Regardless of intent there are commercial realities that exist within the context of a company that may never be present in a non-work relationship. This has varying degrees of impact on the nature of the relationship itself and may not present itself until you are at your most vulnerable.
I find that a collegial environment with shared goals and responsibilities can be equally rewarding as non-work relationships even if we all have some level of underlying self-interest at heart. Our day-to-day interactions can also be made more pleasant if we are not constantly reminded of the at times competitive, zero-sum, structure of professional engagements.
At a team level your colleagues may be your friends but one shouldn't conflate professional relationships with personal ones.
And nor does anyone have a 'career'.
You have a job. When you lose that job, you may not get another one.
It's an illusion. One minute you think you are a high profile manager with budgets and power. The next you are packing your desk up into a box and rethinking your entire life.
We are not our careers!
Maybe it's because I grew up poor or because I think things are too good in tech and about to crash any day.
My antidote? $100k in liquidity. Preferably not invested in the NASDAQ.
If tech crashes, you can take your liquid $100k and move to Thailand, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, etc. In these countries, you can live well for a decade, sometimes even thirteen years off just $100,000 USD.
I know $100k isn't much and it certainly isn't the $1M - $3M people want for retirement in the US. But it's enough to have peace of mind.
Even if it's similar job at same salary, the point is to go through the process to get an offer in reasonable time. When you get the offer, you can decline the offer, if you're happy with current company.
I recommend everyone go through the job search process at least once a year or more.
Job search process takes skills, like everything else. It's much better to sharpen the interview loop skills while you're currently employed. You can take the time to analyze areas for improvements and learn the patterns in job search, interview loop process.
Before joining I thought it was a good time to do some interviews so I would know what my value should be and if maybe there were other (better) options than working with my friend. I had about 4 interviews and 2 immediately did an offer, that felt good. It took some time before I could "interview" at my friends place and meanwhile one of the companies started upping their offer to sway me to them.
The way I entered the interview at my friend’s place was totally different than if I wouldn’t have interviewed those other places. I felt empowered and like I had nothing to lose. I asked for (to me) ridiculous amounts of money and benefits and got them without them batting an eye.
But now here we are, a few years later, and the feeling is coming back. "What if I lose my job?", "Will I ever make what I make now?", "Why am I making so much more money than my way-more-educated friends?". These doubts are weird but they feel valid. I sometimes think if I lose this job there is no place for me besides a service desk or something.
I got another pay raise this week for my “excellent performance”. But I feel I just get this because I can talk to my manager about games we both play and he just likes me. Is this imposter syndrome?
1)when you decide it is time to look for a new job, even if you have your sights set on a particular position, always fan your resume out to at least three places, and go to multiple interviews. You never know what opportunities exist unless you look. What you thought was your first choice might not be where you actually end up.
2)If you do go through the process of sending out resumes and interviewing, go into it with the attitude that if you get an acceptable offer for what you think will be an interesting position, accept it and move on.
As long as you leave a job on good terms, with a two week notice, you can always go back in the future. Never (never!) burn bridges. The world is small, and networks matter!
Always follow up with any job offer that you receive but turn down. Keep it short, keep it factual, be polite. Thank them for the opportunity. Note that if a company gives you a good faith offer, and you turn it down, it will be harder to get an interview there in the short term. In the long term, they took a chance on you once, they'll take a chance again.
Network, network, network. I cannot stress that enough.
With the final note. Never (never) burn bridges.
Your process can work for singles in an area where jobs opportunities are wide.
That of course puts you into the 1% of people in terms of liquidity. Quite a lot of people are a long way below that: https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/2019-economic-we...
Retirement saving are interesting because for a whole bunch of public policy reasons most people have illiquid retirement savings.
> move to Thailand, Spain, Portugal, Turkey
Check your visa requirements: can you really move there without a job? While $100k is a 1% number it may not be enough to qualify for the "entrepreneur" visa.
$100k sounds like a lot but....I live in San Diego. All in, it costs about $4,200/month post-tax to live here. Sure, it can be done on much less. That means $50,400/year post-tax. So your $100k whether liquid or not only lasts two years max.
Let's say a real recession occurs and you lose your job. If your $100k is in the asset that crashed -- say real estate (which I like real estate) or speculative tech stocks -- oh boy. You're now probably at $70k hopefully. If it takes you 12 months from losing your job to finding a job. Now you're looking at only $20k left in your account....that is scary.
I know I am being paranoid because you'd get unemployment + could probably find a lower level job quick in the meantime + you would cut your $4200/month to bare minimum. But that's my point, I live in this fear and the $100k provides some peace of mind.
Does not give you the right to work though.
If you're willing to live a slightly rootless "digital nomad" life, you can ping pong across several countries spending 3-6 months in each back and forth to remain on a visitor visa indefinitely. Not ideal, of course, but you can do this until you get on your feet in a more permanent manner IE full-time remote work.
We all have different inherited capacities for stress too.
Receive salary > pay bills, buy food etc. > all the rest, transfer to a investment account at the oldest, most boring and slowest financial institution in your country to invest in the most boring, yawn-inducing and uninteresting investment fund. Don't touch this money ever.
In the worst of years you'll beat inflation and keep your savings, in the best of years you might make a % or two.
In the meantime, plan your post-employment life: what country to live in, what stuff/hobbies you want to keep etc.
Then when shit has hit the fan, cash in and execute above plan.
One thing that has worked for me is to “pay myself first.” 
If £4000 comes in and your monthly outgoings are around £2000, invest the remaining £2000 immediately. The main benefit this gets me is that it forces me to budget better and come up with other streams of income (usually eBaying stuff) in case I come up short.
When I mentor young people right out of college, the first thing I explain to them is that very principle.
Take advantage of the 401K. Have a brokerage account that you automatically deposit into every month. Money that never passes through your checking account, is money you are likely to keep.
Great thoughts on alternative places to live as well.
But I later spent some time in rich Asian cities and became aware of the high stress highly competitive environment there, all the way from early schooling. Now I am in the Bay Area and see the same sort of thing here, with there being such a huge difference in potential just by getting in the right schools or doing well on the right exams or interviews. Then things like this health care trap in the US is such a big shock. Even schooling, with such a huge difference between good and bad schools, good and bad neighborhoods. I can see why there is such a desire to better, or even maximize, ones situation.
I stopped fearing that when I became a freelancer. It's done wonders for my confidence, and I'm much more productive as a result.
It also helps to be married; two jobs give a lot more security than one. Even so, having savings that can last you through a downturn or possibly even fund an early retirement, is definitely a good idea.
Sure, it's theoretically possible, but it's much better to redirect that effort into finding a job you can live with in your own county. Nothing wrong with a bit of wanderlust, and you can certainly get that out of your system with the safety-net of a sustainable career. Do I sound like a parent yet?
The expat thing is done by every generation, it doesn't stick. Gen-X-ers (my people) went to Prague, had great times, made lifelong friends, saved nothing, often developed mild drinking problems, in the end they lost a few years of their earning potential. Did it develop character? Yes. Could it have been done in other ways? Yes. Was it worth it? ehh.
There are other ways to escape from the searing banality of a career inside of Mega-corps filled with assholes, HR drones, soul-sucking labor.
I have about 80k in liquidity and in the back of my mind it's reassuring to know that if something went wrong at my job or I burnt out or got fired I would be ok. With just my savings I could rent a room in my city for something close to 10 years, including all basic necessities. Even just taking a part time minimum wage job I could easily double that time frame.
As it is I live happily in a small space with a very frugal lifestyle. Paradoxically I think going to work knowing that I could walk away at any time actually makes me a healthier and more productive person/employee.
I really like the idea of "barista FIRE": make enough "fuck you money" that you can survive on a low paid job and supplement it a little with your savings, while leaving enough in reserve for retirement.
What city, though? I live in a small city (coast, but still), and the absolute crappiest studio will chomp 500€/mo out of your wallet, which roughly translates to over $70k. Anything decent goes easily over $100k and that's rent alone.
This is what 400 EUR get you now:
Rooms and studios from 10 to 24 sqm (~100-250 sq feet), half of them unfurnished. So cheaper than here, but still the absolute worst. Well, you can get something for even cheaper but then you start having last floors without elevator and extremely low ceilings, which my back won't ever consider again after the experience.
Also, some countries have a "negative privilege" situation, where even if you try to get a low-wage job, you'll have less priority than others, or your employer will need to pay an extra fee to be able to hire you. Many will resort to illegal employment to avoid that.
And do not forget issues about guarantors: some places are really strict about proving you have the money, and simply making a 1-year rent deposit in advance is not enough.
Overall, even when having the money, some people don't have the "privilege" of being able to spend it as they please, in the country of their preference.
I think that is called "discrimination"
6 years of extremely cheap 600gbp/month rent is ~$us60k
£600/month is also definitely doable in London (even in Zone 2). I have quite a few friends who earn less than me that wouldn't even consider a room costing more than that.
