I think a better way to look at it is -- don't be loyal to something that can't be loyal to you. But you can and should let yourself care about the work you're doing and the individuals you're working with. That way, if you do end up leaving when you don't want to, you have accomplishments and a network of people who know what you're capable of. And up until then, you can take pride in what you're doing and feel good about how you're treating the people you're doing it with.
Someone could be extremely active outside of work - its not just work that counts.
Edit: Even in the software world - what about all of the people who create stuff outside of formal "work"?
What about achieving happiness and self-fulfillment from other things than work? I couldn't care less about my (well paid & successful) corporate job, because after it ends, I put on harness and helmet and go climbing. Or on the weekends hiking, skiing, ski touring, paragliding, diving, and so on. Traveling around the world for vacations. I have a great wife, I have a tiny little son I love very much. Those are properly fulfilling things in life, very well worth investing one's time and energy. Plenty comes back, and even if not, its a great thing to do nevertheless.
At work, there are plenty of folks with mindset you describe. Investing themselves into corporate careers, thinking money, talking money. Most I know have pretty sad lives.
A lot easier to find joy in your work these days vs. activities and vacations too...
As they say, 'whatever makes you happy'. Just consider long term happiness, and not only momentary kick.
I think you're missing the key part here. Most tech workers do have some ownership in the companies which muddies the calculus a little bit. But if you don't have a stake in the company you are literally trading time for money. Work more time for the same money and you're just under-pricing your labor by an equivalent amount.
Also, if you need to work overtime to get good recommendations and promotions that is not a company you want to spend your time at.
Also also, if you need to work overtime to care about the work you're doing then you should re-examine your value system.
"Just show up, do the bare minimum to meet expectations, finish your 8 hour shift and go home and enjoy quality time with your family."
It's possible to opt out of the bullshit conspicuous overwork that a lot of people engage in (although you should be prepared to face consequences for that!), and still do more than the bare minimum during the 40 hours you show up to work. And it may be better _for you_ to do so.
Maybe nitpicking, but I don't think this is true at all. Lots of tech workers do, sure, but I doubt it's anywhere even close to half of them.
If you're a software engineer you should consider yourself a craftsman. Treating your job as a "shift" means you don't care about your craft.
The reason I'm not a founder today is that I've observed that founders don't have well rounded lives. I want 5 workdays a week to consist of 8-9 hours of work I'm invested in and care about, 8-9 hours of personal life (relationships, socializing, working out, reading, personal projects, hobbies, TV and games, etc.) and the rest in sleep. I want two days a week off.
So what, I have to give up doing work I care about because of it? I don't think so. I choose work I think is important, technically deep and challenging, and if droppings hit the fan and I get laid off - I can be proud of what I did and understand that the pain is real and that it will pass.
Better to have loved and lost.
I definitely agree that you should not break your back and work 24/7 for someone else's vision. Or at a minimum you need to consider how factors beyond your control might zero out your investment. But that goes for anything.
A person who pursues their here and now with the most intention and passion will learn more on the job than the same individual who is just "putting their time in." Why can't you help build someone elses dream and your own? Is it possible the details of someone elses dream provide focus for yours?
I think the former individual will better weather a layoff than the latter. Furthermore, the person who is "just putting their time in" is a less attractive hire.
And then boom! My manager came and told, they must throw away all the interns to save the costs. Throw away me and the other intern who worked in kitchen with coffee mug and was never in the lab. I felt really stupid. Since then I do my 40 hours what I get paid for. No more, no loyalty, no team spirit for the rest of my life. I was doing 200% in last 12 years only for startups as a co-founder, not that ability work hard disappeared completely.
the situation you describe is not a "balance". it's whatever the employer desires. you've all but guaranteed low morale. when you demand loyalty and team spirit on top of that, it justifies cynicism.
in such a situation, you should expect people to do the bare minimum.
Homeoffice, flex time? That's all things that benefit the company just as much.
No relations to working only the hours they are getting paid for.
But that's the trick. You are presenting unrelated things as if they had to do more than agreed upon just to get those. Pretty cheap attempt to guild tripping.
Errors are a normal thing for human work, especially software developer. Nothing you are "guilty of" and have to make right with your own money/time (same thing).
What you wrote doesn't have even 0.1% of balance you speak of.
A team/company’s culture is WAY more than your own personal work ethic. Some people won’t think how you do. And that’s fine and should be encouraged!
