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Big Tech continues mass layoffs in Silicon Valley's firing epidemic

It has been a notoriously tough couple of weeks in the tech industry, with Amazon laying off 18,000 employees, Google a further 12,000, and Microsoft following the worrying trend with 10,000. But what does this mean for Silicon Valley and the tech industry?

Google famously set the expectation for Big Tech workers with its management philosophy of '20% time', where employees were encouraged to spend twenty percent of their work time pursuing personal projects. Downtime could involve zipping around the site on a bike or scooter. If you were lucky, you could speed up your journey to the brainstorming meeting area by slipping down tube slides that would take you to multi-colored beanbags.

Last year, a video entitled "A Day in the life of a Twitter employee" went viral for all the wrong reasons when an anonymous employee shared a video showcasing their "typical" day at the company. The video began with the employee buying iced matcha at the Twitter coffee shop before fading into a montage of lounging in noise-canceling meeting rooms.

It wasn't long until the employee focused on indulging in delicious meals and unwinding in a log cabin area that featured the obligatory foosball table. Despite claiming to have many projects she needed to knock out, the employee showed little evidence of any work being done. The clichéd life of a young, seemingly entitled tech worker distracted by the luxurious amenities flirted with parody. But was this the beginning of the end for cushy job roles at Big Tech firms?

The honeymoon is over for Big Tech workers

With the takeover of Twitter by Elon Musk, the new CEO quickly made it clear that he expected nothing less than extreme dedication and a strong work ethic from his employees. Events took a darker turn when he issued an ultimatum to staff to either fully commit to working long and grueling hours or to leave the company. This new level of expectation is not for the faint of heart, and those who cannot handle the pressure, according to Musk, should start looking for other opportunities.

"Realistically, there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn't be here."

Mark Zuckerberg

Elsewhere, Mark Zuckerberg famously warned Facebook employees that the company would increase efforts to identify and address underperformers. However, he acknowledged that this could lead some employees to decide that the company was not a good fit for them, which was acceptable to him.

Although Google previously had a reputation for lavish parties, the company also recently reported it would be tightening its purse strings. When challenged about Google's cost-cutting at an internal meeting, Alphabet billionaire CEO Sundar Pichai told Googlers that they could walk into a hard-working start-up and people may be having fun. It shouldn't always equate to money.

Despite the intentions behind the message, it was clear that a billionaire CEO who received $6.3 million in compensation telling employees they should not always equate fun with money was never going to be well-received by the staff. Has the trend of quietly quitting pushed wealthy Silicon Valley tech leaders into making demands for extreme dedication and long hours? And are we seeing the beginning of a disconnect between employees who are left feeling resentful and undervalued?

The myth of entitlement

There is a common belief that Big Tech workers are out of control and turning into adult babies who have no problem complaining to the CEO about the company's toilet paper. In addition, social media feeds reveal that some had become obsessed with promoting a cliched big-tech lifestyle to make their friends and followers envious of a life that doesn't exist.

The knee-jerk reaction to such reports is that entitled workers need to accept that there is no such thing as a workplace that runs efficiently on free lunches and unlimited holidays. But this makes it easy to fall into the trap of binary thinking, and there are always two sides to every story.

Tech workers at some of the industry's most prominent companies have spoken about the harsh realities of overwork and burnout. For example, Amazon warehouse workers have shared stories of working in extreme conditions, with high temperatures and intense pressure to meet demanding productivity targets. Google employees also famously protested the mishandling of sexual harassment allegations and demanded transparency on pay equity.

Elsewhere, Facebook content moderators filed lawsuits over their job's impact on their mental health. These examples reveal a disturbing trend in the tech industry of expecting workers to sacrifice their well-being to meet demanding productivity targets and maintain a culture of long working hours and high expectations.

The real reasons why tech companies are laying off employees

As the world emerged from the grip of the pandemic, tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google went on a hiring spree, adding hundreds of thousands of employees to their ranks. But by September 2022, these same companies were forced to make deep cuts to their workforce as the economic realities of higher interest rates, inflation, and recession fears took hold. Despite their initial optimism, it seems these companies underestimated just how much the pandemic-induced growth would slow once the world returned to normal.

Despite the hype around remote and hybrid working, many leaders still have trust issues that exacerbate productivity paranoia in their employees. In addition, the rise of workplace surveillance is reducing employees to productivity scores. Instead of recording keystrokes, employers should arguably spend this time more wisely by monitoring employees for signs of burnout or responsible for a high staff turnover.

Managers who label everyone lazy and threaten them to work longer hours or be fired will never get the most out of their people. Ultimately, Big Tech is paying the price for scaling their recruitment too quickly and now find themselves overstaffed and too many employees who are not the right fit.

Rather than creating a culture of overwork and exploitation or prioritizing profit over the well-being of their employees, it's time to return to basics. The solution could be as simple as a strong set of company values that attract competent people who are passionate about their work and provide them with the perfect work-life balance. Although it’s not as easy as it sounds, it has to be a better option than playing the blame game.

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