Harvard expert 'takes issue' with Mark Zuckerberg's Meta layoffs: Cutting jobs over email is 'absolutely horrific'

Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks about the Facebook News feature at the Paley Center For Media in New York on Oct. 25, 2019.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images News | Getty Images

As Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to let go of 10,000 more workers in his company's latest round of layoffs, a Harvard University expert says she "takes issue" with the way some of them are being conducted — namely, over email.

Finding out you've lost your job this way is "absolutely horrific," Heidi K. Gardner, a professional leadership advisor and distinguished fellow at Harvard Law School, tells CNBC Make It. The method could be a reflection of poor leadership, she adds.

"Every leader who calls himself a leader, who gets paid like a leader, who's accepted that title of leader, has the responsibility to exhibit ethical leadership," Gardner says. "And failing to communicate with somebody honestly and transparently and humanely before these events have taken effect is shameful."

A bevy of ex-Meta employees have spoken with media outlets or posted on social media about getting laid off via email in recent weeks. Similar reports have emerged amid layoffs at Amazon and Twitter, too.

Meta, Amazon and Twitter didn't immediately respond to CNBC Make It's requests for comment.

Jennifer Haynes, a former Meta technical recruiter, filmed herself checking her email and learning that she'd been laid off in real time. "Your administrator has suspended your Meta Dropbox account. You no longer have access to the account [or] files," she read from her laptop, in a TikTok video posted on March 15.

Haynes knew she'd find out whether she'd keep her job that day: Zuckerberg sent a letter to employees about the layoffs the day before, laying out a timeline for when job cuts would hit the company's recruiting, tech and business departments.

That's a helpful strategy, says Gardner.

Yet communicating the layoffs through email sends a message that employees are "chess pieces that can be moved about and discarded at will," she says. "[Remaining employees] need to know, in pretty explicit detail, how those departing employees are being treated. Because it is an incredibly strong, clear signal of how much the company [and] leaders care about employees."

This isn't the first time Zuckerberg's leadership has been called into question. Last year, Harvard Business School senior fellow Bill George told CNBC Make It that the Meta CEO was "derailing" the company, following its expensive pivot into metaverse development and failure to effectively compete with rivals like TikTok.

But since co-launching Meta, then known as "TheFacebook," in 2004, Zuckerberg has steadily grown his Harvard dorm room startup into a tech giant with a $532.92 billion market cap, as of Wednesday afternoon. His success helped spawn today's social media industry, which reaches billions of people daily and is globally valued at $231.1 billion, according to The Business Research Company.

Investors have reacted positively to the layoffs, too. On March 13, one day before Zuckerberg's layoffs announcement, a share of Meta stock was worth $180.90. It's now worth $205.53, as of Wednesday afternoon.

In the announcement, Zuckerberg wrote that cutting headcount would make Meta more efficient, helping improve its "financial performance in a difficult environment."

"Clearly, that signal was for [Wall Street]," says Gardner. "And it seems to have worked. Investors want to know that the CEO is paying attention to using resources wisely."

This story has been updated to reflect that similar reports of recent layoffs though email have emerged from Amazon and Twitter.

DON'T MISS: Want to be smarter and more successful with your money, work & life? Sign up for our new newsletter!

Take this survey and tell us how you want to take your money and career to the next level.

Parenting expert: 5 signs your kid will be successful
Parenting expert: 5 signs your kid will be successful