Enjoy your time with your family. :)
I don't want to be part of things that are average and marginally accepable, and I have a profound dislike of the status quo. It doesn't matter if it's work or shooting hoops with my kids or seeing how long I can stand on one foot - a desire to do a job well and have fun doing it are not mutually exclusive. I'm confident my attitude and approach are not unique to only me.
So much of your employment relies on things that are outside of your control. Even when you have a great job that you love, it won't last forever. Your job isn't a marriage, or a parent-child relationship. At the end of the day, it's just a job.
It should be no surprise that they are the first to be laid off when times get tough.
My approach is to demand being properly compensated and appreciated for all the extra attention I put on. Unfortunately, that's also not easy.
That's why it is a job, not a hobby.
I barely managed to land a job after graduating, made almost no money, got laid off, and the company collapsed shortly thereafter anyway. One thing missing from this article is that often times these layoffs don't happen in a vacuum — Even I, a fresh grad, knew my employer was in trouble — and that a layoff would be coming, which helped blunt the news when the actual layoff happened. This was only possible because my previous employer was transparent about the situation, and I was already pretty deep into my job search by the time the layoff happened. To this day I am appreciative about that, even if the end result was the same, and it took me a few months to land a great gig after that.
Graduating into a recession + getting laid off so early in my career has irreversibly changed my risk profile, and I refuse to work with a company that isn't transparent about its going concern.
2004-2007 were good, then bamn another recession... then this....
The way money interests/lobbyist are running the economy and country, It is almost given that every 10 years there will be a major recession. While this time it was a virus triggering it, the economy has been over-heated for a while, and the crazy thing is that the government was running crazy deficits in a hot economy, instead of saving for the long term. (i.e. the feds and the goverment, have been 'juicing up' the economy for short term re-election goals).
It’s a pandemic that could put a third of workers out of jobs because everything is shutting down and the economy is coming to a halt. It’s not like 2008 when complex financial products f—ed it all up.
(Yes there are still bad policies, yes there is corruption, yes, yes etc etc etc but the point is that this isn’t “part of the boom and bust cycle.”)
As to all how this is going to play out, who knows? I'm not as optimistic as others that it's just going to be a couple months and suddenly everything is back to normal.
Felt like I was finally in my element and ready for the big time Internet challenges by... 2001.
I was busted by the bust and didn't get back on track really until 2007, fortunately in a niche that didn't suffer much from the 2008 meltdown.
This might be just another phase of the cycle, though I admit it feels different this time, and not just because of the economic impact.
(Also, OT but: in 1993 San Francisco was cheap, friendly, pretty mellow and full of creative people. That made being broke a lot more tolerable. I wouldn't want to be 1993-me in 2020-SF.)
Can't understand the American Freedom thing. So the freedon to chose to be an asshole employer is actually an option there :D
But hiring is much easier too.
I don't think it's helpful to the argument to pretend that stronger worker rights make it harder to hire when all of the signs point to that being little more than a talking point that isn't based in reality.
Largely for that very reason, I believe. If it's hard to get rid of somebody, you will make extra extra extra sure that they are a very good fit.
I don't get the "hiring is difficult" part. While I cannot alk about Europe, too many countries with their own legislation, in germany all you need is a contract and proper registration for social security and so on. Let you accountant handle it and it's done in a couple of days tops.
Regarding the first problem, 6 months should be enough to decide whether the new hire fits or not.
The second problem is a little bit tougher. There are two solutions, so. The first one is fixed-term contract, 1 year, 2 years. These can be extended (twice, if I remember well), which can be good solution for start-ups where long-term revenue is hard to gauge. The second is simple lay-offs. For young companies not that much a problem if there is a clear economic reason. You just close a department.
If cutting long-term employees is a problem, maybe the underlying root cause is bad head-count planning, read over hiring above needs and the companies cash-flow. Employers complaining about "firing is so hard in Germany" is a little bit lazy if you ask me. Don't over hire to beginn with, also helps in situation like Corona as the cash position is much better.
Initially, possibly, but most contracts aren't fixed term. And I've seen way too many people that essentially do nothing, they know it, their manager knows it, but there's no way to get rid of them other than promoting them or waiting for them to retire. So they sit around and wait for retirement.
It's like if your cell phone contract was a 10-year-contract. Very few people want that.