Portugal is even "better" with a minimum wage of 750€/month
2-3 years might be enough time to study something (something else maybe?) and look for another job or possibly re-invent yourself into another field.
still better than nothing at all btw!
I should probably look into MSCI World SRI, which is a socially responsible index (or a neverending collection of indices) that excludes all sorts of dirty and questionable enterprises like oil and weapons.
A career is a story we use to guide how we look for work and to convince people to pay us for our work.
The important thing is to not let an employer define you career story, even if you work for them for a long time.
And, regardless of skills, connections, etc., I still am concerned of any change in my job status. Career narratives or hoping to join the managerial classes don't pay bills or save for retirement. I wish I gave more stock to this idea when younger.
Pretty often your peers are not your coworkers. They're your compworkers (or againstworkers). You'd think they would want to compete with your company's competitors and make things easy with you.
(my) Managers are just people. They have a task, they do their best to get that task done. Sometimes they decisions that seem bad to me. Often that is because I misunderstand their goals. Sometimes, it is because I know something they don't, and something they couldn't verify if I told them. And other times, they just made a mistake, or weren't told the relevant information by me or others.
Indeed, sometimes their goals are somewhat self serving. But often it just has to do with wider business goals than what I am working at. I am grateful for them keeping an eye on those. Leaving me to worry less about the biggest of pictures. That however, doesn't mean I should just bog down on the small picture of my work, and deem everything that seems bad in that context as stupid.
Things are further exacerbated by the reality that SV has above-average people in the technical sphere, but way below average people in the people-management sphere. Management in SV is all about people-management, and managers' decisions affect people much more than in other industries. Another factor that contributes to this state of affairs is the high growth rate of companies: people become managers by default, and high growth is difficult to navigate without prior experience. Even when managers have prior experience, when the inevitable fall from high growth occurs, is is very difficult to manage people who turn disillusioned and demotivated. In all this, HR usually are a team that plays only for themselves: they prevent rapid hiring and firing of people who do not perform, causing problems, and they also prevent rank-and-file grievances from being heard by squashing them at the earliest opportunity. This is common in many industries, not just technology. HR is mostly staffed by underachievers with a mean streak --- high-achievers usually opt for engineering and finance, if they have spent time acquiring the specific skills that are needed for these functions, or sales if they have the personality and the drive to persuade customers. The rotten apples end up with HR (marketing comes a close second, but since sales performance directly affects marketing budgets, HR is the best place for these types to last).
This is a very cynical take that applies wildly general negative sentiment and statements to a huge group of people. It's not just about workplace dynamics. I couldn't keep reading after the ~5th paragraph where the (not so subtle) point is: how can _these people_ live with themselves?
I'll copy the relevant paragraph below:
> Expert gaslighters, they are. What really makes me wonder is how the people keep doing these jobs. Many of them are in the very classes that get abused by other people regularly. How can you honestly keep doing that job when you are just enabling the abusers?
Sorry, but this is insane. You're generalizing millions of people here. Imagine this type of statement made towards a cultural subgroup rather than a profession. What would we call it?
edit: removed quotes in the first paragraph to reduce confusion around attribution, as per post below. I don't have time to reply in-depth right now but I appreciate the rebuttal and I'll give it a shot later.
* Executive ethics focus on maximizing shareholder value, while individual incentives, on personal returns. If I can pollute a lake for an extra buck to my stock price, I'm expected to do this.
* HR ethics focus on protecting the company. If they can lie to you as an employee to minimize legal risk, that's what's gonna happen.
* Legal ethics focusing on protecting your client (no matter how evil), while practice focuses on maximizing billable hours.
... and so on. It's not good or bad. It just is. As a programmer, you'll be off-putting to people from those groups for reasons just as valid or invalid.
And generalizations are often accurate. If you don't show a certain modesty and humility in gift-receiving in China, you'll be an outcast. If you don't show a certain opulence and over-the-top gratitude in some parts of the Middle East and show the same, you'll be an outcast just as much.
Guess what happens when the two cultures come together?
People are viewed as jerks.
A little cross-cultural training goes a long ways to avoid that. I'm sorry you don't like the tone, but I viewed this as a fair guide for programmers managing corporate settings running into those barriers. This article appears to do a fine job explaining HR's role to people coming from e.g. CS undergrad degrees which will prevent them from getting hurt. It's no better or worse than a guide for e.g. American women as to what to expect if they marry someone from Saudi culture.
As a footnote, quotation marks suggest you're quoting someone. Your claimed quote doesn't exist in the source article. Your point would be stronger if you commented on what the author wrote than your (somewhat inaccurate) read-between-the-lines. That's another place cultures differ a lot: how things are implied and subtexts. People misread subtexts, which I think you did here.
I agree that cross cultural training is important, and indeed what is needed here. But I don't think this article is framed properly to be seen as cross cultural training. Instead this article portrays one culture only as seen from the other. It lacks the opposite view, failing to consider how the management culture might perceive the coders. The article neither suggests that the actions by management might be a reasonable response from their culture, nor does it suggest ways to better interact.
> If you don't show a certain modesty and humility in gift-receiving in China, you'll be an outcast. If you don't show a certain opulence and over-the-top gratitude in some parts of the Middle East and show the same, you'll be an outcast just as much.
In the context of this analogy, this article would be much like a Chinese rant on "how all Middle Easteners are Jerks for displaying their opulence, and therefore cannot be trusted". That is not an article that helps in cross-cultural training.
However, tone is an extremely important part of cross-cultural training, and the tone of this article takes its premise from: _you may have a conflict of interest with group B_ to something between _group B is out to get you_ and _group B is evil_. I personally wouldn't recommend it to anyone because of this.
> As a footnote, quotation marks suggest you're quoting someone. Your claimed quote doesn't exist in the source article. Your point would be stronger if you commented on what the author wrote than your (somewhat inaccurate) read-between-the-lines.
The original post has always had the exact paragraph that I derived my subtext from in it. Emphatic quotes are a bad habit of mine, so I removed those, but c'mon -- this is a pretty common grammar mistake and the sentence preceding it pretty clearly "implies" (emphatic quotes) that it's only my interpretation :)
> That's another place cultures differ a lot: how things are implied and subtexts. People misread subtexts, which I think you did here.
Can you please explain how you would otherwise interpret the exact paragraph that I quoted? I'm usually pretty good at seeing the other side, but I genuinely can't see this one. Maybe it's because I've been in management too long (or maybe I'm too Canadian). Either way, I'm genuinely curious.
I'll quote the paragraph again directly from the article for you:
The only other interpretation I can think of is the author was referring to the people in the previous example. However, she switches from singular ("person A" / "person B") tense in the example to plural ("gaslighters" / "abusers") tense in this paragraph, so it's either an uncharacteristic grammar mistake or a generalization applied to a broader group.
The generalization is that HR people are "gaslighters" and managers are "abusers".
With that in mind, how would you interpret this sentence? "What really makes me wonder is how the people keep doing these jobs."
I can only see: _how can these people live with themselves_. How is that subtext not correct here?
> How is that subtext not correct here?
The grammar is a little bit hard to parse in the original article, and I don't know the cultural context, so I don't so much have AN interpretation as a probabilistic cloud of possible interpretations.
The thing I would remember when reading anything like this is how much language means different things in different cultures:
1) Words like "racism," "white supremacy," "gaslighting," and "abuse" get tossed around a lot in younger, ultra-liberal circles. If I call someone conservative in their fifties a white supremacist, I won't be welcome back ever again. If I'm talking to a liberal 20-something, we're both expected to accept our white supremacy.
2) Positive / negative language varies between cultures. If an Eastern European says something is mediocre, they mean it's typical. If an American says the same, they mean it's bad. Some cultures use language in ways which are hyper-positive, and others, in ways which are hyper-negative. Acceptable degree of exaggeration varies too.
I recently had a "friendly" lawyer for an adversarial party provide me with some "friendly" legal advice (which was specifically that I had no case, and would be out both sides' legal fees if I went to court, and so on). They were lying. I knew that, and they knew that. This was an attorney for a megacorp, where I filed an arbitration complaint as a typical consumer (so they probably didn't know that I knew that they were lying).
With filters for how the author might be using language -- well within the norms of some cultures I've interacted with -- I didn't see this as going far beyond "If an opposing counsel tells you that you have no legal case, they might be lying to you."
Especially if management is slightly worse than at my current job. It would be easy but wrong to write them of as incompetent based on articles like this. This would be quite costly for anyone making that mistake.
You still have a very valid point, the question of where you draw the line between “these guys are incompetent and I can’t deal with this” vs “I decide to put up with it to make things work” is very individual.
You should be careful generalizing the former decision as a mistake.
The article reads like someone who's spent some time in industry.
But in my experience working for various large corporations, I've found that the sentiment expressed is very accurate. Managers were the bane of our existence.
While we as developers and other areas involved did our best, the managers were with few exceptions absolutely terrible. I was often amazed that anything got done at all.
