Cloudflare defends firing of staffer for reasons HR could not explain

It's certainly not a layoff, net-taming biz insists

Updated Cloudflare has defended its HR practices after a former employee posted a nine-minute video of a phone call during which she was fired, asked for an explanation for being let go, and was told those who made the call were unaware of the reasons for her dismissal.

The viral TikTok video was posted last Friday by former Cloudflare staffer Brittany Pietsch, who started as a mid-market account executive in late August 2023.

On the call, Pietsch explained she started work on August 25 and was on a “three-month ramp” that ended just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas – an infamously challenging time in which to close sales deals.

Pietsch insisted she had nonetheless achieved the “highest activity” among her sales team and had “three contracts out” with sales prospects.

“I have done a really great job managing deals until the end when they decided not to close last minute,” she said, adding that her manager has offered nothing but praise and encouragement.

“I disagree I have not met performance expectations just because I have not closed anything official,” Pietsch argued, and asked for a specific reason for her dismissal.

Cloudflare’s response, delivered by staffers named “Dom” and “Rosie”, did not provide that reason.

Dom described the dismissal as a “collective calibration for Cloudflare.” Pietsch said she was aware of peers who had also been let go, suggested she may be the victim of a rightsizing process after excess hiring, and pressed for a specific reason she was fired.

“I won’t be able to add any specifics for numbers,” Dom stated in the video.

Rosie later stated, “I am happy to follow up to see if we can get that with you,” before adding “I cannot share that with you now.”

Dom later countered that “there is no situation” in which details of the metrics used to decide on the dismissal would be discussed.

Pietsch asked why Dom and Rosie – whom she had never met – were making the call to fire her, and if they were aware of her manager’s feedback. No explanation was offered for the first question, and Rosie said she was unaware of feedback from Pietsch’s manager.

“I cannot speak to what your manager has communicated to you directly,” Rosie said.

Clearly upset, Pietsch questioned whether it is reasonable to terminate employment without a personal explanation.

“I hear what you are saying,” Dom said. “From a process perspective your questions are valid, but this is not the forum.”

Rosie added that nothing she could say on the call would change Cloudflare’s decision to fire Pietsch.

“You have questions we do not have the answers to,” Rosie said, before suggesting it would be “best if I get into next steps.”

An uncomfortable pause followed before Rosie offered a little sympathy.

“Again, I am really sorry that you are having this experience and are feeling this way,” Rosie managed.

Move product, or move along, nothing to see here

A Cloudflare spokesperson told The Register this was not a layoff; some had claimed Pietsch was being let go as part of a downsizing round stealthily disguised as a performance review. The rep told us:

Cloudflare did not conduct layoffs and is not engaged in a reduction of force.

When making the decision to part ways with an employee, Cloudflare bases the decision on a review of an employee's ability to meet measurable performance targets.

Cloudflare regularly reviews team members' performance and let go of those who aren't right for the team. There is nothing unique about that review process or the number of people let go after performance reviews this quarter.

The Register has asked Cloudflare to explain the term “right for the team” as we feel it is not a “measurable performance target.”

Pietsch, meanwhile, has taken to LinkedIn where she wrote that her KPIs were entirely activity-based, and she was “a leader on our team with those KPIs, despite me still ramping.”

She added that her manager was unaware she was being fired and “called me afterward and told me he was sick to his stomach and couldn’t believe this was happening.”

“The last few days have been a roller coaster and I have been sent more messages and DMs this week than I have probably ever in my life,” she added. “The most incredible outpouring of support has honestly restored my faith in the corporate world.”

But she added that the most common message she’s received is that she is not alone.

“Many people have experienced something shockingly similar,” she wrote. “Cold, unexplainable firing by people they’ve never met - even after years of loyalty for some … Heartbreaking stories of people’s lives suddenly changing with no explanation and just told to ‘deal with it”.”

“What??? I’ll never be able to wrap my mind around it. We as employees are expected to give two weeks’ notice and yet we don’t deserve even a sliver of respect when the roles are reversed?” ®

Updated at 2230 UTC on January 15 to add

Readers have pointed out that Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince has posted his views on the matter to X/Twitter, where he wrote:

We fired ~40 sales people out of over 1,500 in our go to market org. That’s a normal quarter. When we’re doing performance management right, we can often tell within 3 months or less of a sales hire, even during the holidays, whether they’re going to be successful or not.

Sadly, we don’t hire perfectly. We try to fire perfectly. In this case, clearly we were far from perfect. 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. And sometimes under performing employees don’t actually listen to the feedback they’ve gotten before we let them go. Importantly, just because we fire someone doesn’t mean they’re a bad employee. It doesn’t mean won’t be really, really great somewhere else … we think the right thing to do is get people we know are unlikely to succeed off the team as quickly as possible so they can find the right place for them.

We definitely weren’t anywhere close to perfect in this case. But any healthy org needs to get the people who aren’t performing off. That wasn’t the mistake here. The mistake was not being more kind and humane as we did. And that’s something.

If you’ve experienced similarly horrid HR, send this vulture a message.

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