A lounging office worker about to be snagged by a vaudeville hook.
Illustration: DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images; Protocol

'Sleep on the floor of the office' is the new 'rest and vest'

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. This just in: More Twitter execs are reportedly leaving the company, including head of trust and safety Yoel Roth and human resources leader Kathleen Pacini. The post-ElonMusk Twitter story is developing, but you can follow along here. Plus, is this the end of an era for cushy tech jobs? Also in the newsletter: Salesforce just made it easier to fire employees for their performance with less involvement from HR; Musk just banned remote work at Twitter, effective today; and Meta’s layoffs in Reality Labs — the AR and VR unit — may signal that Mark Zuckerberg is caving on his conviction to keep investing in what he sees as the “holy grail” of social networks: the metaverse.

— Allison Levitsky, reporter (email | twitter)

After Big Tech’s layoff massacre, is the 'cushy tech job' over?

Silicon Valley is reeling. In just over a week, over 17,000 workers have been laid off from Twitter, Meta, Salesforce, Coinbase, Stripe, Lyft — the list goes on.

  • For years, Big Tech has been paying high salaries and supplying generous perks to pick up as much talent as it could while retaining even workers who were underperforming.
  • Now, companies are buckling under that rapid growth, making deep cuts, and turning up the heat on performance. In preparation for as many as 2,500 layoffs, Salesforce’s HR team scrambled last week to update its policies around termination, giving managers more power to put employees on performance improvement plans and fire them with little HR oversight.
  • Even Twitter, half the size it was before Elon Musk took over, is now banning remote work and warning employees that the “economic picture ahead is dire.”

Is this the end of the cushy tech job? Maybe. The tight labor market put more power in the hands of workers, which — at least in Big Tech — has led to a shift away from hustle culture and toward work-life balance, self-care, and, some would argue, “quiet quitting.”

  • “It hasn’t been trendy to talk about hard work,” said Nolan Church, co-founder and CEO of Continuum, a people-leader talent marketplace. “People call it hustle porn. It has been bad-mouthed for the last five, 10 years.”
  • There’s nothing wrong with having a life outside of work, Church said, but as a by-product of more worker empowerment, hard work became “demonized” over the last decade.

If a return to hustle culture is bubbling up from this week’s bloodbath of layoffs, Esther Crawford may be that movement’s poster child. A photo of Crawford — a director of product management at Twitter — sleeping on the floor of the office went viral on Twitter last week as Musk prepared to lay off half the company. Her report, product manager Evan Jones, captioned it “when you need something from your boss at Elon Twitter.”

  • The photo sparked a debate around hustle culture, with some replies labeling office all-nighters as would-be “labor violations” and fodder for “trauma bonding,” while others commended Crawford for her dedication.
  • “This is how great new things are built, more often than anyone has been willing to say during the last decade’s cultural revolution in Silicon Valley,” former GitHub CEO Nat Friedman tweeted on Saturday.

This attitude is likely more common among entrepreneurs than rank-and-file workers, but not all founders think this way. Friedman’s co-founder from Xamarin, the developer tool maker they sold to Microsoft in 2016, disagreed with that assessment.

  • “At Xamarin I left every day at 5pm and I prioritized a healthy work/life balance — and hope I lead my people that way,” Xamarin co-founder Miguel de Icaza tweeted. “I think that asking people to work extra hours just [gives] you low quality output. And in the context of these layoffs is crass.”
  • And Crawford herself addressed the commenters who were “losing their minds” over the photo.
  • “Doing hard things requires sacrifice (time, energy, etc.),” Crawford tweeted. “We are less than one week into a massive business and cultural transition. People are giving it their all across all functions: product, design, eng, legal, finance, marketing, etc.”

Big Tech culture may get more intense as workers feel less secure in their jobs, but this won’t last long, according to Church and Flo Crivello, an entrepreneur who spent 4.5 years at Uber before founding the remote office startup Teamflow.

  • “I actually think [the power is] still going to be on the employee's side for the foreseeable future,” Church said. “But I do think it has swung back slightly, in the sense that now, CEOs can be a little bit more realistic with how businesses are run — they need to drive profits, and money is no longer free, and sometimes we need to work on weekends.”
  • Crivello predicted that engineers’ lives would become 20% more intense for a year or so before going back to normal. It’s “just economics,” he said.
“Historically, there has been infinite demand for engineers and very little supply,” Crivello said. “These companies have very little leverage.”

Easy come, easy go

Salesforce just updated its policies to allow easier terminations without involving HR, Protocol writer-at-large Joe Williams reported Thursday. The company’s employee relations team used to be “heavily involved” in PIPs and firing employees for not hitting metrics, including before formal talks with the workers themselves.

Now, HR will be less involved, and managers were recently asked to sign a document agreeing to treat employees fairly under the new system, Williams learned from sources.

Read the full story.

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No more remote

Typically, companies that decide to mandate in-office work announce these decisions months in advance to give employees time to adjust their routines — or maybe look for a more flexible job. But does Elon Musk do anything typical?

On Wednesday, Musk sent his first signed email to Twitter employees since taking over the company and laying off half its workforce with an email signed “Twitter.” In the email, Musk told employees they were expected back at the office starting Thursday, with exceptions for those who were “physically unable” to get to the office or had a “critical personal obligation.”

But going forward, Musk himself will review long-term remote work requests. Welcome back to the office, and maybe the job search, Tweeps.

Read the full story.

Twitter brain drain

Twitter’s chief privacy, information security, and compliance officers have all resigned. This is a particularly bad sign for Twitter because the company is subject to a Federal Trade Commission consent decree, most recently updated in May over past privacy and security practices.

The agency expressed its concern with the latest developments, including in comments to The Washington Post. Protocol cybersecurity reporter Kyle Alspach has more on who left and why, who will take over for them, and what this means for Twitter.

Read the full story.

Metaverse troubles

More than 11,000 layoffs hit employees both in Meta’s “family of apps” division — Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp — and Reality Labs, which works on AR and VR. Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to make cuts in Reality Labs is a “telling sign of just how difficult the road ahead might be” for Zuckerberg as he strives for the “holy grail” of social networks, Protocol reporter Nick Statt writes.

Reality Labs is Meta’s most expensive big bet, and investors have urged Zuckerberg to stop pouring so much money into it. As Zuck told employees in his layoff memo this week, his decision to “significantly increase our investments” during the pandemic “did not play out the way I expected.”

Read the full story.

Some personnel news

Here’s where we keep up with which tech companies are growing, shrinking, floating, or sinking.

⬇️ Amazon is reviewing its devices unit, which works on Alexa, and other unprofitable divisions to potentially make cuts, The Wall Street Journal reported.

⬇️ FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried apologized Thursday for his company’s collapse, which resulted in his own more than $15 billion net worth tumbling to around $1 billion, CNN reported.

⬇️ Coinbase is making cuts to its recruiting and institutional onboarding teams, The Information reported.

For more news on hiring, firing, and rewiring, see our tech company tracker.

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Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

For sale: Your vacation time. (WIRED)

Tech layoffs could get worse before getting better. (TechCrunch)

An argument for a safe, “boring” job. (Forbes)

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to workplace@protocol.com.

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