Massive Layoffs Through the Lenses of Employees

In the past months, starting in January 2023, we have heard a lot about massive layoffs in the tech industry. In addition to the official statements in which the reasons were carefully formulated, along with the striking figures published by the media, it was difficult to find and hear the other side of the story - from the point of view of the employees.

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tech layoffs

Illustration: Lenka Tomašević

Even if one of the former employees decided to share their experience on personal social media accounts, such as LinkedIn or Instagram, within a few days the post would disappear. As one of the interviewees in this article confirmed to us, she was “suggested” to remove the footage. 

This is another reason why people who have been fired feel alone in this experience, in addition to a kind of humiliation, impaired self-confidence and concern for existence in a time when it is increasingly difficult to secure a dignified life for themselves and their family. 

It was only possible to find out who had been fired over the past six months in internal circles, and we relied on them to find interlocutors who would talk about their experience and tell the other side of the story. 

What do massive layoffs in tech look like from the point of view of employees? 

In a previous article that dealt with this topic, we wrote about the main reasons that companies cite for mass layoffs. The most common ones are reductions in business costs or overemployment in 2020. 

However, many companies are already announcing predictions related to how many jobs they will automate in the coming period, or, more popularly said, “replace with artificial intelligence.” 

For example, in the latest survey published by The Guardian , BT plans to reduce the number of employees by 40% by 2030, of which 10,000 jobs will be replaced by AI. 

Another example is IBM, whose CEO said  in a statement to Bloomberg that it can automate about 7,800 jobs thanks to artificial intelligence, and will pause hiring for positions that are “replaceable.” 

Although these figures seem worrying by themselves, the effect is even stronger when you realize that these are all individual lives that will be, and already are, affected by these decisions. 

So, what do those who have received this news in recent months say about it? 

The answer we received most often from the interlocutors we contacted was: 

  • It’s really important for people to hear the other side! However, I’m not sure I’m the right person for that conversation, because in fact I know very little about the circumstances surrounding my dismissal. I don’t even know if these are massive layoffs – that’s how vague the whole situation is to me. I’m not sure how many inputs I can give on this topic.  
  • It’s a tough place, I don’t know what to say. The whole situation is very… Strange. I don’t know how many of us are there and attracting more attention to it… I don’t know how much I want to be the center of attention.  
  • Nothing is clear to me, really. I’m totally in the dark about what happened. But yes, I received very little information about it, the whole experience of getting fired was terrible. 

In other words, getting fired was a shock to many of them, and the fact that they didn’t get an adequate explanation makes them feel even more confused, in addition to their self-esteem being shaken, and probably their existence questioned. 

However, one of the interviewees we contacted replied: “The company silenced me about this, so I’m very happy to be able to share my experience.” 

The identity of the interlocutor is known to the editorial board of this portal, but in order to protect her, in this text we will not reveal her name, nor the name of the company for which she worked. Her testimony illustrates what the process looked like and how it affected her. 

We convey the conversation with her in its entirety. 

“I had to go on sick leave because of burnout, and I was fired” 

WEBMIND: Could you have guessed that would happen? 

NN: To give some context, 2022 was quite difficult for the corporate world, in the sense that everyone made certain business plans at the beginning of the year that they failed to keep up with due to inflation and market changes. It is important to note that two months before my dismissal, I was on burnout sick leave, because I was wearing multiple hats. I was a person in four positions. I was a trusted person to them, the second in the hierarchy in the Novi Sad team. We had constant conversations that I needed to reduce the amount of work, because I could no longer handle everything. 


I went on sick leave caused by burnout, that is, they called it "adjustment disorder". This may sometimes be classified as work-related injuries in our lifespan because it was directly related to the amount of work and treatment I had.

I was on sick leave that was supported, forced and prescribed by my psychiatrist, endocrinologist, gynecologist and general practitioner, because I had serious health problems in all these fields. The company insisted that I present the reasons why I go on sick leave in front of the CEO and Chief People Officer, which I now find completely bizarre. At that meeting, I got a short answer from them that they hoped I would get better and they asked the manager to stay and told me that I could go. I knew at that moment they would start thinking about how they were going to fire me or something. 


The company I worked for was bought by another company. We were told there wouldn't be any layoffs. I was still on sick leave. Through this private equity, they were told who to keep and who not to keep.