In smaller companies or startups I definitely learned to respect the concerns that managers had to deal with that I didn't, sure. But in BigCo's it was generally a shit show of, basically, royalty running the show badly: ass-kissers, psychopaths, etc.
If you assume starting out that all managers are corrupt fools who only care about promoting themselves and their executive golf buddies, that comes through in every interaction you have with them. They're certainly not more likely to be your partner in advancing your own career and growing the business through delivering genuine value to customers when you're carrying that big of a chip on your shoulder.
I think the problem comes when you work at a business whose wider business goals are unethical, or simply don't include respecting the needs and rights of their workers. This definitely isn't everywhere, but from the stories I've heard this seems to be some companies.
Totally agree that managers aren't a bad thing in general though.
That's what it means to be evil :)
> But often it just has to do with [...]
Making excuses for bad behaviour improves nothing, least of all your life.
This has a bit of truth. In my experience climbing up the ladder is so disconnected from actual reality. There’s quite a bit of a buddy buddy / quid pro quo system that goes on when it comes to promos.
There are people who do the actual work and take it 99%, and others who stitch the last 1% and take credit for all of it. Our Industry loves rewarding for features over things that customers actually care about. I’ve seen many feature promos in my life. One year later we’d have to kill the whole feature because it’s not worth the maintenance cost.
One of my managers believed folks who write python and JS are not real programmers, C and go programmers faced hard problems therefore they are more real. There was also the unconscious bias that women can’t lead projects so opportunities weren’t given to them. Over time women kept leaving. Over time really stellar frontend engineers kept on leaving.
It also baffles me how much energy is spent on hiring people, vs mentoring and fostering them so they grow and are promoted.
Features are much easier to make visible, but it's not universal... a long time ago my manager told me to shift the perspective on some crappy boring perf work I did by multiplying milliseconds saved by runs per day and converting CPU time into dollar cost in the datacenter ;) IIRC I literally put the dollar figure into my perf review.
A semi-related point w.r.t. visibility/popularity, is that your team is much more likely to be continuously aware, and depend on, your work; whereas controlling for levels/etc. each person's opinion of you counts roughly the same, and in fact that of the people from other teams may matter more because working across teams is perceived as a sign of seniority. So, doing awesome job when you work with other teams is much more important as far as your "popularity" goes.
I personally think it's different. I'm not showing off type(and even the opposite) but I see how visibility of what you(or your team did)it is very important, because I don't notice other people's work outside of my team, either!:p
I used to be baffled by that too (and frustrated when they hired someone from outside, when we had IMHO better candidates in-house). However the alternative leads to the Peter Principle, won't it (I've seen that too and the result was worse)?
HR is an agent between you and the company. It’s there to run the negotiations between what the company wants and what you want. If you don’t understand that, you won’t be able to use HR to your benefit.
HR is there for you to ask stuff. You want a shower on your floor? Ask them. You want a course in React? Ask them. You can get plenty of things for you to work well if you know how to play HR.
Just to be more specific, HR is an agent of your company. Their job is to make every interaction resolve in favor of the company. Often, this is a good thing for you, because when things are running smoothly, a lot of the stuff that is good for the employees is good for the company.
The important part to always remember is that when there is a clear conflict, a situation where something that is good for you is bad for the company and vice versa, their job is to make you lose. Their job is to be the negotiator that resolves the situation maximally in the favor of the company and against your interests. In those situations, it is important to remember that "your boss, hr and you" is not two parties and a neutral intermediary, it's two parties, one of which has two representatives. Bring either an union rep or a lawyer.
That shower? Keeps you working longer in the office. Same goes for most of these perks. The course in React? You can deliver in more projects or upsell you to a customer. Try to ask for something when you underdeliver and you'll see whether HR or the company value your happiness or your happiness derived productivity.
-I like to think of HR as an abstraction layer between management and employees, whose basic function is to shield management from having to interact with the employees.
Also, HR receives its pay from the company, not their coworkers - so HR is very much an agent of the company, not you. (Which is fair - after all, their loyalty is with whoever pays them, which is not unreasonable)
That being said, there is good HR and bad HR out there - just don't think that HR is there for you; they're not.
This sounds cynical, but it's not nefarious at all:
1) As a manager (at various points in my career), I have better things to focus my time on than sick policies, vacations, sick leave, or similar. I'd rather focus on mentorship, growth, strategy, and technology. Outsourcing the menial stuff to someone else means I can manage people better. Plus, they're more likely to do it right. If I have a 16 year old intern who is a resident of Ohio working remotely whose parents are on an H1B visa who wants to do an unpaid work-sponsored training program beyond their 40 hour work week...
2) As a manager, I have no background in how to resolve legal issues. If an employee engaged in improper behavior (harassment, theft, etc.), the last thing you want are amateurs handling this. It's a relief to offload that onto professionals, both for the manager (who doesn't want the stress or liability) and the company (who doesn't want the liability).
... and so on.
HR is the company's agent. It's not your friend. It's job isn't fairness, anonymity, or justice, but to protect the company. It's still a necessary function and having it there is not evil, so long as employees don't go in with the expectation HR is some impartial judge. It's not. A lot of kids come in and treat it that way, and get into a lot of trouble.
No, HR works entirely and exclusively for the company. Just like the lawyer working for the opposing party in a process.
If you want an "HR" on the employee side that thing is called "union"
Besides the comics (re: macleod, dilbert, the office) or this very article - is there a field that occupies itself seriously with the described kind of dynamic?
Or a good forum where these things are discussed?
I’m looking for further information to deepen my understanding or a forum to bounce off thoughts and exchange experiences around that.
We've actually used CMS to improve recruitment and retention of engineers in an organization.
I subscribe to hard realism. We can't pay like FAANG, and we can't promise a fast career track. What do we offer? Oh, lots of things that don't cost money but are highly valued by engineers. Honesty. Transparent culture - who gets paid more, promoted, and why. Engineering excellence - management does not decide on tech choices, all decisions are negotiated from the principle of compromise between excellence, financial viability and short-and long-term benefits. Not dictatorial "transformational" leadership, with "agile" on top.
Guaranteed no overtime for engineers. Flexible schedules. The opportunity to participate, in an active, self-determined, ethics-steered way, in creating tech solutions that impact millions of humans positively, with no moral gray areas.
This particular org is honest about not giving "fuck-you money", but it also guarantees not bidding on military contracts, manipulating people to the lowest denominator, or engaging in surveillance capitalism.
From the earliest recruitment communication, we make it clear that we don't do corporate cringe. No inspirational coaches. No transformational coaches. No coaches, period. We don't do "teambuilding" exercises.
We do send people to conferences, on the company dime, and have the option of on-the-payroll personal project, for those that want it.
Surprising how easy it is to compete for talent with idiot companies that expect "loyalty" that they translate as "blind obedience through fear".
Leadership has to be realist enough to understand that a) tech talent has other options b) managers have to commit to transparent dialogue and culture that is attractive to engineers, or pay talent higher than competitors.
With the fix-and-cheat in software fiascos such as Boeing 737 Max crashes and Volkswagen emission scandals,to name just two, this is a serious concern. With software eating the world, it will continue to grow in global magnitude.
Treating people with respect is not hard, it's just often not done in the corporate environment.
Right now I am consulting my university as to what would be appropriate to do the research anonymously, as close to truly as possible, to protect the sources, yet still have academic rigor.
My problem is that early on, I was interviewing engineers at a well-known San-Francisco company. That company had engaged in paranoid spy-craft, such as having developers followed, as well as the standard emails read, etc. My email was under continuous attacks and several trojans were sent to my personal phone (which I had not published online, nor had linked to my name in any records). So it looks like I have to protect my identity as well, to protect my sources. This is one of my current challenges.
Voicing ethical concerns about management is a firing offense for many, it seems.So I have to make sure the blog / mailing list is set up so that the website, list, etc doesn't expose people.
Would you mind revealing which organization? And how long have they managed to sustain these values? It would be super interesting to learn more about their industry, the size of the engineering org, how much product features get built in a given year etc.
I would summarize the idea as "If you can't promise and pay developers "fuck-you" money, at least don't fuck them instead".
I will be writing more on the topic, but I aim for about 2 years for the experiment, as that would be the minimum to establish success in retaining talent.
There are also people who enjoy "the game." That being the corporate politics of "gotcha" and "praise". When I got to the place at Sun where I had some "influence" and people started trying to cultivate me as an ally, it really annoyed some of them that I didn't play the game.
We have that as well but no one could ever explain what’s the difference between a regular HR role and a HR business partner role.
Legal is not your friend either. They work for the company, not for you.
Janitorial staff is not your friend either. They work for the company, not for you.
Sales is not your friend either. They work for the company, not for you.
Marketing is not your friend either. They work for the company, not for you.
Ive never seen or heard of an HR department that didn't put the dictates of management first.
Workplaces are funny environments, they aren't natural places to be.
In fact, in each case management works for themselves. HR, most of all. While engineering management has some pressure toward development goals, sales toward sales targets, and top management toward business development, HR has no such objective targets. Typically they even farm out recruiting.
