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I used to work a corporate job in an investment bank with around 30k employees. The majority of those employees were politicking chameleons with little productive output and a disproportionate salary. I used to hope that large innovative tech companies were different. From what I hear on HN it's becoming clear that that's not the case. It's almost as if the "largeness" of a company allows the non productive people to hide within it, all while successfully siphoning off their sustenance.



That's pretty much it in a nutshell. On the other hand, in smaller companies you have to deal with the egos and personality quirks of those at the top because there's nowhere for you to hide from them. Pick your poison.


Eh, I still wouldn't say they're equivalent. A CEO with an ego you can build a strategic relationship with, a headless mass of uncoordinated politicking and beuraucracy is that times 1000, and is often far more impenetrable from the ground floor


I didn't say they were equivalent, just that for those who have only worked in large companies, there are some weeds in that nice green grass they might have been admiring.

I would disagree that it's possible to build a strategic relationship with all small company CEOs... some are just way too dysfunctional.


I’ve had that experience before as well. What always surprises me is how upper management overlooks the opportunity to pocket more money for themselves by cost-cutting the net negative employees. Too often the ones who do it go overboard and completely gut the company to death instead of just making it more effective and profitable.

For example, a company with 5,000 employees might have about 500 positions that could actually be eliminated via automation, improved processes, and removing net negative contributors. If the average fully loaded cost is $100k/year (many old companies still have people not comped as high as Silicon Valley folks), you’re looking at roughly $50 million in dollar savings, not to mention the top performers aren’t distracted by the under-performers.

If I’m at the C-level, it’d be completely reasonable to pitch making this move, pocket an extra $500k for myself, and give $5 million worth of bonuses to the remaining 4,500 people ($1k minimum each), and you’ve still saved roughly $45 million to the company’s bottom line for savings or growth investment or higher comp for top performers. These are all rough numbers, but you get the point.

I suspect companies don’t do this more often because 1) they have a hard time, from the upper management vantage point, knowing where to cut/identifying the poor performers who try to hide, 2) scared to accidentally cut someone actually important, and 3) like managing a “big” company, even at the expense of their own potential executive comp.


Companies do this frequently. It's the annual "Cisco is laying off 7400 employees" or "E-bay is laying off 5000 employees" or "Microsoft is laying off 13,000 employees", where each time the number is suspiciously close to 10% of the company. Commenters on HN usually assume this means that X is in trouble, but really it's a way to get rid of the bottom 10% of the company while passing the cost on to the state's unemployment insurance fund.


Your employer pays into that fund, and when you draw, your employer's premium goes up.


All employers pay into that fund, so tragically, it's pretty cost-effective for any individual employer to exploit those commons.


> I suspect companies don’t do this more often

They do, it‘s classic „rank and yank“, but perhaps slightly harder nowadays due to diversity and other such ideological concerns.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitality_curve


> It's almost as if the "largeness" of a company allows the non productive people to hide within it, all while successfully siphoning off their sustenance.

Bang. You're spot on.

From what I've seen, it's an unfortunate artifact of many (if not most) large companies. There are just too many places to hide.

I'm keen to know if it's the same at Apple and Amazon.


>From what I've seen, it's an unfortunate artifact of many (if not most) large companies. There are just too many places to hide.

I've yet to hear of any large company that doesn't inevitably end up this way.


Yes, it's the same.


Source?


I always thought part of the point of how Google is structured was to prevent people from working for the competition. Why have 5 chat apps? Because 5 teams working on a chat app that will get cancelled in two years is better than all those people working on Ads for Facebook right now.

Probably not true but I did really wonder at times. Walking past people waiting in line for 30 minutes to get food when I would just grab a PB&J. Seeing people playing ping pong and video games, the same people every day, all day, as I walked between meetings. I eventually felt like I was Doing It Wrong.


People are people and will do self-serving people things. Don't think any single industry is immune or reserved from this. I have been thinking about this heavily recently as to what I will do with myself when I return to the US later this year.

When interviewing ask the following questions:

* How do you define personal success?

* In the fewest words how do you define product quality?

* Do you require honesty/transparency as a primary cultural value even when it makes people uncomfortable?

> It's almost as if the "largeness" of a company allows the non productive people to hide within it

Yes, absolutely.


Some suggest that a company should not exceed Dunbar's number (150). They say that when a company grown it should split up and work together as two companies to be productive.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar's_number


Given that large organizations have an ever increasingly larger share of revenue and power in the world, it doesn’t seem like it would be in the interest of the organization’s leaders or equity owners to have it split up.


But people need to take up some of their 150 with connections outside of work. Quite a lot if you have a few family and friends. What does that say about the ideal size of teams?


