9.6. Pink Slips: Layoffs and Liquidation

According to Denis Meredith, 20 to 30 percent of testing and quality assurance organizations are disbanded within two years of their formation.[] Informal discussions on Internet testing discussion groups like SWTEST-Discuss during the early 2000s recession has suggested that testers bear a disproportionate burden in layoffs, especially in economic downturns. Anecdotally, I can attest to the credibility of these observations, having experienced multiple layoffs as a test manager. In some cases, I was asked to wield the ax; in others, I—along with most or all of my test team—got the ax.

[] See materials prepared for Denis Meredith's training course "Software Testing: An Integrated Approach," presented September 23-27,1991, at the University of California at Los Angeles, p. I–19.

For obvious reasons, companies don't tend to post big notices around the cube farm six months before a layoff, saying, "Get your resumes ready; here comes Chainsaw Al." In some instances, even the line managers might not know what's coming, although they usually do get a few clues. Based on my admittedly limited experience, and the shared experiences of some of my colleagues, I recount here some worrisome warning signs:

Being asked to participate in an employee ranking exercise, especially if this procedure involves every manager in the company.

I have never seen these rankings used for anything other than whacking the bottom rungs off the ladder.

Noticing a decline ...

Get Managing the Testing Process: Practical Tools and Techniques for Managing Hardware and Software Testing now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.