> The fact is, if I wanted to pay you, I could. I could even give you raises. But once again, that is not the economic reality we face. And so we must make hard choices.
Maybe I've hung around in the wrong circles too much recently, but this hit me hard. This is basically how the reasoning behind all top management decisions have been communicated to me in the past year:
"There is indeed a clearly better alternative course of action that we should take. You're right in that it would be trivial to adopt and we would all be happier from it, with more satisfied customers. The fact is that's not what we have chosen in reality, so we must shoulder the heavy burden of choosing the inferior alternative and give it our best shot."
Its not actual satire though ... Missing analyst expectations is a massive failure of management, they set the guidance and the expectations for the market; thus missing it by 2bn is actually a pretty poor performance.
Thanks, but I didn't ask you, because you didn't write it. I think it is satire, but sometimes one can't really know. It is undoubtedly a position that some people hold that missed revenue/profit estimates are akin to losses. Hence, Poe's Law.
how is that harsh? its just common sense that giant corps restructure and move their talent and assets around as the world changes, otherwise half of Microsoft would still be working on Windows and we'd be laughing at them.
layoffs arent always about cutting costs, its usually about restructuring and reprioritizing
Couple days apart, and they announced an investment, but the $10B figure is rumors. Could be right, could be wrong.
But so what? There’s no gotcha here; it’s not like Microsoft or Google or Amazon claimed they were cash poor and could t afford to pay people. They are changing the areas they spend money in. Would it be better if they were only cutting back and not also investing in new areas?
The comment thread you're responding to is reflecting on how painful it is to be laid off when:
* showing profits
* showing multi-billion in investments in new companies
* when the money saved is tiny compared to the increased year-over-year profits
on a topic that's a short story in the form of a letter written by someone pretending to be a CEO and telling the story's real truth about a layoff: that they don't feel like paying the reader anymore.
"But so what?"
Their response is _exactly_ on topic. There is a real sting on these human lives where a company has decided they don't have value relative some new tech purchase. This is contrary to particular ethics frameworks many of us are familiar with around human value.
Apologies if I sounded like I was unsympathetic to the people. I’ve been laid off, I know it hurts.
But I guess I don’t see how empathizing with that means. . . What? Microsoft should cancel an investment they think is strategic? Microsoft should keep job roles they no longer things are important?
Highly profitable companies like Microsoft are not zero sum. Nobody said “let’s lay people off so that we can invest in openAI”. Each decision is made independently, for its own ROI. If they believed that keeping these people and making the investment was the best approach, they have the funds to do so, easily.
I love the McSweeney’s piece, and I’m sympathetic to those laid off, I just don’t get the innuendo that a company should do something differently.
If the company actually thought they could make more money by redeploying, they would. Positive ROI strategic objectives are not obvious or readily available. If they were, the company would already be pursuing them.
IT does bring up an interesting alternative. What if instead of layoffs, companies provided an ultimatum:
Your employment costs $X. You have 3 months to find a new source of $X+1 revenue that requires your continued labor.
Just because they don't hypocritically claim they care about their employees and only laid them off because they HAD to, doesn't mean we shouldn't criticize them and (if possible) use our leverage as workers to influence them to make better decisions. Just because we know corporations only value profit, to the detriment of human quality of life in general, doesn't mean we should accept it
The thing to understand is the the companies primary product isn't the boring and annoying things employees are are working on and customers pay for. It's the companies stock and bond offerings. Every decision is subordinate to that.
I really think this is the problem the financial world of numbers and spreadsheets and funny money has become almost completely divorced from the economic world where people actually make things and do things, and most of the "money" produced is really just by finding complicated ways to transfer risk from one person to another while retaining the money.
Too many people are busy trying to play financial games and not enough are actually looking to produce anything of value. It is worrisome where this long term trend takes us.
wrong view / comparios ... in a 5% interest rate environment, companies fight for investors money .. if you don't do the cuts and find a way to be efficient investors will put their money somewhere else that's more profitable.
this reasoning is pure and simple and correct, you start from the top, not from the fact "they can afford it" because their job is not to spend the money they have their job is to increase value for investors.
Let's do a little root cause analysis. Why do companies like Google, Microsoft and Amazon, with massive income streams combined with substantial cash holdings, need investor money? Maybe Toyota's "Five Why's" can shed some light on it.
We need to fire thousands of people.
Because it will make us more attractive for investors.
So they put their money in our company.
Because that will buoy our stock price, which is important.
However, until now, it has been my understanding that the way any large company works is by using their stock value as collateral against short term investments from banks, which then serve as operational funds.
You might have seen that in the crypto space, but no normal bank is going to work like that: the only point at which collateral becomes relevant is if the debtor can't pay the loan back, i.e. they're bankrupt, in which case the equity is worthless. Corporate loans will be either unsecured (companies have lots of unsecured short term debt: every single invoice sitting unpaid in accounts payable is a debt!) or secured on something physical in the way that car loans and mortgages are.
You occasionally get debt-to-equity swaps in near-bankruptcy situations.
There was a certain amount of "borrow against funds held in Ireland to avoid US repatriation taxes" done by Apple, but that wasn't using stock as security, that was using cash of a different subsidiary.
According to other comments, while the above above holds true for some companies, this is not the case of FAANG. Unfortunately, it is apparently too late for me to edit or delete my comment, so it shall remain posted on HN for all eternity.
Yeah, most of these companies park their cash outside the US to avoid having to pay taxes, then borrow money in the US against their assets/stock. It worked great when interest rates were essentially zero. Not so much now.
But the b2b sourdough app is a potential driver of future growth. Yes it may help the bottom line today, but getting rid of employees today lowers future growth potential.
Investors know this. Investors would also question why there are layoffs in an apparently healthy company. All this means that CEOs don't want to do mass layoffs which even more strongly raises the question of why they did it to start with.
The median shareholder in Microsoft, Google and Amazon is likely a lower economic class than the median employee at these corporations if I had to guess.
The framing of ordinary workers getting the boot so fat cats can buy bigger yachts is seductive but I can just as easily frame it as:
Fixed income, middle America boomers entrusted these companies to be good stewards of their capital but it was instead spent on paying high six figure salaries to coastal city professionals from elite schools to do work of dubious value.
This is such a poor faith argument that completely ignores any reality. These companies have had a massive last decade or so, and if what you're saying is really the case, then we would see booming levels of wealth in middle america among the elderly. Instead, we see most wealth going to the richest of Americans, with the lions share of wealth created during the last 2 years of resurgent economic boom going to the top 1% of Americans, not the fixed income middle america boomers who are currently dying because they can't afford to keep living on social security.
Retirement accounts are largely a benefit enjoyed by those well-enough off to have them , as well as owning a home. So while yes, these indicators have increased, it only speaks to how the bulk of wealth created since 2008 has gone to mostly well-off individuals. And while yes, wealth is overall heavily weighted to older generations, it does not change the fact that the only people who are rich are the rich, regardless of age. While most wealthy people are boomers, most boomers are not wealthy. If you look at economic insecurity (200% FPL), the elderly in America are over-represented, with a rate of about 33% compared to ~27% overall.
Your analysis doesn't match the economic measures I've been reading, which indicate that lower income workers in the US have seen real wage gains and that homeowners have seen net worth increases, and are feeling wealthier. Unemployment is very low, despite the recent layoffs, and many categories of employment are still seeing upwards wage pressure.
Social Security is pinned to inflation, so I don't understand why those living on Social Security payments might be in different circumstances now than 5 years ago.
I have no clue where you're finding that lower income workers are experiencing any real wage gains, let alone at a significant rate. Home ownership as a percentage of population has never recovered anywhere near pre-2008 levels, so on behalf of myself and most people in my generation and cohort, I couldn't care less if homeowners have more money, that fact is having less of a bearing on our real world with each day. And yes, social security is pinned to inflation so their situation hasn't changed much in 5 years, you're right, most elderly people in america are dying poor and increasingly alone in nursing homes seeking to extract profit from them. None of these points have anything to do with my original point, which is that since the 2008 recession, the tech industry has seen a massive influx of money, and to try and argue that the money put into that industry somehow makes it back to middle america because of some made up idea of who shareholders are is a bad faith argument, and ignores any reality of the situation. I have no idea what it is with people like you who just want to die on the hill of nothing being wrong and that we just have to keep doing what we're doing. A better future is possible, and only if we all start believing it is.
"The labor economist Arindrajit Dube has estimated hourly wage changes — by decile rather than quartile — over a longer period, since the beginning of the pandemic recession. He finds that real wages for the bottom 40 percent of workers have actually increased".
While yes, real wages for the bottom 50% have increased according to FRED data, that trend only appears if you look at data from 2020-2022. If you look a little further back, to about 2008, you'll find that real wages for the bottom 50% has grown at a much slower rate than those in the top 50%. This also all ignores that percentages are deceiving when looking at small windows of data, and only suggests how current situations may compare to previous situations, not the overall situation someone is in. Many of the people in the bottom 50%, and especially as you get into lower deciles, have not been in a good place for a while now, and while real wage growth is great, it does little to truly improve their situations (remember, percentages result in a lower actual value when your starting value is lower). If you really wanted to make this argument, then you could pull up net worth data that shows a 110% increase from 2020-2022 for the bottom 50% compared to only a 27% increase for the top 0.1%, but then someone might show you a graph of the data and ask for you to point to the 110% increase. I don't know what it is with weirdos online trying to cherry-pick data to try and prove poor people aren't poor, but it's really getting old.
Edit: also interesting to point out that 2020-2022 has included things like direct-to-citizen stimulus checks, and large government investment in the form of the build back better package. If anything, it is a testament that direct aid to people struggling does more to improve their immediate situation than any other solution proposed by neoliberals and the GOP. If that is your argument, then I will agree with you, and say we should do more, like a UBI and increased taxes on the wealthy to start to undo decades of socioeconomic stratification.
I wasn't arguing for a particular point, but I do happen to advocate for basic income policies funded by progressive taxes.
> to about 2008
I must have overlooked that you were talking about a longer time period than the pandemic. Most people recently have been discussing the stimulus policies and correlated (not necessarily caused) inflation. There's been a trend of saying they were counter-productive for lower income households, which is not supported by FRED measurements.
From my original comment, my statement you took issue with was
> Instead, we see most wealth going to the richest of Americans, with the lions share of wealth created during the last 2 years of resurgent economic boom going to the top 1% of Americans
which is a very substantiated claim. Your counter argument was that in the same time frame, the bottom 40% have seen real wage gains. My counter to that argument is that while it is true, it still doesn't reflect where most of the money is actually going, and is a disingenuous argument that makes the situations of the lower 50% seem better than it is. I never argued that stimulus policies were bad for lower-income households. Not sure what point you're trying to make to me.
> Not sure what point you're trying to make to me.
I wanted to add nuance to the statement about most wealth going to the top. The last two years have also been great for (some groups of) poorer Americans. Real wages had been going down since the 1970s. Now, up (for some cohorts). Unemployment is down.
The world has detail.
