White-collar workers are being destroyed by layoffs before the holidays

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Last week, Matt Motyl received a box in the mail with two yellow emoji Christmas decorations: one surprised, one crying a single tear. On the outside, the name Motyl scrawled in black marker, below the word “Leaver.”

The box of Christmas cheer at an odd time was sent by Facebook’s parent company Meta, which fired him among 11,000 others in November. (Meta told The Washington Post that these were sent to Motyl “under the assumption that they were his personal items.”)

Motyl is among the tens of thousands of professional workers facing a difficult end to 2022. PepsiCo, Amazon, Cisco and Snap have announced plans to reduce the number of employees in the last month, raising more uncertainty ahead of what could be a turbulent 2023. By the end of November, more than 80,000 tech workers had been laid off, according to estimates by Challenger, Gray and Christmas. And many finance and media companies, from Citigroup and Morgan Stanley to CNN, BuzzFeed and the washington postthey have also announced that they are laying off employees.

For workers gearing up for the holidays, the timing couldn’t be worse, though federal data shows that December and January tend to be popular months for layoffs, because corporate budgets often reset when the calendar changes.

The surge in recent layoffs is playing out differently than the pandemic-era cutbacks that heavily hit hourly workers in leisure, hospitality and entertainment, while many white-collar professionals, who they could work remotely, they were saved.

In this Christmas season, it is mainly those white collar professionals taking the hit.

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In early December, David Weinstein learned that he was being laid off from his job as Complex Networks’ vice president of productions, as part of a larger restructuring by its parent company, BuzzFeed. in a Note To employees affected by the cuts, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti said the move would help the company “weather an economic downturn that I think will last well into 2023” and adjust to changes in consumer appetite. the consumers.

Weinstein, 44, had seen layoffs from other companies in the media in recent months, but the possibility of being fired by BuzzFeed was not on his radar.

“There have been layoffs all year, it seems, in our industry,” Weinstein said. “At this point, I feel a certain solidarity with everyone else. I didn’t think much of it until he hit us.”

She’s been leveraging her networks, posting more frequently on LinkedIn and Instagram and scheduling lunches that she hopes might lead to something. He is optimistic, but also tries to be realistic.

“I also know that it’s right before Christmas and right before the new year,” Weinstein said. “I’m not counting on a new position or a new role magically appearing.”

General, layoffs are close historically low levels in the broader economy. Employers still struggle to attract and retain talent, especially in healthcare, restaurants, and retail. More than 10.3 million the positions remained vacant as of the end of October, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But there is a growing sense of dissonance as announcements keep coming in certain sectors, even as the job market remains active. Inflation has been putting pressure on trade margins all year, and now higher interest rates are hitting rate-sensitive industries like finance and technology, too. Companies have been turning to cost-cutting mode as they consider the effects of the Federal Reserve’s fight to control prices.

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Goldman Sachs is expected to cut thousands of positions and remove some bonuses as it winds down its retail banking business and prepares for a slowdown, the Wall Street Journal reported. reported In the past week. The CEO of Google, which has seen slower growth this year as the company’s workforce continued to expand, sent out warning signs recently about cuts to come.

“It’s really hard to predict the future,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said at an all-staff meeting in December, refusing to rule out the possibility of job cuts, according to reporting from Business Insider.

The layoffs also coincide with rising tension between employees and white-collar employers over how work gets done, and could signal another crackdown on flexibility. Offices are still less than half as full as before the pandemic, according to security checks in 10 major metropolitan areas tracked by castle systems.

Some pullbacks are expected this time of year, according to Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter. On average, 1.9 million people are fired or laid off each month. But there has been a “definitive softening” in white-collar fields compared to others, Pollack said: Six of the seven sectors that have seen the biggest drops in job openings since mid-year are white-collar industries, with declines important in technology. , finance, law and engineering. Businesses that rely on in-person visits, by contrast, are finally recovering from dips during the pandemic.

In September, Ceren Kalyon was on the beach in Italy, enjoying a vacation from his job at software firm Twilio, when his phone rang with an all-staff email from the CEO announcing 11 percent corporate layoffs and warning what target personnel would be notified in the next 60 minutes.

“Twilio has grown at an amazing rate in the last two years. It was too fast and not enough focus on our company’s most important priorities,” CEO Jeff Lawson said in the email, which was shared with The Post. “I take responsibility for those decisions, as well as the decision to fire.”

In a panic, Kalyon texted his manager to ask some clarity. She never heard back, not even after receiving an email that his post had been removed. He left her feeling “useless.”

“It just makes you feel like a number,” Kalyon said.

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Employers say that have been increasingly concerned about workers productivitywhich plunged sharply in the first half of the year. Tech executives like Google Pichaigoal mark Zuckerberg and Salesforce’s Mark Benioff have been criticizing underperforming workers and asking their workers to do more. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said his company coined the term “productivity paranoia” to describe employers’ concerns about whether their employees are working hard enough.

“We know there is a disconnect between employers who want employees back in the office more than employees want back,” said Andy Challenger, senior vice president at Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Until recently, the balance of power had tipped towards employees, thanks to the red-hot job market. But gathering economic storm clouds and layoff announcements have given bosses a little more clout, Challenger said. Now some CEOs might be tempted to use it as a way to bring employees back to the office or get rid of them.

“That sounds like a good way to kill two birds with one stone,” Challenger said, adding that the layoffs are a “very blunt tool” in the eyes of HR professionals, who see it as a risky downsizing strategy. “Somehow, you lose the people who have the best ability to find new jobs.”

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In December, On what ended up being her last day at work, Marisa Mena signed for Nextiva as just another day. But a few hours later, she received a message from the company’s sales director, asking if she had time to talk. She had never talked to him much, so she was afraid of bad news.

She was right to worry: Mena was told her position was being eliminated. Little explanation was offered. It was a week after her 30th birthday, just before she was about to go on vacation to celebrate. (Nextiva did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

Her financial goal for 2023 had been to save money for a down payment so she could buy a house, but now it’s on hold. He’s doing Lyft and DoorDash, but hasn’t jumped back on the job search yet.

“I wish I could have a great idea and be able to work for myself or have my own business so I don’t have to be under all these big corporations,” Mena said. “I don’t feel like they care about us at all.”

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