I've had a similar feeling about how our society deals with people who don't fit in in this way (non-productive), and it's a fun thing to play around with in your head because in a loose way it undercuts a key selling point of organizing your society capitalistically like ours: during the cold war, it was like "yeah well you Soviets just give every lazy bastard some meaningless quasi-task in a widget factory or in some faceless ministry and go around telling the rest of the world there's no unemployment and you're building Utopia. We in the West, otoh, have purpose and let our people put themselves to better use!"

So your observation reminded me that our society has plenty of people on a similar sort of hidden dole: vast corporate structures with uncountable layers of non-productive paper pushers, with a very small proportion of employees setting the vision and another small bunch generating most of the value. A social welfare program by any other name ...

So like do large human groups just inevitably have some subset that doesn't quite fit (in terms of work and productivity) but who need taking care of so we semi-deny their existence ("no slackers here!") while we semi-throw'em a bone ("here's a paycheck, go look at Facebook for a few hours and fiddle with PowerPoint while I harass my secretary")?


> So your observation reminded me that our society has plenty of people on a similar sort of hidden dole:

This is why everyone wants to be university educated. The great bulk of "respectable" office jobs require no real skill or effort, just some cultural knowledge about how to talk like you're contributing.


> We in the West, otoh, have purpose and let our people put themselves to better use!"

AKA people invent novel ways to support themselves when the alternative is starving in the street


Lol yes


Read “Bullshit Jobs” for an anthropologist‘s view of this. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullshit_Jobs


I have been thinking on this. From a capitalist point of view, an Universal Basic Income may be useful to remove non-productive people from companies. I think the productivity increase (because non-productive people tend to drag productive people around them) May very well offset the costs.


It won't work for that.

Some non-productive people are non-productively lazy, and UBI may work for them.

Others are non-conformist creative types, and UBI will half work for them. IMO it's good to have some of these types around in a business to shake things up - as long as they have some practical skills and aren't just dreamers.

Others are primarily interested in accumulating power, and corporations provide a perfect cover for them. They will get off UBI as soon as they can, but they're often incredibly toxic, and large organisations of all kinds are very good at empowering them.

With the odd exception, they're probably the biggest threat to the future of any business. And they're very good at disguising this. They're the people who turn in solid financials and performance stats. But the results are built on rubble, and often their management doesn't discover this until it's too late.


Why are you so concerned with the future of a business you likely have absolutely zero stake in? Why lick the boot that much? What will the boot give back to you? The amount of complete corporate loyalty in this thread is absolutely dense & sickening. It's totally out of touch with reality and a seemingly huge fetish for money & power, destroying the lives of those below you because they've figured out how to work smarter. What even is society anymore? It's everyone just pinning each other against each other. It's depressing. Have some solidarity.


It depends on the large tech company. If you try that at Facebook or Netflix for example, you'll be out on your ass pretty quick.


David Graeber have a thing or two to say about exactly this:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.vox.com/platform/amp/2018/5...

I’m inclined to view this almost as a basic income type situation.

Much can be automated away, but what do we end up if we do that today? We need to find meaning in life other than money for a whole bunch of non-nerds.


It's not the same as a bank. Google is far far ahead of that. HN seems to have pitch forks for anything Google. It's the only company that let's you openly engage with the CEO and hold them accountable.


>It's the only company that let's you openly engage with the CEO and hold them accountable.

That's a very big claim.

I can instant message mine. And I still have my last one's personal mobile number.


How many people in each of those ?


Nx1000 in the current one, a company you've definitely heard of and used, Nx10 in the last one, which you haven't and you haven't.

FAANG aren't the only companies.


So at least an order of magnitude less than any of the Google competitors?


Yes. It has nothing to do with the topic though. Google are an order of magnitude less than Volkswagen.


Of course it does have to do with the topic. I can know the CEOs number in a 10 person startup. And the number isn't the point, the point is having an official unscripted channel to voice concerns.


This isn't that unusual. Being able to text the mobile of the CEO of tech companies with 10k employees -- and get quickly get a response -- is something I've used more than once. Not every big company is like this but I suspect it is more common than you might expect. At least in tech, this is an expectation of the role.


The further from the coal face someone is, the harder their job will generally be to quantify and so the more likely they are to be able to slide by.


Now imagine what government jobs must be like considering their size.


> From what I hear on HN it's becoming clear that that's not the case.

I was hoping you would have a personal experience to share but I guess that's not the case. I wonder how often in anonymous forums people share beliefs (not data) on things they haven't personally experienced but have heard other people on the internet experience (who may have been lying).




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