TheAmericanemployeeisincreasinglynolongeranemployeeat?

all。

byCarter?

Maness

LastNovember,attheofficesofGawkerMedia,aseriesofeditorsweresummoned,onebyone,viadirectmessageonSlack,thecompany’sinner-officechatandcollaborationplatform,toaconferenceroom。

Theexecutivemanagingeditorwantedaword,theyweretold。

Workerswhohadn’tbeenmessagedbegantonoticethatthenamesofthesummoned,everpresentontheircontactlists,weregoingdimandthendisappearingfromSlack。

“Ihadnoidealayoffswerecoming?

—?

noneofusdid,”aformermemberoftheeditorialstafftoldme。

“AfterIreturnedtomydesk,mySlackaccounthadbeendisabled。

Iguessthefearwasthatemployeeswhohadbeenletgowouldspreadwordtotheircoworkers。

Butit’sGawkerafterall,aplacewheresecrets,liesandevenclosed-doorlayoffseventuallycomeintothe?

light。



Therewasnoofficialannouncement,memo,orreallyanycommunicationtoexplainwhatwashappeninguntilafterthelayoffshadbeencompleted。

Thejobterminations,likethebulkofthemediaoutlet’swork,werefirstexperiencedbymostGawkeremployeesindigital,ratherthanphysicalspace。

Deletingtheaccountswasmerelythecompany’sattempttoassertcontrolofitsofficespace,andSlack’sroleinthelayoffssimplyexemplifiedwhereworkwasactuallybeingdone;italsoservesasanindicatorof,formanyemployeesinthecomingyears,whereitwill?

end。

Slackisntdown。

Youvebeenfired。



—?

@fmanjoo

OnTwitter,thedeactivatedSlackaccountbecameawaytodemonstratefearofbeinglaidoff。

“IsmySlackdownoramIfired?

”isagoodjokeinaFreudiansensebecauseitrevealsadeepertruthabouthowtenuousjobshavebecome。

Before,aworkermightarrivetotheofficetofindherkeycardnolongerworks,ortheirdeskcontentsboxedandready,asecurityguardwaitingtoescortthembacktotheparkinglot。

It’samessyimage,badformoraleand,now,easilyavoidedbyquietlydeletingaworker’saccesstotheirworkandcolleagues。

Astheopenoffice,withitscacophonouslackofprivacyandfalsepromiseofimprovedcollaboration,isreplacedbyavirtualonerunningonlaborandbenefitsplatformslikeSlackandZenefits(lol),theAmericanemployeeisincreasinglynolongeranemployeeatall,butsomeonegrantedtheprivilegetoworkbyanetworkadministrator,anopportunityjustaseasily?

revoked。

Jobsecurity,apillarofAmericanbusinessasfarbackasthelatenineteenthcentury,begantoerodeinthenineteen-seventiesasaconfluenceofglobalization,weakenedunions,andsoaringexecutivebonusestiltedthescalestowardthewealthyandpowerful。

Theeightiessawtheriseofconsultingfirmswhichspecializedinlayoffs;armedwithnew“efficiencystrategies,”thesecompaniesadvisedtheirclientsonhowtobecomemoreprofitableand,insomecases,evenhandledjobterminationsforthem,neatlycoincidingwiththeReagan-erariseinlayoffs。

JobterminationsbecameenoughofatrendthattheNewYorkTimesranarecurringcolumn,“LayoffsThis?

Week。



Iftheseventiesembracedglobalizedmanufacturing,whichreliedonoverseasfactorieswiththeirownstaffs,theninetiessawanexplosionofforeignlaborasworkcouldbedoneoffshoreforafractionofthecost。

ThisledtoasystematicreorganizationincorporateAmericawheresomecompanies,onceteemingwithmega-departmentsfilledwithlifelongemployees,weredownsizedto“essentialpersonnel,”oftentheverypeopletaskedwithmanagingtheoutsourcedlaborreplacingtheircolleagues。

InJuly1993,IBMcommencedthelargestmassterminationinhistory,endingsixtythousandjobsatonce,toppingSears-Roebuck,whoterminatedfiftythousandjobsearlierthatyear。

TheClintoneraalsosawtheriseof“goingpostal,”asgunviolenceinAmericanworkplacesbecameatrend。

Onecouldmaybeattributethis,inaroundaboutway,tothelossofjobsecurityduetoglobalizationandautomation。

