- No matter how strong you are, you can't be stronger than your customers. IBM looked at the numbers and said we need to be leaner in the coming year. Anyone watching the news could have seen that coming.
- When you work for a good company, good people get laid off. Why? Because there aren't any bad people to lay off. Those of us who kept our jobs need to reflect on that with a bit of humility.
- In a bad economy, avoid specialist roles like "special adviser" or "ombudsman." If you're out there all alone on an org chart, well, it's as good as wearing a target. Avoid being an infrastructure person; try to be writing words someone is ultimately paying for (i.e., user-facing doc).
It starts at high-level management as a dollar amount. "Our income and our burn rate are misaligned by this much, therefore we need to cut x dollars." Payroll is the deepest pocket, so that's where you have to go if x is a big number. Then middle managers do some calculations and x dollars is translated into y headcount. From then on, y becomes "the number." Lower level managers divvy up y among even lower level managers until some sub-component of y is communicated to a line manager who must convert that number into names, that is, actual people who have to figure out how to make mortgages and buy food.
It's a cold calculus and a heartbreaking one that gets more so as the process trickles lower and lower. It probably works because the ones at the top who have to start the ball rolling are insulated from the humanity where the ball lands.
So if you lose your job, take some solace in the coldness; it was never about you and it wasn't because of anything you did. If you keep your job, it doesn't mean you are better than those who didn't, just luckier, perhaps.
May we all be lucky.