Tech Layoffs and the Management-Employee Power Shift

I muse and speak about how, over the years and particularly post-covid, the workplace power hierarchy has been inverted. There has been a clear power shift where companies have prioritized the needs and interests of their employees. I fully support that shift as those businesses will have a happier and more productive staff, increase employee retention, and expect to positively affect their bottom line. Further in purely humanistic terms, caring about employees’ contentment is simply the “right” thing.

The question arises, with all the recent news of tech layoffs (246,000+ since 2022), has this trend been reversed?  Is management now changing course and reclaiming power –in other words,has bossism returned?

A recent opinion piece in the New York Times (“The Era of Happy Tech Workers Is Over”) claims just that: “Silicon Valley… with its radically transparent company cultures, empowered employees flat hierarchies and rarefied perks…is quickly disappearing and unlikely to return.” The author argues that due to the economic environment, executives must now prioritize profitability, “sometimes at the expense of long-held organizational beliefs.”

Yet to frame the question as ”whose priorities are paramount”, or “who has the power, management or employees”, creates a false binary. The interests and needs of both need to be part of the solution.

For example, there is much discussion of late about whether businesses will allow employees to work from home or require them to work from the office. There is much to be said for both options – working at the office can allow for better mentorship, spontaneity and creativity, team connection, energy, and brand. Conversely, working from a (distraction-free) home can dramatically improve an employee’s productivity and contentment. Yet often missing from this conversation is a “work from home and office” hybrid approach that is fluid and based on the variability of factors that apply to the work required, the company brand, and the employee’s personality.

There is a myriad of approaches available. Companies can require in-office work on a part-time regular or irregular basis; they can require it for planned strategy sessions or roll-up-your-sleeve creative sessions. On the voluntary side, they can provide a regular dose of social functions and wellness lectures to elevatein-person comradery and intra-companyharmony.

Clearly, pendulums swing, times change, and society needs to continuously adapt. The interplay and relationship between management and staff does not have a one size fits all approach. It is clear, however, those companies that are most attuned to finding harmony with their employees will best navigate the changing times.