Towards the end of my sick leave, I received a message on Saturday, in which I was invited to an interview on Monday morning. I didn’t get an answer to the question of what the conversation was going to be about. When I showed up, my manager and HR were waiting for me, whose first words were: “I’m very sorry to meet you like this.” I was fired as a tech surplus. I was told that I did not meet the metrics, that they were not satisfied with my performance. I told them not to insult my intelligence and that it was something else, because I was a top performer, I was in negotiations to take over the Belgrade team, I led the team, I worked a lot of jobs and it was illogical to say that I do not meet metrics and that I am not good enough for work. What I found out was that the dismissal was because I published stories during my sick leave and because of my bad reputation by my colleagues from the Belgrade team. The company was toxic at a level where senior management recounted to employees what was being said at meetings, and I fell into the batch of people who were recounted because I wasn’t very interested in hanging out with colleagues, i was interested in my job. 


The whole process was designed to make you feel dehumanized. You spend two and a half years there, you trained those people, and you weren't given the opportunity to say goodbye to them, to tell them you were fired.

I didn’t want to sign the dismissal, I wanted to consult with my lawyer and, in response to that, they posted my dismissal on the bulletin board, which is something that should not be done, because on that paper was written my severance pay, my identification number, my address… 

WEBMIND: Before that happened, what was the atmosphere like at work? 

NN: There was an awful lot of intimidation. There were clear metrics for success, that is, everything was motivated by money. If you don’t make that much money by the end of the month, you go to the interview to see why you failed to do it. In a way, everything was viewed through quantity. We had a CEO who didn’t know how to run a business, the only thing that mattered to him was money. We had people on the New York team threaten people on the Serbian team: “If you do something, you’re next to get fired,” and things like that. It was getting worse because people didn’t know what was going on. There were rumors about the acquisition, but no one confirmed anything. When it became official, it was clear to everyone that something was going to change. However, New York’s management has made people say that nothing will change, which, again, is an insult to intelligence. 

WEBMIND: How did they communicate with you? 

NN: False compassion. Senior management didn’t communicate with me even though they communicated with me on a daily basis. 


When you get caught in that system and you've been around for over two years, you start to feel like you owe them something. It takes a lot of therapy to understand that it shouldn't work that way.

I was thrown out of the building with the words, “Faster, faster, don’t make it difficult for me,” addressed to a person who had just lost her job. I was completely enraged and posted an Instagram video on my personal profile, which my colleagues forced me to take down because “it leaves a bad image of me and my future employer will see it and think who knows what.” My future employer, who saw the video, asked me if I felt okay enough to start working and that he was really sorry that I went through it. 

WEBMIND: How did you feel after you stopped working for the company? 

NN: The first feeling you get after such a dismissal is really depression. And even if you were a mentally stable person, you’d still get a feeling of sadness, like you’re in a parallel universe, because you see that something is happening, people around you are telling you something absolutely different, you encounter stories where your dismissal is justified and where people act as if it makes sense that you found yourself in the situation you found yourself in. You try to digest it the best you can. To this day, when I talk about it, I try to talk so openly, without pointing fingers at my employer, at colleagues, but I still feel like someone who is deeply enraged and hates that company. I really think that the company has brought me a lot, because it is a specific industry that I am in now, and now I am in a much higher position in a much better company and I am not angry with the previous company, but I am completely disappointed in the system. And I’m disappointed with the corporate human race that I’m separating from the regular human race, because I consider them to be yes men and scared for their existence to the point that they have to shut down their brains and become pawns of sorts, which, if it ever happens to me, is over. 

WEBMIND: How did you find yourself in the job market, did you find a new job that you are happy with? 

NN: When you do your job well, a good voice is heard. You work in an industry that connects you with different spheres, companies, other industries, different people from different parts of the world. When my dismissal was announced, when it was visible on LinkedIn, I got a job offer. I worked with many clients that I made a good impression on, but I still went to a company where colleagues from my previous company worked. Also, now I have free time, to send you these messages, to go to Cetinjska and buy a record, to go to the store and find a T-shirt… I don’t have that pressure and micromanagement that I had before. 


When I started at the company, my PTSD was obvious. I was terribly afraid that I would never be able to give that creative and that ability and that knowledge that I had provided to the company. I felt so sucked out after all, and I listened to all sorts of comments about myself and it was so painful and horrifying in a sense that I was very afraid when I got a new job.

I even thought about spending my savings and not working in the near future because I was so scared. Everything went well, fortunately, and I think I’m one of the few who managed to get a job within three weeks. Knowing other colleagues who have been fired, I have had a lot of luck, abilities and good contacts, and I am aware that this is a privileged position compared to most people. 

A journalist by day and a podcaster by night. She's not writing to impress but to be understood.