Thenineties,asyou’venodoubtbeenreminded,wereaneconomicboomtimeinAmerica,butasthescaleofmanycompaniesgrewalongwiththeirprofits,sodidthescopeoftheirlayoffs。

BillClintonleftofficeand,barelytwomonthslater,theeconomybegantocollapse。

OtherthantheU。

S。

PostalService,Boeing(aviation),Ford(automotive),Lucent(telecommunications)andKmart(acompanywhichnowapparentlysellsgoodsfromotherbankruptcompanies)broughtthelargestmasslayoffsoftheearlyaughts。

Severalyearslater,anotherwaveoccurred,thetsunamigeneratedbyanearthquakeofeconomiccatastrophe。

Duringthe2008financialcrisis,Citigroupdroppedfiftythousandemployees。

BankofAmericafollowedwiththirtythousandin2011。

In2009,GeneralMotorshadtolayoffforty-seventhousandinthebiggestautoworkerterminationin?

history。

Theseareunseemlynumbers,figuresbestavoidedbyslowlycuttingjobsoverweeks,months,evenyears。

Stealthlayoffsarehowcorporationsterminatenow。

They’vebeencommonsince2008asbanks,learningfromtheirconferenceroombloodbathsintheeighties,keptthingsquietbychippingawayratherthanslaughteringtheirworkforce;evenifcutsresultinthesamenumberofjobslost,stealthlayoffsdon’telicitthetypeofpublicrelationshitwhichcomesfromafiftythousand-personbloodlet。

Yahooisamasterofthismethod;it’sbeenkeepingitsemployeesinastateofperma-terrorfornearlyadecade,evenwhilestillengagingintheoccasionalthrowbacklayoffaswhenitshuttereditsstableof‘digitalmagazines’last?

week。

By2012,thelastavailableyearofmasslayoffdatafromtheBureauofLaborStatistics(becausetheprogramitselfwasterminatedbyPresidentObamaaspartoftheBalancedBudgetandEmergencyDeficitControlAct),therewereoverseventeenthousandeventswheremorethanfiftypeoplewerelaidoffatonce。

Manyofthese,giventheirvolumeandthephysicallayoutofoffices,whichtendedtofavorclusteringemployeesinopenarrangementswithoutprivacy,tookplaceinconferencerooms(ofteninbatches;safegohere,terminatedoverthere)orvia?

email。

Astheninetiessawtheriseofvirtualofficesbasedaroundemailandwebpages,workerstransitionedtoascenariowheretheiremailaddressesbecamemorethanthereplacementforaphysicalmailbox。

Acorporatejobbecameofficialwhenyoureceivedyouremailaddress:Yourfirstmessageintroducedyourselftocoworkerswithacompany-wideblast;yourlastwasagoodbyenotetothosesamepeople。

Thenyouremailhistory,andyou,wereerased。

Inbetween,perhaps,thousandsofmessages:projectsinvariousphasesofcompletion,proofofwork,meetingnotes。

Those,morethanyourpresenceinacubicle,weretheevidenceofyouremploymentandsubsequentvaluetoa?

company。

Ourwayoflayingoffnowreflectsourmodesofcommunication。

ThestoryofaFloridarestaurantcanningitsentirestaffviatextmessagebroughtouttheCarrieBradshawPost-itreferences,butnoonewassurprisedatthedeliverymethod。

Zirtual,avirtualassistantcompany,announceditwasfoldinginanovernightmassemailwithnowarning。

GeorgeZimmer,ofMen’sWarehouseguaranteesandthecompany’sfounder,chairman,spokesperson,essentiallyfoundouthewasfiredviaemail。

RafaBenítez,thecoachofRealMadrid(asoccerteamofsomesort?

),foundouthe’dbeenreplacedwhentheowneroftheteamannounceditinapressconference。

ATwitteremployeereceivedthenewsafteraYahoonotificationonhisphonesenthimtoatweetfromJackDorsey,thecompany’sCEO,announcingeightpercentofitsworkforcewas?

cut。

ThebusinesscommunicationapplicationSlackappearstobeanotheremail-killer,yetitscombinationofarchivedconversationandfiles,syncingamongmultipledevices,andsearchthatactuallyworkscarriesthemakingsofamoretransformativeofficetechnology,onethat’schangingboththewayworkerscollaborateandhowtheyareeventuallylaidoff。

Likeemail,Slackrewardsactiveemployeeswhoasserttheirpresencethroughhowfrequentlytheypost。

Itprovidesasimpleplatformforgroupcommunication,somethingemailclaimstodowhenit’sonlyreallycreatingmulti-threadedheadaches。

Thecompany’sself-professedgoalistomakeworkeasierasaresultofimprovingtheefficiencyofateam,ataskaccomplishedbyturningdepartmentsintohashtaggedchannelsandmaintainingatransparentrecordofeverythingthathappenswithin?

them。

Formanyworkers?

