Big tech freezes hiring and threatens to cut “underperformers”

In recent years, there has been a battle for talent as big tech struggled to fill positions due to a global shortage of tech workers. However, the days of aggressively hiring appear to have been put on pause by the world's biggest technology companies as the economic downturn creates a series of aftershocks throughout the industry.

Big tech appears to have replaced its ethos of moving fast and breaking things mindset with a more cautious approach as Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Amazon all reveal a dramatic slowdown in hiring new staff. At Meta, Mark Zuckerberg also warned Facebook staff that he would turn up the heat on employees and would be weeding out underperformers who don't meet their KPIs.

"We need to be more entrepreneurial, working with greater urgency, sharper focus, and more hunger than we've shown on sunnier days."

Sundar Pichai, CEO, Alphabet

The announcements sent ripples throughout the tech world as LinkedIn, Salesforce, Twitter, Coinbase, Netflix, and Peleton all announced plans to either slow down hiring or even cut jobs entirely. Predictably, concerns around rising inflation, global conflict, supply chain disruptions, and rises in interest rates combined with increased volatility in the stock and crypto markets are all adding to market uncertainty. But many analysts wonder if these are preemptive measures or if big tech is beginning to see demand for its products and services slipping.

During any period of uncertainty, employees will require compassionate and supportive leadership that provides a vision for the future by empowering people to navigate beyond the dark winter ahead. Great leaders know that building resilience and showing empathy while inspiring and motivating their people will get everyone through the challenges ahead and ensure successful performance. But the response by some of the leaders in big tech appears to be taking a different route.

"There are real concerns that our productivity as a whole is not where it needs to be for the headcount we have."

Sundar Pichai, CEO, Alphabet

Although technology promised to improve productivity and communication while making it easier for people to collaborate, there appears to be an increasing disconnect between employers and their staff. For employees, spending two years locked in their homes while the media beamed horror stories of millions of deaths have profoundly impacted them in ways that we still don't fully understand.

The realization that life is short has made many question the value of a career that doesn't fulfill them or provide the flexibility to prioritize their family commitments. These are just a few reasons we have hybrid working and why many can now choose the work hours for their unique circumstances. But, Mark Zuckerberg recently admitted his frustrations of how it was getting harder to get all his employees to attend a meeting when staff was taking time out in the day for personal work.

"Part of my hope by raising expectations and having more aggressive goals, and turning up the heat a little bit, is that I think some of you might decide that this place isn't for you and that self-selection is OK with me."

Mark Zuckerberg

The definition of turning up the heat is to pressure someone to do something. Unfortunately, some leaders did not learn how the rise of workplace surveillance and the demand by employees to have the right to disconnect helped fuel the great resignation. This trend is continuing with some workers embracing quiet quitting and the idea of moving away from going above and beyond for a boss who does not appreciate their efforts.

We are also seeing the rise of leaders with main character syndrome who unwittingly see people in their life as supporting actors in their own movie. For example, Braden Wallake, the 32-year-old CEO of HyperSocial, recently found himself in the difficult position of laying off two of his 17 employees. Rather than quietly supporting the impacted employees behind the scenes, he decided to share a selfie of how upset he was on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, the post went viral for all the wrong reasons, with many blaming the CEO for making it all about him.

Crying CEO
Braden Wallake, CEO of HyperSocial

Ultimately, we all need a sense of purpose and for our boss to treat us as human beings rather than human resources. People want to feel inspired and feel valued in the workplace rather than have someone intent on squeezing every drop of output from them. As a result, we are also seeing workers at big tech forming unions to improve working conditions.

Google's leadership pioneered the forward-thinking 20 percent time that enabled employees to work on a project of their choosing one day a week. As a result, the workplace has evolved, and many people now have the flexibility to work from any device and location at any time. But we are also in danger of returning to our analog past.

The world is currently teetering on the edge of a global recession, and everyone is faced with navigating an uncertain future. As a result, the big tech companies that promised to bring people together must align their public image and marketing soundbites with the realities their employees are currently dealing with.

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