Stanford Professor: Tech Layoffs Are ‘Copycat Behavior’

A Stanford professor has confirmed what many suspect, saying Big Tech's layoffs are more about "copycat behavior than necessary cost-cutting."...
Stanford Professor: Tech Layoffs Are ‘Copycat Behavior’
Written by Matt Milano
  • A Stanford professor has confirmed what many suspect, saying Big Tech’s layoffs are more about “copycat behavior than necessary cost-cutting.”

    Tech companies have already laid off hundreds of thousands of workers, blaming an economic downturn and overly-aggressive hiring during the pandemic for the current cuts. It appears many of those cuts are not necessary, instead reflecting a fundamental truth about human nature, Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer told Business Insider’s Sarah Jackson:

    The idea that human behavior is influenced by what others do is really old. If you’re a pedestrian and you see a stop signal, but no cars are coming and somebody steps into the street, you’ll probably do it too. It’s almost automatic behavior.

    We should expect this to also be true in business. A lot of companies were hiring during the pandemic, so everybody decided to hire. Now, companies are laying off, and everybody decided to follow each other and lay people off. A lot of this is just imitation.

    Read more: LinkedIn Hit With Layoffs

    Professor Pfeffer goes on to question the dubious “advantages” many companies tout when laying off employees:

    In many instances, layoffs don’t increase stock prices or cut costs. Between things like the cost of severance and the loss of productivity, layoffs have pretty nasty and negative consequences for the company. It’s not clear they actually increase profits.

    The irony is that these same companies were talking a year ago about people as their most important asset, and now they’re treating their employees pretty badly, laying them off via email or by abruptly cutting off their access to the company. These layoffs are a decision that reflects the company’s values, and these companies have basically given their employees the middle finger.

    Virtually every one of the world’s biggest tech firms has already laid off thousands, including Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Meta. In fact, only Apple stands apart among Big Tech companies as the one that has yet to engage in mass layoffs.

    Perhaps, given Professor Pfeffer linking layoffs to “copycat behavior,” it’s not all that surprising Apple is the one Big Tech company to avoid layoffs. Apple has a long history of bucking popular conventions and the company and has rarely, if ever, been accused of being a copycat.

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