> Employers complaining about "firing is so hard in Germany" is a little bit lazy if you ask me. Don't over hire to beginn with [...]
They're just cutting one word out and follow that advise: Don't hire. Of course, it's not black and white, but if you get strong penalties (aka "I can't get rid of them") for over-hiring, you will make sure that you stay far below the over-hiring threshold.
Perhaps I'm in the (American) minority but that seems like a win/win to me. As an employer I'd much rather take a bit more time to find the right person and as an employee I'd gladly exchange a slightly slower market for additional job security/a safety net if things don't work out.
I'm by no means arguing that hire and fire is the best approach, but it makes the market more flexible. So even if you lose your job (less job security), you'll have less trouble finding a new one (less risk).
When the capital holders manage to unbalance the relationship with the workers, after failing to rebalance it, politics come into play and rules get voted to protect the workers from certain abuse. I wouldn't say it works well but it limits certain practices that would put the workers in serious troubles.
In certain places, we've seen workers working over 60h per week, and not getting compensated enough to meet the ends.
So you may say those workers should educate themselves and negociate better, but again it doesn't always work in practice.
I can't believe this is even a debate topic. How do you expect an engineer to compete with a lawyer who has studied it for years and has been practicing it for a while.
2. The manager potentially has/can get negotiation training, you have to pay out of your own pocket for yours.
3. The power dynamic is usually not in your favor, as long as unemployment is above zero in your specific field, it can never be in your favor.
The rest shouldn't really be that difficult if you're a competent person. I don't need training to show some combination of
1. I've been productive based on X and Y projects
2. I've saved/generated $X
3. I'm undervalued based on these x salaries or this average value from $reputable_website
People treat negotiation like some kind of black magic. If your boss isn't a total asshole it isn't hard to make a case.
The fact that I disagree with you is not evidence of "bad faith." But since you bring up privilege, I think you're just making poor excuses. Your Visa situation does not represent the majority and dismissing every successful negotiation as "privileged" just breeds learned helplessness.
If you have authorization to work in the country you live in and you can demonstrate that you're being underpaid, the onus is on you to approach your boss and make a case. You can always start looking for another job if they politely refuse. Or start looking first and come back with offers. This doesn't require any magical privilege.
I'm also mildly offended that you believe yourself familiar with my situation. "Privilege" is turning into a racist and/or sexist slur. It's a blanket term used to excuse failure and breeds complacency when people hide behind it. There was no need to make this argument personal.
In a small startup, that's more likely but most folks in Europe don't work in startups.
I wouldn't. Not even for 10% less.
I've been on both sides of the layoff conversation, and usually there are some loose ends relating to work-in-progress that can be tidied up with dignity if everyone has a couple days to do it. We're talking about reworking next week's client meeting, or sorting out some team/project responsibilities that ought to be handed off cleanly, or whatever.
Assuming that there's trust in both directions, too, it's decent to give laid-off employees a couple days to retrieve or delete personal information that's relevant to their life going forward. A work emailed picture of grandma's birthday party. That sort of thing.
The person you lay off today is likely to stay in the industry, and to mingle in the future with people that might be important to your future success. Take a moment to think how you want to manage that relationship. Tossing her/him out the door that day is one approach. But it carries a price.
A favorite example from finance. The guys who founded Kohlberg Kravis Roberts were thrown out of Bear Stearns quite summarily in 1976. They built quite a mighty firm in KKR and did not do a penny of business with Bear Stearns for many years.
KKR is still around and doing fine. Bear Stearns went bust in 2008. That single example isn't cause and effect. But it's a marker.
It really depends on the maturity of the workforce and leadership, as I mention. For a lot of startups, that’s in short supply and just saying today is the last day of work is easiest. It shouldn’t have the feeling tossing them out. It can be end of day, folks (not boss) can arrange a meet up at a bar nearby, etc. I’ve seen it go sideways on both sides before when it’s too ambiguous for people or drawn way out, especially for junior folks in IC roles. The right thing really is just let them go, pay them as much as you can, and let them start figuring out what’s next.
If it were me, chances are I would not make the day of notification their last day unless they wanted it to be (most would I bet) but I also know what I’m doing. :-)
I think your advice is well dramatized by this Moneyball scene:
From the employee side, there's a primal desire to control something about this unexpected and unwelcome process. Moving the last-day slider a day or two in either direction might hit the spot.
