The first rule of conducting layoffs is to not be a jerk about it. The second rule is to make sure the social media manager you just laid off doesn’t still have access to your accounts. Today, Tencent violated both of those rules as it laid off nearly all of the editorial staff at Fanbyte, an online gaming publication.
Tencent is the world’s biggest gaming company and the most valuable company in China, holding a stake in dozens of international game studios and gaming companies: Riot Games, Epic Games, Roblox, Discord, Pocket Gems, you name it. Tencent also owns WeChat, the Chinese social media superapp, as well as Tencent Music.
After posting its first revenue decline ever last quarter, Tencent laid off about 5% of its workforce, impacting 5,000 people. But a month later, it looks like Tencent is still making cuts.
I have some degree of sympathy for burgeoning startups that are navigating a challenging market and make the painstaking decision to cut jobs — but Tencent is a mega-company that earned over $88 billion in revenue last year. Sure, its valuation has taken downturn after it almost reached an unfathomable $1 trillion last year. But is laying off some writers really the answer to these problems?
According to tweets by Merritt K, one of the final remaining staff at Fanbyte, the layoffs included the site’s editor-in-chief, head of media, features editor, social editor, news editor, graphic designer, podcast producer and several writers.
Tencent did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the layoffs.
As promised, these layoffs were handled so terribly that it almost makes Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase, look good. Fanbyte employees were laid off slowly, one by one, over the course of several hours. There’s nothing like sitting alone in your apartment, waiting to find out if you still have a job, watching as your coworkers tweet that they’re looking for new work.
One extremely small silver lining, though, was that the social media manager got laid off while she still had access to the Fanbyte social media accounts. She basically gave Tencent the middle finger, and after years of watching writers that I love lose their jobs for reasons far beyond their control, I’m living for it.
For several hours, the Fanbyte Instagram bio has read, “Tencent made $35 billion in net income last year and laid off almost every member of child company Fanbyte! Please support the staff elsewhere :)” The account is currently sporting the display name, “forgot the keys?”
Ah, sweet revenge. You know what would be even sweeter, though? If the biggest media companies in the world stopped gutting good publications to save a couple hundred thousand dollars a year, which is only about a fraction of a fraction of a percent of their net income anyway.