Illustrations: Xavier Lalanne-Tauzia

WeWork’s 15,000 Employees Are in Purgatory

As layoffs begin, workers band together to salvage what they can and reflect on the warning signs they wish, in retrospect, they had heeded

Mike Hofman
Published in
12 min readNov 21, 2019

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“I“If I’m going to get laid off, it will probably be next week,” a WeWork employee told me recently with the frankness of someone who has come to terms with a terminal diagnosis.

In Slack, on WhatsApp, and in other group chats, he and his 15,000 colleagues are buzzing about the fallout from their daredevil employer, which, two months ago, looked to be their ticket to a better, richer life. Perhaps, finally, a downpayment on that Brooklyn brownstone, a second place in Miami, or a way to bootstrap their own startup.

With a sense of surreal disbelief, they have watched as their ambitious, fast-growing company bungled its crucial initial public offering of stock; plummeted in value; flirted with insolvency; bought out controversial CEO Adam Neumann with a $1.7 billion exit package; and began laying off employees in numbers soon expected to exceed 4,000.

Editor’s Note: After publication, WeWork announced the size of this round of layoffs: 2,400 employees, with a possible further reduction of 1,000 more, plus the transfer of 1,000 maintenance staff to outsourcing firms (as noted below).

In an email to the staff sent November 18, WeWork’s chairman, Marcelo Claure, promised that the cuts were “necessary” in light of the company’s financial position. Unsurprisingly, Claure, who was installed by majority shareholder SoftBank to restore order while the company hunts for a new CEO, made sure to point out that the layoffs would “increase efficiency and also accountability.”

Accountability is a theme haunting WeWorkers a lot these days.

In addition to the collective anger directed at Neumann and his wife, Rebekah, who served as the company’s chief brand and impact officer, employees are stunned by the lack of accountability on the part of other senior leaders, including SoftBank, members of the board, and other top executives.

“There were so many smart people at the company — one, did people just not tell [Adam]…

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Mike Hofman
Marker
Writer for

Mike Hofman is a writer and editor living in New York. His work has appeared in Fortune, GQ, and Inc.