This is probably the greatest video clip on the subject of all time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTjhHrcyiQI
However, if you go that route make it specific it is for transition and once person is done it doesn't have to do any new work and just left them to leave earlier.
However, there are stipulations related to layoffs and reduced salaries, which is why you should evaluate this option before making the irreversible decision to fire people.
 Here's a decent summary: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/30/heres-how...
Like the article and the parent comment mentions, laying off is a very significant and irreversible decision and at least in our case seemed too extreme.
Looks like your article is linking to the sbia. Last week everything I found was still referring to things that should be in the bill.
It may be unpopular, but I will give you a different view, the one from a Founder/CEO.
After the dot com crash no VC could figure out the good from the bad in their portfolio companies. I was starting to get conflicting opinions from my board (4 VC’s and me, the Founder). “Become a BtoB company, a BtoBtoC company,etc,...”.
Some VC’s offered a bridge (and declined at the last minute), others claimed they were running of money, others did not know.
A white knight came in the form of a bottom feeder. Those kinds of sharks are circling around your company right now. Vc’s are just happy to unload their portfolio companies to them, so they can save the face, some employees, and maybe the company.
Anyway, the deal came with a caveat: I had to fire 40% of the staff and I had to quit after that to make room for “professional management”.As a Founder I had hired every single engineer, every single marketing rep. This was a very difficult one to swallow, but I had no choice.
The night before I did not sleep. I was up at 5 and drove early to the office. I stopped multiple times as I was sobbing and could not drive (I wear glasses).
Mid morning I called an all hands meeting. Got up the steps to talk to everybody. There was silence, as everybody sort of knew by then that something was brewing.
As I was reading to talk, I started crying. Everybody was watching me in silence.
As I was getting myself together I explained the situation, that we had a way out but that 40% of them had to go. One engineer raised his hand and said “I’ll stay with no pay”.
Then a second one.
I started crying again. Folks would come to me and say “we’ll be all right” and I would reply “thank you”. When asked what the structure would be, I said I did not know. I knew that after the layoffs I would be silently asked to leave.
A lot of people moved on, did well, got better jobs over the years.
So, be kind to your Founders, and all the early employees who worked for months and years with no pay because they believe so much in what they were working on.
In the past 5-10 years, we have seen a lot of excesses, super expensive office spaces, unbelievable perks and salaries, $30K conference room tables and unlimited money printed by VC’s and later stage investors. Well, maybe this is it. If you get laid off don’t be angry, don’t blame others, and move on. Don’t take that personally.
As for me, I never fully recovered from the worst day of my life, and that was 19 years ago. :-(
> As I was reading to talk, I started crying. Everybody was watching me in silence.
I know my comment is slightly off-topic to the article, but I just wanted to empathize with you and what was the worst day of your life. My company failed completely, but when I had to make the announcement I was sobbing uncontrollably to the point where I was having trouble breathing, in front of everyone (some were sympathetic, some were bitter, all went on to better things almost immediately - none had any interest in working for free). It's just fucking awful. I'm doing better now, but fuck just remembering how horrible that was made me feel compelled to write this comment.
> As for me, I never fully recovered from the worst day of my life, and that was 19 years ago. :-(
I hope you're also doing better today.
I'm only a couple of years into my career, so I knew but never fully understood how bad the dot com (and 08) recessions were. Kinda scary to hear stories like this, then think of my current job at a mid-size startup. I think we have enough cash for a bit, but it seems like things can change so quickly.
It seems like you have a lot of wisdom about situations like this, for better or worse hah.. do you have any advice for a younger dev right now? I already have a lot of savings, but I'm really interested in your opinions about how to reduce the impacts of the impending recession on my career goals, and to come out ahead when it's all over.
Be sympathetic. Empathy is important. This is too late to be cynical or overly critical
The approach detailed in the above blog post is more appropriate for any situation with more than 10 employees.
Turns out bosses and management are humans too, what a novel concept! Shit happens, and we are all constantly trying our best.
> I never fully recovered from the worst day of my life, and that was 19 years ago
From one stranger to another, with as much empathy as I can convey through this comment box: whether you start another project of that magnitude or not, I hope you can eventually change that sentence to "it was grueling, you kinda never forget but I did fully recover".
Thank you for sharing your story.
What's the secret? Communications. Don't say everything is fine if it isn't. Don't pretend that the potential saviour plans are more likely than they actually are.
