'We didn't get to say goodbye.' Laid-off Coinbase employees pick up the pieces

Quick Take

  • After Coinbase announced on Tuesday that 18% of employees were set to be laid off, staff started sharing their feelings of shock and sadness.
  • ‘Waking up to this just hurt,’ one former employee told The Block.

After Coinbase abruptly laid off nearly a fifth of its staff this week, the crypto exchange giant’s many hundreds of affected employees have been exchanging tales of woe — from early morning messages to missed team drinks.

“Overall the mood is anger, fury and sadness,” one former employee, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Block. “We didn't get a chance to say goodbye.”

They’d awoken on Tuesday to a text message from a former coworker, warning them to check their email and see if they could access their laptop. The reality that their job was in danger hit straight away.

The announcement came as a surprise to the former employee, a middle manager at Coinbase, as there had been no official talk of layoffs. Following a hiring freeze announced earlier this month, they’d been told nothing was wrong and this was just a change of direction.

Just last week they’d been part of a group of Coinbase employees from around the world that met in Austin, Texas, where there had been no indication anything was wrong. 

The former employee noted that company laptops are effectively useless and must be returned before the end of July if affected staff wish to get their $1,000 bonus.

When asked about the manner and delivery of the news, they admitted it was unclear how Coinbase could have handled things better.

“They needed to lock down access to prevent someone from doing something stupid to customers' accounts — I get that from a business perspective. But waking up to this just hurt,” they said.

A spokesperson for Coinbase declined to comment when asked about the layoffs and how they’d been communicated, referring queries to the company’s blog post from Tuesday. 

Sharing on social

Other former employees took to LinkedIn to share their feelings. 

Alicia Gauthier, a creative talent lead, said “I was just laid off from Coinbase over an email from the CEO and locked out of my computer effective immediately.” She went on to note that many of her colleagues have been impacted and that Coinbase would be sharing a list via its talent hub. 

Many of the former staffers sharing the unfortunate news — and their willingness to hear job offers — had only been with the company a short time.

Michael Tieso, working in project management, had completed just two weeks at the exchange following an application process that took 11 interviews. 

Brett Murtagh, an executive assistant who spent four months at Coinbase, voiced his understanding of the difficult decision, although he noted that “the bitter pill doesn’t get any easier to swallow.” 

Clinton Gleave, a former recruitment manager for Coinbase in Singapore, concurred.

“I know our CEO didn't make this decision lightly, and have nothing but respect for Brian Armstrong, but that doesn't change the impact,” Gleave wrote, explaining that he’d been Coinbase’s third hire in Singapore and had personally recruited over 70 employees during the nearly two years he’d spent there. The post revealed that Coinbase has grown to over 600 employees in the Asia Pacific region, up from zero just a few years ago. 

“We lost systems before being notified, I even just reserved a place for team drinks for tomorrow… If you see this feel free to take over the reservation,” he concluded.

None of these former employees responded to requests for further comment from The Block.

From talking to former workers and reading posts they shared online, it’s clear that — for the majority — this was unexpected. 

In his blog, Armstrong admitted Coinbase “grew too quickly” and “over-hired” as it expanded from about 1,250 employees at the beginning of 2021 to closer to 7,000 before this week’s announcement.

With no sign of crypto market stress abating just yet, he’s unlikely to be the last of the industry’s CEOs to announce job cuts.

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