—?

innarrowbuthighlyindicativeindustries?

—?

Slackhasalreadyshiftedtheideaofphysicalofficespaceintoanidealizeddigitalversionofitself。

Andifventurecapitalhasanythingtosayaboutit,therestoftheworldisn’tfarbehind。

Ratherthanactualrooms,employeescongregateinthesechannels;theygossipoverdirectmessagesandbuildoffice-specificlanguagesusingemoji。

SlackplayeditsroleintheGawkerlayoffsbecauseitwasboththeorganization’sprimarymodeofcommunicationandofficespace;terminationshavetransitionedfromclustersofdeskstodigitalcommunities,malleableteamswithabuilt-ininstitutionalmemorythat’sunbeholdentophysical?

space。

Aworkerlaidoffbylosingheraccessto#sadmarketingwillbereplacedbysomeonewhonotonlyoccupiesheractualdeskbuthasaccesstoeverydocumentshe’suploaded,everymeetingsheattendedandeventhepithyasidesaboutthatverymeeting;allthegifsandin-jokesandHamiltonsdlfkjsd,sure,butalsothecontactsrelevanttothejob,theadvantageofbeingabletoinstantlycatch-upbecausetheinformationhasbeenelegantlyarchivedandarrangedforfutureworkers。

Employeeswhoseself-worthdependsontheiruniqueknowledgeoftheorganizationnolongerhavethatbenefit。

Insteadofadisorganizedseriesofprivateinboxes,thereisnowavaluablepublicrecord。

Thejobisabodyofwork;thepersondoingitismoreinterchangeablethan?

ever。

Alayoffoccurswhenaworkerlosesaccesstoacommunicationplatform。

Thisstructurealsoappliestotheincreasinglylargeclassofindependentcontractorswho,becausetheirapp-basedcompaniesrefusetoacknowledgetheirstatusasactualemployees,experienceterminationthroughdeactivation。

AnUberdriverwhoratespoorly?

—?

thebarfordismissalisasecretbutisthoughttobearatingofaround4。

6outoffive?

—?

couldopentheapptofindhisprivilegesrevokedwithoutexplanation。

Theplatformwhichenableshimtodohisjobcarriesnoguarantee,and,asaworker,hisrightsareessentiallythatofafreelancer。

Isgettingkickedoffaservicethesameasbeinglaidoff?

AsUberdriverspushtounionizeinWashingtonandCalifornia,thecompanyremainshilariouslyobtusewhenitcomestoitsrelationshipwithdrivers。

“Youraccounthasbeenflaggedafinaltimeforhavingsignificantlymorecancellationsthanotherpartners,”readonedriver’sreasonfordeactivation。

“WebelieveUbermaynotbetherightleadgenerationtoolforyou。

Wewishyouthebest,butwehavedecidedtodiscontinueourpartnership。



Acursoryexplorationintoexactlyhowbigthegigeconomyhasbecomeyieldednodefinitiveanswers,butthecurrentlaborpooliscertainlyinthemillions。

(Arecentsurveyclaimedforty-fivemillionAmericanworkers,aboutoneinfive,participateingigwork,yetthisincludeslaborerssupplementingfull-timejobs。

)Theramificationsofpeople,whetherbychoiceornecessity,workingformultiplecompaniesforshorterperiodsoftimeseemstobefuddleAmericansystemstweakedthroughoutthetwentiethcenturywiththeideaoffullemploymentandjobsecurity。

Callitthenewfeudalismorwhateveryouwant,Uber’sconceptionofemploymentisbeginningofthenewruleratherthansomegrandhistoricalaberration。

Pre-unionAmericawasbuiltonwagelaborbasedaroundcontingentworkthat,bynature,wouldcomeandgo。

Theoriginalmeaningoflayoffwasa“temporaryreleasefromemployment”duetoseasonalorproject-basedcycles。

It’sonlythetechnologythat’sgotten?

better。

Zenefits,asoftwarecompanywhichmanagestheadministrationofhumanresourcesandbenefits,hascreatedaplatformthatundercutsthelabyrinthofpaperworkandrelationshipstraditionallyassociatedwithahire。

