Congratulations! You’ve been Fired!

Have you seen this article in the NY Times? Congratulation! You’ve Been Fired! Dan Lyons shared some of his experience working at HubSpot, a tech company. Here is a little excerpt.

disrupted

..when you got fired, it was called “graduation.” We all would get a cheery email from the boss saying, “Team, just letting you know that X has graduated and we’re all excited to see how she uses her superpowers in her next big adventure.”

Dan Lyons in Disrupted

Okay, this is inconsiderate and cruel. I guess they are trying to put a positive spin on it, but I’d prefer the old pink slip any day. Anyway, the article and the follow on comments are quite entertaining. As a disgruntled former tech employee, I agree with his assessments 100%. Many companies no longer view employees as human. Now, companies just want to squeeze as much production as they can and replace as needed. I’m glad that I got out early and never had to go back.

Warning: anti-corporate rant ahead.

*Originally written in 2015. Updated for 2022. Back then, NYT was free online. Now, you need a membership. Layoffs are back. Many companies are laying workers off and it will get worse. 

Join the Cult

How would you like to join a company where everything is provided at the office? Free food and drink, dry cleaning, on-site clinic, massage, shuttle with WiFi, gym, shower and towels, concerts tickets, and more. You don’t need any work-life balance because you live at work. The less time you spend outside of work, the more productive (and indoctrinated) you will be.

You will be interacting with some of the smartest people on the planet and you are changing lives with your work. At least, that’s what the corporation would like you to believe. Your social life is at work and you don’t ever need to leave. It’s a good thing too because you’ll be slammed with so much work that 40 hours won’t be enough to finish them. Even if you complete all your assignments on time, you’d still need to be better than your coworkers. The annual review is coming up soon and if you stumbled this year, you just might “graduate” from your job.

This work-centric lifestyle might have been attractive to me when I was 22 and just starting out in life. Now, it sounds like jail.

*Wow, worked changed so much since 2015. The pandemic gave rise to working from home and many employees don’t want to go back to the office. These perks aren’t as attractive as the comfort of working from home. Corporations are trying to get people back in the office, though. If you’re reluctant, watch out for that pink slip.

Follow the money

Corporations aren’t all bad. They facilitate the invention of new technologies and create a lot of jobs. True, but the explosion of technology is making our lives way more complicated. Seriously, how many of these new gadgets are really essential? All these new shiny gadgets are making everyone spend a lot of money. Everyone is plugged in every minute of the day and there is no more downtime. Life was simpler and easier 20 years ago without all these apps and gadgets.

My real gripe is that only a small percentage of the money generated goes to the workers on the ground. The executives are mostly concerned with making money for themselves. Shareholders come in second, and workers a distant 3rd. Executive pay is out of hand. They get millions in bonuses even when the stock price craters. Workers are the first ones to feel the negative downturn because they’ll be the ones getting laid off while the executives pocket their bonuses. Laying people off increases productivity so that’s a good thing for shareholders and executives.

I’m glad I’m out

Truthfully, I find it hard to do a good corporate rant these days. I’ve been out of the workaday life for 10 years now and I can’t get worked up about it anymore. My mind is kind of funny because I forget most bad things easily. Life is much better now and I’ve moved on.

Anyway, I will check out Dan Lyons’ book and see if I enjoy it. It sounds like a fun read and it got many good reviews on Amazon. Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble

Are you working for a corporation? What’s your biggest gripe about your employer?

Feel free to gripe as much as you’d like in the comment. 🙂

Passive income is the key to early retirement. These days, I’m investing in commercial properties with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the United States. It’s been working so well that I’m planning to sell our rental condo so I can invest more. Go check them out!

Disclosure: We may receive a referral fee if you purchase or signup for a service through the links on this page.

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.

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48 thoughts on “Congratulations! You’ve been Fired!”

  1. I can connect well with that “following the money” title. This is true and all wealthy people know this. If their businesses or not following the money then they wouldn’t have businesses. People can get so comfortable at their jobs they never make a career shift and as a result their income never grows or remains about the same year to year. Following the money can mean anything but some experts suggest looking into a field your interest in then finding out within it what areas you would enjoy the most and provide a future income that fits your ideal lifestyle.

