Big Tech is really bad at firing people

“It’s personally embarrassing for me to have to explain to friends and family members why I’m being fired,” says a former Meta employee who was laid off in late 2022 as part of the company’s layoffs and asked for anonymity to keep her future job prospects from being compromised. endanger. .

But it’s not just the suddenness. It is also the inhumane way in which the announcements have been made that annoys laid-off employees. When it finally came, the email in which Bowling said he was being fired from Google was “legal,” he says, and was signed by the company’s vice president without any preamble.

“No best regards, no sorry, nothing,” he says. “It was written by a lawyer, so there was no implied guilt or anything. It was so cold. Everything about it was so cold.

According to Bowling, the company has traditionally treated employees fairly well, even when they leave. “This layoff was so different from the culture of how people leave the company,” he says.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

But for Susan Schurman, a professor of labor studies and labor relations at Rutgers University, the gap between how tech companies portray themselves and how they act had always been there.

“It would be fair to say I’m shocked, but not surprised,” says Schurman. “I’m old enough to have grown up in a so-called 20th century organization, where you could say workers are seen as expendable commodities.”

According to Cary Cooper, professor of organizational psychology at the University of Manchester Business School, attitudes towards staff have also deteriorated during the pandemic. Remote working created a greater separation between managers and their employees. “There was less face-to-face contact and much more of their communication was virtual,” he says. “That could create a situation where you don’t develop a close relationship with your employees, if you’re a line manager.”

Some tech workers say they had already come to realize that tech companies won’t necessarily reciprocate their loyalty.

“Honestly, a few years ago I started to change my mindset about the companies I work for,” said Alejandra Hernandez, a recruiting program manager at Meta who was fired in November after a year at the company. “I think of it like, ‘This is a company. You hired me to do certain work.'” Hernandez points out that working in California means she’s employed at will and can be terminated at any time — which helped her to recalibrate it. think.

Hernandez wasn’t too upset about the way she and her colleagues were fired by email. “I’d rather have an email than someone trying to cuff me on a Zoom call to let me go,” she said.

Even for those who survived the layoffs, the past few months have served as a stark reminder that their well-being never trumps the fiduciary duties of executives, and that their positions are vulnerable in difficult times.

“We were all misled into thinking that these tech companies treated people like people,” says Schurman. “But I think we figured out that it was only possible back then, and once times get tough — boom: the boss is back.”

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