If I had to make a point, I suppose it'd be that summaries can be misleading. But, I'm not interested in engaging in a debate of points and counter-points. There's no judge here, awarding victory and speaker points. I suppose upvotes are tracked, but we've moved off the front page. Not so much traffic to give us a sample.
> If I had to make a point, I suppose it'd be that summaries can be misleading.
Then I guess I have to agree with you, when discussing where wealth went during 2020, and the state of the lower 50% of Americans, it is misleading to only point out that the lower ~50% experienced wage growth without also pointing out that a majority share of overall wealth still went to the 1% and that the real gains have still not caught up with the terrible situation they've been in for years. As for the original point, the claim that the majority of wealth created since 2020 has gone to the 1% is not made any more nuanced by including that real wages have increased for the bottom 50%, as all it does is distract from the actual issues at hand.
On the contrary, noticing that real wages increased for the poorest 40% may motivate policies like a universal income / citizen dividend. Perhaps a higher steady state inflation is necessary, 4% instead of 2%, to keep unemployment low and real wages rising for the poorest.
Have you considered what happened to the wealthiest 1% as inflation fears led to increased interest rates? I'm guessing the nominal wealth declines affected the wealthiest most of all. I haven't seen measurements of that, yet, but I have seen some headlines about Musk and Adani.
> On the contrary, noticing that real wages increased for the poorest 40% may motivate policies like a universal income / citizen dividend.
Its an interesting argument but it has already been seen in America where neo-libs and the GOP have shifted most of the blame for inflation to the stimulus checks, so I doubt it.
> Perhaps a higher steady state inflation is necessary, 4% instead of 2%, to keep unemployment low and real wages rising for the poorest.
The only way I could see higher inflation leading to higher wages is worse material conditions leading to more workers fighting for higher wages. Unless there's some weird economics at play, I don't see any other reason why inflation would increase wages, and if that is the reason, I'm not going to support any platform that only works because it increases misery.
> Have you considered what happened to the wealthiest 1% as inflation fears led to increased interest rates?
Yes, they saw a small adjustment in net worth down 7% at the beginning of 2022, although that seems to have flattened out since then, and real wages have only increased since early 2021, when they fell ~1% in Q1 2021. I'm not sure what you'd do with this, because increasing interest rates reduces inflation, which works against your (since you don't like the word argument) idea that we should keep inflation higher.
Nominal wages are a part of inflation, so there's nothing about the inflation rate that inherently changes real wages. If all components of inflation increased uniformly, purchasing power would stay constant. Inflation is only a drag to the extent that it's surprising.
However, there seems to be a relationship between inflation and unemployment. It's been cloudy, but the hypothesis is that low unemployment causes higher inflation. I further conjecture that sustained low unemployment flattens the income curve, leading to higher real wages at the low end.
Regardless, low unemployment is a good thing in its own right.
> Nominal wages are a part of inflation, so there's nothing about the inflation rate that inherently changes real wages
Again, no they aren't, the only link would be that inflation worsens material conditions, which could lead to more people seeking higher wages, which overall improves wage conditions. The only "link" we've seen is recently, and even looking just behind the 2020s you can find inflation causing real wage decreases .
> If all components of inflation increased uniformly, purchasing power would stay constant
"If" is doing a lot of heavy lifting here.
> Inflation is only a drag to the extent that it's surprising.
Tell that to people who are un-banked, working minimum wage, or really any average person and see what their response is.
> However, there seems to be a relationship between inflation and unemployment.
Not sure where you're seeing this, and its hard to try and claim, as we are just now reaching pre-2020 levels of unemployment, not some mythical low level of unemployment. I could see an argument for lowering unemployment leading to higher inflation, but a stable low unemployment has shown no bearing on inflation.
> I further conjecture that sustained low unemployment flattens the income curve, leading to higher real wages at the low end.
Thats a nice conjecture, but again, just look right before 2020 to find the perfect counter argument, and data coming out from the end of 2022 is showing the opposite, that as U6 has reached an all time low (which I will say is not too shabby), real wages have started to slow their growth.
> low unemployment is a good thing in its own right
I know I'm probably starting to seem combative here, but again, this just isn't always true. For the overall state of our economy and the safety of the wealth of the richest, maybe, but on one end of the unemployment chart it speaks to less people being able to make it by without jobs. Employment among people with disabilities is at its lowest, which speaks to our societies inability to care for those who need it. People with disabilities are not going out and finding jobs because bagging at a grocery store is fulfilling, they're doing it because they can't afford not to.
On a different note, I'm really not trying to seem combative, and I hope you're enjoying our fake online discussion as much as I am.
The discussion is real enough for me. However, lacking knowledge of the interlocutor brings a few problems. It's hard to know what shared knowledge and context we have.
One difference in terms that we're having trouble with is "inflation". When I spoke of "inflation" previously, I meant it in the general sense, not specifically consumer goods prices, or some other subset of prices. By definition, that means that nominal wages are included. The price of labor is just another price that inflates along with everything else. Note that the chart you linked  says "CPI inflation" rather than simply "inflation".
As for the relationship between unemployment and inflation, it's in a standard economics textbook. Unfortunately, the evidence for the theory has been somewhat mixed.
When I'm speaking of inflation, I use the generally accepted definition of "a general increase in prices and fall in the purchasing value of money." This is why in the US we use CPI (and sometimes PCE) to measure inflation, it allows us to track how the prices of goods change, and through that we are (theoretically) able to track what the actual inflation rate over time is. Inflation in the macro sense can come from many places, but in general it is accepted that while wages _should_ keep up with normal inflation of 2% or so in America, that inflation eats away at stagnant wages, and has little direct effect on its own over wages, as evidenced by looking at average wages vs inflation, even in 2022 where the bottom 50% experienced their real wage growth. "Price of labor" is much more theoretical in modern america, as there are many regulations that affect it, along with the much decreased bargaining power of the average worker since the decline in union membership, along with the fact that the average person anywhere in the world is not going to ever "buy labor", its a price that corporations set themselves and pay exclusively, and is therefore already fairly detached from any inflation (yes, I understand that corporate spending is still spending, but that argument starts getting a little trickle-down). As I said before, I can see there being a link between inflation and wage rise, but I still don't see where the root cause could be other than material conditions worsening leading to people fighting for higher wages. I guess in a "we need to fight more for ourselves" sense this isn't terrible, but I think we need to move away from a system where the way to progress is through misery.
I will say I was incorrect about the standard view of the relationship of unemployment and inflation, and that historically there has been (and it makes sense for there to be) a link between high inflation and low unemployment. Again, though, there are several ways to look at this, and it depends on where you think the driver of inflation is. If you (informally) believe that inflation comes from supply-side, then its pretty easy to explain the current inflation as we have consistently seen breakdowns in supply chains that have consistently led to lower supply. For demand-side inflation I think an argument could be made there, as with direct-to-consumer stimulus there is more money (along with the same amount of money going into PPP loans for buisness-owners), but looking at real disposable income, we are just reaching pre-2020 levels (aside from some very obvious spikes where stimulus checks were). Without extra disposable income across the board, I'm not sure where the extra discretionary spending would come from to increase prices. According to the NY Fed, the inflation was mostly caused by the demand shock (specifically) when recovering from early 2020, and supply-side issues.
For more context, I do fancy myself a bit of a work-abolitionist and am horribly left, so it is definitely coloring my takes, but I hope I'm providing enough data for my claims to counteract my inherent bias.
That Brookings article starts with, "Inflation refers to changes over time in the overall level of prices of goods and services throughout the economy." Services includes labor. The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes the Employment Cost Index (ECI), which may be even more influential on the Federal Reserve Board's interest rate decisions than the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
The general public are consumers, so it's plausible that the "generally accepted" definition of inflation considers mostly the CPI. However, many generally accepted things are incorrect. If we're having a more technical discussion, it's reasonable to use a more technical definition. Perhaps best to be specific, saying "consumer price inflation" and "employment cost inflation" rather than simply "inflation" with no modifiers.
Notice that recent news about inflation has been deceleration of consumer prices. Most importantly, of rent, the largest component of the CPI. If the FRB were only concerned with that, they'd probably not have voted to increase the interest rate on Feb 1st. I'm guessing they had access to unemployment rate numbers from the BLS, which published a surprising job growth report today.
> people fighting for higher wages
My "fight" has been quite easy. I simply ask for it, or go get a different job that pays more. Of course it's not so easy for some people, but over the last couple years I've heard anecdotes from many business owners moaning over their employees' demands. "I just can't find any [qualified people that accept the wage I paid last year]." A friend of mine, an hourly worker, got an 18% raise in January!
The idea one might believe in either supply-side or demand-side causes of inflation and not both is strange to me. First, the primary driver of inflation in the long run is monetary policy. That's not controversial (among economists). Whether to consider price changes due to supply and demand as inflation is trickier, especially because those causes are so difficult to disentangle from monetary causes. Second, in considering short-term price changes due to the balance of supply and demand, they're clearly both important for almost all goods and services.
No. "In classical economics, labor is one of the three factors of production, along with land and capital. Labor is often defined as the physical or mental effort exerted by human beings in the production of goods and services. In neoclassical economics, labor is a broader concept that incorporates all human activity that adds value to a product or service". And while the ECI does exist, and is used by the fed to inform inflationary policy, it includes all costs of employing someone, indicating inflation in the health care market just as much as in wages. Labor is known to be much more of a reactive market, and also much more affected by things like the labor participation rate than inflation on its own. Even your original source for real wage increases uses the CPI. It also makes sense to use a measure of consumer inflation when talking about wages, as again, most consumers aren't buying labor.
> If the FRB were only concerned with that, they'd probably not have voted to increase the interest rate on Feb 1st.
Yes because the FRB is concerned with large scale monetary policy, and only have a few strings to pull. Interest rate hikes are intended to slow monetary velocity, effectively decreasing money supply, and has nothing to do with the housing market.
> Of course it's not so easy for some people
Bit of an understatement
>but over the last couple years I've heard anecdotes from many business owners moaning over their employees' demands
And? Anecdotes aren't sources, so I don't know what to do for ya here.
> A friend of mine, an hourly worker, got an 18% raise in January
That's awesome for them! It doesn't change that its anecdotal, and doesn't change any of the previous data that I've included to show that at best the lowest 50% are just starting to reach and surpass where they were in 2000.
> The idea one might believe in either supply-side or demand-side causes of inflation and not both is strange to me
I never said it was one or the other, and even linked to sources that included a breakdown of the share of each. I was more speculating on the driver of the higher than average inflation since 2020, and included fed breakdowns that gave evidence for a good amount of supply-side inflation, whereas most American pundits tend to cast it in a demand-side only light (people have more money so they spend more kinds of arguments). I even pointed out where it was demand-side in the fed report, although they show that it is not more people with more money, but an effective contraction (from reduced monetary velocity) and subsequent rapid inflation of monetary supply following COVID.
>First, the primary driver of inflation in the long run is monetary policy
I really need you to pick a time frame. I thought we were arguing inflation for 2020s. Yes obviously monetary policy tends to have the most influence in the long run. I also don't think anyone would say that inflation in the 2020s has been driven by monetary policy, and in general it isn't in times where its higher than what is wanted from monetary policy, like what we've been experiencing.
