The Second Chance: What It's Really Like to Return to a Startup That Laid You Off

As we continue to navigate the ever-changing business landscape, one topic that remains at the forefront of many conversations is layoffs. The landscape is constantly evolving, and layoffs have become an increasingly common reality for many companies.

Losing your job can be one of the most devastating experiences of your professional life. The uncertainty of the future, the fear of financial instability, and the experience of rejection can take a significant, psychological toll on anyone. This is especially true when you're laid off from a startup, a place where you may have invested a significant amount of your time, energy, and passion.

However, what happens when you're called back to the same startup that let you go? This may seem like an unlikely scenario, but it's not unheard of. Startups can be volatile environments, and things can change rapidly. In this article, we'll explore the experience of an employee being laid off from a startup and then called back to the same company.

The former employee, who wished to remain anonymous, worked for a very famous health tech before being laid off due to budget constraints. During our conversation, they shared their experience and insights on the realities of layoffs and how they have impacted their attitudes towards employers.

“I was part of the product team, and when I was laid off, it left only one person out of four. They called me back because going from four to one wasn't sustainable. They wanted to give it a second shot because I had been doing good work, but it wasn't translating into a huge impact.

Since none of it was public, nobody knows what happened, I was okay coming back.”

A company that has undertaken layoffs, undergoes a lot of cultural changes within the organisation. The shift can be gradual or abrupt, positive or negative, and can have a significant impact on the employees and the overall success of the company.

“When I joined back, the culture shifted to be very performance-driven and stressful due to the funding winter. Even after coming back, I left after 4 months because it was unsustainable and not worth it. As a health tech company, we were stretched too thin.

I haven't taken a break in a long time, even working 12-14 hour days on weekends. It had become an unspoken expectation that everyone was always available, and you’d feel bad if you weren't working. It got unsustainable, and even on weekends, you couldn't switch off. Plus, the business wasn't doing great.”

This change was not sudden at the health tech whose north star is - Health for performance and longevity.

The employee further discussed how the company reached that stage “In the early days when we had ample funding, we were quite lavish with our expenses. We gave away expensive items as part of our promotional giveaways, all funded by venture capitalists. However, as time went on, the focus shifted to being more performance-driven and cost-conscious. Every expense was scrutinized and questioned for its necessity. We were constantly looking for ways to reduce costs on tools and equipment, and finding hacks to optimize our spending. This shift also brought in key performance indicators (KPIs) and weekly calls to monitor progress. Prior to this, things had been smooth sailing without such formalities. This trend of performance-driven cultures with a focus on cost optimization seems to be happening everywhere.”

Another employee who worked at a gaming studio based in China discussed how some employers have no other option than laying off, they are really in a bad space “As a part of a small marketing team. I got the job through a previous colleague who was looking for someone with strong marketing skills and writing abilities. We worked together for six months until the market went down, and the company ran out of funding. They downsized the team, cut off the agencies, and had to lay off the marketing lead and me. Despite the lead's high salary, they let him go first. In December, they had a call with me, explaining the situation and expressing a desire to keep me on board in the future with a better salary. I agreed, and they provided evidence of the financial challenges they faced.”

Changing Attitudes Towards Employers

As the world becomes increasingly competitive, the loyalty between employers and employees seems to be waning. Gone are the days of blind gratitude and unwavering loyalty. Today, employees are more practical and mindful of their own self-preservation, with many even hedging their day jobs with other sources of income. But what's driving this shift in behavior?

A former employee of the gaming company mentioned - “I've noticed a cultural shift among Indian employees. In the past, there was a sense of gratitude towards employers for hiring them, which created a one-way transactional relationship. However, now employees are beginning to hedge their day jobs with other sources of income. This shows a change in behaviour and a lack of loyalty towards companies. With the current job market, people feel disengaged and believe that companies are not loyal to them, so they need to stop being loyal to their employers as well.

Additionally, sentiments have shifted and even with companies laying off employees, it's not based on how good the employee is. Companies are laying off according to their goals and priorities. Even if someone is extremely talented and working on special projects for the company, but not directly contributing to the core business that drives revenue, they may still be let go. Layoffs happen from a very company perspective, and there's nothing an employee can do to safeguard their job unless the team is small enough that their impact in the new vertical is visible and the company tries to absorb them into the main team.”

As companies continue to navigate the ever-changing business landscape, it is important for them to consider the impact of layoffs on their employees and strive for transparency and communication throughout the process. By doing so, companies can build trust with their employees and foster a more positive work environment for all.

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