Commentary: Layoff survivor’s guilt – those who survive the cuts are also hurt

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SINGAPORE: Microsoft cutting 10,000 jobs. Google-parent Alphabet slashing 12,000 of its employees. Amazon.com shedding 18,000 jobs. Salesforce axing 10 per cent of its work force.

January has been a brutal month for tech workers - with job cuts coming rapidly and in big numbers.

In the past month alone, there have been nearly 60,000 tech layoffs, according to Layoffs.fyi, a website that tracks job cuts in the industry.

Spotify on Monday (Jan 23) joined in the carnage, announcing it will shed 6 per cent of its work force.

There are bound to be more layoffs as the tech sector backtracks on its rampant hiring during the pandemic, in anticipation of a looming recession. A top tech analyst has warned that another 15 per cent to 20 per cent of big tech employees could be without jobs over the next six months.

“Ultimately, it keeps coming back to, simply, these companies added too many people too fast,” Gene Munster, managing partner at Deepwater Asset Management told CNBC on Jan 23.

While much of the focus has been on those who have lost their jobs - nearly 160,000 tech employees globally in 2022 - what of those who have survived the cuts?

What are some of the conflicting emotions those who have escaped the cuts feel seeing their colleagues - perhaps some they’ve worked with a long time and developed close bonds with - leave?

SURVIVOR’S GUILT

Survivor's guilt is a common manifestation in the context of war, such as reported in Vietnam war veterans and Holocaust survivors. Guilt is a self-conscious feeling and moral emotion characterised by negative self-evaluation and is a common post-traumatic experience.

Survivor's guilt typically arises in people who have been exposed to, or witness...

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