- Thousands of workers have already gotten pink slips this year, and it seems managers may be next.
- Companies like Meta and FedEx are paring back managerial jobs; others like Intel are cutting pay.
- Managers may be an easy target as companies correct course after over hiring in the past few years.
Managers, beware: Layoffs have depleted your roster of reports, and they’re probably coming for you next.
FedEx says it is giving pink slips to more than 10% of its directors and officers as part of an ongoing cost-cutting measure. For his part, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is pushing back against the endless loop of “managers managing managers.”
“Our management theme for 2023 is the ‘year of efficiency,’ and we’re focused on becoming a stronger and more nimble organization,” Zuckerberg said Wednesday in Meta’s fourth-quarter earnings release. “Next we’re working on flattening our org structure and removing some layers of middle management to make decisions faster.”
Meanwhile, Intel is trimming pay for higher-ups, including CEO Pat Gelsinger, following similar reductions in compensation for Apple CEO Tim Cook and Goldman Sachs chief David Solomon.
Companies might be targeting managers for layoffs for a few reasons.
Companies in industries like tech that saw record profits during the pandemic aggressively bulked up staff. But new workers need managers — and those managers then get their own managers, and so on, ad infinitum.
But the companies that over hired now find themselves in a different economic situation than the one they prepared for. With the economic tides turning and investors applying pressure to get lean, companies may start to zero in on management bloat. With thousands of workers hit by layoffs in recent weeks, it might just make sense to companies to ax a manager who suddenly has far fewer reports to manage.
Fewer managers also means less overhead. Cutting a few links from the chain of command also means fewer rounds of approval to get tangled up in before getting a project up and running. In this economy, companies can’t afford to move slowly; going “extremely hardcore,” as Elon Musk has demanded of Twitter workers who survived layoffs, is a guiding mantra.
One program manager who left Meta in September 2022 after 18 months told Insider he resigned because he was stifled by all the “managers managing managers.”
Above him, he said there was a manager, a senior manager, a department head, a director, a vice president, a chief business officer, and finally, the chief operating officer.
He said the primary goal of his department was “empire-building,” which meant driving up headcount as much as possible. He added that he probably worked just four hours a week in the role.
“There was almost this unwritten rule that you didn’t ask for more work,” he said. “Managers realize that they’re not really doing anything of import, and when you have someone that makes noise, I think that attracts unwanted attention.”
He added, “I’ve never been in an organization where it’s so hard to take responsibility.”
So what does this mean for managers now?
Zuckerberg summed it up pretty well for many CEOs during Meta’s earnings call Wednesday: “We closed last year with some difficult layoffs and when we did this, I said clearly that this was the beginning of our focus on efficiency and not the end.”
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