This round of tech layoffs came with vexing hits to company culture

Tech leaders have been trying to assure everyone that we aren’t heading for another year of mass layoffs, but the more troubling trend might be how companies are conducting themselves.

Driving the news: So far in January, 58 tech companies have laid off nearly 8,000 employees. That continued this week on Google’s advertising sales and YouTube teams, while Amazon’s Buy with Prime became the latest unit at the company to face cuts.

Zoom out: It might not be 2023 all over again, but what is going on depends on who you ask. The layoffs seem to be focused on larger companies, which are facing pressure to shift from growth to profitability. Others are reprioritizing areas like AI.

  • Google, for example, is offering special stock options to compete with OpenAI for talent. But the rate of AI hiring is well behind how many people have been laid off.
  • That might not comfort tech workers, but this could: there’s big demand for them at non-tech companies offering more stability, location flexibility, and bigger salaries.

Why it matters: This round of layoffs also brought reports of current and former staff being frustrated with how companies are approaching them. Beyond the hit to morale, it’s a puzzling move for companies that are still looking to attract talent.

  • A Cloudflare employee recorded a tense meeting where she was either laid off or fired, depending on who you ask. The company’s CEO admitted it was “painful” to watch, while management experts bemoaned the lack of transparency and humanity.
  • Apple told a 121-person team working on Siri that they had until the end of February to decide between relocating to Austin or being laid off, according to Bloomberg.
  • The Verge reported that Google staff were disgruntled with silence from their “corporate overlords” about last week’s layoffs, though CEO Sundar Pichai later sent a memo explaining Wednesday’s round and warning of more to come.
  • Amazon has been accused by employees of “quiet firing,” using return-to-office mandates and pushing people to lesser roles to get them to leave on their own.

In Canada: A lot of tech companies expect to hire in 2024, and not just in AI. Adtech company The Trade Desk, social platform Pinterest, enterprise developer Punchcard Systems, healthtech platform PocketHealth, and identity management company Okta are among those that told Peak Tech that they are currently recruiting in Canada.