The Zoom of Doom

By Robert Goldman

June 25, 2020 5 min read

Got an important Zoom meeting scheduled?

Got the meeting invitation burning a hole in your inbox?

I have advice for you.

Don't.

Don't open the invitation. Don't schedule the meeting. Don't even think of attending.

Yes, your absence will be noted, and, of course, your manager will be peeved, but when the meeting ends, you'll have something the actual attendees don't have.

You'll have your job.

I hate to rain on your Zoomy parade, but management has put an element of menace in our wonderful new way of working — a virtual workstyle that does not require commuting or spending days in crowded offices or, for that matter, putting on our pants.

I'm sad to say the reason for your next Zoom may not be quite so wonderful.

Your manager doesn't want your involvement.

What your manager wants is your termination.

If virtual meetings are an efficient way to get work done, companies are learning they are also quite effective in getting work to stop. This technological innovation is less positive for employees.

In the real world, you generally have an inkling that the end is near. Your name may drop off a distribution list. An important status meeting on your most critical project somehow goes on with your presence. The VP of Finance flees the state to live in a country with no extradition treaty. These are the subtle signs. The most conclusive warning sign is more blatant: Your manager starts being extremely nice to you.

When your boss starts being nice, it's time to start packing.

In a virtual workplace, these warning signs are impossible to see, making a very real pink slip impossible to avoid.

Or so I learned when I read "In a Sign of the Times, Cold Zoom-Call Firings Are Now Common," an alarming new post by executive recruiter Jack Kelly on Forbes.

Think it couldn't happen at your company?

That's what 22,000 workers at 24 Hour Fitness probably thought when "the Gym's Chief Human Resources officer, Tami Majer, sent an email to workers asking them to participate in a phone call to discuss 'important company updates.'"

Imagine the surprise of the 22,000 participants in the call when they learned that the big update was a big downer: All 22,000 had been fired.

Considering how cold-hearted personal trainers can be when demanding that extra set of squats, you may not be surprised by the gym's harsh approach to the termination process. It raises another negative for a Zoom firing. If those 22,000 ex-workers could meet in person with their bosses, they could beg, cry and maybe squeeze out management's approval to let them leave with their leotards.

With a Zoom termination, no such luck.

Even more fuzzy-wuzzy companies, like Uber and Airbnb, have sharpened the Zoom ax to virtually guillotine the jobs of thousands of real employees.

Interestingly, these caring companies using Zoom for firing do not give advance warning.

As Uber executive Ruffin Chaveleau told the participants in their fatal Zoom meeting, "Today will be your last working day with Uber."

If you wanted to collect the plant you left on your desk when you departed for what you thought would be a limited period of virtual employment, don't expect to come back to pick it up. On the positive side, your philodendron has been promoted three times and is now running the marketing department.

At least Uber employees got the bad news from a real human being. Bird, the scooter-rental startup, pooped on 406 employees through a one-way Zoom call in which "a disembodied voice read a script informing the person that they've been laid off."

Sweet!

In the end, there may be nothing you can do to avoid a Zoom of Doom, but a good first step is to stop going to virtual meetings — all virtual meetings. You can explain that you went out for a contactless delivery of jelly donuts or that your hair has grown so long you can no longer see the computer screen or that you had to take the children you are home-schooling on a field trip to the garage.

Your virtual absence at the next virtual meeting could keep you employed for at least as long as the meeting lasts, and who knows, your manager could have a change of heart. Or grow a heart.

In the meantime, consider this warning as one of the new laws of workplace survival in a virtual world.

If they can't Zoom you, they can't fire you.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: Pexels at Pixabay

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