What motivates HR management? In most companies, HR is the center of corruption. They have immense opportunities to collect kickbacks for everything they spend on. They have nothing in common with anybody else in the company, but everything with other HR managers: toilet plunger HR is the same as rocket fuel HR. The most popular discussion topic after hours, at HR conventions, is grifts.
This explains why, so often, recruiting is farmed out. You can't collect kickbacks from HR employees, but there are plenty to be had from recruiting agencies; likewise training programs, insurance policies, 401k accounts, and anything else they come in contact with. If they were not motivated by corruption, they would prefer a different department.
Management of other departments, and upper management, know this about them, and know that it doesn't matter how they feel about it. Companies have to have HR, and HR has to have HR managers. An HR manager not obviously on the take must be working a deeper grift that might well be worse than the obvious stuff. Extortion, for example, can be lucrative, and HR has access to lots of information others don't. It's better when they are taking care of themselves other ways.
I can totally agree that they are not competent and not dedicated, as far as my personal experience goes. But the corruption I have not seen.
Your team is not automatically your friend. They are your coworkers (as is your boss and anyone else in the company). It's possible for friendships to grow there, but it's not common.
Also: what a realistic article.
It's probably not obvious but management at most companies doesn't actually want HR to be like this, at least for exempt employees (more cynicism, this time mine). But if it doesn't converge this way the execs usually start to get upset with the result.
So, yeah, kinda - management at most companies don't want HR to be like this. The bad managers because HR keeps getting involved with them, the good ones because HR imposes restrictions that they don't need. But HR is like this because it needs to protect the organisation from bad management.
I’ve worked with HR in many capacities, and find them to be supportive and helpful of both employees and managers. However, what you will not find them to be is sympathetic. They aren’t job relationship therapists any more than they’re mall cops. They are there to make sure workplace law is followed. Beyond that, it’s on everyone involved to be personally responsible for being a professional.
Everyone expects HR to follow the law but in practice you can see this is applied selectively at many companies.
I will challenge you on the part though about the unspoken expectations of what HR is. To be clear, HR always says come to them if I need anything. If I have any problems they are there to help me.
Like you said, this is a lie. They are there to follow the law, and if they see you as a liability and your complaint doesn't have enough evidence and they can get away with finding a way to get rid of you and claim it's not retaliation they will. This happens often.
So perhaps HR should take on some responsibility for actively misadvertising the purpose of their existence. They should say exactly that:
We are not here for you we are here to make sure the company doesn't get in trouble so if on the books we can be in the right and reduce liability we will, so keep your mouth shut and do not give us any reason to think you are a liability to us.
Alot of problems I agree could be solved if HR was honest about their role. And did not advertise themselves as therapists as a way to asses early on if you are a liability and come up with a way to get rid of you and get away with it.
Easily one of my least favorite blogs that regularly gets linked on hn.
Back to topic - HR is a tool.
Their job is to keep the company from getting sued by employees, the government and sometimes unions over bad practices. If the company is large enough they also report to the board.
Maybe HR's better analogy for the employee is a double edge sword. If you choose to use it, you'd better be prepared. Know the your rights, local laws/governance about your employment.
If your complaint aligns with laws then you're better setup for success, but again, it can always come back to bite you.
They are not. They may act like it, but they represent the company they work for, and ultimately their own interests. Some recruiters have enough integrity to be honest with you, but some don't.
If you want to know who you can trust, you need to know what motivates them. You can trust they will act in those interests. You can trust them to act in your interest when your interests align.
As a general rule, I record all conversations with HR. I’ve never had to use the recordings, but if a third-party isn’t there, I'm protecting myself, period. I no longer live in a one-party consent state, so that means informing HR in advance that I’ll be recording, so if you’re in the US, check your local laws before proceeding.
HR has an important role and I don’t discount what that role is, but it exists to protect the company, not the employee. And knowing that is crucial to getting the best experience out of HR.
1a : a source of supply or support : an available means —usually used in plural
1b : a natural source of wealth or revenue —often used in plural
1c : a natural feature or phenomenon that enhances the quality of human life
1d : computable wealth —usually used in plural
1e : a source of information or expertise
2 : something to which one has recourse in difficulty : EXPEDIENT
3 : a possibility of relief or recovery
4 : a means of spending one's leisure time
5 : an ability to meet and handle a situation : RESOURCEFULNESS
I personally find this a very comfortable arrangement. I am a merchant of my own labour. I can upgrade the value of my labour by adding skills (in the same way that a merchant of stone could get a better price by reducing defects). I can seek a better price. I am free to terminate the arrangement when it suits me.
And another thing, you are not free to terminate the arrangement because you need money to live, the company is indeed free to terminate it.
Edit: I notice this person's account posted once 32 days ago, then 44 days ago, then 51 days ago ... I don't expect a response anymore.
I read that as them saying they'll never work for a company that treats people as 'resources'.
Out of college I worked for a large company that's well-known for hiring lots of folks straight out of undergrad with high salaries and a demand of high hours.
Despite an almost cultlike devotion to meritocracy and micro-feedback, the "merits" only mattered if it was in furtherance of already established norms of success.
In a large company like that, deviation wasn't viewed as having a unique skillset, it was viewed as making it harder for other people around you to fit their work into a unique landscape that featured you.
If you feel like your company treats you this way, can I recommend a startup? When no one knows whether the process you're following today is the "right" process, like while a startup is achieving product-market fit, then there's lots of room for unique thinkers.
Having worked in both startups and large corporate companies, I feel they're just on the opposite side of the spectrum. In big corps there are established processes that are almost impossible to change, in startups the processes are changed daily, which can be equally annoying.
Jumping to a startup because you don't like the big corp style is a major change, the same goes for the other way around. Maybe go for a smaller, but already established company.
If your unique skillset makes it harder for people to work with you, it might not be that much of an asset, even if the skills are impressive.
In reality, something like 50% of all working people are employed in a strict hierarchical organisation that is essentially feudal in its nature.
Most employees are the equivalent of serfs, overseen by lords, with a king in charge. The common employees don't get a vote. Their managers are not elected. They don't get a say in policy. The managers in turn form a strict hierarchy, much like in feudal times, with a top-down structure. A junior manager cannot say no to a senior manager. Nobody can say no to the CEO.
In this picture HR is essentially the inquisition. The inquisition was most certainly not the friend of the common man!
If you buck the system, if you step out of your place, if you're a commoner upsetting a lord, then you will be treated much like your ancestors would have been treated long ago: You will be put to the question. The inquisition will spare no pain to determine exactly why you stepped out of line and upset the natural order of things.
I look at it like this: I work for a company because it's a win-win. They need some work done, and I need money.
In fact, as a coder, the company is the one in the weak position. If I leave for another company, I can get paid the exact same amount instantly. They will have to get a new person, pay them the same, but first have to get them up to speed to get to the same productivity level as me. They lose, and I even might gain a raise. So they better make sure they don't piss me off.
If you have this kind of mindset, people can't fuck with you.
Take for example a manager that says "Hey, this customer expects it to go in production on Monday, so make sure you finish it this week, maybe do some weekend work". Now the problem is in your lap. What you do is you push that shit right back, so you tell your manager "Why did you promise this customer it will be finished on Monday? You're going to be in a lot of trouble when it isn't. Maybe next time check with the developers first about the time schedule, then you don't end up in situations like this again."
You have to educate your managers a bit.
I know that some people will respond "not every employee is in this position to make demands". Well, it's all about how valuable your skills are. Make sure you can do things that other people can't, and you put yourself in a position where you always have the option to go work for another company.
A company selling services to other companies, is not that different than a person selling services to companies.
Feudal system my ass.
1. Not everyone here is a coder.
2. Not everyone who codes is in the US, or a small number of other countries, where salaries for coders are high.
3. Not everyone lives in a part of the US with multiple employers that they could work for (relocation may be infeasible for various reasons).
4. The company may be sponsoring the worker's visa.
Even for supposedly low skill minimum wage jobs, finding reliable employees that show up on time, don't steal, don't get high at work, stick around and get things done, and otherwise aren't a pain in the ass to work with - can be a time sink and cost. Even the most selfish manager may tolerate some pushback and some "no"s if it means they don't have to go through all the work to hire someone "better" (which might require hiring and firing a lot of unknowns to arrive at, even if there's plenty of applicants.)
The vengeful and dysfunctional might fire you anyways, even if it's more work for them, if only to flex their power. The downsizing might not want to replace people. Life circumstances might mean you can't be reliable and are already on the fence (or - to put it another way - you might already be saying "no" to too much to say "no" to more without getting fired.)
So, sure, there are people without power. But - perhaps it's not quite as bad as jiggawatts is making it out to be either.
2. Coders in US and EU are doing OK. Coders in Ukraine and the likes (I have multiple colleagues in that region) are absolutely killing it. They earn about 2x less than us, but 10x more than their neighbors. They don't borrow money to buy a home, they just buy it.
