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Congratulations You’ve Been Fired (nytimes.com)
679 points by dcschelt on Apr 9, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 429 comments

For the record, I'm one of the co-authors of "The Alliance," which Dan Lyons refers to in his op ed. Dan refers to our book and quotes a single sentence fragment: "Your company is not your family." Everything else he writes in that section of the piece has nothing to do with the content of the book.

1) "You’re serving a “tour of duty” that might last a year or two" Actually, the book makes it clear that the duration of a tour of duty depends on the mission the employee has agreed to tackle--tours of duty can be 6 months long, but then can also last for a decade (think of NASA scientists working on a deep space probe).

2) "Companies burn you out and churn you out when someone better, or cheaper, becomes available." This is purely Dan Lyons; the point we make in the book is that few employees expect or want lifetime employment at a single company; what people really want is lifetime employability and career progress. We would consider companies that behaved like Lyons described as "breaking the Alliance," which would harm their reputation as an employer.

3) "In this new model of work, employees are expected to feel complete devotion and loyalty to their companies, even while the boss feels no such obligation in return." Once again, this is the exact opposite of what our book says. We believe that employers and employees need to recognize that employment is a voluntary, mutually beneficial alliance, and that managers should be explicit about how an employee's job assignment is going to help develop his or her career.

Dan Lyons certainly has right to his opinions, but he shouldn't have a right to misrepresent our ideas.

> the point we make in the book is that few employees expect or want lifetime employment at a single company

Any citation about this claim? Because in my experience, it's completely incorrect.

Outside of the US, lifetime employment is a heavily coveted goal, because economies outside of the US are in a terrible shape overall with unemployment rate routinely above 10%.

Inside the US, except for white collar workers in major cities, long time employment remains the holy grail of most of the workforce, even though the US economy is in a pretty good shape overall.

Interestingly, even though Dan Lyons technically belongs to the white collar community that is probably not interested in lifetime employment, it's pretty obvious to me that when he joined that semi-startup, his goal was a lot more to write a book about it than embracing the party line and planning a long career there.

I mean... you're hiring Fake Steve Jobs and when he's out of the company, your executives try to illegally get a copy of the book with the futile hope that it won't get published... Seriously? What did you expect?

I think it's overwhelmingly a generational thing, not a "white collar" thing. Older white collar workers still want/expect lifetime employment, while young workers of all kinds are more comfortable with labor fluidity.

The vast majority of my young friends are uninterested in jobs which would provide lifetime employment. (As am I.)

Honestly, it was incredibly risky for HubSpot to hire Lyons and the outcome seems predestined. He came in with completely mismatched expectations and an ax to grind.

This is also a huge contributory factor to ageism in tech. Of course you won't hire older people when they expect lifetime employment at a startup which might not even exist in a few years.

People don't want fluidity. A few moths of unemployment every few years wrecks most people's long term savings.

Now if you have no kids or major bills and a high paying job then sure it can feel like a vacation. But there is a reason unemployment is often considered one of the most stressful periods in someone's life.

Sure, it's a generational thing.

However, I'm not sure if that's a matte of preference or realism. Our generation knows that "lifetime employment" at a single company does not exist any more. The only way to remain sane is to accept the reality.

I'm a student know, and repeating the same summer job search process every spring is stressful. I don't look forward to future with joy, but what alternatives there are?

While true lifetime employment might be extinct, there are still gradations in job security. Your tenure at a large corporation or government job will generally be much longer that a startup. But you don't see people lining up to work in the government.

It's not exitinct per se, there are millions of jobs in government with great retirement packages. Some university jobs are basically for life too.

That's because job security isn't the only factor, obviously.

I don't think we are more comfortable with it, the people I know think it sucks and would usually love to stick with the same company if they are given stuff they like to work on. It's great when I get to work with someone who has been with a company for 10 or 12 years. We do have an understanding though that the jerks that are running most of these startups don't think that way and we have to just put up with it.

We strongly believe that longer-term relationships are generally better; how often is your first 6 months on the job the most productive? And if you look at successful companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook, they tend to have low turnover among their key people.

I think there are still plenty of people who would be willing to sign up for a lifelong job with a single organization, but it's nearly impossible for any organization to actually fulfill their end of the bargain. How many companies are likely to last the 40-50 years of a person's career?

This is why many people, even today, take government jobs... not for massive pay, perks or fun offices but to build a stable life.

Have you ever left the US?

There is no way not wanting lifetime employment is something unique to the US, it seems far more likely that it would be connected to status than nationality (and that has been my experience for what it's worth)

> Have you ever left the US?

Please don't do the personal-swipe-as-a-question thing. Your comment would be good without that.


I'm not American... so that's a yes. I'm not arguing about the desire for lifetime employment, I'm criticizing the previously quoted nonsense generalization.

I spent the first thirty years of my life in a European country.

"because economies outside of the US are in a terrible shape overall with unemployment rate routinely above 10%."

Nice stats you just pulled out of your ass

I think it's pretty clear that we're talking about white-collar, US-based, urban workers and not about a rural Argentinian engine mechanic

That is a total misreading of the comments you are replying to. First of all, it's not at all clear that only white collar employees are what is being referred to in that book. Secondly, the book appears to be not just targeted to the U.S. market, but globally.

I don't think Dan Lyons misrepresents your ideas, but rather I think more fundamentally he doesn't share your vocabulary, worldview nor expectations. The reverse is also true, and your arguments in return don't use worldview or definitions he would understand nor recognise.

The modern world seems to be a constant case of vocabulary misunderstanding, where we all say "widget", and I mean thing and you mean "an element of a UX".

"Job security" is a specific example that can mean different things based on worldview. It can mean "the business will employ you no matter what you do or how bad you are" - the classic 1970s Union paradigm. "Job security" can mean "the creation of skills that will continue to have value in the market", i.e. "a law degree means you will always have job security. Or "Job security" can even mean something beyond the individual, to mean "working for a company that will survive" i.e. "working for the government provides great job security - they can never go out of business". Dan Lyons' sacking from Newsweek and the dying of traditional media shows how industry viability is in some ways more fundamental than the individual's talents to "job security".

Now, which of those definitions people understand - and which definition your worldview puts front and centre - will dictate how you view a new sort of life/work manifesto.

Dan Lyons idealises a world in which people worked their whole career for one company, had a slow progression of minor promotions and pay rises & retired to a gold watch they took to Florida. That reality makes me personally want to buy a chair, some rope and to Google how to tie a noose, but my view is certainly NOT universal, and I need to accept and recognise that.

I would hope people would go beyond seeing this as "misrepresent our ideas", and get to bottom of the misunderstanding - to the fundamental worldview misunderstanding at the core of the disagreement. Rather than defend against a perceived attack, I think a policy of agree and amplify makes sense. Dan Lyons is correct - the world has changed and in this new reality, 50 years of depressing work for one company is over. The new world may not have a gold watch at the end of the rainbow, but it should have a much brighter and happier journey, and the a world in which employment is for a specific period, the goal changes from work hard and hope, to maximise skill development. That is the heart of "The Alliance" - an acceptance the world has changed, and making it work for you.

I appreciate the thoughtful comment. And I wouldn't dispute that we believe that lifetime employment by a single company is unlikely to be offered or accepted in today's world.

But Dan Lyons is misrepresenting us when he implies that we believe that employees should be loyal to companies even though companies show no loyalty to employees. We're not pro-corporation or pro-employee; our point is that work is a voluntary relationship where both parties should benefit.

> Dan Lyons is misrepresenting us when he implies that we believe that employees should be loyal to companies even though companies show no loyalty to employees.

I didn't read it like that. It's pretty clear from your statement (even taken out of context) that you expect lower loyalty on both sides.

On the other hand there are bosses that would like loyal employees, even though they're not loyal themselves. They may even get a simulacrum of loyalty, as the fear of unemployability increases with unemployment itself. (Unless we take rather drastic measures, unemployment will continue to rise. Next in line are drivers.)

Beneficial mutual relationship under Ricardo's law of comparative advantage is great, but we must not forget that some people, organization, or even countries, may have no comparative advantage. What are we to do with them? We can let organizations and countries collapse, but surely we shouldn't just let people die?

Finally, it's not clear that work is really voluntary when the alternative is not being able to eat: employers face this conundrum much less often than employees do. There's a fundamental asymmetry there that when strong enough turns "voluntary" into plain old blackmail. (As a white male programmer, I don't believe the asymmetry I face is that strong. The neighbour who works at Starbucks however…)

The issue of what individuals who lack currently marketable skills should do is a tough one. Note that I didn't say unskilled...skills that once were valuable can become less valuable quite rapidly in our fast-changing world.

Since we can't predict the future, we shouldn't blame those individuals who were unlucky enough to have invested in now-worthless skills. As a society, we need to understand that investing in re-training so that someone can find a new job is far better and less expensive than either putting someone on the dole for the rest of their life, or letting people "die in the streets," which is as nonsensical as it is callous.

Note that re-training may not be enough, if structural unemployment is still significant. To describe this problem, I like the analogy of feeding dogs in a desert island:

1 desert island with nothing to eat, 100 dogs. Every day, a chopper comes in and drop 95 pieces of meat. 95 dogs can eat, the 5 slowest are left starving. A dog trainer sees that, and decides to train the slower dogs so they can eat. And they do. Now 5 other dogs are left starving.

My current take on this is, employment is overrated. We should find other ways to live our lives.

I think the realization of this reality is one of the things driving the basic income movement. I will be very curious to see if that experiment works out. I honestly don't know if it will or won't.

While we're at it, there are 2 kinds of proposal for guaranteed income:

Basic income tends to postulates that humans have needs they deserve to satisfy (food, shelter…), even if they don't have any marketable skills. Basic income is a kind of charity.

Salary for Life tends to postulate people are productive, even if no money is involved. An elder couple looking over their grandchildren do something useful, even though they're explicitly paid for it. Unemployed people don't just slack off, they often work for free. Work deserves income, and that's what Salary for Life is: not charity, but the recognition of one's worth to society.

There are also practical differences: Basic income tends to be financed with income tax. Salary for Life proposes to be financed with "Non-wage labour costs" (yuck, what a crappy name).

Finally, basic income is mostly compatible with capitalism, and can only increase as much as the need for labour decreases. Salary for Life on the other hand is inherently socialist, and mostly needs the abolition of lucrative property (you can still own your house and your stuff, but you can't rent a house or own a factory).

I'm going to have to check out Salary for Life. I can see that there are nuanced differences.

For reference, this is a transliteration from French: "Salaire à vie". I'm not sure there are many discussions of this in English.

Do you address the power imbalance between employees and employers? Do you address that an employee in such a culture is viewed as a disposable resource and no loyalty towards them is necessary, no matter what they do?

Or do you address that corporations are run by people, who each have lives and that those who are older, female or who gave young families they must support and who they want to spend time with don't feel they are in such "voluntary" work forces? What about corporate cultures where if you say no to ridiculous work hours (often unpaid) or unreasonable demands will be "graduated" from their role?

Or have you addressed the disruption to someone's life when they are forced out of a job, or the feelings of worthlessness they often feel, or the injustice that is often done to them?

Your views appear to promote toxic corporate cultures. Frankly, they are designed for people who are highly mobile and who have as much power as their employers. You don't appear to address any of these things.

1) We do specifically address the power imbalance between employers and employees. Because managers typically have more power in the relationship, it is critical that managers take the initiative to prove themselves trustworthy. Now that talent mobility has increased so much, employers who continue to treat employees as disposable are going to have a hard time attracting the best talent.

