Congratulations! You’ve Been Fired

from NYTs

AT HubSpot, the software company where I worked for almost two years, when you got fired, it was called “graduation.” We all would get a cheery email from the boss saying, “Team, just letting you know that X has graduated and we’re all excited to see how she uses her superpowers in her next big adventure.” One day this happened to a friend of mine. She was 35, had been with the company for four years, and was told without explanation by her 28-year-old manager that she had two weeks to get out. On her last day, that manager organized a farewell party for her.

It was surreal, and cruel, but everyone at HubSpot acted as if this were perfectly normal. We were told we were “rock stars” who were “inspiring people” and “changing the world,” but in truth we were disposable.

Many tech companies are proud of this kind of culture. Amazon keeps getting called out for its bruising environment, most notably in a long exposé in this newspaper last year. On Tuesday, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, said that people who didn’t like the company’s grueling environment were free to work elsewhere. “We never claim that our approach is the right one — just that it’s ours — and over the last two decades, we’ve assembled a group of like-minded people,” he wrote in a letter to shareholders.

Some viewed the statement as a sign that Mr. Bezos at least seems to recognize that it’s not normal for employees to cry at their desks. But it was also a defiant message that he had no intention of letting up.

I am old enough to remember the 1980s and early ’90s, when technology executives were obsessed with retaining talent. “Our most important asset walks out the door every night,” was the cliché of the day. No longer.

More here.

Posted in Business, Careers and tagged , , .

6 Comments

  1. Expendable employment is a concept that affects many employees who work for tech companies all over the country. To the public, fast-growing start-ups seem like the “dream job” that everyone aspires to work for. They lure potential employees in by establishing a sense of modernity that promotes the idea of a contemporary office-like job. The truth of the matter is, jobs like these are ruthless to their employees, demanding never-ending tasks be completed correctly and efficiently. Employees are constantly expected to meet tough monthly quotas, and their progress is monitored by computers that mostly look at numbers to measure their productivity. These employees are not valued as people; instead, they are viewed almost like robots who are expected to generate profit in the most efficient way possible. Working at these start-ups truly undermines the value and potential of employees, making employees feel replaceable, and sometimes even disposable. It is unfortunate that this phenomenon is widely accepted and adapted in many companies today. Companies like Amazon and Netflix utilizing this idea of “VORP,” where companies can “replace an employee once someone better, or cheaper, becomes available” was both disheartening and shocking to find out (Lyons). With the idea of social corporate responsibility circulating most business sectors now, it surprised me to find out that there are companies, like Amazon, who stand by this idea of disposable employment. Although Amazon is known for their inferior working conditions, it was still alarming to hear Jeff Bezos say that “people who didn’t like the company’s grueling environment were free to work elsewhere” (Lyons). Employers valuing capital over employee retention provides no job security for employees working in tech companies. When employees are worn out due to the poor working conditions they are being put through, they are easily replaced. This is a problem that needs to be addressed more, given the fact that the continuation of this may deter potential employees in the future, leaving the company with no one that wants to work for them. Companies need to realize that the newer generations are looking for companies that are making a positive and influential impact on society, not ones that undermine employees’ values and skill sets. As a young-adult myself who is starting to look for potential companies that would be a good fit for me, I would definitely steer away from companies who adhere to the same mindset of companies like Amazon.

    There main reason why some companies treat their employees in such a disrespectful manner is because these companies have a short-term focus (Hamm). When companies believe that employees need them more than they need the employees, they will hold little to no value for individual employees. Working at a company with managers who constantly pressure employees and make them feel like they are not good enough is not something I stand by, nor would I wish to work for a company of this sort. Although working at a company that most consider successful and well-known seems like it would be the “dream job,” I find that the negatives far outweigh the positives.

  2. When I started off reading this article, part of me almost liked the approach they had when firing someone to show that they are still smart and worthy, however, when I continued reading, I realized how much of a slap in the face their “graduations” are. I like the idea of pushing an employee to want to succeed because sometimes getting fired can be detrimental for their home lives, but I’m not in favor of a company making their employees disposable. I suppose if this was something that was clear as day and even part of a contract during hiring it would be somewhat okay, as long as the employee is fully aware that at any point they can be pushed aside for someone cheaper or better. However, I’m not in favor of the way it is explained in this article.

    I do, however, actually enjoy some of the values HubSpot focuses on. As mentioned, I do like the encouragement, maybe they take it a little too far in throwing a party and telling the entire staff that someone “graduated”, but I do like the idea of making someone feel worthy and not like they messed up. Additionally, the concept of “We are a team, not family”, sticks out to me because I feel like sometimes when companies have employees that are too close, they lose productivity. Family like relationships can mean that they would bring home issues to work, or slack off because they are “distracted with friends” instead of working.

    I feel as if they have decent core values, but maybe take it too far with some things. In my own preference, I would not want to work at a place like this for the pure fact I need security and I would probably be devastated if I spontaneously lost my job. I would also be furious if someone fired me and then tried to throw me a party. It is an interesting take on business for sure.