We're largely talking past each other now. I find myself repeatedly trying to make a distinction between inflation in general and consumer price inflation specifically.
Consumers may not often directly buy labor (though it feels otherwise as a homeowner seeking a handyman) but the cost of labor matters nonetheless.
There are many people who might blame inflation in the 2020s on quantitative easing, which is a monetary policy.
It's interesting that you're going with a "classical" definition of labor, but not one for inflation, which would classically be defined as purely a monetary phenomenon independent of price changes due to supply and demand.
Everyone that is disadvantaged by not holding any of the power is expendable. And expend those in power will do in order to do the bidding of their investors and keep their compensation + bonuses well padded out.
You never see CEO’s take pay cuts, lose compensation, or executive teams get, “right sized.”
It’s always the workers who get the shaft first.
Given that a lot of this is driven by a hedge fund, isn’t this how IBM was gutted back in the day?
It's necessary to divide the companies making layoffs into "profitable" and "unprofitable". It is much easier to make the case for layoffs at an unprofitable company: eventually it will either have to appeal to investors or run out of money, at which point everyone will be laid off anyway.
They put $470 billion through the till and ended up with $33 billion net income, for a margin of 7%. That's a normal profitable company, albeit a huge one that continues to eat the remaining retail world. You can look at the quarterly results too, but there's nothing in the rear view mirror that justifies layoffs.
Is their job to increase it in the short or the long term? These “I know we’ve been doing great for 3 years, but the past 3 months haven’t been so hot, so we’re going to cut jobs.” Messages seem incredibly shortsighted.
Public companies have an incentive to focus on the short term (quarterly reports). This really makes a difference in management behavior. Bill Clinton and Warren Buffett have both talked about this, and presented regulatory approaches to fixing it, but here we are.
If you go on an investor call as the CEO and said, "hey we didn't make any profits this quarter because we invested it all into projects that will grow our revenue X% in the next quarter or half" you'll get fired by the board very quickly, or an activist fund will buy up shares and vote you out as quickly as they can.
> FAANG jobs pay extremely well and then there's the stock on top.
When excluding RSUs, FAANG jobs are not extreme in any way. RSUs are not a cherry on top but an important component of remuneration. Often for mid-level and above (roughly TL/staff engineer and Manager-II), the value of RSUs is more than 50% of total compensation.
It's taken on a life of its own at this point. The idea that the quarterly stock price is The One And Only Metric That Matters arose for various reasons related to what was mentioned, but over the years it's become so ingrained in the minds of executives and other wealthy people that even when those conditions don't specifically apply, they still act as though they do.
Always forgotten: for every seller there must be a buyer.
Generally speaking, unless there is a fundamental change in outlook, selling based upon the latest earnings report is the hot money which attempts to chase the latest greatest and is moving on (and rarely tells you about their misses).
investors care about long term profits. If they magically knew that income would fall this quarter and 2X next quarter, the price would go up.
The challenge is that they dont have magic powers to see into the future. If a company income is falls this quarter without a compelling reason such as investment, this data indicates that the company will not do good next quarter.
The are tons of examples of company stock prices increasing due to a acquisition, despite a lower quarterly profit.
This might be true of a lot of companies, but then you look at others like Waymo where the revenue is pure projection, the relationship between staff numbers and having a workable product unknown and the pile of cash available to fund it not requiring any borrowing, and it looks suspiciously like trend following (with maybe a bit of actually self driving cars are further off than we thought but, hey, not our mistake because everyone else is doing layoffs too thrown in)...
It’s not trend following, it is genuine existential fear, particularly someone like waymo -
With 0% rates money is free and you can take forever to make a profit, nobody cares, just borrow more money if you run out.
With 5% rates money is expensive and you have say 2 years to make a profit or everyone loses their job and investors lose their funds.
This doesn’t really apply to massive companies like google or MS of course but it does to anyone smaller without a cash cushion (the majority). Now job cuts may or may not be the right decision but they are triggered by very real and urgent fears about plummeting earnings.
I picked Waymo because unlike some startups losing staff obviously isn't the route to profitability for it, and it started off as a Google-branded project backed by the near unlimited cash reserves of Google. If they're in a position where they're not confident of getting further support from that source, I don't think IRR calculations over a 2 year time horizon are the main factor there.
A lot of middle and upper management pays lip service to increasing value for the investors, but they don't really care for the investors any more than they care for their employees or their customers. It's better for them to be paid in cash and be ready to jump ship at the first sign of trouble than the much riskier course of counting on long term growth of their present company.
I have to say I am surprised by most of the reactions from folks regarding these "economic" decisions. This is how capitalism works, this is what its supposed to do: generate more capital for those who have it already.
Amazing. There was a time, nearly 20 years ago, that I was let go from Adobe. My colleagues assumed that because of my position/tenure/knowledge that I was layoff-proof. I told them that I was just a number in a large organization, and that orgs of a certain scale don’t do layoffs in a way that looks at each individual. Sure enough I was let go and after 16 years at the same company, that was acquired by Adobe where I spent 5 years, my overall feeling was “meh, I knew the end was nigh”.
Since then I’ve been a contractor, and I couldn’t be happier. The relationship between me and my client is simple: I work, and they pay me. Sure there’s no stock option perks, but on the other hand I never have to deal with HR processes, submit quarterly objectives, etc. I work, I get paid. I know when the contract will end, and either the client renews the contract or I go somewhere else. It’s all fine.
For me, reducing my work life down to such a simple transactional level has been incredibly freeing and stress reducing, and allowed me to focus even more clearly on the work.
> Though, there are always workarounds when managers want to keep their highest performers off the list.
Never assume you are safe. I was a single point of failure on a team that was supposed to be revving up for some pretty important strategic initiatives. My manager put me on a “do not fire” list prior to the company conducting a layoff of 30% of the company last fall. Still got canned. My manager went tried to determine why I had been let go when he specifically indicated I was a single point of failure . Turns out, it was because someone in HR had mixed up some spreadsheets :/
In the first couple of years I would worry about this, but I haven’t in a very long time. The only occasions when I’ve had a gap between contracts is when I’ve chosen to take a break. I manage my finances to ensure I have several months of equivalent income saved.
My process is that 60 days before the end of my current contract, whether my current client has said they intend to renew or not, I start seeking other contract opportunities. If my client finalizes the renewal, I halt my job search. If they don’t, the 60 day window has consistently been long enough to ensure I have my next client lined up before my current contract ends.
Most of my contracts are 12 months long. I don’t take contracts any shorter than 6 months.
I should note that I’m in Canada and so I don’t have to worry about healthcare coverage.
contacted for many years as well. All my contracts always ran a year or longer. In the end, it felt very similar to full time employment - it was 9 - 5, regular meetings, coworkers, etc.. At the same time, I didn’t get any benefits, health insurance or paid holidays.
I am not sure I want to contract like that again. It has most of the downsides of regular employment but none of the benefits. I think in the USA it would make more sense to just switch full time jobs every two years and take breaks between.
Id love to try contracting again but more like true “consulting” - higher rate and fewer hours. I am not sure though that pure dev work could be high leverage like that - it just takes too damn long
Same feeling here. This is called “staff augmentation” contracting and is the easiest to find but the closest to FT employment. It can make sense if you get to a high rate or you can convince clients to do 3/4 days a week kindof arrangements
I too would like to find true consulting opportunities but feel that it’s gonna be tough unless you become well known. Another in between approach is to have a more fixed, productized offering… the only one I can think of for someone with a typical full stack skill set is to build MVPs… you could also teach courses…
Or if you can get together with some friends you enjoy working with and form your own mini agency this can be an enjoyable approach
EDIT: One more idea which I know is done is to develop your own framework or set of processes for your client base, but still charge somewhere in between what you have and building it from scratch. But again this isn’t possible in a staff aug situation as you’ll be beholden to the existing team’s tools and processes.
Historically, yes. Post-pandemic, not as much. When the pandemic caused a migration to work-from-home and companies increased their remote-hiring efforts, I expected that the move to “work from anywhere, hire from anywhere” would push contracting rates down.
Oddly in my experience in the mobile (iOS) development space the opposite happened, and rates increased significantly. Those higher rates have held steady for two years now and appear to be permanent. Plus I’m increasingly taking contracts with U.S. clients.
Of course a full-time FAANG employee with stock options etc. will have a higher total compensation compared to me, but overall I’m making more than I ever have and I’m much happier compared to when I was a full-time employee.
> But isn't the inbetween contract jobs a tenuous time?
This is priced into the contract.
I've done both FTE and contracting. They both have their benefits. Looking at my FTE job with the attitude of "This is a business relationship – you pay me, I work" has been the best balance for me. You can do more deeper bigger things than you can as a contractor plus the lottery tickets are nice.
Honestly, if companies wanna pay extra (they do) for me to go "Rah rah rah $Company is changing the world!" and wear swag, so be it. When $OtherCompany pays more/better, I'll do it for them. Just like an athlete changing clubs.
Though it’s really tough for most employees (especially the 20-somethings) to resist the internal tribal messaging from their employers and instead see their employment relationship as just transactional.
I wonder if this is due to lack of job experience at that young age? Prior to that, young adults were in school, which fostered a community view beyond just paying for classes/degree. I know I learned about how large corps view labor when I worked summers at a big box retailer. I viewed that as purely transactional as well: I stock shelves, you give me money.
Plus Gen-X often watched our parents get laid off when we were younger, so there's that lesson too.
Ha, yes our Gen-X “slacker” generation (LOL) started out with a potentially different worldview.
I think you’ve described the challenge 20-somethings face when it comes to resisting the tribal messaging from their employer pretty well — coming out of school many people want to continue that sense of belonging. People develop close friendships, and romantic relationships, and they connect that to their work experience. Employer messaging around being part of a family and striving to a higher purpose is meant to foster loyalty and better productivity.
The flip-side is when layoffs happen the employees who have bought into these team/family ideals feel betrayed, and I’ve seen people struggle with coming to terms how their employer could let valuable people go after being told how special and important they were.
And to be clear, lots of these people are special and important; but that’s obviously not a protection against big businesses looking after their own selfish interests first.
To put my cynic's hat on: All young people, men especially, look for a sense of purpose and belonging. Militaries have exploited this for eons. Governments exploit it for propaganda. Gangs exploit it for recruitment. Fringe political groups lean on it. Religions use it. Cults are crazy good at it. Brands use it all the time to sell us more stuff.
Really, a modern future unicorn is just using that same cult/religion/government/brand playbook. Often unknowingly. It happens to work best on the young.
Compared to what? Either you're on contract and they could simply not renew it when the 1/3/6 month timeline is up, or you're an employee and they could simply lay you off without warning on a completely unpredictable and arbitrary timeline.
Everything is tenuous compared to living off the safe withdrawal rate of a $10 million diversified investment portfolio.
I think the idea here is that when you're on contract, you are much more aware that your employment is time-limited and transactional.
So you live your life, financially and otherwise, with this in mind.
