The next few posts will be a bit of a wander. I promise we will get back to software design with new tools for thinking about our fundamental dictum: software design is an exercise in human relationships. CEO: I take full responsibility for these layoffs.
Power is everywhere, senior/junior developer, father/son. The question is how that power is used?
A mantra I try to have is the mindset. The example is when I am coach, if I think the coachee have a lot of problems, and will never solve those, that will affect the conversation. If I have the mindset that the coachee has indefinite potential and can be or do anything, that will have a totally different effect. The trick is to make this real, and I can only say that practice is a good way. CEO may have a overall responsibility for layouts, if the culture is that everybody has a part of that responsibility, maybe the pain can be shared.
"Boss/employee. Coach/player. Officer/soldier. Each of these relationships is based on a power differential."
What if we have just lost the initial reason? What if those relationships were originally based on respect and thriving for experience and excellence? Power differential, in that case, would be something like a side effect. So maybe, with the help of time and institutionalisation of relationships, the internal reason of thriving for excellence faded away and only the visible wrapping of power differentials remained?
You might be interested in the book Everybody Matters. It’s about a company that, among other things, faced an economic downturn without layoffs. One of the strategies they used to avoid layoffs was temporary across the board pay cuts. Including the CEO (who wrote the book).
Back when I was an outsourcing lawyer, we had a mantra that "risk goes with control"
I think you have it exactly right here. I also think that the CEOs that claim they take responsibility think they really are doing that, even though they are not also taking pay cuts, etc.
What they mean - I think - is simply that they won’t blame anybody else for the failure. So there’s that, weak sauce though it is.