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What a macroeconomic circumstance in which we have the opportunity to exist

Yesterday, I got an email from LinkedIn, alerting me that a contact from an old job had messaged me. We hadn’t talked in a few years, and he’s a good guy, so I logged in to reply.

I did that, but was quickly reminded of how un-fun it is to navigate the LinkedIn feed.

Invariably, every social media network turns into the same thing: A targeted marketing tool. The difference on LinkedIn, of course, is that LinkedIn users share, post and “like” as if they’re wearing digital khaki pants, a blue button-up shirt and brown Oxfords. Maybe they wear jeans when they’re liking corporate video posts on Fridays. I don’t really want to know.

Anyone who’s paid attention to the news since late 2022 has seen layoffs, particularly in tech. Twitter fired the first shot (laid off the first shot?), and then every MAANG, retailer and parent company had bad news to share. A LOT of that has bled into LinkedIn. No shame in saying you got laid off and need a new job, or offering to help anyone laid off. It’s why LinkedIn exists.

Corporate speak never ceases to amaze me, however, and makes me want to pluck out my eyeballs. I’m sure the HR ghouls at all these companies are tossing together a Sweetgreen-level word salad to tell someone, “You’re fired,” but it’s crazy to me how much this language has infiltrated non-HR ghouls.

For example, a former colleague works for a big tech company, which recently had layoffs. Being a helpful, kind person, this former colleague logged into LinkedIn to tell since-departed colleagues that it was a tough day, but that if she could help connect anyone with contacts or jobs, she’d do it. Except she didn’t write that.

Imagine being in the LinkedIn meeting for deciding that “supports this” is a necessary reaction to a social media post

I don’t begrudge anyone for trying to be helpful. And I don’t expect people who don’t write and edit words for a living to masterfully craft a post on a corporate social platform. But corporate doubletalk and word salad have become so pervasive that people I like in real life are addressing hypothetical hiring managers and recruiters about the “macroeconomic environment we’re currently living in.”

What?

A few years ago, I read “Do I Make Myself Clear,” Sir Harold Evans’s final book on how to write and communicate better. He railed against the jargon in corporate, political and legal documents, noting how obfuscation had overtaken genuine communication.

That book sung to me, and this LinkedIn post reminded me of it. The point of my former colleague’s post was to be helpful, and to empathize, but it did so passively in corporate speak, and thus negated the reality that a big company laid off some good people.

Here’s my Harry Evans version of the post in question:

Yesterday, [my company] laid off a couple hundred people. It sucks. I’ve still got my job, but for anyone who lost theirs, I’m happy to connect you with contacts and jobs. Being laid off isn’t an indictment of your skill or value. Let me know how I can help.

That’s it! And it doesn’t even need to be that much. The cultural PR-washing of every corner of life made the real post so much less impactful—almost by design. Here’s a person with a job who doesn’t want to come anywhere near seeming like they’re criticizing their employer, going so far as to write about layoffs as if they were some natural disaster that befell a corporate balance sheet.

In reality, a bunch of highly compensated executives looked at the increasing interest rates, thought for zero seconds about how they could do with less money, and decided laying people off to save the company money was the right action. That’s why they’re highly compensated executives.

It’s a separate conversation to discuss how inflation and unemployment are inversely correlated, but this writing was on the feed: The Fed was hiking interest rates, and cheap money was no longer cheap. The tech sector overhired during the pandemic and now is course correcting.

These tech workers will be lucky enough to get severances, some will have to tap into savings, and most are staring at a max of $504 per week here in New York state on unemployment. Hell, I met a woman laid off from another huge tech firm a month ago, and she was pissed, but she was still out at a bar on a Thursday and not exactly destitute.

Aside from the money, however, corporate layoffs an emotional impact, too. Writing around that with passive speech—”We’re sorry you were impacted by the change in employment event!”—dehumanizes what happened. McSweeney’s beat me to it yesterday: Macroeconomic Changes Have Made It Impossible for Me to Want to Pay You.

Jobs are transactional relationships; you trade your time for their money. Once the company no longer want to give you their money, you have only your time. Don’t forget you were trading that in the first place. Anyone who tries to convince you that “We’re a family!” has either bought into it or is trying to devalue your time.

Time is all we have—it’s a shame so much of it is wasted dancing around about what really happened and why.

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