I have no doubt that this sounds (and would be) more stressful for some people, when compared to full-time employment, particularly in the US where your job is typically tied to health care and other benefits.
But most folks I know who have been laid off from long-term employment were shocked by (and ill-prepared for) the event.
Of course they both have risk categorically, but they differ greatly in magnitude and scheduling.
With Contracting you know that there is say a 50% chance the contract will expire on a given date and can plan accordingly. As a direct employee there is say a one percent chance you'll be laid off and it could come at random times.
I live in the UK where the cost of living is very low (less than half that of the US), and contractor wages are high. Contractor wages are so high in the UK because our labour laws are so strong. Companies will pay a huge premium to be able to terminate my contract with a week's notice.
The industry had been, for quite some time, growing both in terms of headcount and compensation, without regards to boundaries, sanity or practicality.
With that in mind, it looked like it was only a matter of time for this to happen. However, one cannot help wondering how much influence did profitability and future outlook had to do with it, versus how much it was about regaining control over workers and salaries and about "fixing" the stock price.
For me, the biggest crime is the fanatic enthusiasm and we-are-all-a-family narrative these companies were pushing while growing well beyond needed in 2020 through 2021 contrasted with the generic messages they are peddling now when laying off.
Maybe I've lost my heart but it's hard for me to find fault with the way Nadella communicated MSFT's layoffs. They're a business, they need to reallocate capital and headcount, he doesn't shed any crocodile tears, but they are providing above market severance benefits, end of transmission. If I have to be laid off I want it to go something like this.
The word layoff does not appear in that post. It's word salad for 2 paragraphs.
It's bad writing, it's an even worse communique from a CEO.
Start with the point. The point is that X percent of the workforce is to be let go. And that it has been already in the works for some time because some people have been let go that day. "some notifications happening today" = we already have a list and we'll go through it as fast as labor laws allow.
I can't stand all the beating around the bush language.
All stuff like "best wishes to those impacted by the course correction in our employee base".
Like they aren't just numbers or human resources, it's real people losing their jobs and facing difficult situations with work visas, mortgages, etc. - the same people who have helped build the products they work on.
It's isn't an unfortunate natural disaster but a deliberate decision made by executives, where in the majority of cases it's just that the rate of growth of profit has fallen - nowhere near severe losses and economic trouble.
The number of people gaining any significant amount of wealth due to the increase in MS's quarterly stock price is minuscule.
Just because "millions of people" have, through some indirect means, some small investment in MS doesn't mean there's anywhere near a proportionate gain as compared to the loss being suffered. This is especially true if those people don't sell their MS stock during that period to realize the gain, as there's plenty of chance that the price will fall again later.
I've considered it, and of all the possible takes, I think this is the worst one.
- They are chartered as a for-profit entity
- FAANG workers who are making an average $200K or whatever don't need welfare.
Like I'm all for class warfare, but not between the super rich and the very rich. I don't have any sympathy whatsoever for the $200K class when they get laid off - being worth this much money includes understanding how the game is played and preparing accordingly.
So no, if you get laid off at this level, you are not working class, you are not an average American, the package MSFT gives you is above market and that is good enough. Let's save the extra help for people who actually need it.
Well said. For me, complaints of layoffs in tech companies and startups fall on deaf ears. I say this as someone who works for a startup, and whose partner works for Google.
It has been incredibly obvious that technology companies over-hired during the pandemic and that the growth they were seeing was not sustainable. The “we prepared for a different economic reality than the one we face today” is hogwash. Rather than preparing, they post-pared for the economic reality they were in, not the one that they could easily have seen coming.
Rather than directing anger toward the managerial class for layoffs, I’d rather see anger directed toward them for over-hiring in the first place. Nobody is mad when they’re at the party, even when they know it can’t last forever, but everyone will is upset when the music stops.
Also, FWIW regarding compensation, I agree. I recently saw on levels.fyi what a recruiter at Google makes - starting, with equity and bonus, is substantially more than me as a software engineer ~5 years out of college. I voiced my amazement to my girlfriend, and she told me, “well at least you still have a job”. Sorry, I don’t feel an ounce of sympathy. That recruiter could take the next four years off from working entirely, and we’d come out about the same in earnings. As tech workers, we are all out of touch with “everyday people”, but those working at FAANG companies are out of touch even with the rest of the tech ecosystem.
> Rather than directing anger toward the managerial class for layoffs, I’d rather see anger directed toward them for over-hiring in the first place.
Almost every criticism I see if the “managerial class” includes criticism for over hiring. That’s the point. Management making strategically unsustainable decisions is what resulted in over hiring. It’s a mistake by those in management, but the consequences, layoffs, are entirely born by those who had no hand in it.
For better or for worse, over hiring is a deliberate practice at many companies. It's hard to know who is good and who is not from the interview process alone, so they over hire, and cut lower performers later through a layoff (though it is never communicated this way).
To that point - didn't these companies and their investors "invest" in a bunch of human resources and then devalue them by either laying them off or giving the work of laid-off workers to the remaining resources?
If executives at a company rented a bunch of store fronts expecting to increase their footprint and then said "we're bad at our jobs and didn't realize we weren't going to do anything with these store fronts" the investors would (presumably) ask them to leave or cut their performance bonuses. It's not like these companies don't have massive amounts of data (I'm looking at you Google) to analyze and estimate a market and determine if they needed the resources to begin with.
Another thing I don't see mentioned often enough is the impact that this has on state governments. I can imagine that the people working in the California state government would be concerned if several large companies took a bunch of store fronts off the market and then just dumped them all in one fell swoop.
Are these managers, executives, and presidents so bad at their job that they can't find anything to do with a bunch of talented employees that they spent time and money on-boarding?
I grind away at our codebase day in day out causing me immense personal anxiety and burnout risk and all for what?
Well! The honest answer is because software engineering is an incredibly satisfying intellectual pursuit. So satisfying that outside of work in my spare time I literally do it for free, giving away my work to strangers as free / open source software.
Why draw a salary then? Or stock? Well obviously I have to feed my family. But also I have to then see that I’m getting a big share of the pie too, because otherwise someone else will be eating some pie that was rightfully mine, and that feels wrong.
Would my C-level pals get their $15m exit without my work? Maybe, but it’s less likely. Would they get it if the other top engineers and I all downed tools or walked out as a group? No. So why is their exit equivalent to several mansions and mine is around about a year’s worth of salary?
Because the people who decide exec salaries are execs in other businesses, so they generally have
1) An inflated view of the impact of execs compared to other employees. This is a well studied psychological phenomena. People tend to overestimate their "skill/contribution" even in poor luck or even rigged scenarios. (There was a study which gave some subjects a head start in monopoly, i.e. more money, the subjects tended to talk significantly more about the advantages of "their" strategy in the game, then the subjects that we not given the head start).
2) It's in the interest of execs to keep C-suite salaries high, because it increases their own salary.
So it's not surprising that we have seen a dramatic increase in ratio of exec to average employee compensation, and why execs are typically isolated from economic downturns.
Your salary isn't determined by impact. It's more related to your market value. Part of your market value is set by yourself, through negotiation. The other part is the labor market and what the alternative candidates are asking.
Of course impact is related, but only as a qualifier. If your impact doesn't justify the salary then that is a problem. But as long as you do enough to justify your salary than other factors tend to dominate.
> People tend to overestimate their "skill/contribution" even in poor luck or even rigged scenarios.
I don't personally understand this one, although I don't doubt its veracity. I am an engineer with years of experience in the industry, but I don't think my contribution is high or important; I could be fired at any moment and would anyone notice? Maybe in the short term yes, but mostly no. I am easily replaceable, my boss is easily replaceable... Society will continue on without me because like most of us I work a B.S. job. So I really struggle to empathize with the viewpoint of a self-perceived 'Hero IC', is it just narcissism?
Because the threat of firing and the driving down of your self worth as a worker is core to (American style) capitalism. Your fear for your job or the prospect of having to find another one makes you take suboptimal economic positions, the arbitrage of which keeps the gears of capital spinning.
We couldn’t have the workers collectively realizing their worth now, could we? The inmates would be running the asylum.
This narrative is counterfactual to how capitalism actually works. Your worth is determined by supply and demand. Investors would never agree to paying American developers twice as much as European developers if they knew they would be on the hook for them until their cash reserves bled dry.
Supply and demand works in a world with no information/power assymmetry in Econ 101, a.k.a. freshman's dream. Even in the most basic case, when a sack of flour is being bought and sold, the buyer wants to buy a sack of flour, the seller wants to sell a sack of flour + a variable number of bugs in it, and the seller's profit margin goes up with the number of bugs. That's why there is a third party necessary which fixes the maximum number of bugs to be included with a sack of flour: otherwise this whole "free market" falls apart or starts killing people.
Yes. Regulations should exist. Econ 101 is a prerequisite to learning about exceptions to Econ 101, which evidently the general populous has not. This is why people get surprised when the solution of throwing more money at a limited supply of housing and college slots ends up increasing the price of housing and college.
You can make a good argument that protections need to be made to protect income workers and that we wouldn't lose much economic efficiency from these changes. On the other hand, most people in this thread are intentionally ignorant of the market landscape that gave their their cushy mid-six figure compensation. Instead they would rather make the same tired memes about "short term profits" and whatnot.
> This narrative is counterfactual to how capitalism actually works. Your worth is determined by supply and demand. Investors would never agree to paying American developers twice as much as European developers if they knew they would be on the hook for them until their cash reserves bled dry.
Supply and demand works best when the data about the market is symmetric. In the job market it is not. Firms know that they are willing to pay, and what they have paid, for work. Workers do not. If a worker takes a penny less than what the firm can bare, that is slippage that is being arbitraged into profit by the firm. Workers are goaded into a cheaper price for their work by firms through the threat of "We will go with another candidate" even if there are no other candidates. Again, asymmetric data.
> On the other hand, most people in this thread are intentionally ignorant of the market landscape that gave their their cushy mid-six figure compensation. Instead they would rather make the same tired memes about "short term profits" and whatnot.
Comparatively (amongst workers) well paid workers does not mean that those same workers are compensated fairly by the firm. Workers do work, managers manage. The core question posed by the thread OP was around the value of the work (and the protections afforded to) workers do as opposed to that of management.
>Supply and demand works best when the data about the market is symmetric. In the job market it is not.
Sure, I agree that corporations should be more transparent but this isn't the messaging that I'm getting from these comments. Maybe I'm completely misinterpreting, but this is what it looks like people are trying to say: "These corpos are too damn greedy! If only we pressured these corpos for being greedy, we wouldn't be in this position." My point is that this sentiment completely ignores that this "greed" is what created such a large class of relatively wealthy tech workers in the first place. If companies weren't allowed to lay people off, they would be less willing to hire them in the first place.
> Supply and demand works best when the data about the market is symmetric.
It works efficiently despite information asymmetry.
It's called "risk". Risk always factors into prices. You pay more at a dealership because your risk is less. You pay less for a used car because your risk is more. A job that is more secure pays less. A job that is less secure pays more.
The market efficiently prices in information asymmetry.
But this is not true. An economically efficient market is one where goods and services produced are delivered at their most valuable. The job market is the antithesis of that.
