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Gen Z and Millennials are putting terrible layoff practices on blast

Cold, callous and unexpected. These are just three words that describe the most recent spate of layoffs that companies have been executing since early 2023. However, the old days when folks would be fired and that was the end of it are over as the younger generations start to fight back, online.

First, some context. When the pandemic began spreading around the world and countries began implementing lockdowns, big tech firms were poised to experience massive growth. From hardware to applications for video conferencing and collaborative work tools, big tech enjoyed its moment in the sun, as companies were forced to adopt work-from-home practices as well as needing to accelerate their digitalisation plans.

During the lockdown it wasn’t uncommon to see the likes of Meta, Google and Amazon shopping for new employees every week. More demand for services of course meant more employees were needed.

However, that rapid growth wasn’t sustainable nor would it last. Once the threat of the pandemic was gone and companies were retracting work-from-home orders, there was no need for every employee to have a webcam or for a company to pay for 300 Zoom licenses and so, these companies sat with fewer customers and more employees than they needed.

By January 2023, decision-makers had started to come to terms with the fact that the rapid growth of the last three years had been an anomaly and so, staff cuts began. Seemingly no employee in a big tech firm was safe. Paypal, Spotify, Zoom, Microsoft, Meta, Twitter (now X) all started laying off employees. According to data tracked by TechCrunch, more than 240 000 people lost their jobs in 2023.

While this sounds reasonable – less money means less need for a large staffing contingent – the way these layoffs have been conducted is often callous, uncaring, and devoid of any sort of sympathy or empathy from the company. We know this because many of these layoffs are no longer taking place in boardrooms but via a video call giving the person being fired the ability to document the entire process.

Last week, a salesperson at Cloudflare, Brittany Pietsch posted a video to TikTok which showed her fighting back against a layoff. The video has gone viral and even prompted a response from Cloudflare chief executive officer Matthew Prince.

@brittanypeachhh

Original creator reposting: brittany peach cloudflare layoff. When you know you’re about to get laid off so you film it :) this was traumatizing honestly lmao #cloudflare #techlayoffs #tech #layoff

♬ original sound – Brittany Pietsch

We have to commend Pietsch. Being fired from a job after being told you’re performing well must be a jarring experience and we likely wouldn’t have the presence of mind that she had to question Cloudflare’s decision.

In contrast, Prince posted a tweet that reads like somebody trying to justify to themselves that letting 40 people go because Cloudflare grew too fast and unsustainably, was fine because some people don’t perform, although not Pietsch, maybe.

The response from Prince is – to put it politely – weak. What makes it even more jarring is that in its Q3 2023 results, Cloudflare reported revenue grew from $656 million to $975 million. Prince himself is worth $2.3 billion but we very much doubt his remuneration was cut while Pietsch was being fired.

Of course, Pietsch is not the first and is unlikely to be the last to post their layoff on the internet. A search for “I just got fired” on TikTok yields hundreds of results with folks recounting their stories of how their companies fired them suddenly and unexpectedly. The same goes for any social media.

Bungie employees in October 2023 were quick to jump on to Twitter (now X) and announce they had been let go. This led to massive backlash for Bungie with players cancelling pre-orders for the forthcoming Destiny 2 expansion en masse.

What becomes apparent in these videos and social media posts is that more often than not, the employees are fed affirmations by their direct manager encouraging them to continue working as hard as they are. Then, on some random day, generally toward the end of the month, that employee is asked to jump on a call with somebody in human resources and management to be told their services are no longer required.

With videos or stories posted to social, these companies are forced to navigate a public relations disaster and unfortunately for them, public sentiment is a tough nut to crack.

Not only does negative sentiment make it more difficult to sell products and services, it makes it tougher to attract talent to your organisation. Would you want to work for a company that chooses to fire folks before maybe lowering the ludicrous compensation packages C-suite executives enjoy?

What folks like Pietsch and others are doing is fantastic because it exposes the garbage that companies peddle to justify the layoffs they caused. The growth we saw in the last three years was never going to be sustainable and anybody with a passing knowledge of business, and humans, could have seen that.

The question then becomes why these companies pushed growth so hard and to us, the answer is simply greed.

As more layoffs are on the cards for 2024 given the popularity of AI, we hope that those who are unfortunate enough to lose their jobs take a page out of Pietsch’s book. While it may be a risk, as Pietsch told the Wall Street Journal she doesn’t regret her action and that, “Reputable companies have reached out to me and told me, ‘I want someone like you on my sales team'”.

It’s a risk posting your layoff to the internet, but it may just expose how bad a company is and save somebody else from being put through the emotional ringer that is losing your job despite being told all is well.

Hopefully, the younger generation’s reaction to being fired forces companies to explore other ways to cut costs before cutting jobs.

[Image – Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay]

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