This doesn't mean that all companies will behave in an enlightened way, and there are cases where employees who lack specialized and valuable skills will still be treated badly.

2) There are also corporate cultures that place such high demands that they have negative impacts on employees' health and happiness. The purpose of our book isn't to defend all corporate employers! Its purpose is to lay out a plan for how corporate employers who believe in our ideas can build stronger, more mutually beneficial relationships with employees.

3) Losing a job can be devastating, both to your financial life, and to your health and happiness. It doesn't help that the social safety net in the United States is stingy and inconsistent. But unless you prohibit employers from laying off employees, I really think this is more a matter of government policy. And preventing employers from firing people always has unintended consequences, such as discouraging any hiring, and encouraging black market, off-the-books work.

Have you actually read our book, or even one of our many articles? I feel like you're judging me based on Dan Lyons' editorial, which as I've already pointed out, quotes exactly 6 words out of the entire book.

Broadly speaking, capitalism works because it is a voluntary exchange mechanism. It doesn't work perfectly, which is why we should strive for things like educational reform (to give everyone a chance to get a good education). But no system does.

Thinking beyond the best or the top ten percent should change some of the perspective. Not all workers will be of "the best". Most will be middlings. It's the middlings who need to worry about power imbalances and who take jobs with lousy bosses and put up with lousy coworkers.

True, top talent has less to worry about since any setback in employment is easily reversible. Many (most) don't have that luxury. These are the ones for whom the new economy is angst inducing and a bit intimidating and who look back with fondness and melancholy at the old less tumultuous economy before the new management style took over.

> It's the middlings who need to worry about power imbalances and who take jobs with lousy bosses and put up with lousy coworkers.

In my experience, many people (I don't like the word 'middlings' for some reason) think job to job instead of about a career. And then they have job problems.

Likewise, many people think paycheck to paycheck instead about longer-term finances. And then they have cash flow problems.

Isn't part of the solution to get employers and employees to talk to each other in terms of career trajectory, professional development, and skills marketability?

Couldn't part of the power imbalance be solved by getting employers to think again about giving out dead end jobs in dying industries? Right now we put the onus on the employee to recognize the problem and demand a better deal. Assuming automated freight trucks become a thing, shouldn't trucking companies say, "Hey, work for us. We'll have you trained for better jobs by the time the truck drives itself!"?

What "better jobs" are you thinking of that a typical truck driver could be realistically trained for? It reminds me of when the US steel mills closed in the 1970s and 1980s and people said -- "we can just retrain these workers for a lucrative computer career!". Didn't really happen. The elimination of unskilled/low-skilled labor through automation is major problem for society that is only going to get worse.

One of the big challenges we face as a society is managing these kinds of transitions. In 1900, the majority of Americans worked on farms. We managed that transition, but we had decades to do so. If self-driving cars eliminate all driving jobs in a single decade, the dislocation will be immense.

This is where government action will be required; this is a society-wide problem that needs a society-wide solution.

Exactly - thank you. You wrote this more succinctly and clearly than I did! That is precisely my concern.

I guess I'll read the book now if it isn't too expensive (or even available in my region!), but I think many of these ideas about mutually beneficial employment only really works where power is relatively well balanced - in other words the employer can't get rid of you or treat you badly because you are irreplaceable it very hard to replace, and the employee has loyalty towards the company.

The instant this changes, then one party will often be largely unfairly affected.

The hope is that as talent mobility increases, the power imbalance will ebb. But it is rare for the power to be perfectly balanced.

"But it is rare for the power to be perfectly balanced."

That's the difference between the powerful and the powerless. The powerful thinks the imbalance is a fact that will never change; the powerless thinks that must change.

The problem in corporate world nowadays is that the powerful people disguise this difference all the time. For example : "hey, you can negotiate your salary and if you disagree, you have total freedom to go somewhere else. How powerful you are !"

I'll sure read your book, but I'm under the impression I'll see another, maybe very sophisticated disguise...

(yes you can call me a "socialist" (in the European sense) :-) because all of this is super political in fact)

You're absolutely right that too many corporate employers take a "check the box" approach to being good employers. They strive to do well in rankings and to develop a good reputation, rather than focusing on treating people well.

But the bigger issue is that people have ended up in a position where they are powerless. And that is because the system doesn't see them as valuable. In an economic sense, unskilled labor isn't that valuable. But in a philosophical sense, those human beings are part of a society that should be looking out for them.

The best instrument of change in this case is government action (which I suppose means that holding this opinion also makes me a little bit socialist).

The root cause of the problem, at least in the United States, is that our educational system (aided and abetted by institutional discrimination and/or neglect) has failed to give many of its citizens the skills and knowledge they need. Furthermore, the social safety net is both inconsistent and insufficient.

As a mere business book author, I have a hard time tackling such problems, though I've certainly offered my opinions.

I recall an example, a bit fuzzy, so I might be off on some. Over at Zappos, someone was great at their QA job (or something, bug good at it never the less), Zappos were able to improve process and this position and person were made redundant. Not her fault, but you cannot fault the company either. However, I do find fault in not training this person for an alternate path in the company. Of course it's easier to just hire someone new to fill in a new role then it is to retrain. Govt needs to incentivize retraining.

Talent mobility will improve things for top talent wherever you are; but talent mobility will hurt you if you are not top talent unless you live in the lowest cost place to hire people. In other words if you are not top talent things are going to get worse not better.

The whole point of software engineering is to automate yourself out of a job.

When social safety net works, then people without top skills can still work away from bad employers. They may even try to start own business as they know that if they fail, the landing will be soft.

The situation when a person has to accept intimidation or even abuse at work is not much different from slavery.

Your first point is telling. Talent mobility has increased among young software developers. Dan Lyons was not a young software developer; he was an older employee on the business side of the enterprise.

It's possible (though: see game development companies for counterexamples) that abusive management of technologists at technology companies will be self-defeating, and that those companies will find themselves locked out of the talent market. But the story Dan Lyons is telling seems pretty well aligned with, for instance, reporting about Amazon's or Yelp's work culture: if you're not a young or elite technologist, management can in fact abuse you with impunity.

Employers with short expected employee timelines leads to a culture of highly disposable workers for the majority of employees, since most employees are less powerful. Not everyone can leave in two years to work for Google, Facebook, etc.. due to children or wanting to have a life outside of work. This culture and the disposability of employees leads to high demands and negatively impacts employees' health. If the employee doesn't meet the demands they can be disposed of in this exploitative relationship that is now couched as being the new normal and to be promoted.

I agree with point 3) people should have a safety net. Maybe some of the problem with this culture would be mitigated, since people would have a net to fall back on and wouldn't fear for their survival. But this plan also costs money. So companies with this sort of work culture should be paying the taxes to support the employee they laid off. Once you take the increased taxes into account, then you might see a more rational approach towards the average employee that is thrown out instead of retrained. Does the hyper libertarian mindset take into account this negative externality? Or do they simply try to dodge their taxes in offshore accounts or move their headquarters to avoid paying the tab?

Sadly, many (thought not all) corporate executives see their sole responsibility as maximizing shareholder value. Coordinated government action would likely be more effective than relying on the goodness of people's hearts. The problem is that those who behave responsibly handicap their own financial performance; it's hard to ask people to voluntarily act against their own economic interests.

It's good and fair that you have been able to lay out your real position in this discussion to people who haven't read your full text. Your comments certainly deliver a much more sensible and reasonable perspective than the article would indicate. I especially agree with 3, the corner cases of behaviour on both sides (labour & capital) can be mitigated and controlled with policy and law. Capitalism and socialism both seem to fail as you start to skirt their extremes. From the outside it seems like the USA needs a little bit more government intervention in industrial policy and also in labour regulation. Perhaps the rise of insurgent candidates for President is pointing that the mass of the Demos in the USA is hankering for a bit of this?

While I have sworn a vow not to write specifically about the US election, it is clear that one of the things buoying certain insurgent candidates is the feeling of less-educated working class white Americans that their position in society has been declining.

The thing is, they are right; their relatively unskilled labor is no longer valuable to the system (especially when equivalent labor is available at a fraction of the price in other countries). Where they are wrong is the belief that isolationist and anti-immigrant policies will restore a happy time when blue collar workers without a college education or special training could have secure, well-paid jobs that would allow them to live a comfortable middle-class existence.

I think you are right, but for the sake of social stability some sort of more equitable bargain must be struck. The alternative model is visible in Mexico City and San Palo; office commutes by chopper or kidnap and ransom risk every day !

Yes, inequality is self-limiting. Either the haves realize that they need to avoid tearing apart the fabric of society, or the have-nots realize that they represent the majority of the people, and rise up in revolution. The former is a lot less bloody than the latter.

I appreciate you taking the time to respond. If I may also respond:

1. That doesn't necessarily follow. In any economy there will always be talent, but the issue here is that you refer to the "best" talent - surely such a scenario you give also implies that once you are no longer the best talent, although you were so at one point, you can be perceived as no longer so and this you can be replaced?

There will also always be those who strive hard but have average performance no matter what you do. I don't see how you cater for anyone other than a relatively small proportion of high achievers.

That said, I don't see that it's the case that companies will ever have a problem recruiting new talent despite what they did to previous employees. There is no way of new employees to know how a business treated previous employees till they work for them, unless they know someone inside the company already and that's rather unlikely in my view.

2. That's a worthwhile aim, I guess I think some of the viewpoints about corporate culture in general that you wrote in your comments seem hopelessly naive and would foster toxic work practices.

3. It works fine in other cultures. In Australia we have incredibly high employment, and unless you work for a small business employer you can only be fired for cause, otherwise you must he made redundant which means your role cannot be fulfilled for at least a year.

The consequences of this are that employees cannot be unjustly removed and that employers need to clearly document what they have done to help the employee correct and improve their performance.

A side effect was that bullying someone out of a job became a tactic for having them leave by lower and middle managers. We now have stringent legislation that enforces proper investigation of claims of bullying by HR departments. This now happens - because the legislation penalises directors if it is found the issue is not addressed satisfactorily. I have personally seen that this is working - in my last role the colleague who took over my job was bullied by a middle manager, so he put in a bullying complaint to HR, who were forced to act very quickly through mediation and the bullying almost immediately stopped. The one being bullied got on with his job and company productivity improved.

This would never have happened unless it was legislated for.

As for companies not hiring - they still hire workers, but tend to be careful I their screening process and the legislation allows for a probation period where the can let the employee go and don't have to give cause. This can't be longer than 6 months, but it can be negotiated downwards if they really want the employee.

It works really well. Australia's workplace relations laws are very strong, and whilst there is black market, off the books employment this is quite low and we have fairly effective detection and enforcement of such practices.

4. I haven't read your book. I'm thinking of purchasing it to read it so I can better understand your ideas, but so far I have made my comments based on your comments on HN. If I've unfairly characterised your views I obviously apologise, but the comments that formed my view are on HN.

I'd love for you to read the book and provide an Australian perspective. I do think it's interesting that preventing employees from being fired resulted in an uptick in bullying. I've read about similar things happening in Japan. One senior employee was forced to work on an assembly line in an attempt to convince him to quit. It sounds like the anti-bullying legislation has been helpful in this regard.

The one major point in your latest comment I'd disagree with is that companies will never have a problem recruiting new talent regardless of what they did to previous employees. Here in the US, most employees check services like Glassdoor where employees and former employees rate company behavior; the companies with bad reputations suffer certain consequences. (Of course, some companies offer so much potential wealth that employees ignore the poor working conditions, but that doesn't mean people are unaware of those working conditions.) How do people in Australia learn more about what it's like to work at a potential employer?

