It’s difficult not to think about the continued layoffs, especially with so many friends and colleagues in the tech industry.  Also, seeing the layoffs in December at Spotify and Google and the odd responses from outsiders and support from employee alumni makes me wonder if we need to rethink layoffs as employers and employees. 

It’s Just Business, Or Is It?

Having held a manager role several times in my career, I know the standard line from the business: “It’s just business.”  I also understand the difficulty of seeing people as numbers when considering the business's survival.  

However, much of the tech industry still embraces the mantra of “move fast and break things.”  Yet when it comes to layoffs, it shifts to “move fast and break people.” A layoff disrupts those who remain and those who are laid off.

With the rapid development of generative AI with few guard rails, I’m concerned we’ll find new ways to “move fast and break people.”  It’s already happening with deep fakes of celebrities.  Over the first year of generative AI bursting into the general population, we see new scams to break people.

But for now, let’s stick with the topic of layoffs.

I Still Remember My Layoffs

Working for a rapidly growing startup in my early career exhilarated me.  I tried many roles and obtained much experience in a short time frame.  However, the company spent far more on branding and real estate than revenue could support.

We ended up having seven rounds of layoffs in eight months.  I was a manager then, and walking people out the door almost monthly ripped my soul.  In the last round, the company declared bankruptcy and closed all but the main office. My remaining co-workers and I stacked our laptops in a room, packed our personal items, and locked the office doors.

I didn’t take another manager position for several years after that.

Don’t Let Work Be Your Identity

Even with young kids and a wife at the time of my layoff, I worked far too many hours. The work was exciting, and the people I worked with were smart. I learned things every day, and it filled me personally and professionally.

But I fell into the common trap of letting my job be my identity.  I had not developed connections outside of work.  I thought about work and my exciting role all the time.  Yes, I spent time with my family, but I thought about what was next.

After the layoff, I realized I needed to live outside of work.  I started with more volunteer work in my community and going to group talks on other technologies I was interested in.  I met people for lunch and just got to know them.  I found this more fulfilling than working through lunch to get more time in at work.  

It also helped the next time I looked for a job.  Because I grew my personal network, I had more help looking for my next gig.  My next three jobs resulted from people in my network referring me.

What You Can Do Now and Later With Layoffs

You may be wondering what else you can do besides build your personal network. I have suggestions for both those who are laid off and those who are not.

If you’ve been recently laid off, I have the following suggestions:

  • Don’t stay home all the time.  You need to get out and get some fresh air and be in places where you talk with people, even if it’s someone at a check-out register.  I would recommend every couple of days (and this recommendation is from an introvert).
  • Job-hunting is a job. You probably know this already, but I want to emphasize how it’s a job.  You have to research, filter, reframe, and rewrite your resume and cover letter (yes, both), and you also need to think about transparency and feedback.  Share with colleagues you trust how your job hunt is going.  It doesn’t have to be on social media; let people know what you are doing.  Ask for suggestions.  Also, if you are not having much luck, reach out for feedback on your resume and cover letters, especially if you know people who are hiring managers.
  • Work on a hobby.  Whether it’s a sport, working around the house, or volunteering doesn't matter.  Just make sure the activity is somewhat physical and gets your mind occupied on something else that’s enjoyable.
  • Work on your health. Strong temptations for comfort food and binge-watching TV can help for a short while.  However, your mind will function more effectively if you move and eat healthy.

If you were passed by the layoff and retained your job, here are some things to consider:

  • Don’t ghost former colleagues.  Some people have weird reactions to layoffs.  You may be grieving the loss of colleagues, and it may be difficult for you to speak to them.  If they reach out, don’t ignore them.  
  • Talk about anything but the office. They may ask about the office, but it will put you in an awkward position if you start talking about what happened in the office after the layoff.  It might also raise some concerns from human resources.  Just stick with topics like family and hobbies. You might even consider sharing the tips above.
  • Help connect former colleagues.  I try to keep in touch with people I enjoy working with.  Some folks might not think of it right away until the shock of the layoff wears off.  Suggest forming a group on social media (i.e., a private LinkedIn group) or a chat server (Slack or Discord, perhaps).

I would love to hear your other useful suggestions, and I’m happy to credit you on the website.  Just comment on the website or respond to this post from your inbox.

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