31 Jan “The Great Betrayal”
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed this – it may depend on how many of these cycles you’ve been through already – but: the bigger the bubble, the worse the fall after it pops. You may feel that’s just a 💩 happens situation. These boom/bust cycles happen by chance and golly gosh, we can’t really see them coming. They happen and happen and happen but it’s like a cruel prank from the Fates.
Uh… yeah… about that. I don’t think so! I find it hard to believe that the fat cats who profit from these cycles don’t have a hand in engineering them. You can say that’s tinfoil hat if you want, but I’d say you’re being way too naïve.
Let’s consider this recent story from FastCompany regarding “The Great Betrayal.”
“On January 20, Justin Moore, a software engineer at Google, woke up to discover his account was deactivated. After over 16 years at the company, this was the only information he received to tell him that he was one of the 12,000 employees laid off.
Justin joined countless other ex-Googlers—many of them top performers—who swarmed LinkedIn to share the news, as they had no other way to say goodbye. And vent about the betrayal and lack of loyalty.
‘I can’t feel gratitude in this moment for a company that I gave so much of myself to, but felt it appropriate to part ways by locking me (and 12,000 of my colleagues) out of my corporate account at 4am,’ wrote Blair Bolick, a Google recruiter. ‘I’m devastated. I’m sad, angry.’
‘This just drives home that work is not your life, and employers—especially big, faceless ones like Google—see you as 100% disposable,’ Moore wrote. ‘Live life, not work.'” -FastCompany, Ibid.
First off, no one should feel pressured to do the toxic positivity / toxic gratitude routine of going on LinkedIn and gushing about how great they feel and it’s a new open door in life and thanks for the memories, blah blah blah. A job loss SUCKS. It’s OK to be real about that and feel what you need to feel.
“Alphabet’s layoffs followed a cut two days earlier by Microsoft of 10,000 employees, some of which had been with the company for decades. (As the layoffs rolled out, Sting serenaded execs at Davos). They were just the latest in a string of ‘Loud Layoffs’—as CNBC put it—that started in November, when 60,000 layoffs hit the sector including over 10,000 employees at Amazon, Meta, and Twitter.
Scott Galloway dubbed it the ‘Patagonia Vest Recession’—a hilariously cutting framing that was contradicted as soon as the November jobs trickled out, showing that the tech industry actually added nearly 15,000 jobs in November, and laid off workers remained in demand. That continued in December; despite 9,916 layoffs, the tech industry added 17,600 jobs, its 25th straight month of net employment growth.” -FastCompany, Ibid.
Wow. So the execs get a song at Davos and Microsoft can find a crapload of money to invest in OpenAI, but sorry employees who got laid off!
Also – the cutesy names are killing me. Slowcession. Rolling recession. A Patagonia Vest Recession. WTF?
“Long associated with Wall Street and Silicon Valley, the Patagonia vest has endured as a tribal symbol of finance and tech. But those who’ve dared in recent weeks to put on their vests in San Francisco have been the target of a resistance of sorts.
‘Urgent: Stop wearing vests,’ implore flyers plastered around the city. ‘You live in San Francisco now. It’s time to start acting like it.'” –https://www.npr.org/2022/03/31/1089994672/patagonia-vest-tech-workers-san-francisco
In other words: a Patagonia Vest Recession is one that impacts these tech and finance folks, but everyone else stays relatively unscathed.
Yeah, and if you believe that, please allow me to sell you some oceanfront property here in the landlocked Midwest for top dollar . . .
“From November 29-30, we partnered with Pollfish to survey 500 knowledge workers—including 109 that had recently been laid off—in the U.S. to better understand how the recent wave of layoffs had impacted their sense of security and stability in full-time employment.
KEY FINDINGS: IN LIGHT OF LAYOFF BETRAYALS, KNOWLEDGE WORKERS ARE READY TO BREAK UP WITH FULL-TIME EMPLOYMENT
In a survey of 500 knowledge workers in the U.S.:
89% said they would like to have more control and flexibility over their work schedule than traditional full-time employment can offer.
74% said that the recent waves of layoffs have made freelance work more attractive than before.
66% said that the recent waves of layoffs have made them lose trust in the stability and security of full-time employment.
62% said that the recent waves of layoffs have made them feel less secure committing to one employer.
The results reveal what may be a seismic shift in how highly-skilled workers feel about full-time employment. We had the Great Resignation, The Great Reconsideration, and Quiet Quitting. Now, in the wake of Loud Layoffs, we’re seeing signs of a Great Betrayal that’s causing workers to reconsider full-time employment, as more and more highly-skilled tech workers signal a desire to break up with full-time work and consider the freedom and flexibility of freelancing.” -FastCompany, Ibid.