(Andisnowsortofcollapsingbecauseitundercutthesystemalittletoohard,but。

)Anewemployeelogspreferencesforhealthinsurance,taxesand401(k),registerstheirprofile,andthen,withtheclickofa“hire”buttonbyanetworkadministrator,getsconnectedtotheirbenefitswithinanall-in-onedashboard。

Currentregulatorynightmaresaside,it’sreallyawinforbothemployersandworkers。

Companiescaneasilyhireandkeeptheiremployees’benefitsuptodate,whilelaborcansimplyupdatetheirpreferenceswithoutsufferingthroughbureaucraticdepression。

Zenefitsalsodoesforjobterminationwhatitdoesforhiring。

Whereasafewyearsago,alayoffmeantseveringanemployee’shealthinsurance,401(k)administrationandpayrollprocessingseparately?

—?

anhour-drainingseriesofpaperwork,scanning,faxingandfollow-upcalls?

—?

accesstobenefitscannowbecutbyuncheckingabox。

Ratherthaninvestinginanemployee,ownerscanaddanddropbasedonwhattheircompanyneedsinreal-time。

Thiseaseoflabor-swappingmakeshumanresourcesfeellikefantasysports。

IfI’mrunningacompanyandthedatatellsmeIneedreboundswhileyouprovideassists,I’msendingyoubacktothebench。

Yourpreviousstats,intheguiseofhealthcareand401(k),remainassociatedwithyouraccount,andyou’rewelcometocarrythosesigneddocumentstoyournextjob,aslongastheyuseZenefits,too。

You’llalsostillbeabletoaccessyourvacationandtime-offlog,whichtheplatformsuggestscanbeusedfor“unemploymentdatapurposes。

”Butreallywouldn’tthattimebeinfinite?

Zenefitswon’tadministeryourexitinterview,butI’dstillbeworriedifIworkedintraditionalHR。

JustastheUberdriverwillbereplacedbyarobotic,“better”versionofhimself,sowillhumanresourcesdepartments。

Zenefitssoftwareclassifiesterminationaseithervoluntary(quitter)orinvoluntary(fired),andcanevenmarkyouasregrettedloss(theyconsideryourlayoffprofoundbecauseyou“hadhighpotential”orwerea“keycontributorwithasignificantimpact”)ornon-regretted(youwerenotregarded,basically,at?

all)。

“Thewillingnessofworkerstodiscardstatusprivilegeslikedesksandofficesisnotjustasignofgivingintoexecutivedemandsforcostcontrol,”writesNikilSavalinCubed:ASecretHistoryOfTheWorkplace,hisexcellenthistoryoftheAmericanoffice。

“Italsosuggeststhatthecareerpaththatdefinedthewhite-collarworkerforgenerations?

—?

fromthecubicletothecorneroffice,orevenfromthestenopooltothewalkdowntheaisle?

—?

iscomingtoaclose,andthatanewsortofwork,asyetunformed,istakingits?

place。



Jobsecuritywillbelefttodecayinthesupplyclosetsofskyscrapers。

Thefutureofficespaceiswithinachatapplication;futuredepartmentsarevirtualroomswhereworkistransparentlyarchivedforfutureversionsofyou。

Thismeansjobrolestakeonamoreconcretemeaningwhilethepersondoingthejobislessimportantthanever。

Thebestfull-timeemployeeisanefficientroleplayer;theworker,tiedtoherbenefits,isfreetofloatwhereshechooses,stitchingtogetherpart-timejobs,connectingtohealthinsurancewhereit’soffered,cuttingbacktheredtapewhichmakesworkingforsomeonenewsuchanarduousprocess。

Theworkeristiedtoherpastthroughemployerperformanceratings,which,alongwithcertaindigitizedformsliketheW9and1099,willfollowfromjobtojob。

The“non-essentialworker”tagorabaddriverratingcouldbecomeourmodernScarlet?

Letters。

Workitselfalreadysharesthequalitiesanapplication。

Likeemailortheofficedoorbeforeit,theworkeropenstheirplatformwhentheywanttomakemoney。

Theirprofileseamlesslyconnectstootherapps,theSlackchannelwhichallowscollaborationwithotherprofiles,theZenefitsdashboardwhichensurestheirhealthinsuranceisvalidiftheycrashtheirUbercar。

Layoffsarenowthedenialofaccessratherthanaperson’sseverancefromatraditionaljob。

Soitgoes。