If your company strategy depends on having the "best" talent, then yes, you should replace former best when they are no longer the best. Think Olympics or professional sports as the canonical example.

If your company strategy can work with the vast majority of talent and where some job/company-specific learning is in play (which is the vast majority of companies), then you would naturally prefer an experienced employee to a rank novice. That gives some power advantage to the incumbent employee over a walk-in applicant.

If your company strategy can use nearly anyone and there is no significant learning on the job, then incumbent employees are competing on fairly equal ground with new applicants and it can become a race to the bottom, but it also requires the lowest amount of investment on the part of the employee.

Your job as a prospective employee is to understand what type of company you're considering joining, and to get yourself in the right place on that spectrum, where right is a function of your abilities, aspirations, and preferences. Some like the battle to be the very best. Some like the idea of a lifetime of learning and stable employment. Others prefer (or have thrust upon them) a job where not too much is demanded of them in terms of job-related learning and development.

Unfortunately most Australian employers can easily work around #3 by just employing staff on short fixed term contracts. Then they're under no obligation to renew them.

In theory they have to offer permanent employment after a certain time, but there are lots of ways around that. I worked as a casual staff member at a university here for 8 years and they just shuffled me to a different department when I got close to that point. Didn't bother me as I was both working and studying there at the time but the "casualisation" of staff that want permanent roles is rampant.

This is true - the casualisation of the workforce is a real problem. If Labor ever gets into power I hope they recognise this as a problem and make it harder to use this loophole.

The best way of handling this, I feel, is to only allow a percentage of any business to be casualised, unless special dispensation is granted. Also, there it should be financially more expensive to follow this tactic - this way those of fixed contracts get compensated for the risk of their employment ending, and employers have an incentive to employee more full time employees.

Sadly, this is true around the world. Job protections tend to help incumbents, and result in an "underclass" of "temporary" workers. This even affects public sector jobs in the United States.

It's like squeezing a tube of toothpaste; squeeze in one place, and the laws of economics cause the paste to come out in another.

> I don't think Dan Lyons misrepresents your ideas, but rather I think more fundamentally he doesn't share your vocabulary, worldview nor expectations.

Then why did Lyons cite grandparent's book as though it supports his worldview? Why did he sandwich quotes from the book with paraphrasing that doesn't represent the book at all?

> That is the heart of "The Alliance" - an acceptance the world has changed, and making it work for you.

Are you preaching to grandparent about what his book is about? That strikes me as strange.

> Rather than defend against a perceived attack, I think a policy of agree and amplify makes sense.

The reply (not mine) was not a defense. It was adding a new point of view to the conversation; that this disagreement might be mostly involve a mismatch on what abstract words like "job security" mean. It's implied that progress might be had if people broke down and discussed details a bit. Like, "is it a good idea to assume a company will be around for 50 years?"

Your idea of "vocabulary misunderstanding" is similar to what the philosopher Wittgenstein calls "language games". He believes that it is the duty of the philosopher to help clear up the misunderstandings present when two people are trying to communicate with the same vocabulary but are actually playing different language games. It's been a long time since I studied him, but I think that I can at least recall this much correctly. :) You might be interested in reading more by him.

How much formal logic does he use?

>Dan Lyons idealises a world in which people worked their whole career for one company, had a slow progression of minor promotions and pay rises & retired to a gold watch they took to Florida. That reality makes me personally want to buy a chair, some rope and to Google how to tie a noose, but my view is certainly NOT universal, and I need to accept and recognise that.

I think the angle you're missing on this sort of job is that it's perfect for someone for whom their job is not their self-identity. In the tech realm today, a lot of people really tie their identity to their work, and for them, this sort of job is really bad. However, there are lots of people for whom a job is just a paycheck, and their passion lies elsewhere. Often that passion is in an area where significant money just cannot be made (family is the most obvious one, but there are others.) I've worked in public service in the past, and you see lots of people that have been working the same job for 10, 20, or even 30 years. When you talk to them, it's clear that the job is fine, and they enjoy it, but what they really care about is their kids, or the dogs they walk at the local shelter, or whatever their passion is.

On the contrary, it can also be that those who stick to the same job for 10, 20 or 30 years, care for the job rather than jumping ship. They care for serving the public, through government or through the private sector.

I don't think this is about passion, I think it's about a culture mis-match. Lyons is looking for a place with stability, and that was not HubSpot. In this case it was probably HubSpot's error in hiring him in the first, as they have a very clear opinion of their culture. I think Lyons would not have been happy at any tech company, the fact that he considers a company that was a year away from IPO, and almost 10 years old when he joine, to be a startup says he has no idea what he was getting into. It's understandable, and most people don't know the culture of the company when they apply for a job.

On a side note: public service is the last place I want somebody who doesn't care about their job.

Your last statement is incorrect - they care about their job, but are not passionate about it.

Your statement inadvertently highlights the point on language which is being made in the article and in this thread.

Lack of Passion != disinterest.

I'll agree with your last, but your first statement is as incorrect as well. How do you know they care about it?

If somebody is passionate, then they certainly do care about it, but you are correct lack of passion does not equal lack of care, so I'll revise my statment.

Public service is the last place I want somebody who is not passionate about their job.

If “maximise skill development” were really so central, I would be much happier with the working environment.

I think that would involve some combination of:

* Choice over what kind of tasks you work on

* Freedom to spend some extra time on a task, both to get it to a level of quality you are happy with and to use the opportunity to learn the domain in question a little better

* Blocks of time to work on a maker's schedule; to read, concentrate, and work with minimal interruption from coworkers

These things benefit not only the happiness and well-being of a software engineer (which is where I'll focus since that's what I am and this is hacker news) but also his/her ability to learn and improve over time.

In the short term, these things might make you less valuable to the business by not being at the constant beck and call of others, and taking longer on tasks.

In the long term, I think they would more than pay for themselves for all concerned. If I were offered these sorts of improvements to the working arrangement in exchange for a pay cut, I'd be very very interested.

Honestly, I think too many people take their situation as a given and don't look at it as something they can change and improve for themselves.

> * Choice over what kind of tasks you work on

At a high level, you already do that by choosing one job over another.

> * Freedom to spend some extra time on a task, both to get it to a level of quality you are happy with and to use the opportunity to learn the domain in question a little better

That should be in your schedule estimate. When the PM asks "How long will this take?" the duration you tell them should include time to understand what you're doing and make it nice.

> * Blocks of time to work on a maker's schedule; to read, concentrate, and work with minimal interruption from coworkers

I don't exactly understand what this means. Block off time in your calendar and turn off IM and email. If that doesn't work, go to an empty meeting room or somewhere else quite where people can't find you and work from there.

You're right, of course.

My experience has been that the social norms and cues in the workplace are generally stacked against people doing these things, and in the past five years seem to have moved farther away from these ideals rather than closer to them. Maybe that isn't really the trend; that's my perception of it though.

Maybe I just need to do a better job of finding the right arrangement. It doesn't seem like an easy topic to address in the hiring process though. I find that I only really learn what the environment is like by working in it, and even that can change from team to team or month to month.

Pretty simple.. Improved productivity from this new era of employment at will should lead to wealth which provides guaranteed basic incomes.

Basic income is welfare 2.0. It's not going to lead to human happiness.

The economy itself is an "actor" on this stage. It's going to make choices about who can afford what. It's going to reward those who reduce inefficiency, those who find new growth paths, and if not that, it will build reserves to help it through lean times.

In that system, people who don't "add value" are a carrying cost, and the system will try and reduce them.

The system we have, can not be expected to spend its surplus generously, or happily.

I'm not sure I follow, what are the reserves? If we are talking about the entire economy as an actor, a number in some magnetic tape can't be. Neither can be food or infrastructure unless it is properly preserved. So my guess is that the right reserve would be a people. People that aren't adding value today, are excess capacity that can be used during bad times. Guaranteed income is one way of maintaining that extra capacity.

Also, I'm not sure that anthropomorphizing the economy, while interesting, is the right level to think about this.

For everyone with a stake? I still see clear winners and losers in that scenario.

If that happens it will be a fight.

Do you have a cite for being the 70's paradigm: "the business will employ you no matter what you do or how bad you are" - the classic 1970s Union paradigm

No Union protects employees no matter how bad they are.

No Union protects employees no matter how bad they are.

Uh, not quite. How about union-represented employees who kill people? We continuously read how Police department unions defend cops who kill unarmed citizens:


Once of many examples from the article:

"Hector Jimenez is one Oakland policeman who was fired and reinstated. In 2007, he shot and killed an unarmed 20-year-old man. Just seven months later, he killed another unarmed man, shooting him three times in the back as he ran away. Oakland paid a $650,000 settlement to the dead man's family in a lawsuit and fired Jimenez, who appealed through his police union. Despite killing two unarmed men and costing taxpayers all that money, he was reinstated and given back pay."

Nope, not even a tiny bit.

There's a difference between the rigor required for an online discussion, and the rigor required for a formal paper. I knew some of my post would miss the mark - and by a very WIDE margin - because using very simplistic, stereotypical cultural lingua franca makes the general point easier to make, but lacks pretty much any rigor.

Viewing it more as a starting point for discussion - and trying to see past the many bad parts - is all I hoped for.

The very often do and did! Read about the history of the Telsa Fremont factory when it was GM, or teacher's unions for cases like Mark Berndt, etc.

The usual story told about the Fremont NUMMI plant is that it was a disaster (drug use and prostitution occuring on the grounds) under GM and that when it was taken over by the Toyota joint project with the same work force (and union) became highly productive.


In this telling it's the GM management who are incompetent, not the line workers. Clearly that's not the version you're selling though.

Both examples are pretty disingenuous.

Have you ever worked in a union shop?

Unions are democratic institutions that rely on precedent, so it's really essential to defend employees all of the time.

> I don't think Dan Lyons misrepresents your ideas, but rather I think more fundamentally he doesn't share your vocabulary, worldview nor expectations.

Pretty much the #1 asshole behavior on the Internet is criticizing other people's books/studies without having read them. Chris is right, this reflects extremely poorly on Lyons.

I suspect the reason that Dan Lyons mentions "The Alliance" is that we cite some of HubSpot's programs in the book. Specifically, we mention HubSpot's "Learning Meals" program, which encourages employees to take smart people outside the company to lunch. HubSpot will pick up the tab as long as you share what you learn with the rest of the company on the intranet.

This is pure speculation. You seem to be upset that Lyons has mischaracterised your work, yet you also seem to be happy to do the same to him.

Lyons worked for a company that has an abusive culture. They recently had two top people in management leave because of unethical behaviour - and you observed and promoted aspects of such a culture in your book.

I think that you are getting just criticism, and you are taking it quite badly.

I didn't criticize Dan's book, or say that his statements about HubSpot were inaccurate. (Note that I'm not saying they're accurate either; I haven't worked there!) What I did do was to point out that his op ed does not accurately reflect what I wrote on my book. I don't believe this constitutes mischaracterization on my part.

HubSpot fired two senior managers because they tried (foolishly) to use deception to obtain copies of Dan Lyons' book before it came out. You seem to be implying that our book promotes such unethical behavior. Again, I'm unconvinced that describing a program for allowing employees to expense networking lunches constitutes encouraging an abusive culture.

Dan Lyons didn't mention expensing lunches in that article. You are speculating why your book was mentioned. The issue you seem to have is the bit about your "tour of duty" concept, which it looks like was indeed mischaracterised (I have to read your book to know for sure). But apart from that I'm not sure what can really be stated as anything else than fair criticism in that article - and by which I mean he disagrees with your ideas and critiques them.

