Are PMs really at risk of getting laid off?

I’m learning about an ever increasing number of organizations laying off a lot of employees, and as is I’ll be joining another organization soon, which has been as of late acquired by a real estate giant, I am somewhat worried of getting laid off.

At the point when I read about the affected positions, I for the most part see that it’s HR and certain “specialist” jobs line agile coaches, or “op/trained professionals” that are affected.

What is your perspective? Do you thinks PMs are in danger? In particular the ones that are got recently hired?

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There’s a lot of factors that go into this stuff that are really orthogonal to the discipline:

  • Startup who raised a bananas round last Summer? Yeah, you’re doing a down round soon and that means big time layoffs across the board. Unless you’re on the core of the product that makes money it’s good to assume you’re at risk.
  • Established company with diversified income? Probably safe. Maybe some moonshot gets axed and people are laid off, but really only if they had to hire to do that moonshot project.
  • Getting acquired by another company? If you’re not on the critical path for why that company was acquired (i.e., working on the awesome thing the parent company wanted to buy) then you’re probably at risk.
  • Working at a company that - in general - just doesn’t really make money and chases hype? Probably not safe.
  • Working at any sized company with sound unit economics and a product that solves real problems people have? Probably safe.

I’m sure there’s a billion more things that go into it, but hopefully you get the idea. This is also always a factor that goes into job-hunting, even if the times are good. Always find a way to get yourself onto something that makes money and/or is on the critical path towards making money or meeting the core goals of the company and product. If you’re not there, then you’re more at risk than others.

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If you are just starting at a new company, there’s really not much you can do. If you get the axe, just take solace in the fact that it had nothing to do with you and you got that job, so you can do it again.

The payout from when I got laid off was my down payment to buy my house in SF, so it was actually one of the better things to happen to me in my career.

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The lists of who was laid off from Klarna, Kontist, and Gorillas are online, linked from layoffs.fyi. Lots of PMs on the list. Anyone who’s still dependent on VC funding is going to be cutting expenses, including entire product teams. I’ve been through this in 2001 and 2008, plus a couple of PE buyouts that follow the same pattern.

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From my experience: PMs on tentative, not started topics are at risk for being laid off. If you’re a backfill for an existing position, an existing domain etc. then the risk is much lower.

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@RobMartin, Damn, I was supposed to do discovery for a new area and then set up a team for that. Looks really like I am at risk…

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I’m sorry to hear that. But depending on the company’s size/funding situation/other factors, this situation might not be dangerous to you.

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The short answer is, the more value you add, the less likely you are to be laid off.

So if your role/product is not high impact, naturally it is more likely. No matter sales, support or engineering etc.

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Yes and no. I was laid off once when the company closed the entire office. This was pre COVID. Didn’t matter what your role was, they cut everyone. I know from colleagues who worked at other locations, that the company just took the 6 months hit to the timeline of the major projects and transferred them to teams in other locations.

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This is impossible to generalize. The role of PM is far too variable from company to company. Some PMs will be indispensable because they are the glue that holds the entire product/sales orgs together. Other PMs are just middle managers that keep the trains running and are only as useful as the number of engineers working with them. In the latter case if the engineering team shrinks the PM team will shrink proportionally. In the former, you’ll likely be one of the last people to go so long as you’re not prohibitively expensive or are useless.

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Well, it depends on a lot of different things (size of the company, how it is structured…) For example, if your company is structured in different product teams and you are the PM on one of them, you should ask yourself if that product team really brings value to the company or not. But as I said, there are too different factors, it is impossible to generalize.

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