Below is a partial list of tech companies that have announced layoffs in the last six months (in parenthesis is the number of workers being let go):

Microsoft (11,000), Peloton (500), Twitter (3,700), Meta (11,000), Amazon (28,000), Cisco (4,000), HP (5,000), Salesforce (8,000), Google (12,000), Zillow (300), Spotify (600), IBM (3,900), SAP (3,000), PayPal (2,000), Dell (6,650), Zoom (1,300), eBay (500), Yahoo (1,600).

That is an extremely partial list. Since the start of 2023, almost 95,000 tech workers have been handed their walking papers.

Before you assume my job here is to depress you and give you more economic bad news, let me assure you that’s not why I’m writing this.

I’m sharing this to make you aware of the big lie.

We Are Family

In 1979, Sister Sledge sang:

“Can they be that close

Just let me state for the record

We’re giving love in a family dose

We are family”

I’ve worked in both the nonprofit and hi-tech sectors. I’ve heard more than once from a boss: “We treat staff like our family” or that the organization is one big family.

It turns out that was bull🤬. And always was.

Because when times are tough, nonprofits and for-profit companies rarely hold on to staff like they were brothers and sisters. If anything, the family atmosphere becomes quite dysfunctional and they have no problem showing “family members” the exit door.

They’ll kick you to the curb just like that.

Suddenly you’re not family. You’re expendable. Not wanted.

Which is why the big lie needs to be flushed down the toilet for good.

Companies will tell you they're like a family but that's the big lie. They'll throw you out when they need to.

Image by mohamed_hassan from Pixabay

The Big Lie

You work for a nonprofit. You’re underpaid, overworked and underappreciated.

But hey, you’re like family!

No you’re not. Because in a family business, the employer isn’t paying low wages to family members. Family members aren’t overworked to the point of exhaustion and mental breakdown. They’ll feel appreciated.

When an organization says “we’re like a family here,” this is what they mean:

We expect you to substitute a proper work-life balance with your actual family and work harder for the company who employs you. We want you to make sacrifices for the company.

It blurs the line between life, work and family. It’s manipulative, dishonest and unfair.

In the for-profit world, the goal is profit. For the bosses, investors and stock owners. Anything else is dishonest.

In the nonprofit world where scarcity and poverty mindset rule the day, at the first hint of a downturn in the economy, Boards and CEO’s will lay off as many people as possible.

And those left over? Lucky them- they get to wear even MORE hats! 🙄🙄🙄

As a friend told me: “Be realistic and know what you’re getting into. You signed a contract to do a job. The worst companies say they’re like a family and that’s a major red flag. But at least they’re being somewhat honest: They’re telling you upfront the family is a dysfunctional one.”

Ask your friends in the hi-tech world and I guarantee almost all of them have heard the “we’re a family” mantra. Which really means the exact opposite.

As Ana Mostarac says in this must-watch video: “It’s a really good life lesson that sometimes it has to smack you in the face for you to understand that your company does not give one f$$k about you and literally never will. They’re not your family.”

But Not At Our Organization!

I can see some of you out there are upset at me for overgeneralizing. Because at your organization, it really is a family atmosphere! Everyone looks out for each other. There is an awareness of the need for people to have time away from the office and be with their real-life family.

If that’s the case where you work, you’ve won the lottery!

In some organizations or companies, the people who were there from the very start and stick around awhile can forge a bond that feels like family. The problem is when new staff are hired and they feel “on the outs” from everyone else. So it is possible at some point at the beginning to create a family atmosphere but sustaining it over time is very hard.

But for the vast majority of workers, companies are not family.

Or maybe they are. In some families, divorces happen. Fighting leads to people not talking for years. People are kicked out and told never to come back. Sometimes the family dynamic can be described as dysfunctional at best and destructive at worst.

Let’s be clear: A nonprofit is not a family. A for-profit business is not a family. It’s your place of work.

Yes, you can pour your energy, blood, sweat and tears into your nonprofit’s mission. You work all the overtime for no pay so that people in your community can have the basic necessities of life. You’ll always be there to make sure the work gets done.

At the end of the day, it’s not reciprocal. When times are tough, nonprofits- like their hi-tech counterparts- slash budgets. And the first thing to get cut are salaries, i.e., peoplepower.

You gave it your all. You neglected your health, family and personal life for the sake of the organization. And at the end of the day, all you have to show for it is a pink slip.

The big lie is when companies tell you they're one big happy family.

Image by Rosy from Pixabay

My Advice

Protect yourself. Don’t get sucked in to the fake family atmosphere. Know your role and do it to the best of your abilities.

What that doesn’t mean is taking on the role of 17 other people. You’ll be doing all the work for the same low pay. Someone might remember to thank you for your efforts. But that’s about it.

Sacrificing for your actual family and friends? Always.

Sacrificing extra time and energy for an organization that just sees you as a paycheck they can dump when they want to? Buyer beware.

It’s demeaning. It’s beneath you.

Working at a nonprofit can be fulfilling in a multitude of ways that working at Microsoft or Amazon could never give you. But keep this in mind:

  • During Corona, about a million workers in the nonprofit sector lost their jobs. When organizations face potential financial hardships, you will be let go.
  • Fundraisers move jobs on average every 18 months. What family would allow that to happen?!

Your place of work is not a family. You may have co-workers who have become your best friends and that’s great. But don’t mistake the overall structure for something that will always love you as much as you love them.

Please Watch

Let me finish by asking you to watch the below 4 minute and 22 second video from someone who was recently laid off from their company.

Every word she says is gold.

An organization is not like a family. Please stop saying that. It’s condescending and patronizing to all of us.