> You seem to be upset that Lyons has mischaracterised your work, yet you also seem to be happy to do the same to him.

Not even close. Speculation is fine as long as it is labeled as speculation ("I suspect..."). It's nothing like what Lyons did, which is to misleadlingly paraphrase the contents of a book.

> I think that you are getting just criticism, and you are taking it quite badly.

I think his complaint is totally understandable, and I find the personal nature of your criticism bizarre.

So if I say Nazi Germany did a good job building highways I'm promoting Nazi ideology?

> the point we make in the book is that few employees expect or want lifetime employment at a single company

This might be a function of broken promotion processes. Perhaps, in a world in which employees believed that they could advance their careers by either staying at one company or moving around, we would see a significant fraction of workers who would want to have long tenures.

Alas, I think you are correct.

One of the people I talked with when writing the book was a young woman who worked for a financial services firm. She loved her job, loved the culture, but told me that she was going to have to leave because the only way to get a promotion was to go to another firm, then return later.

In practice, it's highly inefficient to expect one company to handle all your promotions. Even if you're ready to take on a higher level of responsibility, there's absolutely no guarantee that they have a position open at that level.

That's why the alliance model makes sense: you might be going elsewhere to find an open promotion, but that shouldn't imply "disloyalty."

Chris you're right Dan misconstrues your ideas and that's disappointing.

The real issue with his article is that he was lying to himself before he even joined Hubspot. I'm really surprised how shocked people are when they join startups and aren't happy. What did you expect?

Hubspot is not Salesforce. Uber is not Google. DoorDash is not Groupon. The maturity of companies at different stages varies significantly.

I read articles on HN every month about people who are bamboozled about startups after they start working there. These same people delude themselves about how awesome startups are. Startups are the birth of companies.In the beginning and up until you reach a certain point of market dominance, it's always hard. It's been this way for years and yet people continue to write articles about this nonsense every month...I'm really tired of it.

  > he was lying to himself
  > delude themselves about how awesome startups are
  > people continue to write articles about this nonsense every month
You seem to be unrelentingly "blaming the victims." Obviously, it is to people's benefit to have the most realistic expectations possible about companies they join.

But does that in any way absolve employers of making realistic representations of what employees can expect? Does that absolve people in management positions from behaving with decency and fairness?

When two cars collide, sometimes both parties are at fault, "blame" is often a positive-sum game. It would be fair to hand out as much opprobrium and vituperation for the employers in these situations as the employees.

Nothing that I've read from Dan Lyons shows HubSpot actually misrepresenting their work environment. In fact, it seems abundantly clear that they put a lot of effort into explaining their work environment and philosophy (would Lyons have preferred that they not have a training program?).

All in all, it seems like they had grossly mismatched expectations. Lyons clearly thought HubSpot would magically twist itself to match his desires for a traditional workspace, while HubSpot apparently thought Lyons might be slightly adaptable. In a just world, they'd both chalk it up to an experiment gone wrong.

Of course, Lyons is a journalist with an ax to grind so he'll make hay off that failed experiment.

This is Dan Lyons we're talking about. Not some naive fresh-out-of-school CS grad. Dan Lyons spent more than a decade and a half as a journalist and editor covering tech, business, and startups.

I'm genuinely curious how this is relevant.

The grandparent said: "I'm really surprised how shocked people are when they join startups and aren't happy. What did you expect?"

The parent said: "You seem to be unrelentingly "blaming the victims."

I'm pointing out that some degree of "blaming Dan Lyons" is in order. He's a sophisticated tech insider.

It's as if a professional investor lost all his/her money on a private company that claimed to be a great company in its press releases, after which the investor complains about getting screwed. Yes, the investment is partly to blame for being so shitty. But the professional investor is a "sophisticated investor" and is also partly to blame for his/her own loss.

I would be more sympathetic to someone getting screwed by HubSpot if they were a fresh college grad who got misled and didn't know better.

This means he will write anything that will bring his name on top of the shitpile. Journalism is the second most ancient profession.

Do you honestly think employers care? They provide jobs and expect results. That's it. If you're not happy with your job, go work somewhere else but don't post online how "surprised" you were about it. Go complain on Glassdoor if you want some people to read it but don't expect your life to change. When you delude yourself about reality what do you expect?

> I'm really surprised how shocked people are when they join startups and aren't happy. What did you expect?

The life-stage of a company rarely has much to do with the working conditions, cult/culture weirdness or how well the business is run.

There are plenty of great startups that are very solid companies that anyone would be happy to work for.

Blanket hate of "startups" doesn't make much sense. Also none of the companies you mentioned are "startups" anymore either, incorrectly applying that label to every company doesn't help.

Hubspot is not a startup. Uber is not a technology company. I have no idea what DoorDash is, but Groupon was silly.

"the point we make in the book is that few employees expect or want lifetime employment at a single company;"

Expect? Of course not, anymore; you'd be a fool to expect that.

Want? Well, more complicated: if it's a matter of wanting lifetime employment in the presently existing field of options, as employment and firms are presently constituted (and as firms presently look at employees), maybe not. If it's a matter of wanting to be working in the kind of regime in which lifetime employment really was more common, the answer might change.

Your response to 3 is a non sequitur. And employment as a condition is certainly not a voluntary matter: think of what that would mean! (Hint: it would mean that anyone who wanted to could quit their job and not seek employment elsewhere and things would be fine. We don't live in that world.)

Two clarifications:

When I say "lifetime employment at a single company," I refer to spending one's entire career at a single firm.

When I say that employment is a voluntary relationship, I mean that the employer cannot compel an employee to accept a job offer, and that an employee cannot compel an employer to extend one.

You are basically saying that all employment is for contractors with fixed start and end dates and that must be extended!

That's not how permanent employment works in many parts of the world, nor is it even desirable.

I have to admit that I'm primarily familiar with the US economy, where nearly all workers are "at will" employees. This means that anyone can be terminated at any time, without a reason being given.

My experience suggests that those permanent employment policies serve to discourage employment. As a US-based employer, I'm often puzzled/confused by some of the practices around the world. (I'm sure the converse is probably true for EU-based employers considering expanding into the US.)

managers should be explicit about how an employee's job assignment is going to help develop his or her career

That's interesting. I've had a number of managers in my career and never, not even once, has one of them espoused anything resembling such a position. It's always what can the employee do for the company, not what's mutually beneficial.

I felt like most of my managers at Google tried pretty hard at this. We certainly did have conversations about what I wanted long-term within my career and how that might best be accomplished within the organization.

Ultimately, I ended up deciding that what I wanted couldn't be achieved inside Google, but they certainly made the effort.

I had a similar experience to this at amazon. I think the nature of programming work is so murky that it makes sense to do this even if you don't care about the employee (though my managers genuinely seemed to). What I mean by murky is that similar looking amounts of work can take 2 days or 2 weeks depending on how excited the engineer is about the project. Maybe it's more common with engineering managers for this reason?

I spent nearly a decade moving up within another hugely successful tech company and every manager I ever had took time with me once or twice a year to discuss my goals and to outline steps I could take to reach them. Perhaps this is a cultural trait of successful companies (those dominant within their field) that helps them reach such heights.

When companies treat their employees with respect like this, good employees end up staying longer and accomplishing more, which is good for both parties.

"I spent nearly a decade moving up within..."

That's a characteristic of lifetime employment, not the kind of jobs under discussion here.

I'm curious...are you still in touch with those managers? Did their efforts convince you to maintain a relationship even after you left?

At five years there, I have yet to have that conversation. 1:1s are either what I'm working on or more promises about "this will make a really strong promotion case." Namely motivation for working on whatever shit work needs doing next.

Some Google managers are good, some are average and a few are not good at all. Try to work for the first ones.

How to do that? That is the hard part, net work and move on when you work for a bad one.

Might be time to find an organization that believes in a mutual relationship, I'm afraid.

At Microsoft my managers were pretty consistent about doing this, and I tried to do it when I was a manager. Aside from the occasional conflict of interest when there isn't an available "step-up" position in someone's current team, it's a win-win.

I've had several managers and mentors at Intel that we're sincerely interested in helping me develop my career. I'm not saying its universal, but I've seen some.

It occurs to me looking at this and the other responses so far in this subthread - that it's quite likely more common in larger organizations (Google/Microsoft/Amazon/Intel) where career advancement is not quite so directly correlated to "leaving for a better position in a different company". If you can get your best employees promoted into roles where they are likely to become your reports again when you yourself get promoted, there's more benefit for the manager in advancing people they want to keep "on their team" as they themselves climb the career ladder. There is, I guess, less opportunity for that sort of mutually beneficial career development in startups or SMEs (with the exception of the occasional "freelance teams" that you sometimes see all jump ship from one project/startup to another together - I've seen that both in tiny hardware startups as well as in 9 figure projects in major corporations.)

Actually, there is generally even more opportunity for career development in startups than in larger organizations. If the company is growing, new positions are opening up regularly and there isn't a large bench of talent to fill them with.

When I was a manager in a small startup, I tried to regularly discuss their career goals and how they could develop towards those goals. One of the benefits of a startup was that we had a lot of flexibility to create experiences matching those goals.

I think your right - there definilty a different incentive dynamic. At intel, I once heard someone mention recruiting strategy that goes something like "Intel - you're next 5 software jobs" ..which i thought was a pretty interesting and powerful approach. I've certainly had 5 software jobs at Intel over my 16 years there, and the ability to move in a large company may have also allowed me to select for better managers/mentors.

Some of these places have technical tracks where you can get promoted, have more money and a better title, but not change your place hierarchically within the team.

several managers and mentors at Intel that we're sincerely interested in helping me develop my career

I know that Intel has changed. A lot. But in the early 1980's Andy Grove (as President, before he was CEO) came up to Oregon to speak to the employees. Someone asked him when they were going to have showers for the employees. Andy responded "Intel is a place of employment, nothing more."

That's not easily forgotten, even though Intel did eventually install showers while Andy was still in charge!

Of course good managers care about their reports, regardless of the tone set by top management.

Sadly, most managers don't talk with their employees about career development. There is an irrational fear that having these conversations gives an employee "permission" to leave, even though an employee certainly doesn't need his or her manager's permission to take another job!

I try to do it a lot. I often have conversations that go something like "Thisis me taking my $companyName hat off and speaking with my 'friend of $employeeName' hat on, but as much as this will cause me problems I realy suggest you consider $significantCareerEnhancement even though it will cause me $problemsIfYouMoveOrLeave as a result."

(I'm also surprised/disappointed at how rarely that advice is taken - there's a _very_ strong tendency for people to "stay put" in a sub optimal career position instead of taking the risk of jumping into the unknown and possiby scarey "next level up". So many devs tell me "I'm not ready for a mid level role yet" or equivalent, even when thay _clearly_ are...)

So many devs tell me "I'm not ready for a mid level role yet" or equivalent, even when thay _clearly_ are...

There's a difference between being ready for a midlevel role, in the sense of being able to take on the responsibilities and requirements, and wanting to take on the midlevel role. For example, if a developer sees that the "seniors" on his team 1) don't get to program as much, because they're in meetings all the time 2) have a lot more stress, because of having to take responsibility for design decisions 3) don't get compensated very much more and 4) sacrifice their ability to switch jobs easily by becoming more specialized in the methods and practices of the company they're currently working for, I think it's entirely rational for the developer to not desire that promotion.