    Reply
  2. This post was originally published the week my company closed their local office. I’ve now been telecommuting full-time for more than six years. You’re absolutely right about the “perks” that serve only to tether you to your desk! Now I wouldn’t consider a job that didn’t let me work from home unless it was within walking distance to my house; a commute holds no appeal at all, and has been proven unnecessary.

    It’s wild to consider that we’re six years closer to FIRE than we were when this post went up. C’mon, VTI, do your thing…!

    Reply
  3. I believe you have a typo in the following sentence:
    “You will be ‘interacting’ with some of the smartest people on the planet and you are changing lives with your work”

    It should be ‘incarcerated’, not ‘interacting’.

    I too am an ex INTEL guy. I have recurring nightmares about going back to work there, but then I wake up and realize I am free. I still have lots of friends there, good people, who are now all worried about being one of the 12 thousand people to be let go. What they don’t realize is that if they are, it maybe a gift. The last thing I will say on the subject is that the CEO made the comment that they would hand out world class severance packages. Now if they only had world class management, there probably would have been no need for world class packages. And I am willing to bet that none of those responsible for the mediocrity and the lay offs will be included in the 12 thousand. Soooooo happy to be out.

    Reply
    • I heard that on NPR this morning. Maybe this will be an opportunity for some of my old co-workers to retire early. 🙂

      Reply
  4. One angle: The missus used to work for a medium sized business. They didn’t care about employee engagement at all. They just felt turnover, retraining, etc was a cost of business. For the most part, it seemed to work for them.

    I work for a large corporation. For the most part, I don’t have major complaints. The only issue is that while the company treats us well in terms of various benefits, intangibles, and a lot of miscellaneous things, save for typical salary/raise issues, they won’t hesitate to pink slip you out the door should the business needs arise. Though, even then, the severance packages I’m told are very good.

    Reply
  5. I love a corporate rant

    The politics suck, but the worst part is corporate jargon. “It’s not scalable” “cross departmental collaboration” “you need to come to work everyday” “blue sky” “spearhead”

    Like many other have already said, it is a means to an end for those of us who are willing to save!

    Reply
  6. Can’t thank you enough for these types of topics. This is the main reason I do want to ditch the corporate job early. Over the years 9 hour days become 10+, no lunches. Never feeling secure, appreciated or valued. The problem seems to cross industries and geographic regions.
    Keep up the discussions.

    Reply
  7. Sounds along the lines many big companies these days. The ability to be online or work from home has just meant work follows you everywhere. Are you working to live or living to work?

    I think that shareholders are entitled to their payments, as are workers (who should be paid more, as they are the ones who make things happen). But executives are not worth half, or even a quarter of what they are paid. $2M+ is an obscene amount of money when they aren’t actually creating the revenue. $500K buys you a decent whole place in most cities. Maybe it should be like $100k cash and $250k in shares that they can’t sell for 5 years, that would make them think long term.

    We cannot wait for the day when we don’t rely on an employer for our main source of income.

    Tristan

    Reply
    • I agree about being online. That was the main reason why I never got set up to work from home. I tried a few times and never got anything done. I can’t work when I’m at home when I was a corporate drone. Now working at home is okay.
      I think even $2M is okay. It’s just ridiculous that some get pay $10M+. That’s way too much.

      Reply
  8. The best thing when working for corporates is that they let you make good money in short time so that you can retire early if you like and move on to do what you want.

    Reply
  9. To me, working for corporate america was about as unsatisfying as it gets. I agree with other posters, it is a means to an end. But the key is to end it as soon as possible so you can get on with the rest of your life without constantly being under the thumb of a boss.

    Building up your own assets / income stream also provides real security for your family instead of the illusion that your job will never be in jeopardy. There is nothing worse then when work environments turn sour (they typically do at some point) and everyone is running scared, kissing butt, and putting up with a lot of political nonsense just to try and make sure they get to keep their job. If you have your own resources, you can just say adios when treated unfairly.

    Reply
  10. I’ve been working for a large corporation for ten years now. Yes it is very challenging and draining but I have found that the benefits and financial rewards are extremely high compared with smaller companies. The key to surviving is to understand what it is and what it isn’t. It is a means to an end and often results in doing very mundane or completely absurd tasks for months or even years. I’ve often thought, “this doesn’t make sense but if they are going to keep paying me to do it…. then I’ll keep doing it.” (of course this is after I have voiced my opinion and offered a better solution) It is very clear that many decisions are not made to simply get the best or correct answer. There are layers of motivation including trying to agree with the boss, trying to champion an idea from a group you like as compared with a group you don’t like, supporting an idea that makes one’s own workload smaller etc. Its quite a job in itself to navigate the politics and juggle all the work! Its not a 40 hour per week type of situation.

