What happened

Upwork's (UPWK 1.88%) CEO is stepping down.

This morning, the freelancing platform announced that CEO Stephane Kasriel will resign from his job at the end of this year, to be replaced by Chief Marketing and Product Officer Hayden Brown.  

Investors are shaken up, selling off Upwork stock by more than 16% in early trading. The good news -- or at least less bad news -- is that by the closing bell, Upwork shares had recovered to suffer "only" a 4.4% loss.

Falling stock charts superimposed over digital map of the world

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Why the sell-off, and why the recovery?

The first answer is pretty obvious: Investors don't like change. The abrupt departure of the man who's led Upwork since April 2015, bringing the company public through its October 2018 IPO -- a departure announced just ahead of Q4 earnings results -- seems to have shaken their confidence.

Now what

As for the second question, Upwork tried to quickly allay investor worries that the timing of the CEO's departure might foreshadow a negative fourth-quarter earnings surprise. Tackling that fear head-on, the company "reaffirmed its fourth quarter 2019 and full year 2019 guidance previously disclosed in connection with the announcement of Upwork's third quarter 2019 financial results on November 6, 2019."

That reassurance appears to have mostly succeeded in appeasing investors. Still, just to refresh your memory about what precisely Upwork's guidance in the Q3 report was: Management forecast sales between $79 million and $79.5 million in Q4, full-year sales between $301 million and $301.5 million, and potentially negative "adjusted EBITDA" in Q4  -- all numbers below Wall Street's expectations -- and management gave no promise of actual GAAP profits whatsoever.

Long story short: Even if today's management shake-up didn't worry you, there's still plenty to worry about at Upwork.