If there is asymmetric information (and asymmetric risk) AND that asymmetry is known by the side with most information (like it my job example), then the side with more data can price more optimally than the side with less. If we extend that into the tenure of the job, you can be pressured to work longer and harder than you are actually paid for if the risk of losing your job is greater than the risk of you company having to replace you. Just look to Japanese salarymen or Chinese 996 workers. Those are not efficient markets. They are markets skewed towards the owners of capital.
Your example of used vs new cars is an example of a risk discount, but it really doesn't fit here, imo.
The risk element goes both ways. An employee factors risk into what salary he'll demand. For example, people going to work for startups are going to demand lots of stock options to compensate for the risk that the startup fails. People accept lower salaries at established companies for the lower risk of the company failing. An employee will demand a higher salary to cover the risk of having to relocate. An employee will demand a higher salary for jobs that entail more personal risk.
It goes on and on. Risk is most definitely a factor in all negotiations, and risk is exactly another word for information asymmetry.
> On HN coding is more respected than social skills
No it isn't, you see people saying "social skills are more important than technical skills" everywhere people discuss such things, and they get upvoted a lot. People saying the opposite tend to get heavily downvoted.
So to me it looks like even on HN social skills are more respected than technical skills, at least in threads where we discuss what skills are important.
Maybe on HN, but not in practice in the industry. The general rule at most SV companies is that poor leetcode performance in interviews is an automatic no hire. Poor social skills, on the other hand, are handwaved away unless the candidate did something really egregious.
>So why is their exit equivalent to several mansions and mine is around about a year’s worth of salary?
Honestly? Because 1) you are very replaceable and 2) you have a very low chance in succeeding at organizing any kind of group/union action. If either of those two facts were different, you would have more leverage. But they aren't so you don't.
Is it necessary to fire them? That's the relevant question we should ask ourselves.
A hiring freeze and marking obsolete positions as obsolete (meaning if someone switches teams or quits that specific position will not be replaced) should be a workable model for all profitable companies with some cash reserves. Sure, it takes a bit longer and probably costs a bit more (though probably not tons and lay offs also have other traumatic effects concerning knowledge loss, morale and motivation that can negatively affect the business) but it's a workable model.
Embed that into overall more cautious hiring in good times (yeah, we can't time travel, so that's not an option - but to me that's the thing that should be learned from this) and you should never have to do any layoffs if your business is basically sound. I would be shocked, for example, if Apple were to do any lay offs. They seem to follow that approach (well, probably not in the retail context which I also think is unfortunate).
To me it seems like those lay offs are primarily a tool to communicate and that just sucks. It sucks that something that should clearly be seen as a management failure (if you need to do lay offs it seems to me obvious that management is to blame, not those laid off) can in this weird upside down world be used as a communication tool towards the wider world that they are doing something useful. Even if it wouldn't be needed.
Also, I just don't think people should be treated like that, especially if it's not needed. It seems so pointlessly cruel and inhuman. This is not the world I want to live in.
And I know that's hard to pull off in capitalism. Maybe that's the issue. Though it's not as if you cannot modify capitalism to at least not allow for stuff like this.
>Is it necessary to fire them? That's the relevant question we should ask ourselves.
That's not the relevant question. The relevant questions are: were the layoffs illegal, and if they weren't, then why is it any of your business? If you don't want to live in that world, start your own startup, hire people, and never fire them. Nobody is stopping you.
I don't think it's productive or wise to speculate on decisions that restrict the free association of people. Outside of narrow circumstances, an employer should not be legally required to employ someone any more than an employee should be legally required to work at the company.
It's easier to not care about anything if you decide your only principle is "the free association of people". It's one of the easiest ways to do whatever you want in your life and not give a damn about the impact it has on others without having to feel any guilt or cognitive dissonance.
There's nothing wrong with the principle itself. I'm obviously not a fan of slavery etc. Just when people narrow in on it and act like it's the only priority/thing worth talking about. I was trying to criticize the myopic focus on that.
Then I agree with you. Rational employees should not want to associate with unreliable employers. This ought to drive up the prices corporations are forced to pay. It should cost them actual money to disregard people like this. If employees feel pressured to associate with them despite their behavior, then it is not free association at all, it is forced association and its causes must be identified and remedied. Usually it's a lack of leverage leading to worse negotiating positions.
Yeah, what bugs me is this reduction into a model to then derive all their worldview of reality, it's backwards. Like the spherical cow, free association is a pretty fucking good model and principle but when applied to reality you really ought to add the details to the model to make it realistic and actually work when applied into reality.
Free association in labour is not possible when there's so much leverage from one of the sides of the negotiation. In a perfect idealised model, labour will increase in price due to people not accepting jobs they would, ideally, not think it's worth it, companies will then raise salaries, market equilibrium! In reality people are mothers, fathers, or just basically anyone who needs something to eat, and for food they'll accept any trade to keep some part of their dignity.
A fucking spherical cow-ish principle doesn't take into account human dignity into their pricing models... And so these people work backwards by adapting that if it's not accounted for it's irrelevant, rather than the opposite reality that we experience.
This is one of those worldviews that seems to be common among US-Americans, but sounds totally bizarre from an outside perspective. You say "If you don't want to live in that world, start your own startup, hire people, and never fire them.", but why should that be my course of action instead of working collectively to make sure that companies' decisions are driven by all stakeholders--owners (shareholders), employees, customers, and regulators to the extent that the company's actions generate negative externalities. Why should that be my course of action instead of advocating for change, and expressing my displeasure and outrage when large companies act in ways that I would never accept from a human being with empathy? Yes it's my business, because I live in the world, in a society, and everyone who lives in a society is affected by everyone else.
I was really fascinated to learn that most North Americans never even encounter the concept of ordocapitalism/ordoliberalism in their basic economics courses. Somehow, a concept of capitalist economic organization that has been the recipe for success for the creation of most successful economic turnaround in modern times is just...ignored?
>This is one of those worldviews that seems to be common among US-Americans, but sounds totally bizarre from an outside perspective. You say "If you don't want to live in that world, start your own startup, hire people, and never fire them."
The beauty of America is you can do my suggestion (make your own startup, run it without firing people), but in other places where layoffs are illegal, you can't do the opposite suggestion (make your own startup, fire people). Let the best idea win! But you seem to be endorsing a world where you don't want the best idea to win, you want the state to enforce a particular idea that makes you feel good.
If you are free to run a company however you want within the bounds of the law, but only one type of company emerges, maybe there is a reason for that.
Why would it not be any of our business? Corporations only exist because they received the explicit blessing of the government. This gives them and their owners extra rights (limited liability for example) and tax benefits.
Originally corporate charters were hard to get because they were only issued by the Crown. Nowadays you can get one for a few dollars. We need to ask ourselves if they are still serving the public purpose we intend, and if not how we need to adjust things.
How is it not everyone's business? People should be aware of how flaky these corporations are and demand higher pay to compensate for the added instability due to the risk of getting fired out of nowhere associated with working for them.
More often than not, it's because GP is not part of the old boy's club that went to country club/business school/frat parties together. Probably less true for Tech, but largely true for everywhere else in the world. Power is not vested through merit but through connections.
>Would they get it if the other top engineers and I all downed tools or walked out as a group?
They tried this at twitter. But twitter survived. Turned out for KTLO not many people are actually required.
Also, when you are over staffed, employees have enough free time to get political, run slack channels, do activism and in general reduce the entire org's productivity. Most companies were stuck in this phase the last few years, with Coinbase and a couple of other companies being brave enough to say they don't want their employees engaging in workplace activism.
This whole macro-economic change and the twitter success after getting rid of 30% of its employees, has now given these companies an opportunity to follow without getting singled out. If they don't do it now, and do it 6 months later they will get called out as demons. Now since everyone is doing it, it is not that bad a PR hit.
The (not so) fun fact here is that majority of IT workers won't do this. While exec might want their mansions, we want our latte and iphones.
I work at a company which recently had big chunk of layoffs and I can clearly see how a lot of people are just relieved that they were not laid off. Yes, there are talks how everyone is outrageous, they are mostly kitchen talks. The company literally fired thousands of people with a single email and now we back to corptalk about family and values. So I don't see any major changes in unification of IT workers.
I think, and this will not be well received, that US tech workers actually know they are paid extremely well compared to the rest of the working population, and that they don't have the right social skills and connections to get into the even more inner exec circle (which is also limited in number), and therefore although it's not as good as it was it's still better than 95% of the population.
That is seriously rough. Times change I guess. Last time me and my buddies from office survived layoffs, we kept a list going of who is where to see if we can help one another get through the rough patch. In the end, it did not matter since the company closed its doors, but the list remained so the underground railroad continued its existence. I actually got my previous job thanks to it.
Because it seems like a majority of engineers believe themseles to be above-average, and believe that any kind of collective action would reduce all engineering pay to the lowest common denominator. Additionally in the USA there seems to be a strong belief that union leaders only care about themselves while the company execs have the worker’s best interests at heart.
I love software development. It's not just a job, but a hobby, as well. My GH Activity Graph is solid green, because I code every day. Sometimes, more, on weekends.
I haven't been paid since 2017. I was laid off, after 27 years. It was totally expected, and I was prepared.
What I wasn't prepared for, was the rejection from the industry.
Once I got over that, I was fine. I found some 501(c)(3) work that interested me, and I've been doing that. I did some writing, started trying to implement many of the ideas I had, while being paid (but were ignored), and found out that I had been absolutely right, the entire time (It is not hubris to postulate that, if I had been allowed to implement my ideas, the layoffs would not have been necessary, but that's all water under the bridge).
I used to say that "My dream is to work for free."
> Would they get it if the other top engineers and I all downed tools or walked out as a group? No. So why is their exit equivalent to several mansions and mine is around about a year’s worth of salary?
On my own time, I only work on stuff I personally care about, only for as long as I want and I usually don't even publish the resulting code because of the implicit responsibility associated with that. They'd have to pay me to work continuously on code I don't care about or even own. Why solve other people's problems for free?
simple answer - without you they easily find other developers. Without them you will have to find another exec to work for. And as long as it is easier for them to find replacement than for you to find another/better job, they have an upper hand.
Hmm, but are developers that easy to find? Not to search very far, but my most recent interaction with a vendor suggest even relatively simple things are not so simple. OTOH, MBAs are aplenty ( hell, even I have one ).
> So why is their exit equivalent to several mansions and mine is around about a year’s worth of salary?
Because their decisions make or break the company, and your's do not.
For a well known example, Steve Jobs took over Apple when it was 90 days from bankruptcy. With the same group of workers, he took it to the biggest company in the world. Just by making different leadership decisions. That's why he made the big bucks.
For a more recent example, see how James Daunt turned around Barnes&Noble:
I think this is correct only for the right size of company. There’s also a long tail of businesses out there in the $10m to $100m range where the balance of responsibility between the C-suite and the top technical talent makes it much less clear that the two should diverge in comp quite so much. I suppose it’s ironic that the big tech companies are also the ones that give such big pie slices to their engineers, and the smallest businesses are the ones where the tech ICs are replaceable while the C-levels are uniquely brilliant.
