Are PMs the first ones to be sacked?

Hi, I’m a PM at a startup. I started as product analyst, have worked on more than 6 products, all stable growth and cash flow positive.

I am looking for a change now because of two primary reasons:

  1. Work Life balance has become difficult lately because of attrition and poor capacity planning by PO
  2. Want to get experience of other domains as people analytics is not i want to all my life to go in.

I gave interviews at multiple places and in final stages at a Health tech company. Cleared the CEO round and now going to discuss compensation.

The company has some 350 people. Bootstrapped 5–6-year-old startup, aiming to go public by 2025

I am being hired for a new product which is deep integration tooling between APIs and marketplaces. That’s my expertise and area of interest too.

However, I am scared. If for some stupid reason, the new product didn’t do well then, I will be the first person who will sacked. I believe this because I have seen that in the Great Fire which followed by Great Resignation, PMs and people from mid-management layer gets sacked first.

What is your take on this generalization of mine? The current company is good and is a global brand, but the work is not fun anymore.


Honestly it probably depends on a lot of other factors, but anecdotally I was a PM of 3 and plenty of Devs were fired but none of the PMs were let go.


@YuriRoman, Yeah. It of course it depends on the proportion and distribution of the PMs and their importance to their business. For example, if PM role is core to the product, they are not the ones to face firing in the beginning. But I know companies which are so smart that they fire PMs and promote Assistant and Jr. PMs as this role’s learning curve is not steel skill wise and neither PMs are direct part of the client value chain


Yes, but I think that applies to anything. Your value to the company is proportional to how easy for you to be let go. PM specifically is not necessarily the first ones to be sacked compared to others like customer support, recruiting, etc.


Anecdotally in recent rounds on LinkedIn, it’s recruiters and content/social people that are on the chopping block, which make sense


Yeah. It’s a very established and stable product.


Totally depends, but there’s a lot of job titles not called product manager. For instance, google announced they’d slow hiring for non tech related jobs. could see those being the first to go at some companies before PM sadly for those folks


I personally think they will reduce the numbers, but not get rid of entire function. Savvy business people know you need someone steering the boat toward value, not just pumping out features.


@RohitKumar, This if the company decides to downsize. What happens if the new product fails? Unlike engineering team, the product team is absorbed into other products.


It depends. If you’re known to add value to the product, then they’ll likely deploy you into other products. It’s still cheaper than hiring someone new.


After the last few years with covid and all those problems, if my employer wants to lay me off, then so be it. Sive me some severance pay, and I’ll just collect unemployment. I’m not going to be in a rush to do shit. It’ll suck to downsize spending, but whatever, I can do it.

Hold on. let me translate this into product:

Although we had a miss with stakeholder commitments, available contingencies will allow me to pivot to intrinsically value-driven work. I’m really excited about this since this is going against the grain of market conventions and I will be in a truly disruptive space with an unprecedented degree of control and agility in decision making.


It’s definitely a YMMV thing. Of the 10 people on the team I started with in Product pre-pandemic, five of them got laid off in 2020. My department was the hardest hit. My approach going forward has been to save like I could get laid off at any time. :sweat_smile:


I can feel you there. Why aren’t you looking for a switch?


I applied for some jobs last year but wasn’t successful in my attempts. Now I’m not sure I want to stay in product long-term anyway - it’s not the best fit for my skill sets. I’m trying to make a move to UX Research, and it seems like it will be easier to make that move internally, then look at other companies once I have more experience.


If the company makes software, and the leadership understands Product’s role, then they know that the PM discipline isn’t something to muck around with.

Unfortunately, they may not understand the entire SDLC ecosystem, and may view Devs as the ‘expendable front line’

In my experience - good PMs in Tech Hubs/Innovation Labs are worth their weight in gold and are typically protected from initial cullings.


No, not at all. I’d love to say that it’s because we’re invaluable but the reality of it is that we generally have lots of face time with the people making the cuts. A lot of great people don’t have that advantage and suffer for it when things take a turn for the worse. However, if you’re the PM for something new that’s not yet making money, lean times will likely spell the end of your tenure at the company.

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PMs would really only be first on the list if the company strategy is changing to only maintain, but not innovate, the product (which only happens where the company really overstretched itself or the product is at the tail end of its maturity phase and entering decline).

In all other cases, talent acquisition and culture professionals tend to be the first to go because there is a basic understanding that we’re not hiring in the near future.

Of course, the HR department is targeted first. But in case of new product, the PMs are targeted from the product team as i feel, engineering team is a fungible asset whereas PMs are very specific to the business and product context. What say?

The new people are generally let go first if the company itself is in a bad phase. It is easier to do that compared to someone who has worked with them for years.


Thanks for your response @Palam, Welcome to the Prowess Community.

So much agree to this. It’s natural human tendency. People who are connected with us for a longer period of time are more valuable than those who come in contact recently.