The Brightest and Best (Males) Are the Ones Being Laid Off


Another day, another one bites the dust. Friends everywhere are losing their jobs.

They’re bright. The New York Times described the growing ranks of the city’s unemployed as the new chic club in town. In part, this is because the people who are losing their jobs are the best and ergo the most expensive talent around. I have been bewildered to see some of the cleverest people I know go down, while five goons get left sitting in their office chairs.

They’re also mostly male. A study last week claimed that one result of the massive job cuts was that for the first time ever, women are poised to surpass men on America’s payrolls: 82 per cent of the cuts have been men.

For those left in work, the cuts seem illogical. A really busy, productive photographer friend tells me he got an email from a bureaucrat’s young female assistant asking him to account for every paper clip, pencil and battery in his desk — with suggestions of cheaper places to buy them. Why, thought my friend, didn’t they just cut the cost of the assistant, if she had time on her hands to add up how many paper clips he was using?

But cost-cutting bureaucrats are not thinking in these panic-stricken times. In one large media company the interns — rich 21-year-old inheritors with zero experience — have taken over.

Fortunately some managements have not entirely lost their heads. At JP Morgan Chase, associates are being promoted to vice presidents — but without any pay rise. The promotion is a signal you’re wanted to stay on. The signal that you’re not is what’s called a “message bonus” — that is, a bonus of zero.

Meanwhile, various IT companies and hedge funds have told employees to make a collective decision: take a pay cut or some of you will be fired. Hearteningly, people are taking the pay cut.

And that’s the interesting thing about these times: we see who people really are. For the most part, the collective anxiety has brought out the best in people. I’ve never been prouder of the friends who’ve stoically accepted the axe but have kept their ideas flowing and their sense of humor — even as they hunt for work in places where the sign “nothing available” hangs metaphorically above the door.

This article was originally published by the London Evening Standard