During a company-wide livestream recently Pfizer executives announced impending layoffs due to declining revenues from COVID-19 products. However, employees expressed outrage at the perceived callousness of the announcement, as well as the lack of transparency around details.
According to screenshots shared on Reddit and allegedly taken from the livestream, employees directly called out leadership for their handling of the situation. One participant pointedly asked if executives would “painfully readjust their salaries too” in light of the job cuts.
The Pfizer Livestream Event Sparks Immediate Backlash
To offset the revenue decline, Pfizer is cutting costs and jobs to save $3.5 billion through 2024. Bourla offered no specifics on the number of roles to be eliminated or what severance benefits may be provided.
While Bourla and other executives apparently chuckled lightheartedly throughout the call, employees reacted with anger in the live chat. One worker criticized the touting of shareholder dividends “while people’s livelihoods are being dangled in front of them.”
Others targeted leadership directly for the perceived insensitive delivery of the news. “I wonder if there will be a readjustment to Albert Bourla’s $30M in annual compensation to make up for those of these layoffs,” one participant wrote.
Pfizer Employees Call for Accountability at the Top
In addition to outrage over the casual announcement, multiple employees called out the lack of accountability among top leadership. Albert Bourla took home over $25 million in total compensation last year.
With Bourla facing no reductions to his sizable pay, workers demanded cuts for executives as a showing of shared sacrifice. As one individual put it, “Their casual, chill, laughing on stage is annoying. We know they aren’t losing their jobs. Nothing about severance? Ok.”
The livestream announcement evoked comparisons to Better.com’s controversial mass Zoom firing in December 2021. While smaller in scale, Pfizer risks similar backlash for its perceived mishandling of communication around layoffs.
No Clear Details Given on Severance Packages
Employees Push for Transparency Around Support
Beyond criticism of leadership conduct and compensation, Pfizer workers decried the lack of transparency around severance benefits. With roles set to be eliminated “across the board”, employees worried whether adequate support would be offered if laid off.
In the absence of specifics from executives, confusion and speculation spread rapidly. “Been checking my states WARN report and nothing yet for Pfizer,” wrote one participant, referencing potential public notices required for mass layoffs.
With little to no clarity provided, employees scoured internal sites and online job boards for indications of layoffs in their locations and divisions. The lack of concrete details from leadership led to heightened anxiety company-wide.
Cuts Driven by Slowing Demand for COVID Offerings
Short-Term Savings, Longer-Term Uncertainty Remains
Driving the urgent push for cost reductions is Pfizer’s lowered 2023 revenue outlook, now slashed by $9 billion amid slowing COVID-19 product sales. In an October 13th update, the company reduced its full-year forecast from $67-70 billion down to $58-61 billion.
Pfizer now projects just $12.5 billion in combined 2023 revenues for its COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty and antiviral treatment Paxlovid. This represents a drastic decline from over $56 billion generated from the offerings last year.
To weather the immediate sales drop, Pfizer aims to save $1 billion this year through layoffs and an additional $2.5 billion in 2024. However, long-term growth objectives face greater uncertainty without its massive COVID windfall.
Messaging Mishaps Sow Confusion Among Employees
Conflicting Information Raises Doubts on Job Security
Alongside issues with tone and transparency, Pfizer’s disjointed communications have bred confusion internally. Despite announcing wide-ranging cuts, Albert Bourla reiterated confidence in the company’s non-COVID product portfolio.
In a press release, Bourla projected 6-8% operational revenue growth from other products in 2023. This seeming mismatch between layoffs and projected growth has puzzled employees. If revenues are expected to keep rising, why initiate major cost cuts?
The disconnect reflects inconsistent messaging on priorities, causing employees to doubt the security of their roles. With minimal specifics given, speculation has also run rampant, further amplifying uncertainty.
Restoring Trust Remains an Uphill Climb
Leadership Must Take Action to Repair Employee Morale
In rolling out layoffs with such opacity and indifference to workers, Pfizer’s executives have critically damaged internal trust. To begin making amends, leadership at minimum must:
- Provide full transparency on number and scope of layoffs
- Communicate details on severance pay and assistance
- Implement executive pay cuts to demonstrate shared sacrifice
- Define a strategic vision aligning with necessary cuts
- Approach all communications with compassion
With morale already depleted, smoothing over employee relations poses a steep challenge for management. Regaining trust will require consistent transparency and genuine care for those impacted. While cost reductions may prove essential, how leadership navigates this period could define Pfizer’s employer brand for years to come.