The Great Tech and People Hypocrisy

Published on May 14, 2024, filed under (RSS feed for all categories).

Working in Tech is a privilege. Largely high salaries, great benefits, focus on the people.

Our field has been so good to everyone that people soon developed a sense of entitlement that by now seems to have transformed into a civil right. At least that’s the impression you get in increasingly more interviews and compensation talks. *

To support this entitlement/right, many companies trim their management to always be supportive. Using exaggeration to make the point, if there’s disagreement between a manager and a report, the manager is failing.

This “people first” focus may still be great, you could say. After all, it’s all about people (personally, I believe that if anything’s true, then this).

But there’s an increasing disconnect here, between ever growing salaries, perks, and management support, and the harsh reality of—layoffs.

Standards for Hiring Without Standards for Firing

Companies used to lay off people when they’re in serious economic trouble and couldn’t but fire people. (Some did so, at least.) Last resort.

But today, even profitable companies lay off people—“rif” them—without a second thought.

This part of Tech, of our field, has become reckless. â€ 

There’s a contradiction, and hypocrisy, if on the one hand we say people are so important that we need to pay them three, four, or five times as much as a person who serves society, like a nurse or a police officer—and on the other we fire them whenever an investor sneezes.

Either people are important, or they aren’t.

People’s importance shouldn’t change by paying a higher salary or offering more perks.

Since layoffs have a significantly higher impact on people than a fifth brand of (hopefully vegan) yogurt in the company microkitchen, it stands to reason that people’s well-being is not what matters most to companies.

Now, I’m with you if you argue that there may be no contradiction. â€ˇ Lower and middle management may have other priorities (e.g., developing people) than executive leadership (e.g., increasing profits), or something like that.

However, the problem is growing. If we powder butts only to kick them out of the door, that’s not an authentic, useful, or desirable activity. It’s pretty pathetic, and it’s eroding trust and culture for that reason.

In the end, our hiring standards that we use as gates to decide whom to grant high salaries and great benefits are only worth something if we also have great firing standards—i.e., if we retain and invest in people.

People Are Most Important

Ultimately, we have responsibility for people.

We also want to treat people well—and coach, lead, and manage them well (including any of their entitlement).

But what we, as a field, are doing, isn’t taking responsibility, or treating people well. It feels extreme on all ends—the salaries Â§, the perks, the entitlement, the layoffs.

There must be something more moderate, something healthier for everyone. There can be Tech that genuinely cares about people—within its fields, and without them.

* Over time, I’ve been in several compensation-related conversations in which even raises were met with disappointment. This is to be respected, and yet there’s something noteworthy about people ceasing to recognize support as well as privilege.

† I connect much here with “hypergrowth,” which I find scary and deem a red flag: Hypergrowth has come to mean irresponsible, if not reckless, hiring, well followed by irresponsible, if not reckless, firing.

‡ I’m with you for more than one reason, the other being that contradictions much look like a feature of reality.

§ …salaries which should really all be publicly disclosed.

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About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 30, 2021.

I’m Jens, and I’m an engineering lead and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for companies like Google and as an engineering manager for companies like Miro, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly and Frontend Dogma.

With my current move to Spain, I’m open to a new remote frontend leadership position. Feel free to review and refer my CV or LinkedIn profile.

I love trying things, not only in web development, but also in other areas like philosophy. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.