Layoffs suck, and they suck more than you think they will

Layoffs suck, and they suck more than you think they will
Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash

Last week, I experienced watching a group of my esteemed colleagues being laid off. As someone who has been a freelancer for much of my professional life, I had never actually experienced a lay off before, and it was gut wrenching and heart breaking to watch people I like and admire being let go.

My title for this post is actually a paraphrase of a quote from my first onstage interview at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2014. I was interviewing Scott Dietzen, who was CEO of Pure Storage at the time (along with Mike Speiser, his investor from Sutter Hill Ventures).

Asked about whether he would like to take the company public eventually versus getting acquired, he had this to say: "Acquisitions always suck, and suck worse than you think that they are going to suck." He spoke from experience.

And so do layoffs. Nothing prepares you for the horrible feeling, one I have to say I hope I never to experience again. At the same time, TechCrunch announced that it was shutting down our subscription product, TechCrunch+, another shot straight to the heart.

I wasn't part of the TC+ staff, but I hung around a lot with the crew. Over the five years or so of its existence, I contributed 267 articles, quite a few of which were co-bylines with Editor in Chief Alex Wilhelm. While the staff and Alex will continue their fine work under the banner, it was sad and shocking news for everyone involved to hear the news it was being shuttered.

We've being seeing way too many layoffs lately in media and tech. The former is understandable, an industry under intense economic pressure. Many of the latter, not so much. It seems as though layoffs at large tech companies are more about culling the herd now, than for any economic reasons.

Consider that Microsoft, which laid off around 2000 people in its games division recently, just had a stellar quarter, has market cap around $3 trillion dollars and $140 billion in cash. As Satya Nadella approaches his 10th anniversary at the helm he has grown the stock ten times. Clearly not a company in trouble.

It's worth noting that the FTC is revisiting the Activision Blizzard deal in light of these new layoffs.

My friend and former TechCrunch colleague Danny Crichton, who runs editorial at Lux Capital, wrote about the shuttering of TechCrunch+ in his column over the weekend. He was the first EIC at TC+ and helped conceive of the idea.

It's never easy watching people let go, not because of malfeasance or bad performance, but because of the need to cut costs. And those of us left behind, who while we are still fortunate to have jobs, are left to ponder it all.

And it sucks. It really, really sucks.