How many businesses have we seen slowly fade away as the tech team ebbs one by one leaving only a remnant core of mostly non tech roles?
It's abundantly clear that CEO decisions make or break a company. That's why one doesn't want to scrimp in compensation offers to them. It costs you an extra million in compensation, but the CEO making the right decisions is worth far more than that.
Apple churned through several CEOs who did not make a difference.
How does one make an analysis? That's the game, indeed.
no, founding a company does not make a person more virtuous or deserving of orders of magnitude more money than people who don't. even if we lived in a fantasy world where everyone had equal opportunity to do this, those people would not actually have a greater claim to a higher standard of living
The part I thought was the best was this: "This was not an easy decision to make. It’s weighed heavily on me for the past month, keeping me up at night and nearly causing me to cancel the exec team’s offsite, even though Bad Bunny’s appearance fee was only 50 percent refundable. Let’s not mince words, though; the accountability for this decision rests with me. The consequences, on the other hand, rest with you, but so does a pretty generous COBRA package."
Accountability comes with consequences. What are the consequences?
Same here. I can't believe the cringy, "I take full responsibility (but no consequences)" line has become a standard part of the CEO layoff announcement. Saying you take responsibility, without actually sacrificing anything or really facing any consequences at all is so obviously slimy and patronizing, I don't know why anyone thinks it's a good thing to say.
Actually it's even worse than no consequences; often times these layoffs give the CEO more money. Their compensation is typically heavily in stock and these layoffs often raise the stock price, directly increasing the CEO's net worth. Taking "full responsibility" indeed.
I had to look that up, it appears to be a USA thing that "gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time" (1)
Nothing to do with "Cabinet Office Briefing Room A".
Ugh. Health care that is contingent upon employment, is a social ill.
> Given every available forecast, it was the perfect time to hire 1,200 blockchain developers, spin up original streaming content, and lead three rounds of funding for my nephew’s AI-powered B2B sourdough recipe app.
But you don't understand! These people who were laid off are important! So much so they didn't need a union, because the company couldn't possibly let them go. Unions are for all those other people who aren't important!
Perhaps some of you are beginning to understand the term Solidarity Forever.
It wasn't just "Adobe, Apple Inc., Google, Intel, Intuit, Pixar, Lucasfilm and eBay", the practice spread to "dozens" of other companies:
> Confidential internal Google and Apple memos, buried within piles of court dockets and reviewed by PandoDaily, clearly show that what began as a secret cartel agreement between Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Eric Schmidt to illegally fix the labor market for hi-tech workers, expanded within a few years to include companies ranging from Dell, IBM, eBay and Microsoft, to Comcast, Clear Channel, Dreamworks, and London-based public relations behemoth WPP. All told, the combined workforces of the companies involved totals well over a million employees.
Good question. I have no idea. (That's why I said "or something" above, eh?) I know almost nothing about unions, and I don't work for large corporations.
(FWIW, I mostly worked for startups, but I did try the corporate thing for a couple of years, mostly for the experience. What I decided was that corporations are not bad, in fact I'd say they are mostly a huge improvement over previous forms of large-scale human organization, but they're not for me. This isn't a judgment thing, it's a matter of personal taste.)
- - - -
edit to add: I started a non-profit mutual benefit corporation a couple of months ago to pursue a simple tech stack w/o the overhead (pun intended) of being a for-profit startup. It's way too soon to say whether it will work or not, but at least I'm living my values. :)
I am a BigCo SWE and I have long wanted to organize, but as a sole provider I don't know how to do so effectively without significant risk to my family.
The sad facts are that most workers in the US: lack class awareness thanks to decades of successful pro-owner, anti-worker propaganda and policies; are falsely divided along lines which are convenient to the owner class (left/right, boomer/millenial, gay/straight, receiving public benefits/not); are unknowingly and dangerously close to medical bankruptcy even when covered by "good" insurance; can't afford to be even temporarily unemployed, because their health coverage is tied to their employer; can't afford to protest or attempt organizing, because they could then quickly become unemployed and endanger their dependents.
The Silicon Valley engineer earning $500k/year is better off than the midwest bank junior IT worker earning $50k. But they are part of the same class and should organize accordingly in order to gain true leverage.
Having competing job offers is a kind of leverage available to some, at an exhausting personal cost. These can be used to obtain one-dimensional improvements like higher pay, more vacation days, or choice of projects. But true leverage could make CEO's weepy and meaningless "I take full responsibility" statements actually mean something, among other things. The recent layoffs in the US including a hefty severance rely on luck, not leverage.
Tech workers probably have all the tools needed to organize effectively, and not only among themselves. But whisper "union" and ten peers will chime in before your next breath with falsehoods and other generic claims based on misremembered anecdotes which miss the point entirely and diffuse useful discussion.
Management needs to be made up of the sort of people who make economically optimum decisions. Without diminishing the horrible experience of being fired; if we have people who purposefully keep tens of thousands of people working on jobs that don't make sense to them, on aggregate society will be much worse for everyone.
We have a system that allows people to do unpopular things, like this, because it works better than the alternatives.
If anything it's the other way around - the 1% are going to be OK pretty much no matter what, it's everyone else that this matters for. Right now the US and most of the developed world does not have workers to spare for weird and potentially pointless speculative work of questionable value to society as a whole - they're struggling to find the workforce needed to supply the things ordinary people need and want, including stuff like healthcare. Just pointing at "supply and demand" and calling for pay rises, as I've seen so many do, does not solve this issue unless it causes a shift in workers from doing useless work to more useful work.
I feel it’s important to properly look at the context of the layoffs.
The original article leads with mentioning the recent layoffs at Microsoft, Google, and Amazon. These are people who were making great money, and now have those companies on their resumes. I know they’re currently going through a rough situation, which should not be minimized.
It’s hard to take your argument seriously though, as there’s so much space between FAANG execs with 8 figure savings, FAANG workers making 200k+, and poverty. Being realistic about this helps your argument that those companies could have done better, not the exaggeration.
Everyone is one health crisis away from death, no matter how much wealth they have.
Whatever your complaints here are, start with having people working at a job where there is literally no-one willing to stand up and pay them their salary. That isn't going to be a society that can comfortably sustain people being unable to work. To have the level of surplus where a healthcare crisis is easily dismissed requires extreme economic efficiency.
If you want someone to be unable to work and just sitting around dealing with a personal crisis, then we really need the people around them to be working on things that get a "wow, yeah, that is important!" type reaction.
> Everyone else is a health crisis away from bankruptcy
But that's exactly why we have bankruptcy. You know the word doesn't mean "losing everything you have", it means "discharging debts you're never going to be able to pay", right? You can do it once, and it ruins your credit for a long time (7 years IIRC), but it saves you from dying of starvation trying to pay off debts you don't have money to pay.
Just like if you ask an alcoholic what is too many drinks they’ll say “one more than I drink”, it’s hilarious reading comments from tech people who are arguably some of the highest paid people in the US say “the upper class are people who make more than I do”.
1. Someone making $200k is definitely doing well compared to almost anyone in the US (94th percentile, 98th at $300k) but those salaries are heavily clustered in very expensive areas where that might not even be the top 10%. Someone making that much working at Apple or Google is living in a normal house - a nice one, sure, but not a mansion - and still feeling things like childcare costs.
2. That tech worker has to go to work every day. If they get sick, their income will end just like someone making coffee or pulling packages in a warehouse - to be clear, not as quickly and there are more conditions they can keep working with, but their income is derived by selling their time. Contrast that with the truly rich, who have passive income and enough assets that things rearrange around their needs. Someone with $10M in the bank isn’t homeless if they get a chronic illness, and if they own the company (or are related to the owner) they get as much time off as they need to deal with it.
Nobody should feel sorry for tech workers but it’s important to look at how people’s lives differ, especially in the United States where things like healthcare and retirement are linked to their ability to work.
It means that their income is linked to unavoidably higher burn rate, making it seem like their life is more elite than it actually is. For example, how nice is a $1M house in Silicon Valley compared to a $1M house in Podunk? The latter is a rich person’s lifestyle choice, the former is wanting to have room for kids and less than an hour commute. Unlike that hypothetical private jet, these are not optional expenses if the job doesn’t allow 100% remote – you need somewhere to live, if you aren’t wealthy but still want kids you need childcare until they go to school, etc.
And, again, I’m not saying that this is a pity-worthy situation – only that it’s a lot closer to the average worker than the average rich person in terms of having to go to work every day, think about finances, etc.
Another argument you might appreciate - there is some practical limit to the number of people who can live in a HCOL area (from the available housing stock). Say that is N people. The market will organise itself so that the price is just high enough that person N+1 can't afford to live there.
Of course a lot of the people who live in a HCOL of living area feel like they can only just afford to live there. If they thought it was cheap, more of their class would move there - it is a desirable area. You have to be so rich that everyone in your wealth/income class can afford to live in an area before housing costs will be low enough to ignore. So the top 100 billionaires don't feel the housing costs of living in a HCOL area because all the billionaires in the world could probably move there and not fill up the available housing stock. But if all the millionaires in the world want to move somewhere then the price will be high enough that a millionaire feels like they can't afford to be in the area. And that is really just a subtle market hint that a lot of millionaires think it is a nice area. Doesn't make the people involved less rich.
It doesn't matter the wealth or income someone has, there is always something they can't afford. So clearly the existence of "limited resources" is not a good indication of whether someone is wealthy or not.
But ignoring the type of house and it's location - if someone can afford the down payment and mortgage payments on a $2M homes (typical single family home in the Bay Area), the are objectively very well off.
You also have to look at productivity: if you lay people off you will have disruption and lower productivity with the remaining workers unless it’s something like a fairly isolated subsidiary being cut loose. It can also make people hesitate to take a job with you in the future.
In general, it’s better to keep people if you’re profitable even if you want the margin to be higher. Google’s problem is more their management – in a less rudderless environment you could come up with things for people to work on but when you’re mostly sitting around hoping the ad words money fountain keeps running it probably is true that you can’t figure out what to have them do.
The one thing this is missing is referring to employees with a cutesy company nickname while laying them off. "We'll be parting ways with some talented Floofmates* which is very difficult." It always strikes me that a layoff email is not the right time/place to lean on cutesy "we're a family here! We have fun" company culture schtick.
*or googleers, metamates, plaids, whatever
Incidentally is there a name for these company-nickname-for-employees words?
> Then there is the question of what we might call a nickname like this. A name based on a place is a toponym. A name for people from a city or region is a demonym. I solicited some ideas for this, too. We threw around corporanym and employeeonym. Someone suggested "idionym, which should mean roughly 'your own name'."
> The most interesting suggestion was from Colleague Clay, who knows his way around a number of languages. He suggested ergazomenonym ("from modern Greek εργαζόμενου= employee"). I like it tons, although I'd need some coaching, perhaps, in how to pronounce it properly.
What ever will those TikTok tech workers do now that they can't stream their comped meals and coffee breaks and afternoon relaxation massages? If only it was illegal for The Man to fire these valuable employees!