    Reply
  11. Tech companies don’t have a monopoly on ruthless, dehumanizing business practices (often euphemistically described as “wringing inefficiencies out of the system”). Nor do corporations in general.

    Reply
  12. I’ve been all over the map with corporate, small business, for-profit, non-profit. The thing I hated most about the corporate environment was less about the way the business was run (mediocre to poor, just like every other one!) and more about the way the people employed there seemed to be a whole level less competent and more petty than at any other job. The best thing about it was I got an early start at aiming for financial stability because I realized really early on that this was no life, not for the long term, anyway!

    Reply
  13. They are not fooling anyone with those emails and the employees who remain will criticize the company behind HR’s back. Im still working for the man, and its ok so far. Happy you found a happy place now Joe. Good luck.

    Reply
  14. Posts like these give me more consolation that I bailed out of the tech industry to enter the medical field. Unfortunately, the medical industry is also becoming more administrative-like and impersonal (I work under a large medical corporation).

    The great thing about the FIRE mentality is that it is agnostic to whatever profession you are in.

    Reply
  15. You do realize that if you own a company stock, you are a part owner in that company? I remember other discussions on how great stock dividends are, and its great if a stock goes up. I don’t remember anyone saying that dividends were just too much and more should go to the employees. Funny how the same thing looked at in different ways can change. No?

    Reply
    • Yes, it’s much better being part owner than the worker. However, I still think the execs still are overcompensated. Their interest doesn’t necessarily align with the stock holders’ interest.

      Reply
  16. Hi joe!
    After 17 years of working for a major airline ( first five were great) I was laid off! I thought I’d retire from this company! Out of 40 employees I was the only one who took a package & left! I went to work for 4 years at a small recruiting business. I learned it then started my own at home! I just retired after 20 wonderful years at home. It was the best working from home! Flexible schedule to be at home for my daughter & able to take care of elderly parents. It was a bit scary at first but how thankful I am I got laid off!
    Cynthia

    Reply
  17. I’ve worked for a private firm and for the government during my short career. Can’t say there were many redeeming features of either place. I always treated a job as the means to an end and tried to enjoy the challenging technical aspects of the work and ignore the BS parts of the job.

    Reply
      • Rule #1-never ever take anything personal @ work. Pack your own parachute, look out for #1-you.
        The BS is/was hard to ignore, for sure. Pet names I had for old jobs-the pecking order at thee “old hen house”, or “dysfunction junction”. Ha, ha.

        Reply
  18. And I really thought all you tech workers were at the top of the food chain! Sadly, # 3 after the stockholders sounds about right.
    I don’t know how anyone can go into these start-ups, or any company or business, and not wonder if these managers/owners/execs above you are going to take you with them (up the ladder) or just use you up/spit you out. I’d be wondering that everyday. You need to ask yourself, “What’s in this for me, really?” Will this get me somewhere? Look great on my resume’?
    Any worker today needs to look at that big picture.
    I pulled this line from a lyric of the song “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve-“You’re a slave to money, then you die.”
    Great post, Joe!

    Reply
    • I didn’t realize the point until a few years into my career. If I’d known, I would put #1 first and saved even more. The execs are looking out for #1 and workers should know that from the get go.

      Reply
  19. It’s so true Joe! I worked for many tech companies in my working days, and everything you said is true. It *is* like jail. The expectations of your productivity are out of control…60 hours a week will barely cut it. You’ll probably only get ‘OK’ performance reviews working 60 hours a week.

    The people who do well in that environment are the ones that live-and-breath their work. They’re *always* at work, day and night.

    Thank goodness I’m free from that nightmare.

    Reply
    • Yeah, the stress in that kind of environment is very high. Being at work day and night is fine when you’re young and just starting out, but it’s a quick road to burning out. Once you have a family, you won’t want to spend 60+ hours per week at work anymore.

      Reply
    • Yeah, ageism is getting worse. Engineers in particular needs to have an exit strategy in place. Careers won’t last 30-40 years anymore.