On June 30th of last year, I predicted that more people would turn to the gig economy and that some would do so out of necessity in order to make ends meet. I’ve also been honest with you in saying that even freelance and temporary opportunities are drying up. Some people who claim they have an “urgent” need are lollygagging around and taking weeks to make a decision. Or ghosting altogether. The pay rates are dropping. Work that might have paid $70/hr in 2021 is now going for half that. I saw a company looking for an interim HR Manager and only wanted to pay $15-$20/hr. For a manager with a SHRM cert! So no, the trauma is not relegated only to Big Tech. And no, you can’t simply assume that freelance work is abundant and will provide you with a viable alternative to full-time W2 employment. Just because freelance work seems more appealing when you’re on the outside looking in doesn’t make it so.
Owning your own business and/or flying solo as a full-time freelancer is a different lifestyle! As some folks are, indeed, turning to the gig economy to make ends meet after a layoff, I feel it’s important to understand that freelancing has its pitfalls, too. No work situation is perfect. Humans aren’t perfect and neither is any workplace scenario. But I think sometimes, the media can highly romanticize entrepreneurship. I mean . . . some of the stories I see on CNBC about people who rent their pools for a living or dog walkers who make a bazillion dollars a year . . . c’mon man. It’s “news” because those people are the exceptions and not the norm. In the same way I think we get a lot of hot air and hopium about this supposedly red hot labor market, we also see hopium about people who came up with an utterly bizarre business idea and are now millionaires. Um, OK. Is that a workable strategy for everyone in America? NO. And let’s stop pretending that it is. For one thing, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to work as a full-time employee inside a company that doesn’t suck and with a manager who isn’t a jerk. Likewise, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to start something of your own or freelance for more control over your own work life. It boils down to doing what’s best for you.
“The major factors driving people to independent work fell into three main buckets:
Flexibility: 78% of respondents in the A.Team Network survey identified flexible work location as a main reason driving them to full-time work, and 73% identified a flexible work schedule.
Meaningful work: 69% said that independent work allowed them to pursue work that aligned with their personal and career interests.
Financial gain: Perhaps most notably, 59% said that they were driven to independent work because they were able to make more than working full-time.
In turn, over two-thirds of respondents said that while working as an independent, they had more job satisfaction, financial opportunities, and work-life balance—a triumvirate of factors that most every worker is looking for in their careers.” -FastCompany, Ibid.
Yes, you can find flexibility, meaningful work, and financial gain in freelance work. You can also find stress, feast/famine cycles, rude clients, and projects you’d rather not do but must do because you need the money. I feel like some of these articles gloss over the problems and emphasize the good parts. Why would that be? Let’s think out loud here. Hmm.
Well, when you freelance, you cover everything. You typically provide all of your own equipment and subscriptions and the onus is on you to provide your own benefits, e.g., health & dental insurance, 401K, self-funded PTO, etc. Companies can also treat you like a throwaway and give you zero notice when they end a project. So if you think a brutal layoff where someone gets treated like dirt only occurs in full-time employment, oh no. Some companies treat 1099 workers like the gum on the bottom of their shoes. I once worked on a project where the VP of the company sent me an email to thank me profusely and told me how I had saved their lives and he was immensely grateful. The next morning, apropos of nothing, the president of that company sent me a terse email informing me that the project was ending and I was no longer needed. Talk about whiplash!
*slips on tinfoil hat* If more people are encouraged to freelance because it’s oh so dreamy and easy and nice, they aren’t unionizing and they aren’t asking for fair and decent treatment from employers. It makes life easier for the employers because you don’t have as many rights or expectations working on a 1099 basis AND they can shove you out the door with no notice and no severance of any kind.
“When we surveyed 581 tech founders and execs this past summer, they said that independent talent is a key tool amidst economic uncertainty and remote work: 71% agreed that bringing on freelancers or independent workers gives their business greater agility during times of economic uncertainty, and 70% said that remote work has made them more likely to bring on freelancers.
And they weren’t just bringing on independent workers to handle isolated tasks—instead, they were strategically integrating them into the business in ‘blended teams’ with full-time employees, with 73% of respondents saying they have integrated teams of full-time and independent workers.” -FastCompany, Ibid., emphasis mine
See what I mean? As an independent contractor, SME, and introvert, I do NOT wanna get folded into a team and treated like a full-time employee. I left Corpo America because I wanted to call my own shots and work in a way that makes sense to me. I daresay a lot of freelancers feel that way, too. Endless Zoom meetings that could’ve been emails, cowpoke round-ups, and 5pm happy hours are the stuff of full-time employees who want to stay at the company and toe the line, but not the domain of freelancers on the outside of the firm.
So why “strategically integrate them into the business” then? Because that’s what works best for the company and not for the full-time employees or the freelancers involved. The company gets the best of both worlds: they get the knowledge and expertise of a freelancer but do not have to provide benefits, equipment, severance pay, notice if the gig ends, etc. If they can make most people gig workers but place the same expectations on them as a full-time W2 employee who receives benefits and can file for unemployment, they win. People are already disposable playthings to them, so why not take it even further and convince the masses that employment is a bad idea?
We can almost hear a whisper on the wind . . . you vill own nothing und you vill be happy! You vill vork as a freelancer vith no benefits und no rights und you vill be happy!