It's not a TikTok tech worker. It's a recruiter depicting an unrealistic - missing all the stress etc - view of the workplace to attract inexperienced employees.As ones with experience mostly don't give a crap about these types amenities.
That video was done for The Man, not for the employees well being. And apparently The Man was able to sell you this depiction of the work place so you can now feel smug about all those layoffs.
She wasn't a recruiter, she was a Partner Services Program Manager. And there's dozens of videos just like these of employees flexing their perks daily while appearing to do very little work. It's been going on for awhile. If you're asserting that it's all propaganda, you're going to need to give some sources and not half-baked conspiracy theories.
Do you honestly believe those TikToks were made spontaneously and they depict a realistic view of the workplace?
It's not a half baked conspiracy theory - it's called a PR strategy and companies have been doing them on social media for as long as they existed.
Let me give you the benefit of the doubt. Even if the videos are spontaneous, how can you with a straight face use them to judge a workplace and use them as a metric on the amount of work done? Do you really think social media is a realistic depiction of life?
Maybe if you saw a TikTok of how big investors and execs live and how much they would lose (nothing material) by retaining these employees, you would understand the situation better.
It doesn't matter if it's a realistic metric for the amount of work done. It's demoralizing to her coworkers that actually work hard, and I would fire her based on that alone. But the fact that she was fired for reasons probably unrelated to her Tiktoks is just more evidence that probably wasn't adding a whole lot of value.
I've worked in several places like this, with similar over-the-top perks... and they make me cringe. It's a gross, flashy, consumerist, classist use of funds.
Sure, make your office pleasant to work in. Locate it near good lunch places, or even provide lunch. But the hammock room, massage chair lounge, private museum/art collection, and rooftop bar are all aspects of my employers that I'm ashamed to even discuss.
You might be a proud and valuable person in your personal life. But for a company, you are just an asset - low yielding asset with high depreciation.
So it is rational decision for an enterprise to let you go and free some liquidity that could be deployed elsewhere. Even buying Treasury bill yields more then an employee and is more liquid option. Liquidity is important when times get tough and recession is coming..
Just face it.
And for an enterprise if competitors are letting go employees it means that they are building their war chest of liquid assets. So you have too because you have to be prepared when time comes for mergers, takeover and acquisitions....
But Google is irreparable and sinking fast. The goal is to return as much as possible to shareholders during 5 years window Google still has so shareholders can better allocate capital themselves. Every 124k/year is appreciated.
I can imagine that the ones calling for layoffs have always been the stingy kind. They just have a better case now... Execs are just obeying whomever has the strongest voice to ensure their outrageous pays remain unchanged.
I'm not sure if I'm stating the obvious here but if enough big tech companies combined flood the market with unemployed talent it could lower salaries as opposed to hiring everyone at any price to make them unavailable to the competitors. They have captured the market now, hoarding employees is no longer necessary.
No sympathy for the average American worker, who is impacted even more so by inflation, which robs them of their life savings and job security at their min wage job. Over-entitled and over payed young tech workers who have displaced poorer people and haven’t been astute enough to save their extravagant salaries, spending it instead on $30 door dashed organic salads now want to bleat about how “boo hoo life isn’t fair.” They are correct but too stupid to blame the real culprit. It’s the fed dummies! The fed givith and then taketh away. A tale as old as time. If you don’t understand how economics 101 works, you probably didn’t deserve your high paying tech job, to say nothing of being an actual participant in society and voting in elections, where guess what, you can have a say in fiscal and monetary policy decisions once removed.
Why is it that the C-suite folks, who are supposed to understand macroeconomic trends or "Economics 101" as you're calling it, didn't see this coming and didn't make better decisions to not over-hire and mitigate reactionary cost-cutting. These companies have billions of cash on hand, but they choose the easy short term route of slashing labor costs to appease shareholders. I would argue this is a terrible long term solution on growth and profits (despite the shareholders impatience.
Besides even the big tech employees are closer to the average American worker than C-suite folks if you look at median salaries. You're talking down to a large group of people as if you somehow saw it coming before everyone else?
spending it instead on $30 door dashed organic salads
This is effectively the same argument as the one made by the Avocado Toast guy, and it's out of touch. You can empathize with folks that make less than you and still criticize the action of management that could have had the foresight to prioritize people over profit, but chose not to out of greed.
Why didn't the C-suite folks do better? Because their contracts hold stock prices above all else.
That means that making any group of stockholders unhappy risks reducing their earnings. Many stockholders don't understand macroeconomics. Many see the news and start calling for action, however misguided.
When enough demand action, the C-suite is forced to act, even when they know the actions are symbolic at best or counterproductive at worst.
That's assuming they know best. The C-suite command their salaries not because of what they know, but because of who they know. So making economic predictions may not be their strength.
The C-suite command their salaries not because of what they know, but because of who they know. So making economic predictions may not be their strength.
This is literally the opposite point of this:
If you don’t understand how economics 101 works, you probably didn’t deserve your high paying tech job,
Why not apply the same logic to tne C-suite folks rather than just individual contributors or the regular rank and file. Why are tech workers who exchange their labor and knowledge of working with technology dummies if they "don't understand the fed" (which I can guarantee you is not an expectation when working as a software engineer, product manager, etc.), but the C-suite gets a pass? Arguably the execs should understand how to navigate different economic climates if they get a leadership role, regardless of who they know. Also on an anecdotal note, every job I've ever gotten I've had to know someone, whether it be someone who works there or a recruiter, and I'm a worker in tech. So that argument doesn't hold up from my point of view.
Maybe you are an executive, or someone who has an acquired a taste for their carpet-protected rubber soles, and it's just a difference in opinion. But it seems to me by your own logic the executives are even dumber than the workers, there's really no reason for the original commenter to be so hostile. The whole point of the article is that it satirizes the decisions tech CEO's make because they are completely driven by the shareholder, but they are also major shareholders whose compensation is in equity.
Many stockholders don't understand macroeconomics
Including the C-Suite, they are forced to act out of their own self-preservation, which after a certain point, is just pure greed.
Because they are not the fed! They don’t make rate decisions. And they can’t guess what the fed will decide with any reliability. Those who have tried over the past couple years got hosed.
Why do you think people pay so much attention to the fomc meetings and the data they use, and minor off the cuff statements by kashkari or Powell, or any of them, will without exception send the market into a tailspin?
The fed controls the value of money, and that controls the employment rate, which is what influences hiring/firing decisions. It’s simple high school economics.
such incredibly devisive rhetoric. it's very clever: tech workers aren't "average" american workers and therefore deserve punishment. the generous interpretation is that you've been so sufficiently propagandized that you can't even realize the absurdity of this dichotomy: that skilled labor is a separate irresponsible class of people, so we should not concern ourselves with their plight.
I don’t have a problem with uneducated people who don’t know what “monetary policy” means. I do have a problem with educated people who don’t want to spend a few minutes to google “Fed’s dual mandate” and consider why that answers their questions about why they lost their job. Not everybody has educational opportunities. Those who do, but are just too lazy to learn high school Econ, get no sympathy from me.
I kinda like the layoffs of late. We are incredibly spoiled - anyone in IT born past 1985 barely knows what making less money than the previous year is. It will trim the fat, push away people that are in the industry because of the money.
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Very funny! I don't think the issue is that simple though, of course. The very quirks that cause these massive layoffs are the same quirks that caused the massive hiring in the first place. Namely, executives playing a macro-level game with their company.
You can have stability where companies don't have the crazy layoffs and insane pay discrepancies, but it might come at the cost of less hiring in the first place, more modest salaries all around, and probably less risk taking and therefore less productivity in general. If you don't think productivity matters ask yourself what products or technologies really do make the world a better place right now, and if you'd be okay with never having those developed in the first place.
Maybe there's a way to make things better without sacrificing productivity. But let's not kid ourselves and pretend that simply expecting executives to "stop being greedy" is a realistic expectation.
I believe the claim that execs would make is that natural attrition isn’t fast enough, especially during economic slowdowns where opportunities to jump ship are at an all time low.
Further, there’s a good chance that the execs have taken it into consideration already, IE they need an 8% reduction so they layoff 6% and assume 2% through attrition.
The skeptic in me also suspects that this isn’t just about cutting expenses - they’re wanting to send a message to those who remain that it’s time to get to work and achieve some results. IMO it actually ends up demotivating and turns people away from trusting the org, but rather prepping to jump ship.
Well, employee-owned corporations that aren't controlled by profit-hungry shareholders and the executives who service them are the only realistic way to avoid this problem. Investment capitalism inevitably pushes towards a world divided into wealthy rent-takers and impoverished rent-payers.
It's also not a good system of capital distribution for optimal real-world results, aka progress, due to the tendency towards the creation of stagnant monopolies, but state-run systems are not much better (or different). It doesn't matter much whether the Central Committee in charge of capital distribution is a Wall Street investor conglomerate or a Soviet cabinent of ministers, both systems have same structural flaws.
Sam Harris talks about how when we get superintelligent AI, our relationship to it will be like ants relationship to humans. Well, we already have a kind of “slow AI” in corporations. Profit-seeking paperclip maximizers.
They don’t hate us, they don’t love us. They keep us around as long as we’re useful and then dispose of us after that point. The fact that corporations are made of meat doesn’t change the ultimate reward function that they all must follow: maximize profit, laws and negative externalities be damned.
Yeah, I’ve been reading Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence and it is frustratingly oblivious to the basic fact that since intelligence is so ill-defined it will never be clear when human intelligence has been exceeded. However every single concern of “AI existentialists” has already manifested in multinational corporations.
Engineers at the big tech companies were getting paid 200-500k+, more than enough money to build enormous safety buffers. Surely if they're worth that premium they'll have no trouble finding jobs elsewhere.
I think one of the hard truths is that corporate managers and executives are often disconnected from the decisions they are making and the negative impacts of those decisions are pushed on to employees.
There aren't many solutions to this problem besides better voluntary ethical treatment of employees or compulsory enforcement via a set of professional standards set by a 'management body', a 'management regulator' or well written employment laws.
However, having said this, I don't think many US based management or executives would want to be constrained in this way due to cultural perspectives around capitalism. I've spent a lot of time thinking why socialist policies are part of the zeitgeist in the UK but not the US. I think it's due to a historical hangover of industrialization and having a society where there was the rapid exploitation of workers and especially children. I think socialism in the form of worker rights and healthcare was an upper-society response to squalor and destitution being in the face of the political elite in London. My somewhat jaded view is that socialist policies in the UK are setup so that instead of the wealthy paying for a greater proportion of the negative externalities caused by industrialization and capitalism, everyone, would pay in an "equal" way. However equal isn't quite equitable because National Insurance employee deductions are capped out at 2% above a salary threshold of £4,189 a month.
No I'm not saying capitalism is bad or that socialism doesn't have problems. I think free market capitalism is good in many cases, it just needs to be constrained by high ethical standards. However, I don't think free market capitalism can solve all the challenges we face in society and Western democracies need a Government mechanism to address wealth inequality otherwise the foundations of society start to break down.
