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Look out for yourself
At the end of the day, companies won't love you back.
It’s been a rough few weeks in the tech world. Every day seems to bring new news of a tech layoff — even from companies that have reached “unicorn” status or recently raised tens of millions in venture capital funding. It’s disheartening at best; devastating at worst.
The past two years have seen a boom in hiring everything from developers to marketing, fueled by an on-fire job market. It seemed like companies were finally forced to focus on the employee experience or they would face high turnover rates.
Now, it feels like companies are saying, “just kidding.” Techcrunch said it best:
Layoffs are sadly an inevitable part of corporate life, especially in startups. But so often, it seems like they’re caused by bad management choices that make it more difficult to keep paying staff…. So when layoffs are made as a precaution, or a correction to mitigate past mistakes and over-hiring, it’s personal.
It’s a reminder to employees to always be wary. At the end of the day, many companies will still treat them like a commodity. All the talk of great work culture is nothing more than smoke in mirrors if poor business decisions are being made in the background.
Who holds the power?
The balance of power has always been off. Wages have been stagnant for decades. Research shows that a lack of competition in the labor market allows companies to keep wages down — even if the company is profitable.
The rise in remote work brought on by the pandemic flung the doors of competition wide open. The Great Resignation was, in part, driven by dissatisfaction with compensation. According to a survey by Pew Research, 63% of people who quit a job in 2021 cited low pay as one of the reasons for quitting.
So companies were forced to up their game: both by improving the employee experience and by offering more competitive pay. All while some (especially tech companies) were also growing at a massive scale. It may not have righted all the past wrongs, but it moved the needle in the right direction. The balance of power was shifting: employees could simply walk away and find another job easily, leaving companies struggling to fill roles.
Yet it’s hard to swallow that some companies are struggling enough to justify the layoffs. Many corporations have, in fact, posted record profits. Is it a reactionary measure, as suggested by TechCrunch? Is it a move to protect profit margins and appease the investors that poured money into these companies during the pandemic? Or is it simply bad decision-making?
One thing’s certain: most businesses cannot be trusted to put people before profits.
It’s just business.
I remember The Great Recession and was working at a company that went through a series of layoffs to ensure survival. I’ve seen cuts made when there weren’t external economic factors, but rather a series of bad decisions led to a dire financial situation. Though I kept my job, a cloud hung over my employee experience, even years later.
Those that survive layoffs had to grapple with watching talented colleagues leave. And whether the cuts were avoidable or not, employees can’t help but wonder what else could have been done to avoid the decision.
But there’s a big difference between now and 2008: visibility. Crunchbase, for example, is tracking companies that have laid off employees in 2022. Newly jobless employees immediately take to LinkedIn to announce that they were part of a layoff, hoping to leverage their network and find something new. In the midst of an otherwise terrible situation, people rally to offer connections and share job descriptions.
There’s power in this visibility. Future employees have a right to know—and question—past layoff decisions. After all, interviews are a two-way street. The employee is interviewing the company as much as the other way around. LinkedIn reveals how newly laid-off employees talk about their departure and any severance offered.
It’s accountability in a very public forum. Much like demands that employees return to the office (despite employee protests), it’s like a giant advertisement for company culture, leadership competency, and the employee experience.
And those that make the headlines, such as BetterUp’s callous firing of 900 employees via Zoom? Good luck with future employee recruitment.
It’s too easy for companies to say, “It’s just business.” Perhaps that’s true. But then employees should act the same way, putting their own interests first. They certainly did during The Great Resignation by saying no to in-office work, low salaries, and toxic work environments.
The layoffs are a reminder to Always Be Prepared. Never be complacent when it comes to your career. Upskill. Connect with other people. And always look out for yourself.
In the News: Coinbase rescinds job offers
Cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase announced a hiring freeze and insisted that new hires wouldn’t be impacted. The soon-to-be Coinbase employees were explicitly assured via email that their jobs were secure, citing Coinbase’s strong financial position and experience in “managing volatility in the market.”
Two weeks later, the company turned around and rescinded the offers.
This isn’t the first time Coinbase has made the news for its treatment of employees. The New York Times previously reported that Black employees had experienced racist or discriminatory treatment while working at Coinbase.