      Reply
    • I’m curious how demographics play into this. One of the common themes is that with the baby boomers heading into retirement, there will be a lack of skilled labour. Will corporations be more reluctant to give up talent?
      Of course, there’s also conflicting theme is that baby boomers are needing to retire later due to finances/lack of a pension.

      Reply
  20. I have worked in the corporate world for more than 20 years. Some of the companies were multibillion, some where multimillion. Last summer, I was laid off after 6 years. The company is owned by a husband and wife and was having financial problems. So they decided to essentially cut the senior leadership team (heads of sales, operations, and IT).

    Once I got over the shock, I decided to go into business for myself. I’m adding my CPA to my other credentials, setting up an RIA, and expanding my management consulting business.

    I’m also investing in real estate.

    So far, so good.

    Sites like yours motivate me to keep moving forward. Thanks for everything.

    Reply
    • Great job with your transition. It sounds like you landed on your feet. A lot of people have a much harder time after getting laid off. Congratulations and good luck.

      Reply
  21. Great post and topic. The quasi religious fervor and “Esprit d’Corp” these start-ups push (often led by a personality cult televangelist type CEO/”visionary”) seem like a highly predictable set up for a major disappointment and subsequent disillusionment. At least it does to people in their late 30s and early 40s. We have been there, done that.

    My advice: Keep the job and career in perspective. A job, like money and so many things in life (hobbies, side interests, exercise routines, etc.) make a great slave, but a terrible master. If you’re working at one of these start-ups, improve your skills, keep your network fresh and constantly growing, save for future long term goals and enjoy the ride. It may make you wealthy, but more likely, it may be a short (2-3 years) stint leaving you with some very expensive toilet paper (worthless stock options or equity) and hard to change income expectations. RTB40 affirms this perspective quite nicely.

    Cheers!
    Thomas James
    myIRAhack.com

    Reply
    • Oh, I never liked the pep rally even in high school. It is such a waste of time. Just let me work. 🙂
      Yeah, a job is just a way to make money. Don’t drink the Kool-aid too much because you’ll get old at some point.

      Reply
  22. Ugh corporations are the WORST. I hate the rigid bureaucracy. I’m in an entry level program through the end of the year and there is NO WAY I’ll be able to get out early. Even though my dream job is coming open. The one I’d be happy to do and super productive. But noooo I have to stay in this shitty position and do nothing for 5 more months. Shoot me. /rant

    Reply
    • Sorry to hear that. The bureaucracy is one of the worse thing about working in a big corp. Maybe you should try a start up. 🙂 Anyway, I’d plan to change job every 2-3 years and work on an exit strategy. You can’t count on a long career anymore. Don’t get burned out too fast. Good luck!

      Reply
  23. Corporations aren’t all bad. To me, they largely just provide a means to an end. But I get satisfaction out of my work. My goal is to work as hard as I can, advance my career and make as much as I can, and I should hopefully I get out of it what I put in. I’m planning to retire early like you, so my time is limited thankfully! Thanks for the post, Joe.

    The Green Swan

    Reply
    • Glad to hear you’re planning to get out early. I would tell young engineers to at least have a plan in place. You can’t count on a 40 years career anymore. Good luck!

      Reply
  24. Your post hit something home that’s quite personal to me at the moment. The corporate world is really heading in a absurd direction — partly also because of all the technology we’re inventing. We as workers are gradually, but surely being abstracted into data. Hence, no longer human entities and hence, all replaceable.

    Another thing I’d say that not sure many have said is that, engineering (software especially ) now should not be concocted as prestigious as everyone’s making it seems. Yes, the salary can be great. But two points stand against its “gloriousness.” First, what you pointed out where employers simply work people to the bones to the point of burn out is happening a lot in tech sector (and in others too…). Second, engineers (definitely in software and IT) are being readily replaced and/or off shored. You know what else gets off shored so easily? Manufacturing and such. We certainly don’t see outsourcing happening so readily with lawyers, doctors. Maybe that’s next…

    That was a bit of a rant. Sorry. All in all, I share your sentiment.

    Reply
    • Corporations seem to value programmers less and less. I guess it is due to a combination of things. There are a lot more college educated engineers now. The job has become much more niche. You just work on a little part of the project and you are a cog that’s easily replaceable. I think engineers in the old days were more well rounded. Thanks for the rant. I needed a little help today. 🙂

      Reply

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