But, of course, it's not politic to say, "Oh, I don't want that promotion, because it's a lot of work and I don't see any upside to it," so people make euphemisms. Saying, "I'm not sure I'm ready for that," is a good way of demurring while not causing offense, and simultaneously leaving the door open so that they can be considered for a promotion in the future.

The next time someone says that they're not "ready" for a mid-level role, I would like you to ask yourself, "Are they not ready, or are they not willing?"

Sure - there's definitely some of that.

There may also be some distrusting "Why is my manager encouraging me to leave? I'd better dig myself in and make sure I don't fuck anything up" thoughts (although I'd like to think I'm not thought of as "that guy").

But I also see cases that are closer to a reverse Dunning Kruger effect, people who just don't realise (or admit to themselves) how good they are compared to their peers. (Sometimes at an astonishing penalty to their earnings...)

> (Sometimes at an astonishing penalty to their earnings...)

Which is the primary reason why earnings are typically kept secret. Company policy almost certainly prohibits you from saying: "John makes 110k/y Joe, you are three times as good as John and you make 90k/y, we most certainly are not going to pay you 330k/y, but maybe you should ask for a 30k raise ?"

One of the more interesting things I read about is how Salesforce.com reviewed their employees and their salaries, realized that female employees were underpaid, and increased their salaries accordingly, rather than waiting for someone to ask. I'm afraid that's rather rare, though.

I am an engineering manager and I am explicit about telling my team that they should expect and pursue personal career growth during their employment at any company. My challenge is to figure out how keep this aligned with the company's needs.

The fluidity of employment argues strongly against it.

An employer doesn't train people, they hire those with the skill. If an employee is no longer valuable, the employee moves on. The employer has no particular interest in or control over the employee's career before or after their 'assignment'.

Thanks for the measured response!

I'll have to give your book a read because it reflects some vague ideas I've been having. It feels like having "more liquidity" in the job market could benefit both employees and employers: it would make it easier for me to find a job that's a good fit and to adjust my role as my circumstances change; similarly, it lets companies be more flexible.

My theory is that this is the sort of thing that's only a problem relative to our expectations. If everybody expected people to move between jobs more often, it would have a significantly lower cost while conferring the benefits I mentioned above.

Then again, I'm the sort of person who can't imagine spending 40 years climbing a hierarchy at a big corporation, so I might just be fundamentally different from the people who actively want that...

I do think that greater liquidity is beneficial to employers and employees. But one of the interesting things about The Alliance is that we believe that being open and honest about what each side is getting from the relationship should lead to longer job tenures, rather than shorter ones.

> Dan Lyons certainly has right to his opinions, but he shouldn't have a right to misrepresent our ideas.

That's nonsense. A right to opinions that don't "misrepresent others' ideas" is essentially no right at all.

i don't want to misrepresent the parent, but my take was:

Don't cite my work in a narrow, out of contex way, that entirely misrepresents the body of thought I put together which ia almost entirely at odds with your message.

sure, the people should be allowed to say whatever they want, but if you incorrectly attribute qoutes or ideology to someone, in my mind, you lose credibility. so sure you have a right to mistepresent others ideas but unless you have wholly original thought, if you do that, you call into question the validity of your process, all your sources, and ultimately all of your nessage that relies on non primary research/information

vonklaus, this is precisely how I feel. It's fine if Dan Lyons disagrees with me, but he shouldn't tell people that I'm saying something that I'm not.

You think you have a right to interpret your own words?

It's kind of a basic tenet of poststructuralism that a text can have multiple meanings, one of which might be intended, but none of which uniquely are compelled.

If you don't want to subject your words to interpretation then don't publish. It would be one thing if author was plagiarizing or misattributing, but that doesn't really seem to be the case.

Actually, what's happening is subtler. He quotes 6 words, and then makes a series of statements that could be interpreted as reflecting the ideas of our book.

If he had simply said something along the lines of, "I believe that The Alliance calls for employees to show loyalty to companies, but for companies not to show loyalty to employees" (completely not true, by the way) it would be clear that he was providing his interpretation of our work. As it is, those who don't read the book will take away an impression that is exactly the opposite of what was originally intended. While words are always subject to interpretation by their audience, I object to my words by misinterpreted by another in a major publication.

Opinions are not the same as representations of others' ideas.

If I say "I like capitalism," that is my opinion.

If I say "Karl Marx likes capitalism," that is a misrepresentation of someone else's ideas.

If I say "Karl Marx likes oppressive authoritarian regimes" because every country implementing communism has pretty much turned out that way, that's pretty much misrepresenting someone else's ideas too.

Consider the following situation: esbranson, in a post on HN, consoled the parent poster. "That's nonsense", he exclaimed, reinforcing the idea that Dan Lyons should not be misrepresenting other people's ideas.

I have misrepresented your post in the same way Dan Lyons misrepresented the parent poster. I took a quote out of context and used it to espouse exactly the opposite intent of your message.

I have to admit that I thought long and hard about even clicking on the article because I do not want to give Dan Lyons more credibility. His history for writing sensational stories which damage other people is rather legendary. Despite his famous apology, I have not seen him improve in any way what so ever. I honestly wish people would stop publishing his work. This is unfortunately unlikely given his talent for inciting outrage and convincing people to click on his articles (which I have once again done :-P ).

It's not a matter of Lyons having an opinion, it's a matter of him misrepresenting the opinions of Yeh.

You could sloppily quote a book to make the message seem like anything, and it feels like that could border on defamation. A malicious version of this would be lying about somebody to injure their reputation, which is not obviously something you have a right to do.

This case isn't grave or clear-cut so it's not going to go to court or anything like that, but it's still a bit of a jerk move by Lyons.

In this case, I've concluded that the best response is to engage with people on this thread. I've always enjoyed Dan's work as a journalist (especially his Fake Steve Jobs project) and while I'm disappointed that he doesn't get what my book is about, I suspect he hasn't had a chance to actually read it. I'm sure there are many cases in which I've misinterpreted others' books. But I do think it makes sense to try to get my side of the story out to the audience.

Fair enough to have ideas, but on 2 I'd love to know your evidence. Quite a lot of people I know fantasize about job security. Did you have any reason to believe 2 apart from personal perspectives?

>the point we make in the book is that few employees expect or want lifetime employment at a single company

You'd be surprised.

My co-authors and I have written up a formal response, with quotes from our book to demonstrate how Dan Lyons' interpretation is 100% contradictory with the actual text of the book: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/un-disrupted-what-alliance-ac...

Interesting. This sounds like a viable way to play Diplomacy. (Eg http://diplom.org/Zine/S1998R/Ohlman/TrueBlue.html)

That sounds 100% like my job, but I'm a self-employed contractor. I see my clients as peers and we can speak openly about whether they even need me anymore. Sure as hell my clients are not my family (I hate office social dynamics). So is your book basically saying that regular employment will/should become more like self-employment?

I read his story thinking, "How is this news or a surprise to a jaded journalist?"

Then I started to think he might have planned the book before the job. At that point who cares about journalistic integrity?

Programmers are still operating under the delusion that they are so much better (or worse) than the guy working next to them. It is this kind of egotistical thinking that probably gets in the way of them unionizing. You want to give a large caliber a-hole like Bezos the finger while working in his own company? It takes balls to do that - stage a walk out and strike. It takes camaraderie, intimacy and loyalty to a cause (or a person) that supersedes the workplace, an all in support to that cause by engineers/programmers alike.

For as long as the pissing contests over languages, productivity, hubris, etc continues among intelligent people like programmers, their Jimmy Hoffa won't be born and their cause will lie with the company's objectives.

In a nutshell, programmers -deserve- the Bezos and Hastings of this world. Keep thinking you are God's gift to programming and insure the demise of your own fellow programmers.

I have zero sympathy toward programmers (having been one for 17+ years now) - not because I don't love the profession or the contribution we make, but because of the infinitely immature attitude and disunion that exists among engineers.

If there's one thing that has motivated me to think of doing something else, it's that...

There's abundant evidence that there are vast differences in the productivity of different programmers in the same company. Denying that doesn't make it untrue.

The best way to punish the Bezos of the world is not to work for them. Which it seems like more and more people are—most of my friends wouldn't even consider a job at Amazon.

I suspect that this is the case for any profession. I'd also wager that those productive individuals represent a small minority of the workforce. All things being equal I would like to see those individuals being paid "vastly" more than the average. I can assure you that a 10x more productive programmer is not paid 10x more.

> There's abundant evidence that there are vast differences in the productivity of different programmers in the same company.

That seems true for every type of job.

Actually the level of difference varies between jobs substantially. Many low-skill jobs exhibit little-to-no differentiation between workers (it's hard to be much more efficient as a security guard, for example).

That's only true if efficiency is your only metric, but that's not meanginful for all jobs. Certainly there will be an order of magnitude difference in effectiveness of some security guards over others.

Well the most productive programmers aren't paid as much as they are worth now. Do you think unionizing will further reduce their pay? I have a feeling not...

Greetings comrade.

I wholeheartedly concur. Its been a source of great confusion to me why otherwise intelligent and open-minded people are so steadfastly opposed to the one thing that can improve their earnings potential dramatically. I have observed a strong shift to the "left" in the last few years though, so I won't be surprised if this happens soon. I also expect that given the resources and capability inherent in a "programmer's union", the capacity and ability of such a movement would be very significant very early on. We built the modern world with its social and communications infrastructure, and we aught be able to exploit it for our personal betterment easier than most. Doctors, dentists, lawyers all benefit greatly from their "protected" professions, why not us ?

Unions will not improve everyone's earnings. They will compress the differential, and as someone who likes getting paid more than the average programmer I absolutely would oppose that.

Doctors, dentists, and lawyers don't have unions. They have professional associations (which might be a good idea for programmers) but they still negotiate individually.

>likes getting paid more than the average programmer

In what way would a union prevent that?

Anything that raises average programming wages significantly is likely to reduce peak programming wages. (Companies are unlikely to just take the increase in wages as a hit to profitability. They're going to shave the peak and put everyone into tighter "bands" than is currently the case and probably dismiss some of the lowest performers [which might be healthy, of course].)

As I'm a "average programmer" I'll probably benefit from a significant raise is average programmer renumeration. As will, by definition, the vast majority of programmers. As a self confessed "peak" programmer you believe you have little need of a union to further your cause and you may very well be right. This does not change the fact that the majority of the fraternity will.

The fact that you may be adversely effected does not concern me. I'm sure you are more than capable of holding your own. As a "peak performer" I'd fully expect you to raise to the challenge and do even greater things.

Ages ago, I probably was. I no longer am, but that's largely irrelevant and I'm more than happy to hold my own union or not.

Where do you think the "significant raise" will come from? What tactics will a union employ to cause that happen and if successful, what will the side effects be?

Programming is already an incredibly high leverage and highly lucrative field. If you don't have leverage now, will you really have more with a union? (To be clear, I don't believe that unionizing would significantly raise programming wages.)

Balance of power. Employers have it, employees do not. If companies and employers treated their workers with dignity and respect no unions would be necessary.

* I'm sure you are familiar with how collective bargaining power works and how it can be used for good or ill. It is because of the actions of worker unions that people today enjoy many rights that they take for granted. You, personally, have benefited greatly from union movements through the ages. In fact, the creation of the so called "middle-class" worldwide can be directly attributed to worker union agitation. In many ways unions have created the world we live in. As the middle class produced the consumers corporates depend on. To me, these are all excellent and worthwhile side-effects. Today you can witness the slow destruction of the middle class again, as capitalism looses its way and degenerates into corporate fascism.

