※ Axios Login: Tech layoffs’ toll

Let’s be clear – layoffs is a euphemism for the mass firing of people. The difference is that when one is “laid off” it’s not necessarily because anyone “let go” did anything wrong or damaging in their job. That’s being fired for cause, and that’s not often an “innocent until proven guilty” situation, but that’s another post for another day.

Note that layoffs impact middle management down. Upper management and up do not suffer such indignities.

Layoffs don’t only impact the person formerly employed. It ripples out to their family, their community, their social circle, and so on. That some organizations treat it flippantly casual is beyond reprehensible.

I have some works on surviving layoffs: Preparing for the Pink (Slip) based on my experience and research, though it is a bit long in the tooth. And Cate over at Accidentally In Code has some great stuff, too, about taking hold of your career.

Axios Login: Tech layoffs’ toll:

1 big thing: What to expect when your tech firm is downsizing

As Silicon Valley and the broader tech industry face a season of layoffs, workers are unprepared for the ordeal and management has little experience with the wrenching process, Axios’ Scott Rosenberg reports.

Driving the news: Meta is expected to announce large-scale job cuts as soon as Wednesday, the first ever in its history. That comes on the heels of major layoffs at Twitter and many other flagship tech firms.

Why it matters: At most companies, layoffs are a business decision for top execs but a deeply personal experience for everyone else.

The big picture: The industry’s phenomenal 20-year run of largely unimpeded growth means that most of its workforce doesn’t have much idea of what to expect from widespread layoffs. Here’s a brief guide.

1. For those laid off, the pain is personal.

  • Even in the best cases, where a company has carefully selected who gets the axe and applied sensitivity to the process, people who are let go can feel a sense of failure — even though, typically, the actual failure belonged to the company and its management.

Having been laid off myself once, I know that in my case it was entirely due to mismanagement, a lack of leadership, and weak governance.

  • The worst cases — as with Twitter’s reportedly 50% cuts last week, made by a new ownership team with little preparation or apparent care — create a broader kind of sorrow among a workforce as well.

I’ll not waste more electrons on EMu’s clusterfuck, at least for the moment.

2. While no one should shed tears for the managers, they’re having a hard time too.

  • Middle managers often find themselves having to select winners and losers from groups of people they handpicked to join their teams not that long ago.
  • Then, they have to face the people who are left and help them through what can be extended bouts of anger, depression and survivor’s guilt.
  • Workers and managers both face bigger workloads under post-layoff do-more-with-less mandates.

When I was a manager I never had to do large scale layoffs. I’m thankful of that but also I did a lot to make sure I did not find myself in that position. It didn’t help me retain my job, disappointingly.

Also, if I had to fire a large part of my team I would have not done well. While I received “leadership” training, very little of that was about the nuts and bolts of how managing people works and none of it covered firing people.

3. For companies, layoffs leave slow-healing psychic wounds.

  • Tech companies often aim to inspire workers with mission statements and caring rhetoric. But once a firm has gone through a round of layoffs, it becomes effectively impossible to persuade employees that anything matters beyond the bottom line.

Never trust in a founder/CEO/evangelist, especially if they’re charismatic &| inconsistent.

  • After big rounds of layoffs, tech leaders can’t just move on as if nothing happened. They also have to try to rekindle workers’ belief that the organization can do big things.

See above.

Between the lines: Layoffs that are tied to the shutdown of a specific product line or division can be written off as strategic in nature. Broader layoffs are a sign that a company grew too fast, took too many risky bets, or just never hit overly ambitious goals.

  • Many tech companies overhired during the pandemic and now face tougher times.
  • The people responsible for such choices are rarely the people who lose their jobs — though sometimes, as in Twitter’s case, layoffs are made by a new management with a belt-tightening agenda.

All of the above cop-outs – rapid growth, risky bets, ambitious goals – are tell-take signs of a lack of basic business fundamentals, starting with a business plan and governance. Sadly, there’s no Sarbaines-Oxley legislation for a lack of planning and competence.

Not to say that these tech companies don’t have good people in key roles, but if Operations and Finance and Marketing aren’t all aligned and operating with enlightened self-interest (a rare commodity, to be sure) in the absence of business fundamentals, this is the shit that happens, IMHO.

To be sure, many tech workers have been generously paid and are relatively well-off compared with other industries. But losing your job is still losing your job.


Scott’s thought bubble: I’m a veteran of a dotcom era startup that went public and then laid off half its staff more than two decades ago, and I still get flashbacks.

  • You never forget these experiences, and this year’s cuts could reshape how a generation in tech thinks about their careers.

I was laid off from my management role almost 10 years ago and I’m still reluctant to go back into a similar role. And I still plan my finances with the possibility I’ll be laid-off again.

Yes, but: When laid-off developers filled the coffeeshops of San Francisco and other tech hubs after the bust in 2000-2001, they used their newfound don’t-give-a-damn state to hatch passion-project ideas.

  • Some of them took off and sparked the next boom. That could happen again.

We’ve seen this before and we will see it again. If I were a tech-reliant business I’d be taking advantage of the talent suddenly on the market – but not to grow things too fast.

Play as the Antidote for Burnout

Three Quick Links for Monday Noonish:

Richard Feynman on how play can provide the antidote for burnout. “The diagrams and the whole business that I got the Nobel Prize for came from that piddling around with the wobbling plate.” [asc.ohio-state.edu]

(Via Kottke)

I’d forgotten this bit of Feynman’s book. I need to think about how to incorporate more play into my cybersecurity & other work.

Rules of Career Movement


The Brent Venables Rules of Career Movement:


Doing excellent work is the best way to increase your odds of moving up.

Wait for the right opportunity.

You need a little luck.

Your new job will be different from your old job.

Success isn’t guaranteed.

(Via Three Star Leadership)

Paul here. There’s something to be said for showing up and doing consistently solid work as rule 0.

I suggest changing #3 to something more Stoic, like “there are elements outside of your control”. I find attributing “luck” to be lazy thinking.

Lastly, beware of mimicking modern athletic coaches’ work ethic, especially in American Football. They tend to willing sacrifice their families, friends, staff, and players for the power, adulation, and payday the top echelon receive. If you really want a coach who was well rounded, you can do no better than John Wooden. Check out his works.