If you work at a startup this is how you will be fired.
Your manager will book a Zoom call with a vague agenda like “discussion”. You will dial in to discover another person on the call you didn’t expect, usually from HR.
They will tell you they had to make the difficult decision to let you go. They will offer you some severance and outplacement help and remind you that your email access has already been cut off.
That’s if you are a senior person.
If you are a junior person you will wake up that morning to discover you cannot login to the network or badge in to the office. You will be notified via your personal email.
About 54,000 people have been laid off by 364 startups this year, according to the website layoffs.fyi.
They skew younger and are among the most educated, ambitious and networked people on the planet.
We’ve never seen layoffs of this magnitude in startup land and many people were clearly caught off guard. They believed promises companies made about being financially solid.
You understand why companies terminate with prejudice. It’s swift and clean. It reduces risk. The lawyers tell them to.
But, judging from a growing number of posts on LinkedIn, it’s generating a lot of anger.
A friend of mine at a crypto start up said he was assured days before that all would be fine. Then he was summoned to Zoom an hour before an All Hands Meeting. He never made it to the All Hands.
People know it’s America and you can be fired for no reason with no explanation at any time. They know that startups don’t offer job security.
What is stirring the discontent is how it’s going down.
The same startups that waxed poetic about culture, committment and community are adopting the playbook for mass firings from big multinationals.
The Mom Project, a small Chicago-based startup, laid off 15 percent of its staff this week. The action triggered a slew of online comments, including this one:
“Affected employees went to log-in to start their days and found themselves locked out. Notification of their termination was sent to their personal emails. Instead of a civil, 1:1 adult conversation, it appears that these people got organizational cowardice – a real disappointment for a business meant to uplift people.”
People also cited the jargon that was used in the announcement which said that 54 “team members” no longer have “go-forward roles” at the company.
When someone tells you you don’t have a “go-forward role” you want to strangle them.
And that’s from a company that finds people jobs.
Some companies will backtrack in the face of online criticism. That happened with Bitpanda, which had threatened to sue a social media manager for posting about his termination.
Companies are learning that unlike the past, these layoffs will be televised. Names will be named. The dispossessed will post details.
Layoffs.fyi, the website tallying up the job cuts, is also sharing Google Docs with the names of many of the individuals in an effort to crowdsource new opportunities.
Companies will forge ahead and people will adapt. It’s the future. As a VC friend of mine says, “don’t hate the players, don’t hate the game.”
Still, you wonder how people working at startups will feel about their employers in the future.