Programming is a "incredibly high leverage and highly lucrative field" ? Compared to what ? Investment banker ? Oil rig worker ? Corporate management ? Chartered Accountant ?

I do believe unionizing will significantly raise wages, historically they have.

* (apologies for the little rant, I'm leaving it in as it amuses me)

I don't really see a rant, so no worries there.

> Programming is a "incredibly high leverage and highly lucrative field" ? Compared to what ?

High leverage compared to:

1. Any job where labor is roughly proportional to output. Want twice as many cars in the same period? You're going to employ roughly twice as many people. Want twice as many Starbucks? Roughly twice as many baristas. Want to sell twice as much software or have twice as many subscribers to your SaaS company's offerings? You might need 0-10% more programmers to support 100% growth.

Highly lucrative field compared to (all figures 2014):

1. Median household wages in the US of $53,567.

2. Median household wages in CA of $60487, in MA of $63,151, in NY of $54,310.

I don't know any full-time industry programmers who are working for less than the median household income; that's before any income from other sources or other household members. We're paying fresh college grads around the 70-75th percentile of US household income (again, as individuals).

Those signs don't point me towards the idea that programmers are an oppressed class desperately in need of unionization.

> I do believe unionizing will significantly raise wages, historically they have.

Are there examples of such highly paid professions unionizing? Did wages rise afterwards? (It's a genuine question; I can't think of any highly paid professions that are overwhelmingly [or even typically] union.)

I have to agree, programmers unionizing would seem a bit… "spoiled" to me. I've never had any issues negotiating or getting underpaid. The bulk of the issues described under this post actually seem to have nothing to do with pay, but rather with high-pressure work environments and simply getting fired (which in the field of programming, comparatively, is not the end of the world—if you're competent that is).

That's exactly the gist of unionization. Balance. No one is saying keep deadbeats around, nor can any enterprise be sustained by heroic efforts of a few very talented and hardworking individuals from within. It is an endless game of punishing greed while rewarding individual effort. Promulgating a win/lose attitude inevitably ends with the kind of status quo we have today in some, but hopefully not all companies US and worldwide.

I don't know when or where this inflection point is yet, but by the looks of it, it's already present.

Best thing an individual can do for now is draw up boundaries you aren't willing to cross... or have crossed, and never draw these in isolation of your kin. Talk, share, organize and roll with the punches... The cavalry isn't coming and sure as hell your momma isn't gonna do it for you.

It is perfectly permissible to be a member of a union and negotiate as a individual, the one does not automatically preclude the other.

Doctors absolutely do have unions, Google the British medical association, or many others across the world


Check this out.

Now imagine software engineers at Amazon, Netflix or wherever they are being treated unfairly had the chutzpah to stage a massive walk out, where suddenly the collective objective of the union becomes more important than continued employment under the current conditions, whatever those may be?

Yes, this kind of collective bargaining can be abused selfishly, but if you don't even have this kind of unity as engineers, then I ask you - how will you find out what is possible if you don't put up a fight through the best means known to man - mass disobedience and non-cooperation?

Look in the mirror, dear colleagues, and ask yourselves tonight - what do these Verizon workers have that I do not? Whom do I have to be so I can inspire my peers to follow my example rather than have them only look out for #1? What sacrifice do I/we have to make individually to contribute to the betterment of the whole? How will I tighten my and my family's belt next week, month or a year down the road so that this kind of action becomes possible?

Yes, you may be fired for this, or worse, bribed or promoted to get you to back down. Hell, you may even be killed, Hoffa style.

The question then becomes - what is sacred and sancrosanct to me? What do I value more than my own life?

There is no heuristic, no algorithm to answer this for you. It's just the mirror and whatever higher cause you believe in.

I don't think it's just the wide observed variance in skill/ability that prevents unionization. It's also the individual differences and the fact that our jobs aren't obviously unsafe nor underpaid.

For me, I don't see the upside in unionizing. I'm very much libertarian and believe in the power of the individual. I'll bargain for myself and make my own choices long before I'll pay someone else to do that on my behalf collectively with a bunch of other people, many of whom I disagree with.

Individual bargaining works very well I think, and from what I saw of the family members in the coal, steel, and railroad unions growing up, those are not the situations that I'd like to spend any time, attention, or money on. It's hard for me to separate the union aspect from "way shittier than programming job" aspect, but seeing my grandpa forced to stay home to support a strike he didn't seem to believe in made an impression on me.

I see where you're coming from, but unionizing will lower wages for many many people. The great thing about being an engineer, designer, or developer is that you can negotiate far more than any other field or profession that I've seen. The difference in wages for a doctor (of the same training) might be 20-50k. The difference in pay between two SEs could literally be $200k (this is a real world example I've seen). Unionizing would help the guy making $65k, but would kill the negotiating power of the guy making $295k.

I hear this argument a lot, but I don't buy it. Professional athletes and Hollywood actors have some of the highest wage differences of any profession and yet both are fully unionized. Those fields have so much negotiation that people typically hire an agent just to handle negotiations for them. A union doesn't stop the best athletes and actors from getting paid millions, why would it stop the best engineers from getting a measly few hundred thousand?

Case in point - someone already downrated my post... good job mate.

Issues raised in the article aside, I am here to argue semantics.

The article used the word start-up 3 times, plus one more in the title of his book. The company he worked for however, HubSpot is 10 years old and public and thus by definition is not a startup. Other two companies mentioned, Amazon and Netflix are both over a decade old and public and thus are not start-ups by any stretch of the imagination. Startups and tech companies are not synonymous and using them interchangeably is harmful to our discourse. If we can't agree on what words mean, how can we agree on deeper issues?

PS. I also have issue with author's use of the word "tech worker" to describe telemarketers. I maybe wrong, but a "tech worker" to me is not someone who works for a tech company but rather is one who creating the tech.

I have a related quibble: a lot of companies are called 'tech companies' when, in fact, they're consumers of technology, not producers of them.

If your primary innovation is business model, and all the interesting tech you end up working on is purely a result of your scale, well, you're not a tech company. You're a company.

Those companies are probably great (or at least, so far as great == profitable/growing), but calling them 'tech' loses sight of what's interesting about tech to me. I'd argue that true 'tech' companies create technology as their primary or near-primary focus.

So... Uber? Not a tech company, I think. AirBnB? Not tech. Apple? Tech. Google? Tech.

(And yes, I'm aware these companies I call 'non-tech' are probably solving hard, tech-related problems; their developers contribute MLOC to open source projects, and they even release internal tools as open source. But to me, what you sell defines what you are as a company.)

I recently started reading A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel and one of the first chapter is about the past and how learning from it we can avoid the same mistakes. One of the stories that he mentions is how in the early 60s anything that sound "electronic" was valued 10 times more just because of that, even if it had nothing to do with electronics. We are probably in a similar situation with "tech" and "startup", they are cool buzzwords that get thrown around from people that don't really know the meaning to add some special attributes to a company.

I think it's even simpler: tech companies overwhelmingly create technology. So the majority of their employees should be developers or other people involved in actually creating technology. Uber and AirBnB are tech companies: they're primary innovation was creating technology and the majority of their business expenses are in creating technology.

I don't know how anyone gets away with calling call center employees "tech workers." It's a farcical trend and a way to make headlines ("Tech workers making only $30k a year"). They're not more tech workers than a developer at a news company is a journalist.

Indeed. I've also noticed that we (as engineers and designers) have a better lifestyle in terms of treatment, job security and pay at these startups/tech companies - compared to the marketing teams which consist of the people who typically write these negative articles.

Countless of these articles critiquing the tech work culture pop on HN and it's rarely ever written by devs/management. The tone always comes off as criticism from 'outsiders' who worked within the company, who treat the pride taken in creating eccentric workplaces as somewhat alien to them. Maybe because they aren't truly insiders to the culture... especially in the sense that they aren't ever the creators/leaders or long term members. Only temporarily working within the environment before going back to more typical corporate environments from where they write their analysis with a certain level of cynicism.

I'm a dev and I found the article to be spot on. HubSpot's impact on the world beyond is vanishingly small, to pretend otherwise is either naive or cynical. And anyone who calls being fired "graduating" is an ass.

I had the a similar reaction to the article ..and the same reaction to the interview on Fresh Air : http://www.npr.org/2016/04/05/473097951/laid-off-tech-journa...

The part in the fresh air interview that talks about jargon is especially interesting.

While I agree that the author and others in the same role clearly do not feel apart of the culture, could you really expect them to? They don't have any equity, they don't make very much, they are monitored and evaluated like telemarketers, yet the management expects them to buy into the "change the world" mantra. I think you have to admit that it's demeaning. Why would they feel anything besides anger or jealousy?

As an engineer and former Hubspotter, I think Lyons is pretty accurate, if filtered through a Main Street lens and embarrassingly self serving.

It's just supply and demand. There's more demand than supply for engineers, and more supply and than demand for sales, marketing, support, etc. That doesn't excuse no job security, unreasonable work/life balance demands, etc. The most optimum strategy is to treat all your employees well.

You can only revel in your "culture" from the comfy bubble you inhabit where everyone values your input, you come and go almost as you please, and you know you will have secure income for as long as you want it. Step out of that bubble and see if the world looks the same now.

Is that not part of the problem then? Discounting a critique of a company because of the persons role is just as demeaning.

> using them interchangeably is harmful to our discourse. If we can't agree on what words mean, how can we agree on deeper issues?

Well, I agree this sorts of equivocation can completely confuse important issues. But worth noting that you will always be able to ignore an opposing viewpoint if they have to agree with you on the definition of every term. Better to simply say in this case that the terminology confusion invalidates parts of his argument, and then when replying to bend over backwards to state your thesis unambiguously (in both languages if necessary).

You're confused on the definition of startup. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Startup_company

Generally newly created, but not necessarily. In 'The Lean Startup' by Eric Ries one of the primary examples is based around Intuit, which is a large publicly traded company.

I sure hope a company has a scalable business model before going public. Then again, Twitter?

>I maybe wrong, but a "tech worker" to me is not someone who works for a tech company but rather is one who creating the tech.

You're wrong, if you work at a tech company you're a tech worker. Programmers like to think they're special, but you're the help just like the sales people, support people etc

Here, I read "start-up" as "company with a culture typically attributed to start-ups." And in that reading, the author is not necessarily incorrect.

That's a circular definition.

It's not, because it's being applied outside of its defining group. It's a circular definition if the term is only applied to "start-ups", because of course those have "start-up culture" by definition. But one can apply the term to companies that are not "start-ups" -- even if they once were -- but yet carry the same "start-up culture".

There's also the idea at this point of a stereotypical "start-up culture" that lives beyond the idea of whatever a "start-up" is. This also breaks the circular definition, because from that perspective "start-ups" no longer define "start-up culture".

If you want to nitpick about this then fine, but I think it would be really great if the top comment in the discussion did not begin by explicitly disclaiming that it's off-topic.

Does anyone have more context on Dan Lyons?

After reading this article, and the one from Fortune[0], and his post on LinkedIn[1], it feels like he's out there scraping together blatant PR for his new book. And it makes me honestly wonder whether he went to work for HubSpot looking for a story to write in the first place... and being a writer for the "Silicon Valley" TV series doesn't really help his credibility in that sense.

Disclaimer: I really don't know anything about this story. Something just feels off. Maybe HubSpot really is that bad, who knows.

[0]: http://fortune.com/disrupted-excerpt-hubspot-startup-dan-lyo...

[1]: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/when-comes-age-bias-tech-comp...



