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A message from the Captain of the S.S. Layoff

Published: October 4, 2023

[*PA speakers crackle*]

Greetings, crew. This is your Captain speaking. It is with a heavy heart I must inform you that, although we’ve shared for years now in this long and successful journey together, our ship is sadly not currently headed in the right direction.

To right the situation, and in order to ensure the success of our vessel and this collective voyage going forward, it is necessary to make some tough changes.

Therefore we, the officers, have been forced to make the difficult decision to put 15% of you on life boats, effective immediately.

Those of you impacted will find a note in your locker. To those: we’re sad to see you go, and we thank you for your service. We wish you the best, wherever this ocean may take you. Please collect your things, and make your way to the nearest life boat immediately.

To those remaining: we assure you this devastating loss of your colleagues and friends will actually make things much better in the long run. …For the ship, that is.

Trust us, it has to be this way, but for good reason. It’s a sad day, to be sure, but I assure you it’s a necessary pivot on the road towards a bright future. Onward we go!

Hello, crew. This is your captain once again. It seems there were quite a few questions following that last announcement, so please allow me to clarify.

Yes, as many of you pointed out (immediately afterwards, in fact), our departing crewmates were not, in point of fact, responsible for steering the ship. So it’s not really their fault, directly, that the ship is off-course.

And yes, it’s true that—if we’re forced to point fingers here (and I don’t really see the point, but just to indulge in that little exercise)—that sort of general navigational thing is technically kind of my job. As Captain.

I may have misspoken slightly. Allow me to set the record straight, then: I fear it’s not so much that we’re headed in the wrong direction, per se—though it is that, too!—as it is our capacity just…well, it hasn’t kept up with expectations.

That is, while we all very much feel for our departing crewmates, pragmatically speaking, we simply can’t maintain the speed and operational efficiency we’d like with so many people to account for.

We’re just a bit…overstaffed, I suppose might be the word. Too many people; not enough work. And so, sailing into uncertainty as we are, we’re forced to trim things up a bit—to ensure our success, of course. Keep us moving faster.

Again, we’re sorry to say it. Dreadful, this sort of thing. Just awful. But we do hope this puts the whole messy matter to rest, and we can go forward into—

—sorry, hang on, it sounds like somebody’s knocking at the door…

Hello again, crew. It’s your Captain again. It seems that previous message warranted further explanation. You are quite the inquisitive bunch. Bright crew! The S.S. Layoff is better for having you. Thank you for your questions.

First off, many of you have pointed out that there was actually no shortage of work to be done prior to this departure. And, in fact, this change will only increase the amount of work each person is responsible for.

I suppose that’s true, but you see, we must focus on the most important work. Some of the items on our to-do list are simply best left there for the time being, for efficiency’s sake. I’m sure all those tiny holes in the sails and drips in the hull and such will be just fine.

Setting that aside: as many of you have keenly observed, those responsible for deciding who to hire and when are, in fact, the officers. I can see that, to some of you, it seems a bit unfair that the folks being removed from the ship in fact had nothing to do with the poor decisions that led to us over-hiring to begin with.

Perhaps, some of you have posited, we would be better off removing the people who made those bad choices, rather than those who were merely doing their jobs as directed—

—That is, if anyone has to go at all. Which, it seems, is yet a further point of contention.

All right, yes, it’s true that we have plenty, both in reserves, and in new supplies continuously coming aboard. And yes, we have a great many projects coming up that will require extra hands. That’s all thanks to the many successful partnerships and trading systems you’ve been a part of engineering. And again, we thank you all for your service in these endeavors.

Please know that we’ll think of you fondly as we continue reaping the benefits of your labor long after you’ve gone.

So yes, there’s plenty to go around, thanks largely to all of you. We admit it. No shortage of work to be done, either, and we are sorry on that front.

Nonetheless, this plan is sadly necessary, for many reasons, and will continue as planned. It’s unfortunate, to be sure, but we thank you for your understand—ok I hear you! At least let me finish the address!

Ok, crew. Captain here. All right, fine. Since all the previous answers to your questions are evidently quite unsatisfactory, let’s get into it.

We—the officers and I, that is—took some money from some investors. We used it to place some bets that didn’t pan out quite as well as we would’ve hoped, and well…now we owe money to some people who are very eager to see a return, and who are also highly persuasive in board meetings.

Look, I’m sorry, it’s out of our hands now. The numbers don’t look the way we want them to, and the fastest way to change that is to stop feeding and sheltering people and their families.

Nothing personal.

Please know: this decision was very hard. Awful, really. I know we all feel just terrible for the people who’ve set off on the life boats, as we should, but…really, do spare a thought for us, as well. We’ve had a rough go of it here, too.

Hard times all around.

In any case, let me leave you with this:

I understand, and I accept full responsibility.

All right, all right, all right—hold on everyone. Clearly I need to explain that last part.

Nothing’s actually going to happen to me, personally. I’m still Captain. Let’s not be given to flights of fancy here.

What I mean is: I accept the responsibility of continuing to captain this ship. I myself will be unaffected.

I will persevere, making the same kinds of decisions and fostering the exact kind of environment that led to this negative outcome to begin with, all while continuing to earn the highest salary of anyone aboard.

That’s on me. I alone accept that burden.

Once again, I also fully acknowledge that nobody affected by this announcement did anything wrong, and that the error was almost entirely in my own judgment as Captain, since we apparently have to keep retreading that particular turf. You all seem to care very much about that part. Fine. Consider the point conceded, then.

But ask yourself: is it really best if the person who makes the decisions is also the person responsible for them?

Honestly, just think about it.

What ever happened to delegation, hm? How would we ever get anywhere if leaders were constantly forced to deal with the consequences of their own actions all the time, instead of, you know…leading?

It’s really not my fault that this is all my fault.

[Long, deep sigh]

Ok, crew. This will be my final message.

A whole lot of you seem to think this decision will actually have an adverse impact on our voyage, as it will both hinder our capacity going forward and decimate morale for those who remain, making them less productive and more likely to leave voluntarily.

Some of you have apparently done some math—math! Wow!—and claim to have found that the cost of the life boats, supplies, maritime lawyer fees, hiring and onboarding to replace those needed crew members (which you postulate will be more difficult now, given this hit to our reputation), loss of productivity, and so on and so forth, all actually outweigh what we’re ostensibly saving with this measure.

Some even go so far as to point to the numerous “readily available”—you can’t see me, but I made air quotes there—“readily available” scientific studies, apparently finding little to no benefit whatsoever to this kind of reduction in crew size.

According to you lot, nearly all of those “studies”—I did air quotes again there—clearly demonstrate we’ll most likely be much worse off after the dust has settled on all of this.

To all the above, please let me say:

I hear you.

I see you.

And: there’s plenty of room left on those life boats.

Please be sad for a reasonable amount of time, and then immediately return to your normal duties, as well as the duties of those who are no longer here.

And to those departing: thanks for helping to build us such a great ship, and best of luck getting picked up by another vessel soon.


…Oh, and if you do get bit by a shark, try to make sure it happens before your healthcare expires.