CEO issues companywide apology for slamming workers he had just laid off

December 7, 2021, 9:16 PM UTC CEO Vishal Garg issued a companywide apology via email to the company’s remaining staffers Tuesday afternoon after coming under fire for criticizing 900 workers he had just laid off. 

“I own the decision to do the layoffs, but in communicating it I blundered the execution. In doing so, I embarrassed you,” Garg wrote in the email, two copies of which were independently sent to Fortune. He went on to say that how he had communicated the layoffs had made a “difficult situation worse” and that he was committed to learning from the mistake.

The email follows a tumultuous week at the online mortgage company during which Garg announced he was laying off 9% of the staff across the U.S. and India, then hosted a subsequent call with remaining staffers in which he allegedly said he should have terminated employees earlier and would watch productivity closely. Soon after, Garg anonymously claimed on a professional networking app that hundreds of the laid off employees were underperforming and therefore “stealing” from colleagues and customers. He later to confirmed to Fortune that he had posted the comments. 

Garg told Fortune last week that the senior management team evaluated data, such as missed telephone call rates, number of inbound and outbound calls, employees showing up late to meetings with a customer, and other factors, to help decide who to cut. 

One employee, who asked not to be identified, said the company’s leaders have not addressed the negative media coverage resulting from Garg’s comments. Signaling that customers may be rattled, employees have used the company’s internal Slack messaging service to share tips—reviewed by Fortune—for explaining the layoffs to customers to regain their trust.

“We acknowledge and understand your view on the recent headcount reduction,” an employee wrote as a template for what to tell customers and that was seen by Fortune. “Let me assure you this decision was not taken lightly. We hope you are able to understand that this decision was ultimately made so that we are able to best position ourselves to continue working for our customers for many years to come.”

A company spokesperson didn’t respond to an immediate request for comment.

Better, founded in 2016 and valued at $7.7 billion earlier this year, still has about 9,000 employees, according to the company.

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