Fired Tech Employees Document Their Dismissal Amidst the Crisis: Follow Their Story

Under the ironic hashtag #Layoffseason (or “dismissal season” in French), many employees of large tech companies film their dismissals, before posting it on TikTok.

Since the end of 2022, there has been a massacre: 11,000 fewer jobs at Meta, 10,000 layoffs at Amazon, 12,000 at Google and 10,000 at Microsoft since the start of 2023… In total , 1,190 tech companies laid off more than 262,000 employees during 2023, mainly in North America.

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After having recruited massively at the time of the Covid-19 health crisis to participate in the implementation of teleworking, the inflation which resulted from the war in Ukraine endangered the American economy. Even for large tech companies, layoffs have increased to reassure markets in order to adapt to the economic crisis. Since the start of 2024, almost 32,000 employees have been laid off, according to the tracker Layoffs.fyi.

Figures that make you dizzy, but which often remain confined to economic sections… except when you open TikTok. On the platform for creating and sharing short videos, since the beginning of 2023, we have come across videos showing tech employees being fired via screens. The videos of Chloé Shih, an influencer and employee at Discord, where she confides her fear of being fired, then her dismissal, have between them more than 11 million views. In front of the camera, the ex-tech employees film the warning signs, but also their shock at the announcement of their dismissal.

@chloeshih

i just wanna throw up heres to all the layoffs happening at @Twitch @Google @Discord @Audible and so many more this month #layoffs #layoffseason #discord #productmanager #techlayoff

♬ original sound – Chloe Shih

Shelly is one of these TikTokers who filmed her dismissal: in a video titled “GRWM to get laid off » (“prepare with me to be fired”) the young development manager at a tech company in Toronto puts on makeup, while explaining why she thinks she will be fired.

@coolkidshelly

happens to the best of us my friends! drop down hobby suggestions in the comments, can't wait to bounce back #layoffs #grwm #sad #beautifulgirl

♬ original sound – shelly

Film yourself to destigmatize dismissal

If layoffs are not new, the way of making them visible, in the era of TikTok, is new, according to Virginie Spies, lecturer in information and communication sciences at the University of Avignon , semiologist and media analyst: “It tells us that everything can be made public today: we can tell the story of the present, including what is not seen as positive”. Being fired normally means being in a position of “weakness”: filming yourself reacting to this news and posting it is a way of regaining control. “This allows you to gather encouragement, advice, to form a community, and therefore perhaps to be spotted too », adds the semiologist, reminding us that not everyone is comfortable with putting themselves on stage. Often, the #layoffseason videos that go viral are made by people who have mastered the codes of TikTok, or even already creating content alongside their jobs in tech.

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“I told myself that if I turned on my camera and verbalized my thoughts, I would feel better »

Shelly decided to film her dismissal because she wanted “bring light to a sad moment “. “I told myself that if I turned on my camera and verbalized my thoughts, I would feel better. I was fired along with other such talented people from my company, many of us recorded and broadcast our experiences,” she says. Before this event, Shelly thought it was only low performers who were at risk for their jobs: the recent mass layoffs in tech made her change her mind. “It’s been an eye-opening experience and I hope everyone understands that unfortunately, this is a reality of part of the tech sector right now,” she confides. According to her, “the more TikTok there are, the more awareness there will be, and therefore more support and sympathy for future licensees.”

A way to humanize Big Tech layoffs?

The virality of these layoff videos leads creators to receive a flood of messages of support, encouragement, or comments from people going through the same situation. “The goal of social networks is to create a community for those who speak, but also those who receive,” analyzes Virginie Spies.

Especially since TikTokers do not hesitate to continue the storytelling of their dismissal, through numerous videos, to talk about the case of their company, their job search, their new “routine”… “This affects a lot of people because we know how difficult layoffs can be, especially for young people navigating the world of work. And then it puts the human element back into numbers », adds the semiologist.

The success of his video was “completely unexpected” for Shelly, who receives numerous messages of support, but also comments from recruiters or headhunters offering her a new job. For the moment, the young woman has not returned to the tech sector, still bruised by tens of thousands of layoffs. “It’s sad to see, but many people are affected, and continue to be affected », confides Shelly. A few weeks after this video went viral, the young woman has no regrets: “lots of great opportunities emerged from this video”. In fact, the subscriptions she acquired allowed her to build a community base to launch into content creation lifestyle about his city of residence, Toronto.

If Shelly has managed to bounce back, the tech sector does not seem to be finished with layoffs, in part due to the desire to invest in the development of artificial intelligence. Mark Zuckerberg, boss of Meta, recently declared that his company had to lay off employees and control costs “so we can invest in ambitious long-term visions around AI “.


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