Issue #43
#43 - The silver linings in clouds of layoffs ⛅️
November 11, 2022

What's up, everybody?

The news of thousands of layoffs across a slew of high-profile companies made this a tough week. And given our focus -- we write about work, and bringing more intent, awareness and humanity to it -- our first instinct was to use today's issue to compare the way Stripe, say, vs. Meta or Twitter conducted their respective cuts.

But we ultimately decided to take a different tack, and use the stories to highlight some of the silver linings to the week’s bad news.

  • How transparency around layoffs -- and the human impact they have -- has helped foster a rare show of online support and empathy.
  • How simple tools are helping affected employees land new gigs more efficiently.
  • How one of the one of the more, um…topsy-turvy layoff sequences you will ever come across also serves as a learning opportunity for all of us.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

Aki & Usman


#Layoffs #Transparency #Empathy

Lilian was one of thousands of employees caught up in recent layoffs; in her case, at Twitter. Of course, posts like this are all over our screens this week; indeed, some readers may have had to write their own. 😞

But when we paused and reflected on these posts -- and on how common they've become -- we realized just how striking they are as a phenomenon.

Job cuts have been a part of the business cycle for decades. But not too long ago, a company layoff may not have even made the news. Those affected had no choice but to lick their wounds in private. Generally speaking, a layoff was a source of shame. And rare was the chance to say goodbye, much less thank you; or to share how you felt about the experience.

Don’t get us wrong, we reckon that everyone who writes something like this 👆🏻would prefer not to have lost their job. But let’s contrast the way things used to be, with what we now see and take for granted: people getting to say that goodbye; getting to thank those they want to thank; getting to reflect; to give meaning to the time and effort they put into an organization; to reclaim some of the dignity that is lost in a layoff. This is an important process after a traumatic event.

And what about those who are not directly affected? We have the chance to offer our emotional or practical support -- online, or in private. And the posts also create a kind of collective pause. Because just as they are painful to read, they also force moments of shared reflection and empathy. 🙏🏻


#Layoffs #Tools #Support

Given the emotion and drama of job cuts, this simple site, and the concrete, dispassionate numbers it provides, allowed us to better appreciate the scale at play. Per the screenshot, says that roughly 766 tech firms (not all are startups) have laid off 118K people in 2022.

But beyond the estimate it tracks, the site also offers a tab for “Lists of Employees Laid Off”: scores of spreadsheet links, created by firms to help their former employees find new roles.

It’s such a simple tool: a no-frills website, linked to a bunch of basic spreadsheets -- that allows potential employers to access the profiles and contact information of people in need of a job.

And it’s not just spreadsheets and websites like this. It’s the LinkedIn posts -- like this one -- mobilizing large networks of people to help others find new roles; or like Lilian’s post in story #1, openly alerting her own network that she'd been laid off. It’s also the simple (and free-to-use) WhatsApp groups that have been spontaneously created by laid off employees, to emotionally support one another; to help one another navigate job searches; to answer each other's questions about unemployment insurance, immigration and health benefits.

Simple tools, all of them, but also tools that didn't exist in prior downturns, or that weren’t being used for this kind of lift and support. 🙌🏻


#Layoffs #Transparency #CaseStudies

We did say, in the opening, that we weren’t going to use today’s issue to compare the way different firms handled their layoffs. After all, each situation is different, and we can’t pretend to have the context for any given layoff decision, or for how it was implemented.

And yet. And. Yet.

Can you imagine getting an email like this -- asking if you'd come back to work for a company that had just fired you, roughly ~48 hours prior?

Even absent full context, we are pretty sure this is not how you lay people off, folks.

And so, while there has been much ink spilled over Twitter’s layoff, in particular, it's worth highlighting that the transparency around layoffs extends beyond individuals being empowered to share that they have lost their jobs. We now also get windows into how different firms operate; what their leaders and cultures are like. We now read and learn from their all-staff emails; each instance becoming a public case study to reject, ignore, or emulate. Leaders have become aware of this, too; they know they will be judged, and compared to one another based on their empathy, their generosity, and the responsibility they do, or do not, take for their decisions.

Thanks for reading. 🙏🏻

Work moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
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