In comparison the US, with it's vast land mass and varied dispersed resources, industrialized in a more distributed way, the exploitive effect of industrialization was far away from Washington DC. Even now I think US politicians still don't viscerally understand the human suffering caused by the hollowing out of blue collar jobs due to globalization.
For a time I thought 'triple bottom line' might work, but it seems like ESG has taken over with an emphasis on the environment and not people. While I care deeply about Mother Earth, realistically I think people who are struggling to survive have no mental space to consider their environmental impact.
> There aren't many solutions to this problem besides better voluntary ethical treatment of employees or compulsory enforcement via a set of professional standards set by a 'management body', a 'management regulator' or well written employment laws.
> I think socialism in the form of worker rights and healthcare was an upper-society response to squalor and destitution being in the face of the political elite in London
They weren't. The upper classes did everything in their power to prevent the plebs from getting ANY right whatsoever. Churchill even sicced the military at the striking workers at the turn of the century.
All of those gains were made by the people fighting tooth and nail. Especially after Ww II, when the USSR did not 'just collapse because socialism is not sustainable' like the British press was screaming about during the interwar years, it made a great case for the people pushing their agenda and the Labour party was able to do all the reforms that the neoliberals have been bit by bit dismantling over the last 40 years.
Well, it seems to be less of a PR problem doing the "no hard feelings, business is business and we have to" than firing a handful of people every few months to maintain optimal operation. Probably costs less overall. Laying off a ton of people is less likely to get severe bad will as laying off a few dozen every few weeks for years.
And what is your solution? Keep paying people until company goes under? I'm not saying boss is competent, but these posts where worker whines at boss and offers no solution is just stupid. Keep paying dead weight employees, make other useful employees work to make up for the incompetent ones' incompetence and create more problems?
There's never a solution in these whiny posts except "omg i found the bad guy and it's this evil boss" - well find the solution too then, how do we move from keeping everyone employed and company afloat.
But no, that part we won't read about. We'll close our eyes to Hanlon's razor and attribute to malice what should be attributed to stupidity and incompetence.
<< Imagine, there are consequences if you lie to your employer and yourself about your actual worth, knowledge and work ethics! What a surprise!
Um. Last time I checked, Google interviews are not known for being easy to the point that just being interviewed says something about the candidate ( they either have an in with someone or have some level of expertise ) and bestows some credence for recruiters. If that is the case, was the person able to fool the entire sets of panels interviewing that person? If so, the failure may not be of the individual. The system that allowed the individual to pass is flawed.
<< Because we all know that bosses choose to be evil, they never make decisions based on.. let's see.. numbers.
Sure, but numbers don't suggest anything other than slower growth. Not a loss of revenue, but slower, than an activist investor wants, growth.
I personally call BS on the 'they base it on numbers you know'. Some do, but they are a minority. I won't subject you to details, but I can explicitly say that the extent to which data is used as a justification for an already made decision is disheartening. Sometimes even if you have all the info, data and numbers, it will not matter. The decision was made despite it.
So every google interview is for dev position and not other positions? Also, dev interviews depend on the person who interviews and not all people are the same. Plus, the difficulty of interviews means absolutely nothing - checking the ability to solve trigonometry problems using C++ gives literally ZERO insight in how the candidate will be USED, managed, what the interaction with other people in the team will be, how much time will be wasted by using google complex amenities etc.
Being able to solve rather trivial problem(s) that tutorial websites don't cover isn't valid measuring stick to assess someone's potential commercial viability.
> The decision was made despite it.
So you're still in favor of keeping employees who don't contribute for.. what reason exactly? It's not even a secret that everyone over-hired and that IT still suffers lack of skilled, competent, ethical, knowledgeable engineers. We didn't produce hundreds of thousands of experts in the last few years, we merely reported we did - and they're not as good as their CV's say. It reflects in job stability.
I'm not the one who created this situation, but it's trivial to observe. Hire thousands who aren't as good. They underperform. Face huge loss of money OR get rid of dead weight. Yes, the boss wants to remain in the seat and rich, but the consequence did not occur because of the evil boss. It _also_ occurred because of incompetent self-proclaimed engineer.
<< Being able to solve rather trivial problem(s) that tutorial websites don't cover isn't valid measuring stick to assess someone's potential commercial viability.
I hesitated a little bit, but I will admit you got me curious. The position assumes that you know a better way to assess that viability ( which assumes I accept that framing at face value -- I don't, but I want to get to the bottom of this argument ). Would you be willing to disclose your personal favorite measuring stick?
<< I'm not the one who created this situation, but it's trivial to observe.
I wholeheartedly disagree. It is trivial to generalize. Careful observation resulting in nuanced findings is difficult precisely, because we tend to crave simple answers.
> I wholeheartedly disagree. It is trivial to generalize. Careful observation resulting in nuanced findings is difficult precisely, because we tend to crave simple answers.
Generalizing isn't always a bad thing, but this situation really is trivial to observe. There aren't too many possible outcomes.
If (boss + worker) make money, (boss + worker) keep the job.
If (boss + worker) don't make money, someone (or both) lose(s) the job because there's no $$ to pay them.
It's extremely trivial because it all revolves around upkeep. Can you keep up paying thousands of people (pretty large) salaries over an undefined time period? If yes = they keep the job, if not = they don't.
Most things are indeed trivial, especially in IT sector and employee compensation. I will accept we agree to disagree and I'm perfectly fine with it, but the wave of layoffs in IT sector is because of lack of money to pay salaries. The whole cause why there's no money, why work isn't optimal or why people aren't managed correctly is a different matter all together and plays a role.
The bad part is that IT workers refuse to accept modicum of responsibility and consequences and are using social media to present the "higher ups" as some kind of scheming, evil people who gather together around Stonehenge once a month and discuss new ways how to spite and hurt people. It's just silly.
<< I will accept we agree to disagree and I'm perfectly fine with it, but the wave of layoffs in IT sector is because of lack of money to pay salaries.
I was with you. I was genuinely nodding along ( including the other comment ) until this portion. That is a hard no.
Notice how there is seemingly simultaneously not enough money in the budget for tech workers ( I do not want to limit this conversation to IT support, which is what many equate IT with -- did the use of that acronym change ? ) while there is indeed money for MS executives to enjoy the show, money for bonuses and.. I was going to end with a joke but decided against it.
I am genuinely unsure how you can reasonably argue otherwise with a straight face.
Ok, I accept your argument as valid. There are sufficient funds that could be used for salaries.
Let's imagine for a second you are hiring me. You have $40 in bank and I cost you $1 a year. In past 5 years, I never made you a single $. I just cost you $1 a year, with slight increases. You paid me $5 so far.
Would you keep paying me $1 a year or would you rather invest (the $5 you'd spend on me in next 5 years) into this new thing called AI, hoping you might get $10 out of it?
Purely looking at numbers, deciding objectively and without emotion - what seems the best for you?
In the current state of AI? I guess it would depend heavily on the job at hand. My concerns with current iterations are privacy ( how do I know sensitive data ingested to feed the model won't be re-used ala co-pilot or gpt for other entities and some information should stay where it is ) and errors which necessitate human babysitting anyway.
There is a clear benefit to automation ( in fact, its usually my spiel ), but it is going to happen anyway so I am not sure what the argument is in this instance.
> Would you be willing to disclose your personal favorite measuring stick?
Success is easy, failure is not. Step 1 - assess candidate knows the tech first (syntax, nomenclature). Step 2 - provide candidate with a problem that they can't solve and observe how they handle failure. A Kobayashi Maru type of scenario.
After that, trial period of <n> months to observe how the introduction of new candidate changes team's dynamics.
This is not, by any means, "the best" scenario but it beats "let's solve a trigonometry problem using python/c/c++" because it places the candidate in a situation that occurs during work.
insulin can cost thousands of dollars per month and it is an indispensable drug. Big Pharma actually raised the prices of insulin in recent years by 50%. so all that extra compensation literally just goes to drug costs.
> Even as we speak, they’re streamlining, optimizing, and booking the best contractors in the Bay Area for the next eighteen months.
I suppose the author didn't want to sound racist or the equivalent that concerns people of the same skin tone but, somehow, different economic situations and options in life, but over here in Eastern Europe Google and Amazon have been hiring all this time.
The contractors in that joke are for the CEO's kitchen reno:
> ...complicated global factors like [one], [two], and my desire for a marble kitchen island with a waterfall edge. As we all know, our competitors are relentless. Even as we speak, they’re [one], [two], and booking the best contractors in the Bay Area for the next eighteen months.
“Quiet quitting” was corporate spin shopped around to gullible journalists. The behavior described was employees doing what they were paid to do but not giving the company freebies.
This is important to understand because it relates to why there are layoffs now: the managerial class hates when normal workers have negotiating clout. Layoffs remove that clout by cooling the job market and making existing employees afraid to leave or ask for market rate pay.
This is important for most HN readers to understand: there’s been a long tech boom where we’ve had above average pay & benefits due to demand. This has lead a lot of us to think we’re part of the upper crust at companies because we’re paid and treated better, and that this is the natural order of things. Few C-level managers agree but they’re definitely hoping we continue to believe it and don’t unionize.
Agreed. The quiet quitting pieces were the most obvious manufactured consent for layoffs that I've ever seen. They played right into the minds of a culture that thinks relaxation is a sin and your personal worth is measured by productivity.
Seeing a few posts on HN or blogs about "quiet quitting" (which appears to be doing exactly what is required of you, no more, no less... a misnomer then.), and "ghosting" employers... is not even comparable to the 50,000+ layoffs that have happened across tech companies in the past few weeks.
> So let's quit pretending employees are holier than employers.
I haven't seen anyone stating this, or even implying it.
I do see employees (people) as more worthy of sympathy than corporations.
I think it's funny that people believe that folks have stopped quiet quitting.
They haven't. They won't. This is the world the wealthy have created for themselves. People who aren't allowed to have skin in the game shouldn't pretend like they do for the rich who build wealth off of their labor.
Not to rain on the common man parade, most of these layoffs are after even bigger hiring rounds. Microsoft hired 40K employees in 22 to layoff 10k in 23, that is still 30K more employees.
Meta hired 12K+
Amazon 300K+ (!)
But oh me oh my the free market that lets the companies hire lets them fire. Evil money man used to give me money to get compensation, that is good greed. Now evil money man wants to take away money to get compensation that is bad greed angry face emoji
Your numbers are massively wrong at a glance, when I went to check them. Microsoft's total number of employees increased by roughly 40k between June 30 2021 and June 30 2022, but a large portion of that increase was from M&A, not from hiring, and they started large layoffs in July 2022. Net hires are not public info, but it's probably more like 15k in the period specified. Amazon has 300k employees total, and they obviously didn't hire all 300k in 2022.
Those were the first two I checked and they're massively off, so I'm inclined to think the rest of your argument is also in bad faith or misinformed.
What? Amazon has more than 1.5M employees... its like the first thing you can see by googling amazon number of employees.
We can disagree on the interpretations but let's at least agree on the numbers. I will not accuse you of being neither misinformed nor in bad faith if you rectify your comment as to not spread misinformation :)