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My startup made difficult layoffs. Here’s how I kept morale up and our culture intact

As CEO and cofounder at a tech startup, I was confronted with how the pandemic would affect my own company and the people that make it work. And like so many other businesses, ours was not untouched. The decision to lay off staff to survive the first wave of the pandemic was the most difficult of my tenure at StreamSets. It came just days after celebrating news of a hard-earned accolade—a prestigious best workplaces award. To win an award that celebrates our business for putting culture first and to closely follow that with a reduction in force was jarring, but in coming to terms with the sudden new reality, I realized that to preserve the trajectory of the business over a multiyear time horizon, we needed to take decisive action.

Normally, when there are macroeconomic challenges, there is a historical precedent to use as a point of comparison to make educated predictions about the future. This pandemic has not allowed for the same perspective. The volatile supply chain also complicates informed decision-making, as does the human element—a workforce suddenly faced with varying challenges at home and the genuine fear of an uncontrolled virus.

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