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Not a day has passed since the beginning of 2024 without news of another major tech company planning to cut hundreds or thousands of jobs.

According to the layoff tracking website Layoffs.FYI over 24,000 roles went on the chopping block already, and this figure keeps growing almost every hour.

This adds to a whopping 262,595 jobs slashed in 2023 and 164,969 in 2022, bringing the global total to over 450,000 people across the past two years.

Image Credit: Layoffs.FYI

Bait and switch

The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.” is a quote widely misattributed to Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin, though it is surely something he would agree with.

It seems that it could be paraphrased in reference to the ongoing tech job wipeout as well. One person losing a job is sad, but thousands appear to be just statistics.

At the end of the day, this is how we’re all treated, even by companies which, not so long ago, attracted millions with promises of great career prospects, relaxed working conditions, generous benefits, great food and office facilities including game rooms, gyms, kindergartens and bean bags.

Billiards? Ping pong? Foosball? Google offices had it all. Image Credit: ChinaImages / depositphotos

Nearly half a million of them, however, have now had to experience a rude awakening.

Big Tech is, fundamentally, about numbers. And it turns out that people are just another spreadsheet entry, not flesh and bone.

All these stories about creating a new, 21st-century workplace reality, where employees would be well taken care of by their employers, enjoying time at work instead of being condemned to a depressing cubicle of the past, are turning out to have been bait.

Now it’s time for the switch.

Not only are jobs being cut, but those who are lucky enough to keep them see their perks disappear as well. Last year Google and Meta, famous for their swanky offices with robust facilities, announced the end of free snacks, laundry services, company lunches and even laptops.

“Picture catered meals, unlimited holidays, complementary gym memberships, and so on. These companies were pulling out all the stops to attract top-notch talent. In-office yoga classes and massages during lunch breaks, now who could resist that?”

Kelly Indah, a software developer, security analyst, and the editor-in-chief at technology website Increditools, for Cybernews, November 15, 2023.

Many of them are now going away, showing that years of talk about modern company culture were just HR fluff meant to attract and retain talent, before companies realised there wasn’t enough to do with it.

Company culture is dead

Up until 2022, tech businesses spent inordinate amounts of money hiring people they didn’t really need, only to keep them from being snapped up by the competition.

“They were just kind of, like, hoarding us like Pokémon cards,” a former Meta worker hired in April 2022 says in a recent TikTok video about her experience at the company.

With low interest rates, cash was cheap, and the belief had long been that there’s always a “next big thing” around the corner, so it was only prudent to employ as many talented individuals as you could and figure out what to do with them later.

Never before has the term “Human Resources” been used more literally, as millions employed in tech are clearly treated as little more than a “resource” that you obtain, manage and cut when no longer needed.

Perhaps we should all have sensed that it wasn’t going to last forever, but years of propaganda worked wonders. Everybody dreamt of landing a job at one of the Silicon Valley giants (or many of the ambitious, well-funded startups) and those who succeeded inspired envy.

Which is why hearing Google’s accountants talk about how cutting free snacks is somehow going to help the company focus on AI has replaced it with nausea.

The company pulling over $60 billion in net income per year suddenly can’t afford health bars and smoothies for its workers? Really?

Image Credit: Macrotrends

Are the savings going to be worth the hit to the morale and the inevitable demise of the company culture, as all employees realise that nothing they enjoy has ever been a given? We’re about to learn that in the coming years.

Why so ruthless?

Because you’re just a number. The moment a decision is made to cut you, you’re no longer an asset but a security threat.

This is why layoff announcements are typically abrupt and unexpected. They leave people in shock, locked out of their company accounts overnight, and pending a call or message from the HR department. They can’t possibly trust you any longer, lest you decide to take your frustration out on the company and do some damage.

It is when most people learn that all corporations are really the same and that Silicon Valley hasn’t really changed much to change the workplace standards.

When push comes to shove you’re given a box and an escort out of the building, never to return.

But since it’s about numbers, then you should know your worth and act accordingly. The ongoing waves of layoffs mark the end of the dream career in tech for all but the most important engineers.

Don’t plan on staying long in any one place. Keep looking for better options, and make sure you get the most out of the business before it thinks it’s gotten the most out of you.

This game can be played in both directions, and if IT companies no longer offer their loyalty to you, then there’s no reason to offer yours to them.

Their myopia is going to come back to haunt them very soon.

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(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)