  3. While reading this article, I have to say I agree with some of the things that are being said. If you do not like a particular work environment then you don’t have to work there. A great example of this is someone I know very closely hates their job. They complain that the people who work there are terrible and no managers care to say anything about it. Nothing in the company is stopping that person from quitting and finding another job where managers care more. Its very hard to find jobs in general but it is what your priorities are. So if you don’t like something fix it. Either fix the thing that is giving you problems or fix your attitude about it because if you don’t change it, it won’t change at all. So, on this fact, I agree with Jeff Bezos. I think this is a realistic point of view. No company that you work for is going to run at the maximum efficiency and be the perfect business. It is not possible. But, there are people who care less about certain situations than others. On the other hand, I think that overlooking actual problems in a company is not good either. If your employees are not getting treated well by management and if there have been a sufficient amount of complaints something needs to be done.
    I find it crazy that companies are not trying to groom college students to become part of their company. Maybe it is the field that I am in or there are other factors, but in my experience when you intern with a company they want to offer you a job unless they do not deem you qualified. In this case, a girl was with the company for four years, which suggests that they thought she was a good worker. Also in my experience there have been companies that are struggling and have a hiring freezes for certain periods of time. But even in those situations the employee/student knows that there is a freeze so they can look for something temporary or just change companies all together.

  4. The article “Congratulations! You’ve Been Fired” definitely entice me initially to want to read what the article was about, but when I actually read through the piece I began to feel very nervous for the future. I know today’s work environment is not the same as it was in the past; people tend to not stay in jobs for as long rather they are seeking new opportunities for growth. However, thinking about the idea that you could be fired that easily is frightening. The article talks about how it feels as though people and their skills or talents are reduced down to components that are replaceable is an idea that I think needs to change. The author explains how this is the ideology in many parts of the tech industry, and I think it is a bad path to go down because it is history repeating itself. We moved away from treating people like they were meaningless in the workplace for the most part and started to see value in employees as part of the whole, so to go back to the old factory idea I think is dangerous. I do not think employers need to act like the people they have are the best and smartest ever because there are going to be people who are always smarter or bring something else to the table, that is how life works. I also think however that companies need to show their employees that they are valued for the work that they do bring and be treated accordingly. I think treating people with more respect and recognizing their values makes people work harder and be able to grow to be better because they are in a supportive environment. The way that the author describes the process of being let go sounds slightly condescending to me because they say it the person is graduating and that they are saving the world which seems almost like a slap in the face to me.
    This article made me think about my future since entering the workforce is in my near future after graduation. There are many factors to think about when deciding where to work because I want a job that is not only a job but somewhere that you want to work and enjoy spending your time. This article gave me another factor to think about which is the value they put in their employees, and also what industry I want to go into. I plan to pursue a career in marketing but that could lead me into a variety of industries, so I think it is important to know the type of industry I want to be in, and what the culture is like in the industry. For example as the article brought up, the tech industry is changing to the idea that people are just components that get replaced every so often, and so that would be a place that would probably not be right for me, and there might be other industries like the technology that would be important to know.

  5. As someone who is about to enter the workforce, I find this article interesting and scary. The corporate environment is becoming more competitive and employers are always looking for the next best thing. The article mentioned that Jeff Bezos stated, “people who didn’t like the company’s grueling environment were free to work elsewhere,” (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/10/opinion/sunday/congratulations-youve-been-fired.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share&_r=0 ).
    I don’t think this type of mindset helps recruit new employees. As the younger generations enter the workforce, if they see a CEO state something like this, then they are more likely to look elsewhere for a job. Companies can miss out on a lot of great employees by having this mindset. Unfortunately, this type of perspective is normal. Companies no longer treat employees like they are family. Employees are now hired, used, and fired as if they never mattered to the company. Back in the early 90’s when someone was hired at a company, they expected to be there till they retired or at least for a long period of time. Now, employees get a job and barely expect to last a couple years before being fired or moving on to another company. It is unfortunate that companies work this way because treating employees unfairly does not give the company a good reputation and they could lose a lot of talent because of it.

    WK stated in a comment, “The “expendable” employee model perhaps motivates employees to work even harder to keep their positions, and this competition can be attractive to some people.” Although I disagree with this opinion, I do find it interesting. Maybe some employees enjoy that competitive environment, but I feel that most do not. I don’t necessarily think that employees like to go into work and fear they are going to be fired. I think this promotes an unhealthy work environment and high turnover. I do respect that some people may enjoy that type of environment, but I don’t think fear helps promote a good company culture. I believe there are still some companies out there that genuinely care for their employees, but I think most companies are drifting toward a competitive environment with high turnover.

  6. I say in almost every response to these blog posts that I am scared for the future. The way that these large tech companies can do anything they want, and make firing someone into a happy event, is frightening. When Jeff Bezos said, “We never claim that our approach is the right one — just that it’s ours — and over the last two decades, we’ve assembled a group of like-minded people,” I could only wonder how this behavior is allowed. In some ways, Amazon is as powerful as our government, especially shown when Bezos wanted to create his own healthcare system with business moguls Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon. Just think about that, the CEO of the 13th largest company in the world (Fortune 500) wants to create healthcare for American citizens. Jeff Bezos simply does not care about ethics and morals, just about becoming the largest business figure ever. This man sets the impression for the rest of the tech industry, as HubSpot calls firing someone a “graduation,” and being proud to help them move on. With that being said, these employees know that they have little to no job security when they accept a position as an analyst or data processor. It is essentially like Varsity high school sports, you are pushed for 2 or 3 years to work hard and produce, then you a replaced by a fresh pair of 15-year-old legs. Big tech companies want you to think of these two events in the same way, you are “graduating” to your next big thing. Another bad thing about working in tech is that most of these companies are start-ups and the top of iceberg are untrained managers who have no idea how to run business. This means that you could be fired immediately with no explanation. Unfortunately, I think this ideology is going to spread past just tech companies into finance, nursing industry, and pretty much any other sector.

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