Tech executives have increasingly defended unpopular layoffs, saying many workers were doing nothing — and they’re right.
According to Fortune, the term “penned” refers to an employee who is hired but given very little to do. Often, the person has unique talents and skills that a company is willing to pay them a six-figure income just to be there in case something goes wrong.
Dr. Emmanuel Maggiori, an AI developer and expert, was one such individual. He told Fortune he left academia to have an impact on the commercial sector but quickly grew disillusioned when he wasn’t able to contribute.
“I spent a couple of months on a project and my bosses were really pleased with it,” he said.
“One of them said to me: ‘You made this happen. If you didn’t do any work for a year now, we’d be happy we hired you.’ I didn’t want to be rewarded with not working.”
When Dr. Maggiori kept asking for something to do, a superior finally told him: “I don’t want to tell you to stop asking questions, but maybe don’t.”
Despite being paid $978 a day, Dr. Maggiori says it was two months before he was given anything meaningful to do.
“During those two months all I had to do was attend the weekly meeting for admin, which was stuff like: ‘Make sure you book a desk if you’re coming into the office,’ he said.
Dr. Maggiori wasn’t alone, hearing of other workers who had little or nothing to do.
“In a previous role, I heard one person used to scuba diving during office hours. Another person I know just watches online courses all day—they might leave when their employer stops paying for a subscription,” he added.
VC Keith Rabois, among others, have accused tech companies of ‘vanity hiring,’ a point that’s hard to argue with after reading Dr. Maggiori’s experience.
“All these people were extraneous, this has been true for a long time, the vanity metric of hiring employees was this false god in some ways,” Rabois said.
“There’s nothing for these people to do — they’re really — it’s all fake work,” he added. “Now that’s being exposed, what do these people actually do, they go to meetings.”
Ultimately, there’s only so many six-figure workers doing nothing a company can support.