💬 Issue #35 - Inaction Items
Daring employees to RTO, disillusioned in the Lone Star state, and circling back to run it up the flagpole
It’s Friday: don’t let the door hit you on the way out! At EiT headquarters, we’re thinking about RTO dynamics, tech workers who wish they hadn’t moved to Austin, and a deep dive (sorry!) on business jargon and the workers who love to hate it.
RTO or GTFO?
Are quiet layoffs 2023’s response to quiet quitting? Organizations pushing return-to-office mandates may do so in hopes that some employees will quit rather than return. Dan Schwabel, managing partner at Workplace Intelligence, suggests AT&T is doing just this, as they recently called back 60k managers -- currently spread across all 50 states -- to work in person in one of their nine office locations.
Of course, encouraging employees to quit by gradually tightening the screws is nothing new: organizations have long employed hiring freezes, buyouts and furloughs, and creeping schedule reductions to motivate employees to see themselves to the door.
But why not just fire people (“it’s not me, it’s you”)? Simply put: quitters don’t get $everance or unemployment insurance. Whether this avoids a post-layoff morale plunge remains to be seen: those who do stay may find themselves overworked and quickly burned out -- they’ll have more work, yes, but they’ll also have commutes again, and less flexibility than they’re used to.
“RTO is a cheap and dirty way for companies to avoid legal complications and financial obligations associated with layoffs,” says Laurie Reuttimann, a career advisor who has used the same double-dog-dare-you-to-quit tactics. “The goal was to target the quiet quitters and those with opportunities elsewhere by making the current work environment unappealing.”
As more orgs declare stricter RTO policies (e.g. Google, Amazon, Disney), it’s unclear whether these soft layoffs are more than pyrrhic victories.
CLEAR EYES, FULL HEARTS, CAN’T LEAVE
The bloom is off the yellow rose of Texas. Tech workers who relocated from California to Austin in the past couple of years have been dismayed to discover the capital of Texas is hot, low-key, and full of transplants from other places (a ten-gallon’s hat worth of irony!).
Tech workers flooded Austin over the past few years as many big tech companies relocated headquarters there or expanded their presence. Business Insider talked to half a dozen young male tech workers who had a shared set of gripes, including that Austin’s tech jobs (and by extension, the workers who fill those jobs) are of a lower “caliber” than the engineering-heavy offices in Silicon Valley.
"If I was a 22-year-old founder starting something I'd go to Silicon Valley because it's going to increase your odds of success," says Bill Gurley of Benchmark. Many of the big tech names (think whatshisname, the guy with the rocket, car, and social media companies) who “moved” to Austin, actually spend very little time there.
“For one thing, Musk, and even those without private jets, seem to spend very little time in the city and have shown little loyalty or civic pride, multiple people said. This year, Musk announced Tesla's "engineering headquarters" would be in Palo Alto in what was widely seen as a rapprochement with California officials.”
Austin now ranks No. 5 in net outward migration from big US cities and it’s one of only three metros in the country with a decrease in starter home prices… as tech workers make plans to leave (once interest rates go down) and home prices stabilize, it will be interesting to see if Austin attracts a new industry’s go-getters.
WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT DOGFOODING
Business jargon tends to proliferate at the same rate as late-summer zucchini, threatening to smother clarity and authenticity in our workplaces.
It’s normal for fields and specialties to have their own specific language, says Peter Sokolowski, editor-at-large at Merriam Webster. What’s troubling is that buzz words can replace things like, oh, genuine thought and communication. When organizations use euphemisms like “workforce reduction,” they’re (ineffectively) trying to blur the reality of their actions (someone should tell them about RTO mandates).
Jargon isn’t just for the corner office, however! As George Orwell writhes in his grave, we find ourselves trotting out the same old business-speak, despite being sick of it ourselves. Language-learning platform Preply surveyed 1500 American workers about business jargon and found that much of the most used jargon is also deemed the most irritating (here’s looking at you, “new normal”).
This stale language can also have the effect of alienating workers who are newer to a field or to the language itself: “Forty percent of workers said they've had a misunderstanding or made a mistake at work because they didn't know the meaning of jargon or used it incorrectly. And 61% believe that workers with a better understanding of such jargon are able to get ahead, such as through promotions or raises.” It’s hard to feel like you belong when you’re being voluntold to herd cats, after all.
Sokolowski’s takeaway: "We should be generous with others and recognize that maybe the words we hate aren't the same words that other people hate … And maybe in our own language, if we pay attention to that … then what will happen is more clarity, more directness and more communication will result."
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
ELSEWHERE ON THE INTERNETS
YESTERYEAR TECH OF THE WEEK
A look at what’s new (yes) with Philips’ long dead 1990s Digital Compact Cassette format.
See ya next week,
– The EiT crew at Status Hero