3. No idea about that one. But in US it's so hassle free to start your own business.
4. Yeah, then it's up to you what your options are, and how much you are willing to put up with.
I don't have much stats, but this is true in countries that I know of: US, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, India
So I wouldn't expect other countries to be much different, it might depend on company you work for, if you stay in small < 10 people places, you won't get much salary as a coder.
Like, I live in the US, and I knew someone who transferred to Switzerland and got a pay raise for cost of living increase. So when you mentioned Switzerland I was thinking, "Well, yeah. Zurich is an expensive place to live, and there are some big engineering offices there." But I've also met software engineers who seemed pretty miserable when I've traveled to other countries.
Poland, Ukraine and India aren't exactly hugh cost living places compared to Zurich or SF.
Stop focusing on the power of others, and obtain your own power and influence, and then govern with empathy for others.
Positive thinking only gets you so far. When taken TOO FAR, positive thinking becomes a delusion. We with loving families can thoughtlessly & brutishly suggest to a friend that they “should definitely reconcile with their father”, because the idea of abusive parents is outside our experience.
Same applies to things like companies. I can easily tell people to “obtain power and fix problems” at work, but it is not necessarily possible. If we pretend that conflict does not exist, or can always be solved by the right actions, we’re just hurting people.
Put another way. Ignore inequality as it effects you, assume you can overcome it. But acknowledge its existence with respect to others and do everything in your power to create equality.
This sounds hopelessly inconsistent to me. Why should I hold myself to a different standard than I hold other people to? If acknowledging inequality elsewhere is required to be kind to other people, that means that ignoring inequality when it affects me is being unkind to myself.
If you assume you can’t do something you definitely won’t. If you assume you can, you may not succeed; you may be blocked by some external cause, but not by something you could have controlled.
In the case of helping others, you may play a role in clearing an obstacle that, not withstanding their own effort and belief, would have blocked them.
In both cases you are assuming you have power. Power to help yourself and power to reduce inequality by empowering others.
This isn’t a contradiction.
I don't tolerate inequality, but I do know it exists. It will continue to exist if we don't fight it.
I think GP was talking about workers in general, not just software developers. Software developers are in a super entitled position when it comes to this. Not every grocery store cashier, McDonald's worker, taxi driver, etc. can be expected to "do things other people can't".
Why the US doesn't value safety nets and collective action is beyond me.
Along with being able to minimize the lifestyle your probably accustomed to when getting a decent wage (this is another hurdle even if you have micro fuck you money), mondays will never feel dreadful again.
You're constructing a giant mountain to climb if you require a side hustle or actual fuck you money (1 mio.+). 99,999% of people will not achieve that, look at how much people save for retirement. Micro fuck you money is very achievable though.
Do you know people who aren't coders?
You know we live and work in some sort of dream land and 99% of people in other jobs don't have anywhere near this level of freedom and bargaining power.
You will sell yourself short by forgetting this. Coding isn't guaranteed to stay like this - as tooling gets better and better and more people get into it we will be seen less and less like wizards.
Any "manual labour"? Certainly not true. Unskilled manual labour is a race to the bottom in most places and usually done by immigrants who can afford to work for peanuts.
I agree with your point but ultimately, why not have the engineer document how long the last cycle took to get into production. So when the manager asks, hey do this in 70% of the time, you have reference to live recent data that it’s impossible.
Or even simpler.
Manager asks to finish something and have it live in Y
You will finish it in Y days because the last project needed an additonal 3 days and you communicated that immediately back then, so your manager already has provided a solution by the time you’re ready for the next development cycle or sprint. Hence Y days should be computed with feedback you already communicated from the last cycle.
>> You have to educate your managers a bit.
Ironically, this could come off as feudal since a manager is “senior” in terms of time and experience at the same company. In which you are currently a junior. How often will a manager be like “so glad you educated me on my own delivery and timelines, you were right!” Versus hey, that’s my job, you worry about yours and I got mine.
I think the word “synchronize” (delivery times for production, ie) applies better than educate.
Why worry about educating them if you’ve set a self-expectation to communicate immediately when something is not as expected. Or as initially agreed between the employee and their team or manager (s).
Majority of these empathy gaps b/w managers and engineers is actually the byproduct of failed communication protocols that both parties can maximize upon assuming consistent internet service (unfortunately still not the case or available with examples of significant gains. The moment you start caring about how another feels or thinks towards your execution, work, or biz strategy, gg.
You are now thinking about what others are thinking, and planning all these scenarios to ensure you act accordingly + optimally. This whole hr analogy shouldn’t even exist - it reminds me or read receipts on iMessage. Back in the old day, you didn’t have the information of when someone actually opened your mail indoors.
All I’m saying is to forget about the hierarchy + roles and just crisp clean communication up front.
Any gaps in understanding means that you needed to communicate much clearer, earlier. Versus, omg hr might be out to get me or something.
All the data in the world won’t sway a manager - and his manager, and his manager - if they need a scapegoat. This is something engineers only figure out when it’s too late.
Yeah that’s not a powerful move, that’s the equivalent of leaving the country. What happens if they’re all run along the exact same lines? You can start your own I guess, which is not feasible for most people.
That’s why we require the democratically elected leviathan to limit the power these people have over others.
In principle I agree though
> Once America became embroiled in World War II, there was great concern that rampant inflation would threaten America's military effort and undermine its domestic economy. The concern was valid, as Americans had witnessed what inflation had done to war-torn Germany, devastating its economy and giving rise to Hitler's regime.
> To combat inflation, the 1942 Stabilization Act was passed. Designed to limit employers' freedom to raise wages and thus to compete on the basis of pay for scarce workers, the actual result of the act was that employers began to offer health benefits as incentives instead.
> Suddenly, employers were in the health insurance business. Because health benefits could be considered part of compensation but did not count as income, workers did not have to pay income tax or payroll taxes on those benefits. 
You can also read about this in a 2017 NY Times article 
It is unclear how premiums that exceed income along with deductibles that exceed rent are a freeing experience.
At least until 2017. After that it seemed a little okay to discuss the realities of the ACA.
This is kind of my point. The ACA was designed to benefit the middle class and non-vulnerable. At which point the middle class and non-vulnerable (and the press) stopped caring about who had healthcare.
To drive home that point: A few years ago I ran ACA quotes for typical income levels (typical for non-wealthy regions, 12k-32k) and found that premium cost steeply dropped for each 10k rise in income.
My primary issue isn't that this happened, it's that we weren't told. It's that ACA supporters + the entirety of press compulsively gloss over ACA realities.
> I wish the Dems could just own up to that and push for something more.
I suggest that uncovered Americans don't need something more. They need something.
> The problem is that both sides are so deep in the industry’s pockets, that I don’t think real reform is even possible.
Pols trading law/power for campaign cash is the other thing that news orgs have ~0 interest in.
Perhaps we’re lucky or the system is already monopsonized in our area. However, sometimes you can also get the same network at your new employer (e.g. Kaiser or other HMOs).
That said it’d be a lot better with single payer and the largest risk-pool of an entire country.
For many people that isn't really true. And even if you are in a high-demand profession, and have the necessary negotiations skills, moving between jobs has a pretty high transaction cost.
> Any different group with a semi-competent lord will absolutely destroy you and take your resources. You'll soon send around resumes begging for a lord to take you.
Not really. IIRC, in the French Revolutionary Wars, French troops were more effective because they were better motivated than those who were fighting for some lord.
It's probably necessary to have leaders, but that doesn't mean lords are necessary.
On this grounding all the other systems emerge like nepotism, bad leadership, fall guys... and HR
In larger power/lordship(?) tends to accumulate. Why this is, I don't know. It would make and interesting study topic.
- Mao Zedong
Free market democracy is not ideal system, but it offers at least some freedoms for serfs. All other systems take them all away.
Honestly, it is still jarring to see people in the US actually believe the system they are living in is some sort of "lessest evil system", not realizing how much easier they would have it in Scandinavia/Germany/France/Switzerland/Netherlands/Belgium/etc. And this is a region with comparable population and resources to the US.
I mean, just think about implementing socialized healthcare, a proper tax system which is short and understandable with few loopholes, a reasonable minimum wage and parental leave for all paid by the federal government. Those are a handful of measures that would significantly improve life for 99.5% of everyone in the US. And there is no plausible mechanism where these measures take away all your freedoms.
Sure you can argue that it's impossible to get American politicians to enact these. But that is just another point of failure of the free market democracy, that elected politicians are most interested in the outcomes for people and organizations who pay them money (literally or indirectly), and not in the people they are elected to represent.
Hierarchy can work well, particularly for growing companies and making decisions.
It obviously has problems as a form of government, but the incentive structure of capitalism is a good one for work.
Even in democratic governments with elections you still have a decision hierarchy somewhere (hopefully just with some checks on their power)
The inventive structure of capitalism is good for capitalists. Why would they make it any other way?
