3 min read

Thrashing around won’t help in an environment with layoffs

The hustle culture mindset won’t help avoid layoffs.
Thrashing around won’t help in an environment with layoffs
Photo by Jeferson Argueta / Unsplash

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Sustain issue #83 (Get Sustain in your inbox next Thursday)

I had another topic planned this week but there’s really only one thing to discuss and that’s layoffs 😔

There’s been quite a number of them. It’s a tough and somewhat eerie time. But I’m going to use what’s going on at Twitter as the backbone.

I won’t go deep into Elon’s craziness, but there’s one aspect that’s important to touch on. In several ways he’s reinforced the importance of hustle culture. Examples sourced here in this NYT podcast episode about Musk’s first week.

  • He asked developers to print out their code (lol) to show how much they’ve done. This reinforced quantity, not quality.
  • He asked the now depleted team to ship a new version of Twitter Blue in a matter of days when ordinarily it would take 3-6 months minimum. And we’re seeing all the ways it’s being abused now.  

While I hope this chaotic leadership is an extreme example, I think there’s a kernel of reality in his point of view. (I can't believe I just said there’s reality in Elon’s head.)  

As the economy slows, CEOs are going to double down on extreme productivity which often manifests itself in quantity over quality.

What CEOs are saying is that every minute counts. I couldn’t agree more about that statement.

The trouble is that CEOs and I define this very differently.

CEOs will ask or imply that their salaried knowledge workers put in extra hours to ensure that as many initiatives are moving forward. The culture will start to shift away from flexibility and some of the well-being practices that have been put in place will disintegrate. They’ll argue there’s no time to mess around with fluffy stuff like that. But the reality is that trying to do it all is a manic way of leadership that leads to thrashing around like we see at Twitter. It’s bad for the company and bad for the employees.

Conversely, if every minute counts, that doesn't mean working 60+ hours on anything you can get your hands on. It means leadership should spend time identifying what’s truly the highest priority so employees work on the most important things. While bosses may be done caring about your well-being, the reality is that organizations that take care of everyone are critical in tough times. As we’re seeing at Twitter, when people are under extreme duress they don’t function remotely close to their highest ability.

So, what can you do? Continue to advocate for yourself. Share the environment you need to do your highest-quality work. Then make sure you’re sharing your wins. And avoid that trap of a hustle culture mindset like the plague.

High-quality prioritization + high-quality working environment = your best and most creative work.

Your boss and company would be stupid to not favor a system where they get your absolute best work to weather the tough times.


Ready to downsize your relationship with work and quit burnout?

Hi, I'm Grant Gurewitz. I'm on a mission to eliminate burnout at work. I've been in tech for 10 years (ex-Zillow, current: Qualtrics) and suffered deep burnout and came back from it even though I never found a playbook for doing so. So, I'm writing it myself.

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