“Raise your hand if you know who is getting fired?” a Meta employee wrote in an online chat group for the company’s engineers this month. “Fire emoji if you think it’s a dumpster fire.”
In response, his colleagues posted dozens of tiny flame emojis.
“I’m already fired,” added a former Meta employee who worked in the company’s business division for nearly four years before most of his team was laid off this year. “But who can keep track?”
Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s chief executive, has declared that 2023 will be the “year of efficiency” at his company. So far, efficiency has translated into mass layoffs. He has conducted two rounds of cuts over the past six months, eliminating more than 26,000 people, or nearly 30 per cent of his company’s workforce.
At the same time, some of Meta’s top executives have moved away and are managing large parts of the Silicon Valley company from their new homes in places like London and Tel Aviv.
The layoffs and absentee leadership, along with concerns that Zuckerberg is making a bad bet on the future, have devastated employee morale at Meta, according to nine current and former employees, as well as messages reviewed by The New York Times.
Employees at Meta, which not long ago was one of the most desirable workplaces in Silicon Valley, face an increasingly precarious future. The company’s stock price has dropped 43 per cent from its peak 19 months ago. More layoffs, Zuckerberg has said on his Facebook page, are coming this month. And for the first time, some of those cuts could be in engineering groups, which would have been unthinkable before the trouble started last year, two employees said.
“So many of the employees feel like they’re in limbo right now,” said Erin Sumner, a global director of human resources at DeleteMe, who was laid off from Facebook in November. “They’re saying it’s Hunger Games meets Lord of the Flies, where everyone is trying to prove their worth to management.”
Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, is not the only big tech company that has hit the brakes on spending. Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Salesforce and others have laid off thousands of workers in recent months, shed office space, dropped perks and pulled back from experimental initiatives.
But Meta appears to face the most challenges. Last year, the company reported consecutive quarters of declining revenue — a first since it became a public company in 2012.
While Meta’s peers are chasing a wave of innovation in artificial intelligence, Zuckerberg has made a big bet on the metaverse, an immersive online world. But it is unclear if consumers will embrace his vision in the way he hopes. While the company has sold 20 million virtual reality headsets — more than any other company producing similar tech — it has struggled to keep customers returning regularly to use the product.
Many workers at Meta had already been sceptical of Zuckerberg’s shift towards the metaverse. Those concerns have grown as consumer enthusiasm for the virtual world has lagged, the employees said.
The absence of many top executives from Meta’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, is compounding worries. Zuckerberg, 38, is on parental leave after the birth of his third child, three Meta employees said but is regularly meeting with executives on important topics. (AI is at the top of that list.)
Even though Zuckerberg has encouraged rank-and-file employees to return to the company’s headquarters, several of his top lieutenants have moved away.
New York Times News Service