You get that from proper incentives. Capitalism is mostly about creating an environment where people can leverage those incentives as easily as possible.
There's a deep irony that the system set up based on incentivizing and rewarding growth (and occasionally greed) has helped raise millions out of poverty while the systems based on altruism have led to the deaths of millions and massive amounts of suffering.
You do know that 850M of those live in China, right?
The cultural revolution, hundred flowers campaign, and current Uyghur genocide are some of the classic negative aspects of CCP control. Those aspects are more the standard fare communist policy.
The good that's there comes from their embrace of capitalism and market incentives. The bad comes from the standard communist one party control, it's also what eventually leads to problems.
"After Chairman Mao Zedong's death in 1976, Deng gradually rose to power and led China through a series of far-reaching market-economy reforms, which earned him the reputation as the "Architect of Modern China"." 
Capitalism and Communism has suffered the same fate from the same source, and this will remain true until we move into the age of plenty from the age of want, and probably beyond.
Today we have more people starting more billion dollar companies more easily than any other time in human history. We have more freedom of movement, more wealth, etc.
There's a staggering amount of growth, a staggering amount of capital investment.
No system is its perfect ideal (and there are obvious issues today), but things are a lot better than they were in the age of a handful of national companies.
I encourage you to research Mark Blyth's work on generational wealth and check out 'Angrynomics'
As for others that see benefit less directly: https://press.stripe.com/#stubborn-attachments
Growth (when constrained for human rights and environmental protection) is the best way to help the most the fastest.
You see it everywhere, massive reduction of global poverty, infant mortality, etc. Even just things like the ability for almost anyone to have an iPhone and use of Amazon/two day shipping are examples. Inexpensive food is another.
The major downsides of old-school feudalism were (1) Doesn't really scale to populations of 200k+ and (2) the We Cannot Get Out problem.
Corporate structure solves both those problems pretty neatly.
Really the only difference between feudalism and capitalism is the latter’s ability/freedom to fail. Shitty hierarchical structures are replaced by newly emerging better hierarchical structures. Serfs migrate easily.
All this is basically a consequence of companies & people not being defined by / tied to land (as serfdoms were - basically farms). Rising from agrarian to industrial society is what enabled this.
That was true for many in the feudal times too, they could shop around and pledge their allegiance to one or another feudal lord, and even be given a plot of land to cultivate (as long as the lord got their share of the results).
If anything, the feudal lords left them even more to their own devices, and demanded even less of their produce (like 10% was common).
If it wasn't for the lack of technology and modern conveniences and frequent wars and dangers from outside, it would be a pretty good lifestyle...
Lords would extract what they could. A huge part of life for serfs was figuring out how to survive without producing an easily-extractable surplus (because of it could be extracted, it usually would be extracted).
That's the "old wives tale" version.
Life wasn't particularly nasty or brutish, modern scholarship has re-evaluated the Middle Ages, and the "short" part was similar to 19th century levels due to infant mortality (and otherwise similar to 19-century standards), and has little to do with serfdom per se, and all to do with lack of 2-3 things we take for granted (running water, sewage systems, understanding of microbes, etc.).
Heck, even their vacation time was better:
>Lords would extract what they could
For most of history, there was a certain standard. Lords didn't take "all they could", but closer to 10% or so. If they got too greedy the people could align with another lord, and that would mean trouble. Medieval history has lots of such examples.
>even putting aside armed conflict and external dangers.
Which I already covered:
"If it wasn't for the lack of technology and modern conveniences and frequent wars and dangers from outside, it would be a pretty good lifestyle..."
The vast majority of wars in the Middle Ages would be considered mere skirmishes by modern standards.
The "popular/people's army" (armies of common folk) come later (though, of course, we have examples of it in the ancient world too, as well as examples where common folk to the short end of the stick during conflict. It was just not that common in feudal times).
Huh? Whose land? The frontier has been closed for a long time.
Everybody can say 'NO' to the CEO. What you cannot do is agree to exchange your work for his money, and then when he asks you to work, say 'NO'. If you do not wish to work, simply cancel this arrangement.
And the inquisition could BURN YOU ALIVE. HR cannot even physically touch you for fear of the lawsuit.
This comparison is such an insult to the people who had laid the foundation of a modern society, and to those who actually died fighting to defend and maintain such societies, that you should seriously reconsider your position.
Perhaps the analogy works better for graduate students. Advisors often control a Ph.D. student's academic progress and financial support, and it's very hard to change advisors without starting over from scratch.
I'm vastly ignorant on the subject, but that makes me wonder if there were any serfs moving to other regions or countries back then, and if so, how that worked out for them.
An employee thinks they can, in many countries they can't, as there isn't any other job to do.
People simply lose sight of the luxury and freedom that we have in modern societies. It takes active reflection and a study of history to really appreciate the things we have.
While an improvement to the economics system or the lives of the common man is possible, you cannot do it if you don't have an honest vision of what the current condition is.
So much work has been done to build the modern society. You wouldn't call linux a waste of time because it has bugs, would you?
Since HR is clearly biased towards the companies and this has proven to cause a lot of problems, they will never side with you over the company if the company is indeed wrong.
HR should ideally be an independent third party and all issues treated the same way a legal audit would. An org comes in promises to keep things confidential. Objectively assesses the situation, inquires for more info (emails, convos etc) and determines the outcome. If someone needs to be fired and it's a male superior, then so be it.
HR is never going to tell their boss that they should be fired for mistreating another employee for example, if they do not also want to lose their jobs.
In reality it makes sense to have an internal HR for all things like hiring recruiting etc etc etc but when it comes to managing deteriorated relationships between employees it will never be done right unless an independent third party comes into asses.
It needs to be jointly owned by both the employer and the employee for there to be any chance of an equitable balance between conflicting interests of the company who's paying the bill and the company who's providing HR services, with that of the employee, as outlined in some of the other responses you've received.
Based on the inherent complexity of the above, I think the simplest model would be where an employee is also the employer, ie. ownership of the company by the employee.
This allows for the greater good, the future of the whole company, against the rights of the employee to be balanced within the company.
There are plenty of examples of companies owned by their employees.
If you want something 3rd party that can be impartial ("sometimes", in quotes) and sit on a table with both company and employee, that's unions.
Arbitration may be impartial ("sometimes"), court system may be impartial ("sometimes") - but you still have to be represented by someone who can navigate these systems.
I know the issue has 1000 shades of color, but if somehow, someway, in a sunny day, with all the possible luck in the world, someone sides with you in a dispute (and is not a lawyer you are paying), that will be unions.
That is true in many countries - though there are some (US being one) where non-union employees are ostracized or pushed away from being employed, especially as the law allows exclusive union representation in about half of the states . The unions have been known to argue for union members and sacrificing non-members as part of exclusive bargaining with the company.
> I know the issue has 1000 shades of color, but if somehow, someway, in a sunny day, with all the possible luck in the world, someone sides with you in a dispute (and is not a lawyer you are paying), that will be unions.
That's not being impartial - that is being on your side. Yes, there are conditions in which unions may be on your side (in which case: great, but still bring a lawyer) - but the claim in grandparent post is that they may be impartial, whereas they very rarely are.
That said, I can see an eventual path for this. The "problem companies" definitely won't be interested, at least at first, and the only companies that would choose this are the ones least likely to need it. Given time and publicity, these companies may have an easier time hiring, until eventually there is sufficient pressure on the "problem companies" that they feel they have to change to this to continue to hire.
That might have an okay shot in industries like tech, where you could argue that employees still have a lot of choice in employer. I don't see it working in other industries (that could probably use it a lot more), like the legal industry or food production.
Do you think companies want to waste money on 401k matching or healthcare benefits? They don't. They do it because it's either required by law in some capacity and for when it isn't it's because it's such a uniform standard for any nonfledling startup company who wants to hire someone full-time they would look like idiots for not only providing these benefits but providing them from respectable third parties. Over time these things became standardized and highly regulated and that's a good thing.
You're right, if we had to rely on the goodwill of a company this most certainly would not happen. I don't think it would happen overnight but I do believe the best and brightest will go for places who offer competitive advantages and others will follow suit.
If it garners high quality employees then make the company profitable in the same way every startup wants to pretend they are like google with video games and playrooms and brightly colored walls and provided lunches, actually not treating your employees like crap if they have an issue with another employee is also a competitive benefit that could become a trend for any company who wants to be competitive.
And that's the thing really. They could be required to have them, so then it's just a matter of which ones are competitive to the employees.
I would love to apply to a company, ask who their third party HR is and say oh man that one SUCKS and everyone knows it. Sorry, gonna take a job at this other company who had external HR with much better rankings, the same way I might for more competitive healthcare plans or benefits between to equally competitive jobs.
Of course companies do not want to spend money on things like 401k matching healthcare and the otherwise but they will if enough companies do it to the point they look sketchy if they do not only provide these benefits but provide these benefits through respectable third parties.
