professional. “Your employment here will be terminated with immediate effect.”

Days later Garg . wrote a letter apologized to his staff, acknowledging that he had “embarrassed them”.

“I own the decision to make the layoffs, but in communicating about it I blundered the execution,” Garg wrote. “I realize that the way I communicated this news has made a difficult situation worse.”

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Wallake said he knows the public has a picture of wealthy executives “fired to line their own pockets”. He lives in a van with his girlfriend, who is also his business partner, and their dog Roscoe. In his LinkedIn profile, he notes that he is a “5x high school dropout”.

In some ways, Wallake said, his post was meant to push back against the idea that chief executives are supposed to “be brave.”

“As a business owner and letting people go, I know it’s no fun on the other side,” he continued,”But we’re also people, and we feel like we’re losing a friend.”

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