Sunday, January 29, 2023

Our robot overlords have landed. They treat us like machines and fire us through email.

Elizabeth Spiers, Layoffs by Email Show What Employers Really Think of Their Workers, NYTimes, Jan. 29, 2023.

Halfway through:

Perhaps the most appalling aspect of termination by email is the asymmetry between what corporations expect of their workers and how they treat them in return. Employees in all kinds of jobs are routinely pressed to give the maximum that they can. In low-wage service jobs that can mean insane, unpredictable hours with no benefits. At higher-paying tech jobs it can mean sacrificing any semblance of a life outside of the office, a requirement that is often justified by high-minded rhetoric about changing the world or the promise of some pot-of-gold reward in an unspecified future.

The expectation that an employee give at least two weeks notice and help with transition is rooted in a sense that workers owe their employers something more than just their labor: stability, continuity, maybe even gratitude for the compensation they’ve earned. But when it’s the company that chooses to end the relationship, there is often no such requirement. The same people whose labor helped build the company get suddenly recoded as potential criminals who might steal anything that’s not nailed down.

At Twitter, where Elon Musk has embraced managerial incompetence as if it’s an emerging art form that requires great creativity, employees were asked to sign a pledge to be “hard core,” working even longer hours and sleeping in the office if necessary. Unsurprisingly, many instead decided to preserve their family lives and self-respect.

For them, this was just the first indignity. Many terminated employees found that their severance offers didn’t materialize for months — and some were called back to work when it turned out the site couldn’t run without them. One employee who early on went to LinkedIn to write “Elon’s my new boss and I’m stoked!” reportedly didn’t make it through the first round of layoffs.

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