An ex-Cloudflare employee went viral after filming her layoff and posting it on TikTok.
Some Gen Z workers are recording their layoffs and posting it on social media in a new trend. Future of work expert Dan Schawbel told BI that they’re rewarded with validation and connection. Remote work has made Gen Z lonelier, but there are consequences to exposing employers online.
The youngest generation at work have found a new way to vent their frustrations at working in corporate America: filming themselves getting laid off or fired, and posting it on social media.
In January, Brittany Pietsch, a former employee at Cloudflare, uploaded a video on TikTok which showed her defending herself after being fired by HR executives at the company. The video has since racked up over two million views and ignited a global conversation about why Gen Zers aren’t afraid to call out their employers online.
“They love the validation,” he explained. “They don’t want to feel alone and isolated. When other people comment saying ‘You go girl’ or ‘Thanks for being a voice’ or ‘I’m so happy you did this,’ that’s the validation that makes them not feel alone; that makes them feel almost like a hero.”
He added: “There’s a reward system attached to doing that.”
Young people on TikTok generally have negative sentiments about work and anti-capitalist views, so content that calls out corporations for bad behavior is more likely to be pushed by the algorithm.
“From the Gen Z perspective, this woman feels like a hero,” Schawbel said about Pietsch.
“She stood up for her generation. She got commemorated with all these articles, all these great things. She got followers, she got attention, because of the algorithm and the echo chamber that surrounds her on social media, and on TikTok especially.”
Gen Z are experiencing a loneliness epidemic due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing them to work and study virtually. A December 2022 survey by the Harvard Graduate School of Education shared with BI showed that a third of 18 to 25-year-old Americans reported feeling lonely frequently, almost all the time, or all the time.
They’re even spending thousands on gym memberships and social clubs in the hopes of meeting friends.
This problem has been exacerbated by remote work. Young professionals working from home are generally living in shared or small accommodations and have less established social lives than their older colleagues. As a result, they want to come back to work in the office to build more social connections.
Social media fame, likes, followers, and comments might create a facade of social connection for some lonely Gen Zers.
There are consequences to exposing employers online
Although Pietsch and other content creators who posted these videos have been inundated with support and solidarity, they may have unknowingly lost out on some job opportunities.
Schawbel argued that those posting such videos “can’t see that behind the curtain, all the conversations that all the recruiters are having about how they won’t hire her [referring to Pietsch].”
A lot of recruiters would be wary of hiring someone like that because company’s “don’t want to be the next victim” of a social media rant.
Such creators could become a “liability for future employment,” he said.
Ben Voyer, an ESCP Business School professor who founded the Gen Z Observatory, previously told BI that exposing employers online can be a “double-edged sword” because it can be seen as a betrayal, and whistleblowers are usually stigmatized.
“Maybe people forget about it over a certain period of time,” Schawbel added. “But Google doesn’t forget.”