There are definitely metrics by which these parties could be ranked but sure there would be issues with gaming these metrics. For example if there as a legal requirement to accurately report across many companies how many times during an internal issue the person not in the superior position was fired vs the superior despite reporting something like sexual assault or racism or something like this, and the company says 100% of the time we agreed the superior did nothing wrong and 75% of the time the complainant magically failed their performance review and is no longer with the company within 6months of this.
Well that is a pretty bad metric.
There are definitely ways to report metrics anonymously and the results and legally can inquire if they reported the outcome accurately.
Carts is stating to do this with money. They are reporting how much money women and minorities have in equity vs white males, and eventually will break it down by position which means yeh if most women work in HR and I'm a senior engineer yeh probs women will have less equity, but next yr they will expand and show things like all staff level software developers, this is the breakdown of men vs women equity in tech companies....
That's a number I would love to see. And it would say alot.
So there are ways to make this better even if it's not an easy fix. Requiring companies to provide healthcare and 401k plans did not happen overnight Im sure, but noone would take a company seriously without these benefits for long.
This year, for example, the council members where I work have been very busy ensuring that company plans for layoffs were as fair to employees as it was possible to be, by doing things like ensuring that if someone could be moved to another role they were, that the voluntary layoff system was suitable, and so forth.
There are also unions which are cross-company and were involved to a lesser degree in this process, providing advice and specialist support, consulting with members, and so on.
My boss and my boss’s boss booked a meeting with me at 17:00 in an external meeting room. My boss’s boss did the actual firing. My direct boss just sat there like a sad puppy.
They handed me a piece of paper and I signed it. I was still in shock. I was escorted to my desk to collect my things and then taken to the head of HR for my “exit interview”.
I told her the whole story and she actually seemed shocked herself. I think I spent over an hour with her, holding back tears, explaining “I wasn’t even told what I did wrong. What am I supposed to do now?”
She told me that she thought what the company was wrong. It didn’t change anything but it meant something at least, considering the state I was in.
I noticed from her LinkedIn that she left the company a couple of months later as well.
In the end she was useless to me and powerless and had as much power ad a caged parrot.
If they are not evil they are simply in control of determining nothing and just a euphemistic liaison for corporate abuse.
I have many war stories from companies like these. Never sign the paperwork right away. I was once given 23minutes to sign a severence agreement and found out later they violated state law: 21 days plus a 7 day walk back, and broke federal law by saying I couldn't have cobra health insurance if I didn't promise to shut up.
Typically a shut up you little bitch document also known as a separation agreement holds severence pay hostage, not healthcare. They also fired me days before I vested my equity and didn't tell me why. In my state you can fire anyone for any reason. They don't have to tell you why. Yeh it's really messed up.
Corporations are like small abusive dictatorships. Just try to find a decent one with good work who is successful enough to be focused on good engineering or whatever it is you do they don't need to bully and tear people down to protect themselves and get by in life.
Although, it does remind me of reading about the rush to judgment that killed Nortel. While not totally related, the inciting incident is something along the lines of something appeared a little weird in a financial statement. To avoid even a perception of impropriety, nortel hired a top outside firm to investigate whether there was anything wrong.
The resulting investigation according to the author led to a chain of events and witch hunt that led to the downfall of Nortel and needless criminal prosecution of executives.
Anyways, probably not so much a comment on the idea itself, but more just a thought on possible outcomes when the process goes wrong, whether internal or external.
I think it's better than the current state of things which is: if the company is wrong and covering it up requires some disadvantage to you vs doing the right thing. 100% of these times you are screwed as an employee.
It also wouldn't be a witch hunt anymore than current HR investigations. Just performed by an objective third party.
This exists, it’s called “binding arbitration” and it is heavily biased towards the company because they pay its bills.
It's a relatively short read, and very relevant to your comment. Personally, I found the book quite enlightening, it gives a very different perspective to the jobs landscape than the one we usually have. An uncomfortable perspective, but one I feel one that is much more accurate.
There is always a boss.
8-5 job: Your manager is your boss.
Manager: Your senior manager is your boss.
Senior Manager: Your CEO is the boss.
CEO: Board of directors are your bosses. Shareholders too.
Investors: Are they the real boss!? No. ROI is the boss. All the variables that make them successful are their bosses.
Bootstrapped Startup?: Customers are the boss. PR is the boss. Ask founders how tied up and enslaved they are after they've invested time and effort into building a product or service.
Everyone has a boss: At the end, nature is your boss. Can’t escape death.
This is how the society works.
We are under a crazy tyranny of nature as replication machines mindlessly optimizing for resources.
Sure, corporations are lame and if you work for one you're a cog in a machine, I agree it can suck. But it's crazy to suggest that this somehow invalidates democracy.
The first job of a functioning government is to establish a monopoly on violence and prevent it from being used against the people. Sure there are times when modern democratic governments fail at this but they do a pretty good job of making sure that Jeff Bezos can't literally murder his lowly serfs when they get out of line. He can take their jobs but he can't take their lives and that's a far cry from how things worked in the Inquisition.
When you make spurious claims like implying that we don't live in a democracy, you're dishonouring the millions of people throughout history who wrested power away from the kings and warlords of the past, bit by bit, and built a system which at least places a few limits on its most powerful members.
At least in some countries, if you have a life-threatening medical condition and you lose your job, you're at a significant risk of death.
Just because you have it easy, doesn't mean everyone does. Billions of people are terrified of losing their jobs, because that means starvation or a slow painful death from a disease they can no longer afford to treat.
I worked with an Indian woman that was worked so hard that she had a spontaneous abortion. On a Sunday. And was made to go back to work that same day.
Democratic nation with a strong Oligarchy. Who over years forged q corpocracy that obfuscate such via citizens united. The basis in which we operate is democratic, but popular public policies are rarely enacted.
As to why you put too much emphasis on violence. Think of labor the united states has thanks to corporal punishment. Why waste labor?
In the end it doesn't matter too much as even the beginnings of a GAI would derail such a system. Think on the idiocy at the capital the other day and the post truth aspect that spurred it on.
Something about opinions being treated as facts is part of a post truth society. I don't like what you said, therefore is false. It's a trend that to me is worse than death when it comes to discourse.
I wouldn't say it's crazy. Your employer can just schedule you to work on election day, forcing you to choose between participating in democracy and not starving. Heck, I would go so far as to say that Covid elected Joseph Biden. If mail voting wasn't made so widespread, it's entirely possible that not enough people would have gone to the polls and we would be stuck with the fucking angry orange for another 4 years.
Outside of work I certainly live in a free society. I can walk up to a rich person ("a lord") and insult him to his face and nothing will happen.
Isn't the common argument of economists that democracies are more efficient? (I do believe they're just paying service to their own governments, and just say what gets them grants and such, but in any case, that's the conventional wisdom).
Plus, democracies are "less efficient" compared to what dictatorship that did better than a democracy?
The main counter-example that comes to mind is China, and even them are mainly effective because of huge population and low labor costs, by being the place to outsource production by those democracies that can pay for it.
>I can't imagine them being nearly as effective because democratic processes to get new features would always be gridlocked.
Grid-locked by what? The purpose of voting in a democracy is to remove gridlocks. You don't even have to vote for everything, you can vote on a platform, and can delegate power for a certain time to someone to make the decisions, and then judge how they performed, and vote again after the period ended.
>Outside of work I certainly live in a free society. I can walk up to a rich person ("a lord") and insult him to his face and nothing will happen.*
You'd be surprised.
Plus, they can crush your neighborhood (e.g. to throw the tenants out and build some monstrocity), cajole with your lawmakers, fuck your working life, pollute your city/countryside/water supply, and usually nothing will happen.
And if they really cared, they could trivially have you killed, with nothing happening. It's just not worth the small risk of them being tied to it. But they hire legal teams and detectives to throw dirt at their enemies all the time..
Well I suppose in a "pure" democracy where voting decides everything there is no gridlock, but those types of systems usually suck because there are no checks or balances, and whoever buys up the most votes wins. Most western nations are not governed by pure democracies. USA is a federal republic with 3 systems of government that check and balance each other and they get gridlocked all the time.
> And if they really cared, they could trivially have you killed, with nothing happening
I wouldn't say "with nothing happening". Something would definitely happen. If you're OJ Simson and the prosecution botches your case, then sure "nothing happened" (besides the millions you spent on lawyers and bad PR). But even OJ wasn't untouchable - he spent around a decade in prison later for other felonies. What about Jeffery Epstein? Harvey Weinstein? Yeah, their money buffered them for decades, but justice eventually caught them in its jaws.
OJ did it himself. A millionaire/billionaire could outsource this in tons of different ways, including totally untracable.
In some historical cases (including in western countries, never mind a place like e.g. Mexico) they could even get the police to do that for them...
If you really think that’s true, do it on camera. Upload it to YouTube. Let it go viral. See something happens.
My point is that you can be fired for insulting the wrong rich or the wrong anybody if it’s caught on camera and gets enough views and it brings shame to your lord. You’re not free when you clock out or leave the office. As an employee, you’re a representative of your company 24/7 whether you like it or not.
