I am not paid to care, the loyalty trap 

With these recent layoffs at Twitter, and the expectation from engineers to stay over the weekend to finish an “important” feature, I see a lot of engineers are not familiar with the main concepts of capitalism. If you are an employee, you are disposable, end of the story. I am not saying it’s a bad system, it has done wonders and created many amazing jobs, like the one I have now, but it’s much easier to position yourself at work if you understand how the game is played. A core aspect of capitalism is favoring skills over loyalty, and it makes perfect sense, skills will give you a competitive advantage, loyalty will not. That has a simple consequence for all who are employees: you are either in demand or you are not, and that dictates 99% of your pay.

Stay over the weekend

So when Elom musk instructed engineers to build something over the weekend, what were the options? Be loyal and do it, or bet on your skills and ignore the loyalty trap. Guess who did not stay to work that weekend at Twitter? The senior engineers, who are more competent, and more importantly are betting on the competence card and not the loyalty card.

When is it okay to play the loyalty card

If you don’t have options, or you are just starting out your career, then it makes sense to play the loyalty card, so it’s worth putting in the extra hours. As time goes on, it’s paramount to stop playing the loyalty card because that will only hinder the skill acquisition game. Companies will get used to you doing long hours with no pay, and they will expect it. This still might not be a great strategy in some edge cases, like what happened at Twitter.

Another example where the loyalty card makes sense is when a person owns a percentage of the company. Then it’s fine to put in the time and be loyal. This will be essentially a bet with massive upside and almost no downside. The company can end up being very valuable, and even 1% of that would mean a lot of money, and the downside is that the company might go bust, but you still got paid in the meantime.

Min-max game

The second fundamental aspect of capitalism is the min-max game that is being played between a company and an employee. The company is trying to maximize the number of hours you put in while minimizing the amount of money they pay. And for the employees, it’s the reverse, maximizing the amount of money paid for the least amount of hours put in. This idea should be revisited every so often so we don’t forget what games are we actually playing. 

Career capitalism

The best book on this topic, hands down, is Cal Newport Be s good they can’t ignore you. It will distill the best strategy you can employ during a career, not just as an employee but as a founder also. 

Who stayed at Twitter in the end?

And you guessed it, junior engineers who stayed over the weekend to build the new feature got fired and the senior engineers stayed. Why? Well if you have the option to keep 10 engineers, what is a better choice, 10 senior engineers who can run Twitter or 10 junior engineers who can’t but are loyal? The answer is simple. 

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