After listening to the interview from @CPLX's response[2] I have to agree, he doesn't seem outlandish or anything. And all of the points he makes about HubSpot's content model being complete spam I agree with. I've definitely never liked interacting with HubSpot as a consumer, that much I know.

I feel like in these scenarios he's incentivized to get outlandish PR for his book, so some of the things I'd take with a grain of salt--sentences like, "The offices bear a striking resemblance to the Montessori preschool that my kids attended: lots of bright basic colors, plenty of toys, and a nap room with a hammock and soothing palm tree murals on the wall." But there is probably a lot truth to his story as well.

@ghaff also summed it up well: "That said, I find it's a cogent perspective even if it probably shouldn't be taken as literally accurate reportage."

[2]: http://www.npr.org/2016/04/05/473097951/laid-off-tech-journa...

Yes he's doing PR for a book by telling bits and pieces of the same story in other media. That's what writers do for a living.

If you genuinely want to get a read on the guy listen to this long form interview on Fresh Air from a couple days ago:


He comes across as quite lucid and nuanced in my opinion, and also credible, as he has been covering the tech industry for decades and has a sense of context (he was also fake Steve Jobs by the way) rather than a "look at these crazy start up kids" point of view.

I have a certain level of discomfort with embellished storytelling presented as journalism (think Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson though I don't put Dan at that level). And, in his book, Dan makes some cracks that are arguably reverse-ageist. That said, I find it's a cogent perspective even if it probably shouldn't be taken as literally accurate reportage.

While I get what you're objecting to, the world would have been a lesser place without HST's writing (in my opinion anyway).

There's a broad grey line between "factual objective news reporting" and "storytelling" and the word journalism isn't specifically defined enough for it to be strictly towards the news reporting edges of that grey area. As Wikipedia puts it (with all the lack-of-credibility of quoting Wikipedia as a source, I'll admit): "Journalism, however, is not always confined to the news media or to news itself, as journalistic communication may find its way into broader forms of expression, including literature and cinema."

To me, journalism as commissioned by The Rolling Stone is _supposed_ to be "embellished storytelling". The front page of the NY Times? Sure, that's supposed to be "news" not story telling. But a long-ish form article in the "Sunday Review" section of the Times? At least my expectations lean closer to a Rolling Stone story than a hard hitting fact checked piece of investigative journalism...

I don't really disagree. OTOH, the UVA story in Rolling Stone was supposed to be journalism as opposed to something supposedly "truthy" and heads rolled as a result. I'm not opposed to new journalism as it was called at one point but I think I can feel a bit of legitimate discomfort when the boundaries blur (even when they're net positive as in the case of HST).

Great interview, thanks for the link. Edited my comment above with a bit of your thinking. Thanks!

There was another, longer excerpt featured on HN recently does anyone have the link? I think it was also on the NYT. Or maybe it was a profile about HubSpot written by another person. Not sure anymore.


I worked in tech for a while and nothing he says sounds implausible or strange. Most jobs in tech are bad, all the perks are there just to confuse young suckers about who's taking advantage of who, and the libertarian streak of tech worker is carefully cultivated to make us weaker as a category.

The only glimmer of hope is that personally I'm noticing my peers and friends working all over the Bay Area are starting to notice. Maybe in a few years we'll do something about it.

>Most jobs in tech are bad

I'm not sure I can even understand how your arrive at this conclusion? Looking over the entire set of available jobs, tech is clearly one of the best fields to be in. From pay to autonomy to working conditions, etc etc. You want to see a bad job? Coal mining is a bad job.

This is crab-bucket thinking, though. "You don't have it that bad!" Maybe labor, period, kind of has it bad, and that the tug-of-war between labor and capital is in a bad spot right now?

Being a little bit less screwed doesn't make you not screwed, it makes you less screwed.

Let me work in news industry for a while and write about how terrible the management is, how honest journalism is rejected and shitty PR articles are the way to go, the sheer amount of pointless meetings and asshole co-workers.

I am not sure if you would be happy to work in such a workplace and that describes most of the corporate culture. People are fond of bashing startups for what they are while conveniently ignoring how much more work they get done while keeping everyone happy. Don't like it? Get a job at IBM.

> Maybe in a few years we'll do something about it.

Nope, there will just be another round of new faces, new tech, and new fundings.

> the libertarian streak of tech worker is carefully cultivated to make us weaker as a category

Wow, that must take a whole lot of careful coordination.

You have no idea. The people that pull the strings in the tech industry all know each other, and meet regularly coordinate 'business'

See this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interlocking_directorate

Also play with this http://www.theyrule.net/

Dan Lyons was Fake Steve Jobs, then was a gadget writer where he was a frequent doomsayer of Apple and complained endlessly about the lack of access and review units Apple gave him. When he left that job and went to an advertising startup it was assumed that he'd just burned all of his tech writing bridges and had to resort to writing ad copy, but looking back I'd say it's a fair shot that he wanted an angle to write about startups so he took a job at one.

Don't forget that he was also a shill for SCO.

I don't know Lyons, but I do know HubSpot, and everything he's saying tracks with what I've heard from other people. And not just people with the temerity to be old, but just with the misfortune to be able to read a social group and make some conclusions about it. The company is a culture mob, there is aggressive practice of neuro-linguistic programming all over the place (never mind that it doesn't work, of course), and the whole thing is notably cultish and terrifying, in a startup world where "cultish and terrifying" is part of the standard playbook in the first place.

I do not much like them, if that is not obvious.

What makes me a little bit sad is when I meet somebody who works there--it's Boston, if you are in tech circles you are going to meet HubSpot people--and they're bought-in hard enough to not see that the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train. They hire a lot of good kids and try to kill them, or at least turn them into Dilbert-esque sodden gray rags, by the end of their second year. They're not the only company to do it, and not the only company to do it here in Boston, but they are a stand-out offender.

Ed, I like that you've kept that perspective without having to had experience it. TBF I don't think it's been like that forever, but it's definitely taken on the role of the primary Good Engineer Burnout machine in Boston.

Most of the positive things I read about company cultures, the "best places to work" lists, the glowing pieces on the founders, the TechCrunch articles, the phony Glassdoor reviews, are infinitely more self-aggrandizing fluff PR pieces than anything Lyons has written. No doubt about it, he's promoting his book and his show, but I'm glad some other sides of the story are being told.

It's maybe useful not to confuse specific criticisms of HubSpot with more general criticisms of the culty stage-managed hyper-enthusiasm that surrounds startup culture in general.

Just because someone is earning $150k doesn't mean they're not being sweated and exploited. To its owner, an expensive machine is still just a machine, and not an equal partner.

The tell is always the quality and genuineness of the relationships between employees and owners. It's completely possible for owners to take a genuine interest in the welfare of employees, and to see them as colleagues instead of productive units to be sweated.

But this may not happen as much as it should. And the boilerplate puppies-on-adderall always-crushing-it change-the-world so-very-excited incredible-journey rhetoric turns out to be an excellent smoke screen for owners who have no interest in anything except personal gain - and aren't even slightly concerned if they leave a trail of human wreckage behind them.

And even if you start off wanting to be a humane founder, there's no guarantee investors will let you run your company like that.

So it's easy to criticise Lyons for playing to the gallery with his book. But that doesn't mean that what he's playing is an improvised fiction.

Like the Silicon Valley TV show, the truthfulness of the specifics of this story aren't really the important part. If public perception of startups is as childish frat house like cults, that is a problem whether or not specific startups are in fact childish frat house like cults. I mean that is the exact reason why we use the phrase "frat house" as a pejorative regardless of the merits of specific fraternities.

Actually, what you are asking for is cumulative correct reporting of individual cases leading to a correct impression of the whole sector. I may just have downvoted you (fat finger error, and no way to reverse a vote on HN) but I agree.

I'm an older tech worker (sounded weird when I just read it out :-p ) and I've found there are two gross classes of startups. The ones that have a fire fast mentality, burn workers to the ground, etc. mentality and others which take it like a marathon as opposed to a sprint. I wish we had names for these two kinds of startups because they would save everyone some time when it comes to figuring out who to work for. Both are good in certain situations and for certain clases of people IMHO.

You're searching for a good adhominem attack, coming up empty, and asking for the startup community's help in taking him down.

No I'm not. I'm looking for more information, because I don't want to buy into outlandish-sounding PR articles on their basis alone. While you were writing this comment, I was editing my comment with insights from the interview that @CPLX linked to ;) and I agree with him.

I read it that way, too. Why does it matter that the guy is writing a book? Why does it matter that the article is marketing for the book? Is it true? Sounds like it is.

I read your comment after the edits were applied, and I still thought it was one of those sneaky sorts of "homeopathic ad hominem" attacks where you don't make the attack directly, but instead allude to the "questions" that invoke the attack when considered by the reader.

I guess the term you're looking for is "concern trolling".

> Why does it matter that the guy is writing a book? Why does it matter that the article is marketing for the book? Is it true? Sounds like it is.

Are you asking me: why does it matter what existing motivations a person has when trying to uncover which parts of their account is truthful? Seems pretty obvious why that information is important...

Going solely off of "Is it true? Sounds like it is." sounds like an easy way to end up just confirming your own biases all of the time.

Sorry you took my comment that way, that's not how I intended it. I was honestly curious because I knew nothing about him, and the few articles I found seemed suspect, so I wanted to know if others felt the same, or if he was legit. And with people's replies with more information, I can now say for myself that it seems like he's more legit than not.

What's outlandish about what he writes? Take ONE sentence that sounds incredible and paste it as reply.

> It turned out I’d joined a digital sweatshop, where people were packed into huge rooms, side by side, at long tables. Instead of hunching over sewing machines, they stared into laptops or barked into headsets, selling software.

> Tech workers have no job security.

> The free snacks are nice, but you also must tolerate having your head stuffed with silly jargon and ideology about being on a mission to change the world.

> The offices bear a striking resemblance to the Montessori preschool that my kids attended: lots of bright basic colors, plenty of toys, and a nap room with a hammock and soothing palm tree murals on the wall.

> Dogs roam HubSpot’s hallways, because like the kindergarten decor, dogs have become de rigueur for tech startups.

> On the second floor there are shower rooms, which are intended for bike commuters and people who jog at lunchtime, but also have been used as sex cabins when the Friday happy hour gets out of hand.

> Arriving here feels like landing on some remote island where a bunch of people have been living for years, in isolation, making up their own rules and rituals and religion and language—even, to some extent, inventing their own reality.

> Inside the company he is always referred to simply by his first name, Dharmesh, and some people seem to view him as a kind of spiritual leader.


I'm not saying there isn't truth to what he's saying, and with others chiming in as to his credibility, it seems like there's more truth than I assumed. I was simply asking for context, because a lot of these things do seem slightly blown out of proportion to make the articles sound more interesting, and thus to sell more copies of his book.

Another good interview, on Recode Media: http://recode.net/podcasts/from-fake-steve-jobs-to-hbos-sili...

He did start the book to sort of mock the company; from his NPR interview:

>when I first sold the book and start to write it, it was meant to be sort of a modern-day "Office Space ... I wanted to write just a funny story about being in a kooky company. It was just a comedy.

On one hand I think it's sort of disingenuous - the company culture was never a good fit for him and he shouldn't harm others because of his mistake (I know people who have had negative non-fiction stories written about them, and it can take a personal toll - I hope he left names and specifics out). It doesn't seem like HubSpot ever tries to hide their culture like Amazon has been known to do.

