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One More on the Google Layoffs

I thought I was done writing about this, but today Colin Newlyn shared a detail I hadn’t heard before about Dan Russel, who showed up to work at 4 AM to finish up some important stuff, only to discover he didn’t work there any longer.

As Colin says:

This one really tears at my heart a little. He believed what he was working on was SO important that he was at the office at 4AM, only to be humiliated and effectively be told he’d been wasting his time all along. His report was so important and valuable they weren’t even bothered that he wouldn’t finish it. In fact, HE was so important and valuable they couldn’t be bothered to tell him in person. What sacrifices in his personal life did he make, what moments of joy with his family and friends did he forego for Google, only to have it all thrown back in his face like this?

This is a bad look for Google and the other Big Tech companies that have done layoffs. Colin also points out how these companies made these decisions in lock-step with each other, right down to the wording used to explain them. (And some interesting conjecture about the tech media repeating those lines sans criticism from the people who are also their biggest advertisers.)

This further emphasizes that living your life for work is not worth it in the end. How many similar stories are out there? How many people were mid-project or working late evenings on important deals and were let go the next day?

How important was that work, and the contribution they made to work? How important could it have been? Look at how it was considered so easily replaceable.

More importantly, how much of their personal lives did they give up in pursuit of that work? This is the crux of our problem with work. The people who own and run companies will talk a lot about the sacrifices people should make to succeed. We’ll have Elon talking about working 80-hour weeks as how you “change the world” when in reality, 99.9% of us will never have enough money to do that. Media companies will write glowingly about the tech founders who wake at 4 AM to start their work day and the various habits we should all be following to be as successful as they are without once asking how many people follow those same habits without the luck and access to money that they have? Let alone the reality that giving that much of yourself to an organization that someone else owns is a fool’s errand. It’s not your family, and it’s not about finding your passion it’s about getting a paycheck for quality work. If you enjoy the work you do, great. That’s a nice bonus and a nice goal. It should never be the most important thing in your life. Not when someone else can take it away so easily and heartlessly.


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