Watch out for “Layoff Brain”
I’ve been plugging away at some stuff around here, but don’t have anything ready for you this week, so I’ll take that opportunity to plug Layoff Brain, a great piece by Anne Helen Petersen atthat touches on recent themes around here. Some highlights:
Interesting how she defines worker’s “layoff brain” versus consultant’s or CEO’s “layoff brain.” The worker definition paints the picture of someone proactively gaslighting themselves in order to cope with the need/hate relationship they’re trapped in.
It cites analysis of whether layoffs work for business (spoiler: not at all), making obvious that the motivation behind this current wave simply employers trying to “correct” their relationship with employees to a vertical one—they want workers to be scared and easily coercible again.
I love the way the piece ends, calling into question the advice workers get to find a magnanimous employer that treats workers right instead of a place “where workers have codified their treatment” through having a seat at the table (unionizing or otherwise). When the default plan is to find a “benevolent dictator” to rule over us, you know we have not just layoff brain, but the worst kind of broken-Pavlov-dog-work-humper brain.
It's been a fascinating couple years as the “Great Resignation” gives way to this layoff strike-back.
The owner of the place I work is an affable, caring guy. He gets to know us all as people, knows about our families, sends birthday gifts, encourages us to take unofficial days off if we’re having issues. All good stuff, sadly rare among people in his position.
In our 2021 year-end celebration, in the wake of about half our staff leaving for one reason or another (usually better salaries), he gave a speech thanking those who stayed, and he broke out in tears. I felt bad for him on a personal level, but it was also refreshing. I had never seen an employer so shook in my life. We had some power, and he knew it.
Fast forward to the 2022 holidays, in the midst of layoffs in other companies (for what it’s worth, we haven’t had any) and incessant talk of recession. While gracious as ever, he walked around light as a feather, a palpable relief in his face that the “rightful” power dynamic was back, and that he could play the role of guy who has us at his mercy, but isn’t it so cool that he doesn’t abuse it?
That, my friends, is the problem. Even with the “coolest” of employers.