How do you lay off people without laying them off? Ask Meta.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook, posted its first decline in revenue in the quarter ended June 30, amidst growing competition from rival TikTok. To combat these pressures, Meta plans to cut expenses by at least 10% in the coming months, in part through staff reductions, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the company’s plans.
But instead of doling out pink slips, Meta is reorganizing departments and giving affected employees a limited window—30 days—to apply for other roles within the company.
While this practice has long-existed at the Menlo Park-based firm, it was typically used to weed out underperformers. However, now “workers with good reputations and strong performance reviews are being pushed out on a regular basis,” the Journal noted.
“Many teams are going to shrink so that we can shift energy to other areas inside the company” — Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s CEO, in July 2022
Inching towards quiet firing
May 2022: Meta freezes hiring for engineers, recruiters, and low-level data scientists.
July: Zuckerberg tells employees to buckle up for an “intense period” of 18-24 months—if not longer—adding that “I think some of you might just say that this place isn’t for you. And that self-selection is okay with me.” (Managers were asked to start identifying weak performers even before Zuckerberg’s brusque speech.)
August: Meta fires 60 contractors “at random” using an algorithm.
September: Meta disbands its Responsible Innovation team, which comprised engineers, ethicists, and academics who tried to keep the downsides of its products in check.
Human resources purgatory at tech firms
Earlier this month, Google fired over 50 employees at its incubator Area 120 and gave them 90 days to apply for and bag another role within the company.
In March, when the search giant laid off twice as many cloud workers, it gave them 60 days to find a replacement job internally. At that point, more than 1,400 Googlers petitioned to extend the transfer window to 180 days and asked Google to provide a better-documented and -structured transfer process.
Meta’s 30-day window seems paltry in comparison, suggesting even more strongly that it is a tactic to eliminate staff rather than retain them.
Zuckerberg in trouble
As Meta employees lose their jobs, its CEO is losing wealth.
Ever since Facebook became Meta, things have not looked up. As Facebook user growth stalls and ad revenue slows, the metaverse’s sluggish pickup with clunky hardware isn’t making up for it. Meta’s stock has halved from a year ago.
“It’s worth noting that 2022 has proven disastrous for global markets and other tech titans as well, but even Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos have lost far less than that,” a Futurism report points out. “The takeaway? In the self-inflicted era of the metaverse, Zuckerberg is in big, big trouble.”