How to get laid… off.

“A low shot…” by ALP STUDIO on Unsplash

A gnat committed suicide in my eye last night.

That was in the 5th inning of a playoff baseball game. There were bugs everywhere. The home team was trailing. My son Casey scored the tying run. No, his name’s not actually Casey.

They won. They’re the Nationals. The Nats won.

Standard practice in Little League is for kids from both teams to recite an old-world pledge about God and country. What that has to do with baseball, I have no idea.

Standard practice in mass layoff situations is to recite apologies and procedures to two separate groups, preferably first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. If you received a meeting invite before the other group, you’re on the losing team.

It has to be an operational nightmare. Prepare severance, collect computers, get paperwork signed, answer questions about benefits, disconnect logins to Slack and Github and Nuclino and Looker and Rollbar and DataDog and Google Apps for Business. (Google should change that name. [1])

Change the code to the door while you’re at it. Make sure people can still submit expenses in Expensify and check pay statements in PayStatementify. Remember ADP has a virtual monopoly and that the second company doesn’t exist. Oh yeah, change the back door, too. Forget that you sent out important information to everyone’s work gmail before turning it off. Oops. That’s a good description of this kind of event.

No one wanted to get here. No one was prepared for it. In fact, I kind of like yesterday’s haphazardness.

Like the group of us (the first group) who were remote and kept wondering aloud on Slack for half an hour why we were still on hold on the designated conference bridge, in a state of limbo I’d previously and affectionately dubbed “Zoom jail.” (Zoom rocks actually.)

All of this added a kind of gallows humor. If all the i’s had been dotted, people would’ve taken the founders and HR to be too good at this kind of thing.

I imagine there are specialist consultants for layoffs. They probably make a killing filling a morbid need of society. Undertakers.

I don’t blame anyone. If you start a company and prospects for fundraising start to look bleak, how much notice do you give people? We had some notice. Just some. Like you’d say “I have some grains of salt in my hand.”

But more notice would mean having the best people leave. That’s a sure thing. As is the downward spiral that would follow said departure of aforementioned best people. So you rationalize and hope. If you’re in Little League, you pray.

There should be insurance markets for the labor force. Workers could buy personal employment put options on the company for which they toil. [2] This would serve two purposes:

(a) real unemployment coverage — fewer criteria, higher payouts, less stigma.

(b) signal to the market when a company is at undue risk (most importantly, signal to employees within the company that the ship is going down).

Let’s meet up some time for bourbon and speculate about who would do the speculation (read: write those put options). Someone would. Competitors, suppliers, enterprise customers. Brown, sippable drinks are the right medicinal accompaniment to this convo. A slow burn, like timefuse. Because we’re Wily Coyote. Also, some friends used to call me Brownie, so it works.

That nickname was racist I suppose.

Wet ’n’ Wild was a water park near Orlando, Florida.

(Did you think I meant Orlando Bloom? Come to think of it, he probably has a water park in his basement.) [3]

When we were kids and our dad drove our custom-extension, 10-person van down a windy road, 3 or 4 of us kids (out of 7) would exclaim, “This is an awesome Wet ’n’ Wild ride!”

My work experience at this stop was a great ride. Truly awesome people (workwise and as humans), great customers, interesting challenges, supportive manager, and thoughtful founders.

But the ride wasn’t like the Bubba Tub or the Mach 5 or the Black Hole. It was fun, intense, and short.

Namely, Der Stuka.

At another company we had an “oops! tracker.” When there was a big mistake, someone would log it and update it in a Google Sheet.

I’d do that now. But I’m having trouble logging in.


[1] Oh wait they already did. It’s called G Suite by Google Cloud. That name objectively sucks. Why do enterprise products consistently have shitty names? Is that a requirement?

[2] …irrespective of whether they have equity or whether the company is publicly traded or private.

[3] Wet ’n’ Wild was a major attraction in its time and was a major draw for tourists tired of the Disney heat. Or locals tired of the Disney tourists.

In fact, it was the first American waterpark, founded by the same guy who created Sea World. (Wikipedia)