Facebook’s 30-Day List Was Recently Extended to Strong Performers. That Could Devastate Employee Morale, Even for People Who Get ‘Rehired’


Sales were down, and forecasts showed we didn’t have enough work to keep production employees busy. 

“I have a great idea,” our boss said. “Before we lay any bindery employees off, let’s give them a chance to apply for the open shipping jobs.”

While it sounds odd that a business would need to simultaneously lay off employees and hire new ones, it does happen; the bigger the company — and the more diverse its operations and functions — the more likely. A change in demand could mean you need to cut production employees even as you add more engineers to develop new products. 

That’s currently happening at Meta, Facebook’s parent company. Staffing reductions are one aspect of the company’s cost-cutting response to a downturn in the digital ad market.

“Every manager needs to think about each person on their team and the value they are adding to Meta,” Maher Saba, Facebook’s Vice President of remote presence, reportedly wrote in a memo to engineering managers. “If a direct report is coasting or a low performer, they are not who we need; they are failing this company. As a manager, you cannot allow someone to be net neutral or negative for Meta.”

“Realistically,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly said at a company town hall earlier this summer, “there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here. Part of my hope by raising expectations and having more aggressive goals, and just kind of turning up the heat a little bit, is that I think some of you might decide that this place isn’t for you, and that self-selection is okay with me.”

Makes sense. Research shows removing a poor performer can make a bigger financial impact than hiring a superstar, and self-selection is always easier (at least for the manager) than laying off or firing — and a lot less public than simply announcing a significant number of layoffs.

Maybe that’s why, as Meta cuts staffing in certain functional areas, affected employees are given the opportunity to apply for other roles in the company and find a “new job” within 30 days, a period employees call being on the “30-day list.” The practice isn’t uncommon; Google recently told a number of employees they would need to find another job in the company within 90 days.

Also makes sense. Why hire someone relatively unknown from the outside when you can keep someone you know is a good worker? 

What doesn’t make sense is making employees apply for those jobs. 

In our case, we knew who we wanted to keep. We knew whether they were good team players, good leaders, possessed solid work ethics, were self-starters…  we knew them. If Mark and Becky and Melissa applied for a certain job, I already knew which one I would choose. 

Why make them go through the charade — demeaning as it certainly feels — of applying?

Say I tell Melissa that her current job is being eliminated but she can apply for a shipping position. She does, and I choose her.

Great? Not really. She had to apply. She had to say why she was a great candidate. She had to try to prove her worth… even though she had already proven her worth. 

The better approach? I know Melissa’s job is being eliminated. I know there is an open shipping position. I assess all the people whose jobs are being cut, determine which is the best candidate, and choose her. Then I go to her and say, “Unfortunately your bindery job is being cut, but we don’t want to lose you. There is an open job in shipping that I hope you will take.”

Maybe she will opt in. Maybe she will self-select out. Either way, I chose her. She didn’t have to apply. If she decides to leave, at least she leaves knowing — through actions, not just words — that we really wanted to keep her. If she stays, she knows — again, through actions, not words — that we found a way to keep her.

She didn’t have to ask us. We asked her.

I know what you might be thinking. In a big company, it’s hard for managers of one functional area to know skills and qualities the managers of another functional area might be looking for. It’s also a waste of time to consider an employee for another position who may not be interested in that position.

It’s hard… but it’s not too hard. Managing feels is just as important as managing functions. Make me apply for another job, and even if I land that job, I’ll never forget. Make me apply for another job and then not select me? Either way, I leave — but I’ll never forget the 30, 60, or 90 days I spent wondering whether you found me “worthy.”

If you’re a leader, it’s your job to know your people. You should know who you want to keep, and be able to explain, in detail, why they are a great fit for another position. (If you don’t, maybe you should be the person who self-selects.)

If you’re a business owner, it’s your job to manage functions and manage feelings.

And making people prove something they have already proven feels terrible.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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