Also, it seems like your definition of freedom has no responsibility attached to the actions. Yes, you may be able to do as you wish, but so can others onto you(especially if they have more leverage).
Only if you define freedom as the capacity to do whatever is allowed or at least not expressly prohibited by the state without legal consequence. Fortunately no one defines it that way. You cannot be simultaneously free and subject to state power. Companies simply add another layer atop the restrictions to freedom imposed by the state. You might feel freer outside of work, but don't make the mistake of thinking you are free.
Being satisfied with temporary respite from greater restrictions imposed at work is hardly something you should celebrate. Slaves in antebellum America enjoyed free time as well, presumably many were intelligent and self-aware enough to resent their situation despite this.
So how do you define freedom? Anarchy?
That is - the fact that Linux and Python have BDFLs is not the reason for their success. The fact that they have effective BDFLs who make sound decisions that actually work is the reason for their success. And the BDFLs only have power insofar as the community still believes in them - Guido stepped down and Linus has faced significant opposition.
BDFLs and traditional corporate governance are quite efficient, yes. But democracy doesn't aim to be efficient; it promises to be pointed in the right direction. There's no sense in going at 100x speed in the wrong direction. Democracy isn't the only way to get there - if you have tangible data about leadership and where they're pointed and how they make decisions, and the cost of switching is fairly low (so that you can keep pressure on leadership), that works too.
When was the last time you had any data about how effective your management chain would be when you started your job?
(I'm happy in my current job because I asked hard questions about management at each place I interviewed, and I found one where my own management chain seemed to have good people - but even so, only one person in my management chain is still the same as when I interviewed, so I still took a gamble, and I had far less data on any of them from a bit over a day of interviews than anyone has on Linus or Guido.)
It's obviously true that being banned from contributing to an important project can be saddening and in rare occasions harm your career, but it happens very rarely.
OTOH losing your job can be way more serious consequences and happens way more often, even without any blame on the employee (e.g. a company shutdown)
And on top of that, a project BDFL cannot order inactive contributors to do some work under threat of banning them.
Maximum democracy in this case might be, the RFCs are written by anyone, work on features is started when people vote to start it, and there is widely distributed veto/filibuster power.
A bit less democracy might be that the maintainers select the ten proposals they feel are best, and put them to a vote for people to choose.
I just read a really good book on this topic called "10% Less Democracy". I'd highly recommend it. It shows how "maximum democracy" usually isn't the best setting, at least for governments. Their proposal for tax is interesting: write a 4-page bill in Congress that outlines the % of income to be collected, and maybe some amount each decile should pay, and an unelected tax body (like the IRS) figures out how to make that happen, as cheaply and transparently as possible.
No, it's not a thermometer. There are many, complex shapes and dimensions.
Rust still needs to win a spot on major OS developer SDKs, industry standards for HPC, GPGPUs, embedded certifications.
They could cough on you while unmasked.
Arguably, this is as it should be. Taken to its logical conclusion the alternative would mean that nobody is entitled to make a decision about anything without taking a referendum on the matter.
Reasonable people will be interested in informed input from the people they employ, but it should not be surprising that in the end the painter you hired doesn’t get a vote on the color you want your bathroom.
Paying the bill with money made by who? Sure, in the case of independent contractors the money is coming out of someone's pocket, but in most structured companies (which is what GP is talking about), the money comes from the people making and pushing the product. In real terms, the employees are the ones paying the bill.
>Taken to its logical conclusion the alternative would mean that nobody is entitled to make a decision about anything without taking a referendum on the matter.
That's literally just an argument against democracy, which we have, as a society, come to the conclusion is a generally good thing. (Well, fascists disagree, but society also has opinions on them.)
>Reasonable people will be interested in informed input from the people they employ, but it should not be surprising that in the end the painter you hired doesn’t get a vote on the color you want your bathroom.
You're conflating the relationship as a client and the relationship as an employer. You get to tell them what color paint to use, but not what type of ladder or brushes to use, or whether they're allowed to use the bathroom, sit while working, or eat lunch.
Well, the reason they're "paying the bill" is because they have the money and you don't.
Which is as good as the King having gold and army, and you, the serf not.
>Arguably, this is as it should be. Taken to its logical conclusion the alternative would mean that nobody is entitled to make a decision about anything without taking a referendum on the matter.
If only we weren't forced by the laws of nature to take things to their "logical conclusion" (i.e. their exaggerated slippery slope ending), but could instead use some moderation and judgment, but still come with something better than strict hierachical dominance in companies...
I think a much more generous reading would be that taken to it's natural conclusion this would mean that leaders in the workplace would govern more by consent and not by fiat based on their ability to wield economic power within the corporate structure as lever to coerce workers in to faithfully executing their commands no matter how ridiculous or counter-productive.
Corporations are constituted entirely by laws which evolve under democratic processes and those laws have already been used to limit, structure, and shape the power that corporate managers hold. They cannot defraud investors, they cannot imprison or lash their employees and so on. So is it really unimaginable that there might be some kind of democratic legal reform that would place other limits on their powers without requiring death by a million referenda? I don't think so.
In fact, I think there's probably every reason to believe that, if anything, shareholders would be even better served by preventing executives and middle management from building fiefdoms loyal to them personally which are often not really in-line with the goals of the institution.
Yes, we can always find another boss, but mentally on day to day basis it is not that different to dictatorship.
Is there a precedent for moving from dictatorship/authoritarianism to democracy for company governance as it grows? One movement that shows up on the radar are zebras (vs. unicorns).
An analogy for this comes from the founding fathers of the USA. Washington had a lot of power as effectively the "CEO" of America, but gave up his power after 2 terms and further encouraged democratic governance and peaceful transfer of power.
Unsurprisingly, dictatorial and democratic companies don't want to cooperate with each other.
And in many societies, the latter are a small minority so they struggle to survive.
Say what you will about companies and inequality or lack of representation; that may have merit, but you can quit with two weeks notice. Serfs were not afforded those rights.
Companies are basically one person (at the top) trading money for work with the people doing what they are paid for. The person doing the work could of course say hey I don't want to do this job I want to do something else instead but I want you to still pay me the same amount, or more. That wouldn't really be about democracy would it?
Employee protection laws are a different matter and are possible because we live in a democratic society, if we do.
One huge step towards democracy would be universal healthcare, which would make it easier for people to quit the job they don't think they should be doing.
I don't think anybody is seriously suggesting that employees be able to do whatever they want without limit and still be entitled to a pay cheque from a corporation.
Just as nobody would suggest that some despicable organisation be granted a legal charter to perform some anti-social, destructive, or massively wasteful activities... (sarcasm alert!) :)
But I think that, despite taking different routes, we arrive at the same conclusion that, yes, there are also positive legislative actions that could be taken (healthcare, UBI, others) which would effectively incentivize decent corporate behaviour without needing to set specific new rules or limits.
At least in the feudal system the peasants knew their energy would not amount to changing anything!
All we have now is lifelong cognitive dissonance after children are told they have a say.
On the other hand the most successful company on this planet Apple is clearly not run as a democracy. So, I really wonder if a hierarchical system works better if you want to have a successful business.
Largely the reason so few businesses are cooperatives is because if you are an active participant in the founding of a business its in your own self interest to retain as much power over it as possible, which leads you to want to establish a dictatorship rather than a democracy - even if you aren't the founder / owner / CEO, being a first generation "lord" of the company will net you much greater bounty if it succeeds than if your compensation was dictated by a majority of your peerage.
That and absolutely nobody knows what cooperatives even are. Establishing a complex managerial democracy is way excessive for mom and pop shops or businesses with less than a half dozen employees and then those dictatorships scale up into larger and larger enterprises with no incentive to transition away from top down power structures. The benefits are largely for those who, under the current regime, have no power or say anyway, and thus the utility of more stable, productive, or resilient businesses is lost when it would cost the founders and owners their potential for ludicrous wealth and unquestionable power.
There is no reason a software company couldn’t operate like a law firm or architecture firm with “partners”. It just doesn’t because software developers are too focused to the technical aspects and ignore the bigger picture.
I often wonder if we shouldn't just ban large corporations. Make everything small business.
I am utterly subservient to those to whom I report. I obediently tug my forelock to HR all the way from 8am to 4:30pm but at that point I turn off my company devices and am my own person.
If you draw a $200k salary and work until bed-time in a shared flat with no garden then I suppose it’s a different story — one of the chattel post-grad SWE — but at least you have $300 a day on which to live.
Coming from the startup world, I used to investigate those issues quite deeply, as in “how do you run an organization that would be different, better”. One of the most interesting works in that area for me was “Reinventing Organizations” by Laloux. (https://www.reinventingorganizations.com) it kinda studies if this is even possible and what would organizations like that look like. TLDR it is possible and there are quite a few real world examples. Hopefully more and more each decade.
People can leave tho so please stop abusing the word 'feudal'