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‘Crying CEO’ says he loves his employees—even those he laid off

There’s a new way to cope with the guilt of firing your employees — a LinkedIn post letting your network know you feel miserable about it.

Braden Wallake, the chief executive officer of a Columbus, Ohio-based marketing agency called HyperSocial, wrote a guilt-filled post Tuesday about laying off employees that concluded with a teary-eyed selfie. After the post went viral, he declared himself “the crying CEO.”

Wallake’s original post has more than 30,000 likes and 5,300 comments. In it, he said he loves all of his employees, acknowledged how his own decisions led to the dismissals and said it was the “hardest thing” he has ever had to do.

“Days like today, I wish I was a business owner that was only money driven and didn’t care about who he hurt along the way” wrote Wallake, 32. “But I’m not.”

Comments criticized Wallake’s post, calling it a PR stunt and saying he was fishing for sympathy. Some expressed support for the move and suggested he shouldn’t be a victim of “cancel culture.”

“There’s been a lot of backlash, but there’s also been a lot of support,” Wallake said in a phone interview. “What no one sees is all the direct messages this has started, of CEOs reaching out saying they are in a similar place. And that to me is what matters.”

Wallake’s company, HyperSocial, focuses heavily on LinkedIn marketing and outreach strategies for its clients. The company is small; it has 15 employees, two fewer than before the layoffs. Wallake is an influencer of sorts, with over 30,000 followers on the Microsoft Corp.-owned social network for professionals.

In an attempt to quell the debate, Wallake wrote a follow-up post Wednesday seeking to help people in need of a job. “What I want to do now is try to make better of this situation and start a thread for people looking for work,” he wrote. “I’m not sorry for the post. But I’d at least like to use that post for the benefit of others that may need it.”

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