Earlier in my career, I'd been through layoffs too. Management would say "this is the last round" several times. You could see teams vanishing from one day to the next. On a trading floor it's pretty obvious. But also in a major tech firm I'd worked at, it was the same, "this is the last time".
Fact is you don't know if it really is the last time, so don't say so. You can lay out the plan - staffers appreciate whatever detail management can give - and you can say why you think you're about to turn the corner. But don't act like it's a given.
Some employees will immediately start looking for another job, but that seems totally fine and reasonable to me, both for the employee and the employer. They get to retain most of their income and all their benefits while doing so, and if they do leave successfully that just saves you more money too.
With all of that said, it does occur to me that with small startups there just may not be enough employees for paycuts to help much. The above is really written with 100+ person companies in mind I suppose.
The reality is that too many VC funded companies hire too eagerly and can operate perfectly fine (in some cases better) with a smaller, more focused workforce.
There is no coming back from a major across-the-board paycut, which is why no company chooses that option.
BTW your question is answered in the last paragraph of the article.
Are we in a competitive job market still? For whom?
Of course, this piece has been written to provide advice in the face of the current situation, so I'm not simply dismissing it: just asking the question.
I think you’re right that layoffs allow you to take a more targeted approach and retain top talent to the extent that it’s possible. However, really in-demand employees aren’t generally going to want to work at a financially unstable or insecure company, and layoffs would probably be a sign for them to start looking even if they weren’t impacted.
The people that were left survived three rounds of layoffs.
I know this time it’s different than 2008-2011. But no job is stable. The only hope you have is to keep your skillset in line with the market and to have a strong network.
What do you mean?
You're likely to lose your best employees because they know what they are worth and are unlikely to live with a pay cut because working with you is no more special than working for someone else. Losing great employees is not where you want to save money. It's extremely expensive to find, hire, and train people, and once you lose them you also lose their domain knowledge within your company.
If you lose the engineer that built the product that makes you money, good luck modifying or fixing any issues with it in a short amount of time.
Layoffs are about survival, doing what you suggest is a sure fire way to kill your company.
Do you consider restaurants heartless for laying off staff? Cruise lines? Hotels? Entertainment businesses?
It's a tough decision, but failing to make it could be the difference between laying off a few people and laying off everyone because the company goes bankrupt. The key is to do this in a respectful manner so the bridge isn't burned.
I asked payroll if our final check would be affected by the pay cuts and am still waiting an answer.
The reason is because there are companies that are still hiring and that will make it, but they’ll soak up their fill from all of the early lay-off talent and there will be very little left for you when you’re the last person to turn off the lights.
I guess the moral of the story is to keep your resume fresh, and if a good opportunity comes by during this time it might not hurt to consider it.
> While it can sound jarring to say “and today is your last day,” it’s generally better for people because it makes it clear that there is a new normal and it starts right now
On what basis is this better? You’re opting into socially traumatizing people this way. When you take someone’s badge most people who remain immediately starts to shun the laid off worker. Your respect and trust of them as a person is immediately (rightly) seen as a lie. I’d really like more info on how this is better than allowing people to say their goodbyes.
Layoffs are different from performance based firings. My rule of thumb for layoffs is mandatory 3 months + 1 month for each year of service. Someone at the organization for 6 years deserves 6 months of severance if laid off.
These are standards you have to build into your financial model. I'm afraid we've been in the crazy world of terribly run startups for too long. When I look at some of the standout startups from 2005-2010 and some from 2011-now, the startups coming out of this recent decade are far less efficient with their cash than their counterparts from the decade before.
In general for startups and if you can afford, max(2mo, 1mo per year). If you are in a slow industry like finance backoffice, good chance many people are 5-15yr and saved vacations, diff ballgame and HN is irrelevant ;-) Collapse is part of the choice of going for startups.
But this is all nonsense right now: super hard for many people to get new jobs right now when not an easy FANG fit. So low severance layoffs right now are pretty career impacting FUs. Can't take the COVID SBA loans and apply it to severance, so not easy. Startups are risks anyways, so maybe time to instead take advantage of the chaos and grow instead!
When you take someone’s badge most people who remain immediately starts to shun the laid off worker.
Your respect and trust of them as a person is immediately (rightly) seen as a lie.
I've had people who I've had mutually enjoyable interactions for years suddenly just stop talking entirely upon a layoff. Its in fact pretty common, I'd have to say.
