Important: I’m going to write about Tech layoffs in this article. The ones big Tech companies are undertaking, i.e., Meta, Alphabet, Microsoft, etc. Reader beware.
Layoffs suck. There is no way around it. People may have moved to countries for jobs and have precarious visa situations. It brings stress and instability to their families. It can affect their perception of self-worth. Sudden and unplanned layoffs are a sad situation.
On the company side, they also suck. It can decrease the productivity and loyalty towards the company for the ones that remain. When is the next layoff going to happen? Am I safe? Did they treat my colleagues fairly? Often, despite laying off a substantial amount of people, layoffs may fail to address the underlying systemic issues. Is it a problem on the many levels of middle management? Are the product teams bloated? Is it a failure of leadership or culture?
Social media and the news have been hammering scary and negative rhetoric (I am saying this without judgment or going into its merit). I want to try to find some positive takes. Trying to find opportunities and thinking about how we can raise to the challenge. I think it’s worth doing it. While for individuals it can be a destabilising situation, could there be opportunities coming out of this? It’s important to address and discuss the causes and societal issues related to layoffs, but I think this has been already done. I want to now try to see the glass half full.
I want to focus here on a subset of the people affected. The people laid off from big Tech companies such as Alphabet, Meta, Microsoft, etc. The jobs were often well-paid, on the higher side of salary brackets. These companies are laying off thousands of highly skilled individuals. According to the latest data I could find on the internet, around 250.000 people worldwide between 2022 and 2023. Engineers, designers, marketers, etc.
The sheer amount of raw talent being set free on the market is staggering. No golden handcuffs tying them to cushy desk jobs. Imagine the number of startups that could be founded. If only 10% of people would decide to tackle problems and start something, their collective impact could be massive. For a 3-person startup, this would mean around 8.000 new opportunities to make the world a better place. I am hyped just thinking about it.
Tech companies often are also a receptacle for technical excellence and innovation. They are places where famous frameworks and technologies get developed and maintained (e.g., React, Kubernetes, Go, Rails, etc.). Where cutting edge practices get used and experimented (e.g., developer operations and experience are prioritized). Where the user-focus is highest. Where you give importance to data-driven decision making. Imagine the positive influence that people coming from these companies could have by working elsewhere. The cross-pollination of ideas and practices could uplift many companies.
I have many friends and acquaintances working at big companies. What I hear often is frustration about the slow-moving decision-making and perceived lack of impact. Leaving big Tech companies would give them the possibility to work on things that they prioritize. This would give them the choice to work on impact startups. They would be able to influence smaller companies.
And finally, the salary. This is something to mention. Going away from this big companies could probably mean having to accept a lower salary. Not many companies can afford the high salaries that Alphabet is paying their employees. What does this imply? Maybe smaller companies are going to give more equity or maybe they are going to make more concessions regarding work arrangements. This could be a boon for a better Work-life balance. A higher acceptance of flexible/remote work. A lower number of hours per week (e.g., 30 hours workweek). Higher vacation entitlements, etc. Startups and older tech companies crave for knowledge and talent and may be willing to be flexible. It’s time to shape the future of work.
Layoffs suck, and we have heard plenty of negatives about it. But I think there are many opportunities. Many startups could be born out of this. Cutting-edge knowledge can now be spread more widely across the industry. People could find meaning and a less bureaucratic environment to work in. And maybe the industry overall can allow better ways of working that are more tailored to the wishes of the workers. I want to see the glass half full.