Layoffs are good for you and industry

By Scot Herrick | Cube Rules Commentary

Jul 24

Over at Wired, there is an article that suggests layoffs are good both for you and for the technology industry. It’s a provocative title, to be sure. The argument is that workers in Silicon Valley have a culture of not doing work they don’t like — so they job-hop. Not for promotions or climbing the corporate ladder, but because they didn’t like the work. And that results in some great opportunities for companies:

As it happens, that lack of loyalty has been a key driver of the Valley’s rapid innovation over the past three decades. AnnaLee Saxenian, author of Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128, puts it this way: “Job-hopping, rather than climbing the career ladder within a corporation, facilitates flows of information and know-how between individuals, firms, and industries. When combined with venture capital, it supports unanticipated recombinations of technologies and skill.” In other words, we have Twitter today because a bunch of engineers who were trained at other companies quit their jobs and brought their expertise to Evan Williams’ side project. It’s like biology: In an ecosystem where microbes are promiscuously swapping genes and traits, evolution speeds up.

Now this wonderful ecosystem of voluntary job-hopping is coming to a screaming halt because technology people are starting to play it safe and stay in their current positions longer because there aren’t that many open positions available, just like the rest of the country.

So the churn from layoffs is good because it will speed up the evolution of the microbes, sorry, workers — for industry. But for the workers there? What’s in it for them?

Layoffs, the article notes, don’t carry the stigma they used to anymore. Plus you can work on cool things like iPhone apps — if you can get any financing.  That’s about it. Which means this:

So if you’re clinging out of fear to a job you don’t want, you’re doing yourself and the rest of us a disservice. This is still Silicon Valley: Getting kicked in the behind might just be your ticket to getting ahead.

So industry gets new ideas and recombinations of technology and skills from workers voluntarily leaving their jobs to work in new environments — or from layoffs. But with layoffs, workers get to feel better about it because the stigma of a layoff is almost gone. And, if you can get it, you might still get something cool to work on if you can get the financing. Someday. Maybe.

Of course, getting laid off means you have no income. No neat stock options or restricted stock to help pad a savings cushion between those cool voluntary job-hopping gigs. Networking is now with other laid off coworkers, not necessarily people working on the interesting things.

But you should not have fear of a layoff though the rest of the world does. No need for you to worry about your finances, your family or the probability of finding a new job any time soon. Companies are OK to lay you off because…wait for it…getting laid off will be good for you — and it helps companies too!

Apparently, the difference between voluntarily leaving a position is the same as being laid off from a position. The difference between a good or even decent job market is the same as being in the worst job market for the last 20-years. And your behavior should be the same because it helps industry.

Not so much.

I’ll pass.

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.