> You're saying that the moment someone gets laid off you are justified in losing all respect for and trust of that person if you're still on the team? I have to believe people aren't that cruel in general.
Not at all what I meant! I meant the relationship between employee and employer (or manager) turns on a dime, if not only are they told you're laid off, but also immediately all of your badges and access are gone. Suddenly the place you feel like you've belonged is treating you like a trespasser or criminal and not to be trusted to even have door access.
And on the latter point, as I point out, depends on maturity of workforce and leadership.
Minor last point — I’m sorry to say that if I’m normalizing eight weeks, then I’m raising the norm. You can not like it, and I don’t, but that’s reality. Eight weeks is generous for a startup, or most companies.
Highly recommend reading in its entirety, and saving for the unpleasant day you need it (which, unfortunately, might be soon).
What's missing is that a layoff conversation is also the beginning of a breakup. The economic truth may be transactional, but the lived experiences is emotional. Highly invested professional relationships are changing irrevocably. maybe it was great, maybe it wasn't. These employees have served the mission of your company. If they showed up to work, they were trying. As an employee, one can feel discarded. In this setting, the one emotion a manager should not suppress is gratitude: don't forget to say thank you.
>Do not tell them they will be fine.
In general, a very good article, but these two lines really seem contradictory. It might intend to mean something else, but in practice it's pretty much doing what is outlined as a "do-not-do-this".
you will get through this acknowledges that a significant hardship is being imposed on them.
you will be fine trivializes the hardship; the subtext is "this is no big deal, you worry too much".
It's a moment in life where you just keep your mouth shut.
Careful: If you've ever worked on a team where one person clearly needed to go, that person needs to go in the layoff. Otherwise, keeping the poor performer when you lay off other people who did their jobs well will severely hurt morale.
If you don't understand what I mean, well you should consider yourself lucky that you've always worked with excellent people who knew how to do their jobs and had great attitudes.
> Maybe they will return to a home country with alternative healthcare options
Wow, that's calling it what it is.
As long as this notion persists (which will be for many more decades I fear) power inequalities will just mean that some will suffer more (those who do not have resources in the first place).
Hey, you know, I am really sorry, but thanks for all the capital you helped us to accumulate - which we own and not you. Bye!
I imagine the most profound societal change will come from getting rid of this notion and the resulting reduction in power asymmetries.
However, what I am observing is that 'capital' gets its hand in any aspect of life, the formerly family owned coffee machine maker, lingerie producer and the outdoor specialist went through couple of private equity hands - for what? For injecting capital to trim down ops, expand, then get out of a position?
After watching hundreds of hours of investing conference videos and interviews there is one thing, that really got me: why is this field so sad? I believe it's because all they ever talk about what they "own". The cannot make, invent, heal, fight, cook, write, harvest or any other human activity - all they do is "own" something that is valuable to others.
Imagine kids playing in the playground and all the talk about is what each of them owns. They cannot read, write, play an instrument, tell jokes, do tricks, etc. - no, but they control those who can and are productive.
I am not sure why, but I'd rather have a kid with talents than one with lots of "assets" (even though in this world talent does not matter, if you've got the assets).
Warren Buffet was once asked by the audience, what you should do, if you have artistic talents and want to live them out, but you do not want to starve? He did not really care, understandably.
Having seen the shit-storms of the early naughts, yes, I can say there are worse ways of doing layoffs. Hint: deactivating key cards at lunch time isn't a best practice, nor is dribbling out lay-offs in waves like a year-long "last man standing" game show particularly helpful. Nor is calling an all-hands meeting and having the CEO cry on a theater-sized video projection. But these things are fairly obvious to non-sociopath leaders and companies with a professional HR department.
This is the second essay from a VC concern that I've seen discussing this. It makes me wonder why are VC's giving out this advice in such open-letter forums?
Also, this is intended as a practical manual from someone who's been there and done it repeatedly, not a random blogger attempting to dazzle with their "insight".
Is this a norm for startups?
The norm for BigCorp is to have your tenure-based severance actually map directly to tenure, so if someone worked for you for 10 years she gets 5x what someone who worked for two years gets.
(Granted there might be a baseline, like $M + $N * $YEARS.)
And that's just talking about the US, but the article definitely implied they're talking about the US and in particular California. If your startup is domiciled in, say, France, you probably don't have a choice.