On the other hand, it really is an interesting story. I'm old enough that I'd never work at a place like HubSpot, so to me it's an interesting perspective on an interesting work environment that is common in the new millennial world. In other words, real journalism :)

> the company culture was never a good fit for him and he shouldn't harm others because of his mistake

How about the company shouldn't try to harm its workers? Because they do. Most startups do (it's practically part of the business plan, underpay your workers and dilute their equity 'til, if you are a mega-success, selling out might make up the delta between your underpaying salary and the one they could have gotten at a normal company), most tech companies do (though in other ways, hello collusion and managerial gaslighting). And shining a light on that is, if not noble, at least necessary.

The jump to Lyons entered employment under false pretenses / with this book in mind doesn't seem justified by anything I've read.

It seems more like he found himself in a somewhat ludicrous situation and wrote a book about it.

That was my read too after listening to the fresh air interview. He said he thought it could be fun working with a bunch of out of college kids doing something exciting in a growing company. He had that experience before, afterall.

Infiltration is a time-tested and legit writer's tool.

I'm not informed enough to have an opinion on Dan as a person or on HubSpot, but this is the third article I've seen posted to HN that all pretty much say the same thing, and are all obvious attempts to sell his book. Why do these articles keep getting voted up?

It's good to poke fun at childishness and pretentiousness in the startup world (and there is plenty of it without the need to embellish), but yeah, this is wearing a bit thin.

Poking fun at the childishness and pretentiousness is wearing thin? Isn't the childishness and pretentiousness a lot thinner?

I meant specifically Dan Lyons' articles. Poking fun is good and healthy.

> I feel like in these scenarios he's incentivized to get outlandish PR for his book, so some of the things I'd take with a grain of salt--sentences like, "The offices bear a striking resemblance to the Montessori preschool that my kids attended: lots of bright basic colors, plenty of toys, and a nap room with a hammock and soothing palm tree murals on the wall." But there is probably a lot truth to his story as well.

Surely this is clearly an observation? When I read this I read it as opinion, and a personal observation he had - after all, it speaks of his kids' preschool and it is a judgement he makes.

This sort of comment is done in long-form journalism all the time. The fact you spotted it as subjective commentary almost immediately means it is commentary!

The book he wrote is a commentary on his personal experiences with HubSpot, interspersed with his views. I honestly don't see where the issue is, it's still factual but as with any article or book like this the author is giving his considered view on the material he is writing about. It's perfectly reasonable to disagree, of course, but is it really to get PR for his book?

> I feel like in these scenarios he's incentivized to get outlandish PR for his book, so some of the things I'd take with a grain of salt--sentences like, "The offices bear a striking resemblance to the Montessori preschool that my kids attended: lots of bright basic colors, plenty of toys, and a nap room with a hammock and soothing palm tree murals on the wall." But there is probably a lot truth to his story as well.

Sounds like Google. It's famously decorated in preschool chic.

> and a nap room with a hammock and soothing palm tree murals on the wall

This sounds like a great place to work. Outside of the phony hyper-positive posturing by management.

That sentence struck you as outlandish? It's completely true, and while I've never been to HubSpot it doesn't sound even very unusual for 'hip tech office': http://www.hubspot.com/company-news/home-sweet-home-hubspot-...

> Does anyone have more context on Dan Lyons?

Look up "Fake Steve Jobs", it was a great read back in its day. He stopped the blog when it became apparent that Jobs was mortally ill.

Pretty good insights into the "Silicon Valley" pathological culture.

(It has long since mutated astonishingly from the simple Fairchild seed that named it.)

Not pathological, productive... productive damn it. And we won't hire you if you don't toe the party line and rhetoric. Ever. Enjoy being blacklisted for not behaving yourself. /s

A lot of tech offices do look like freaking playschools now. One I went to looked like a cat therapist's waiting room, with cartoons of fishes and cats on the walls.

this might come as a .. surprise to you, but the entire news and media business basically exists for this purpose.

When corporations do it it's common sense, when people do it is out of context.

So does the author think that everyone is great at their job? What do you do when you have an employee that can't do the work and you are confident that they won't improve?

Pointing out the age difference in the manager and the employee, and their sexes, is just baiting. Unless he wants to make the case that there was sexism or agism from the manager, or that the company engaged in sexism or agism, it is just a red herring. In fact, it's quite cowardly, since it implies something the author isn't willing to actually say.

Finally, the fact that the person who was fired was with the company for 4 years doesn't mean anything at all unless we also get the context. It may be that this person struggled from the beginning, and they hesitated and didn't fire her for four long years. Or it may be that they hired her to do some specific job, and that job went away, and despite repeated attempts she just could not manage to learn anything else.

The thesis that she was 'disposable' is just ludicrous. If she was good at her job, then the manager is just an idiot who is cutting his and the companies own throat, and we can't make a moral argument against stupidity. If she couldn't do the job then there is no reason to be discussing this. If she was borderline, we still can't make a moral case, since borderline situations are at worst slightly wrong.

So once you cut through the left handed implications, I don't think there is any argument left.

> What do you do when you have an employee that can't do the work and you are confident that they won't improve?

Be an adult and make a tough decision without masking it as a great "thing" (aka: graduation)?

Yes putting the lipstick on the pig, and ritualizing it, makes this an emotionally sadistic exercise.

Oh, I get it, like when you go to a funeral and people try to focus on the the memories that make them happy, or find comfort in religious fairy tales about 'living forever'.

Or when people who are fired are allowed to 'resign' to save face.

I think this isn't as nefarious as the internet hive mind seems to think:

Imagine that someone quits to go onto better things, more money, etc. Of course you throw them a going away party. Then someone else is fired, but you want to let them save face. Do you throw them a party? You've established that people leaving on their own get a party already...

You guys seem to think that the answer is obvious, you tell everyone "so and so was just fired for poor performance, they are bad at their job and that is why they are unemployed now." and have the person do a walk of shame out the door and never feel like they can put it behind them or face any of their former coworkers again without overcoming a massive amount of shame.

Firing is rejection, it does not necessarily mean that the person being fired has anything to do with it. Whole unit moving to a different city, moving to a different tech stack. Brining in pals of the New Director, etc. etc. There are 1000 reasons, but Firing is REJECTION. At a human level, only the vexed are relieved that they are fired, most even after understanding the big picture are not in a rejoicing state of mind, because they have to find some other way to find lost Pay. So, no celebrating loss of Income is only fitting for few and in most cases a Sadistic ritual. Its a different thing that co-workers take initiative to send off a good bye, but the company doing it looks dubious and the whole "Graduate" ritual is sadistic.

Sadistic means that they took pleasure in causing the person pain. I really doubt that.

If they are celebrating "graduation", aren't they celebrating pain and suffering of the outgoing employee.

Again, the practice is sadistic at least at the emotional level to me. May be it is Graduating as a Rock Star.

ps. Please stop moving the goal posts.

Just to clarify, I was saying 'like these other rituals' sarcastically, my point was to say 'look, humans often have ritualization around difficult events, and that is ok, people find comfort in it'.

> If she couldn't do the job then there is no reason to be discussing this

The creepy thought processes that go into calling it "graduation" (and throwing a party...) don't rely on any judgement about that employee's performance.

Who would even attend a party that their boss threw for them after firing them?

I'm sure they don't announce "hey, Bev just got fired for incompetence, lets all eat cake".

It is probably more like Bev announces she is leaving, and then they gather around to say goodbye because even though it didn't work out, she is still a person and worthy of being treated with respect and telling her peers that she decided to move on rather than the truth.

No one, because that doesn't happen.

From the first paragraph of the article:

"She was 35, had been with the company for four years, and was told without explanation by her 28-year-old manager that she had two weeks to get out. On her last day, that manager organized a farewell party for her."

Guessing there are various holes in the narrative the writer is trying to flesh out. Not particularly surprising.

I came away with the impression that HubSpot's management was purposely divorced from reality, and so it is hard to take them at face value that she was unable to perform her job. The issue appears that she was too costly to the company due to biological reasons(1. being old and 2. being a woman). The other issue from the article was that there didn't seem to be an objective way of measuring performance so "graduations" become rather arbitrary, and when they are arbitrary with the appearance of objective, there isn't any reason not to cut out the more "costly Employees"

This is the argument you seem to be missing in the article and maybe just too young to understand.

Too young? I wish!

I went through your comments and figured out who you are in real life, and I found that I basically agree with most of the things you say, so I won't give you a hard time. I think Kirkland Signature makes good stuff too!

Edit: That sounded really stalker-ish, I did it to see if you are actually even older than I am.

I'm approaching 35 years old, and HubSpot is a publicly traded company, ergo, a grown-ass company. If they need to cut labor costs, they do a layoff.

When I was 17 years old, I got fired without any warning from a mom-and-pop computer repair shop ($10 an hour, I think?) because I "talked too much" at the bench. Coincidentally, they had just hired a 15 year old to do the same job. I had also recently asked how i might go about getting a pay raise.

This is the kind of thing that a small business (which is constantly in crisis) does all the time. It's legal in "at will" states, but it isn't particularly fair.

Larger, publicly traded companies that aren't in crisis have no business acting like high school lunch tables.

If they do layoffs, they must publically announce them.

Replacing 36 yr old women with 23 year old men requires no such disclosure

> That sounded really stalker-ish, I did it to see if you are actually even older than I am.

It does.

Google: letting you dox and stalk someone in 45 seconds.

> If she was good at her job, then the manager is just an idiot who is cutting his and the companies own throat, and we can't make a moral argument against stupidity.

We can't? Why not?

Being stupid does not exempt you from responsibility for your actions.

When an investor puts money into a crappy company, and they lose their money, they have been held responsible. You can be responsible and face consequences without any moral failure.

The author is poking at several questions that are deeper than the simple question of whether or not someone is good at their job. Take this paragraph, for example:

"The Netflix code has been emulated by countless other companies, including HubSpot, which employed a metric called VORP, or value over replacement player. This brutal idea comes from the world of baseball, where it is used to set prices on players. At HubSpot we got a VORP score in our annual reviews. It was supposed to feel scientific, part of being a `data-driven organization,` as management called it."

There's at least two issues that I see raised immediately by this. We are no longer talking about whether someone is adequate or even good at their job. We are talking about a culture where there is the ongoing of question of whether or not someone can be replaced more affordably by someone who provides greater or equal value. This is not a surprise exactly, given that every business in a competitive market is going to have some degree of incentive to minimize costs. But it is a very distinct thing from the issue of whether an employee can do the work, and it lays bare a philosophy that looks a lot like people are entirely reduced to fungible inputs.

That has its own moral problems; trying to cover it with positive spin like “graduation” exacerbates them.

But on top of that, we have the question of whether HubSpot really has any idea how to make accurate VORP assessments... or whether they're lifting a model that probably is effective in a game context like Baseball where key performance metrics are in fact what you are trying to optimize and trying to import it into a setting where most metrics are often only indicators at best. You could reduce this to the problem of whether a given manager is "just an idiot" -- but it's not that simple, because we're talking about a management philosophy that is likely to be wielded by any number of managers.

Now, you might think the market will weed out such philosophies if they're not actually effective. But then we're up against the principal-agent problem. The philosophy doesn't have to be optimal, it just has to not be bad and have a good story to sell. If it wreaks havoc with employees who may be more adequate than the management philosophy along the way, that's not going to matter much.

There's plenty of argument and conversation left in this.

Yeah, I personally didn't really get the point of this article.

You could view it as a very good thing that the company isn't keeping around potentially low performers purely because of tenure. Also, I highly doubt the person that got fired didn't know why, even if it wasn't explicitly stated.

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