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After working at Google, I’ll never let myself love a job again (nytimes.com)
298 points by donmcc 10 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 158 comments

About 7 years ago, I worked at a startup that very close-knit. All the coworkers were friends with everyone, the CEO and CTO were fun to be around, so I would make a point to go to all the team outings and lunches. I really liked it there, felt that they were my "family" in some sense.

About 9 months into my job, the company was hit with two lawsuits, and the leaders became very secretive and elusive and started changing rules to save money of questionable legality. For example, a rule was added to state that we had to work 40 billable hours a week.

This doesn't sound that bad, but because of the lawsuits and attempts to settle them, any work done for the plaintiffs in the aforementioned lawsuits was not counted as "billable", and most of that work would eat up multiple hours of my day. This meant that in addition to the eight hours I had to work on a billable client, I would also end up spending an extra three to four hours working on non-billable stuff. This went on for multiple months, I started feeling depressed, but I put up with it because I really liked the company.

Eventually, the company laid off 2/3 of the staff without any notice to any of the workers. I went from "employed" to "unemployed" overnight, and when I managed to get in touch with the CTO, he basically told me "thems the breaks. Sorry". I felt pretty betrayed, because I had spent two months working 60 hour weeks, all to be laid off because I was working on the wrong projects.

After that, I made a bit of a vow to myself to remember that a job is, at its core, a business transaction. You sell your time and expertise for compensation. It's great if you really like your boss and your coworkers, that'll help avoid depression, but remember at the end of the day, a company is not your family, and if they don't think you're creating enough value for them, they will end this transaction.

> After that, I made a bit of a vow to myself to remember that a job is, at its core, a business transaction. You sell your time and expertise for compensation. It's great if you really like your boss and your coworkers, that'll help avoid depression, but remember at the end of the day, a company is not your family, and if they don't think you're creating enough value for them, they will end this transaction.

Yes, paying the bills is absolutely a requirement and should take priority. Don't let that bad experience discourage you from looking for a place that you love to work at though. I have found a few great jobs in my career where I loved and currently love to work. It helps a lot to have leaders that understand the value of keeping their employees happy and where your goals for your position and your career align well with their vision for the organization. Then having a great chain of command sitting above you that is friendly, approachable and easy to reason with can make it even better. You spend a ridiculous amount of your life working, if you can enjoy your job and don't look at it as simply a pay check, I think it can help you live a happier life.

I think there is a proper level of conviviality/cordiality and fun that you can bring to work without getting too personally invested. A lot of first-time employees may have trouble with this balance, but after a tough break or two you learn the ropes.

This is why I strongly believe that you shouldn’t stay at your first tech job for too long (Max 4 years).

As the first job, there is a lot of emotional attachment (totally normal) but it gets in the way of making rational decisions. In particular, most people will harbor somewhat unrealistic career goals while being at the lowest rung of the corporate ladder and thus being the most disposable.

Additionally, interviewing at and getting other jobs makes it so that the process isn’t unknown or scary.

Oh definitely, I'm not saying that you should always act like a utilitarian robot, and being a nice and fun person at your workplace can help you avoid burnout.

I just think that you should always remember that, at the end of the day, it's still a job. If you remember that fact, it hurts less being laid off, and it's easier to quit a job if/when it becomes toxic.

Owners of companies always try to give you an "us" feeling. "We all are the company, we are a big family". Most youngsters fall into this trap, including myself.

But at certain point, it becomes very clear who really owns the company, and who doesn't.

A difficult but good lesson I think.

I went through a few years at a startup where sometimes salaries were not paid for months and then payment would be caught up and then it would not be paid again. When I was finally let go I was still technically owed money but the company was more or less folding and I'm not particularly savvy or aggressive from a legal standpoint so I just let it go. It sucked.

Everything in life is a gamble but if your startup is in shaky territory and you do not own a slice of the common stock - and even then it might not be worth it - then always be on the lookout to leave for a different job. This is hard advice to follow because a small team does feel like a little group of friends. Don't be surprised, however, when the founders suddenly go to extremes. It is likely that the company is central to how they perceive themselves and people sometimes do desperate things to protect their sense of self.

Everything in adult life is a transaction, it's half sad but half only, it's a clear embodiement of our social reality. You make everything explicit and on paper to avoid pain (in this case natural disappointment from more fickle than expected bonds). That is unless you have a group of people with a solid notion of human bonds and who can clearly favor humans over business. Not the most common case I believe.

You could argue that relationships also are, but it's better not to treat them as such.

Yes I don't mean to formalize all human life, but I bet every contract that has been created was so because people suffered from dealing with the randomness of "others". Last instance was lack of official document for inheritance in my ancestors country.. now everybody is fighting to grab his piece and nobody can resolve the issue.

I hate it when people say a job is a job. 10 hours a day is dedicated to my job. I'm awake for 16 hours and 10 of those I spend at work. This is where my friends are. This is where I meet new people. This is where I spend my time. But the reality is... Well yes, a job is a job, and the quicker you can accept it, the better you will feel.

Once, this realization came to me when I worked at a fortune 10. I loved the job and was fascinated by the cool tech we used everyday. One day I came to work only to find out I was fired. My manager was just as surprised to hear it. Obviously it was a mistake, but my team watched as security guards came to escort me out of the building like a criminal.

It didn't matter that they figured out it was a mistake. My coworkers became distant when I came back. When the story blew up, my employer denied I was ever employed there. An ex-coworker later told me that my position and projects have been completely scrubbed out of existence.

A job is a job, if you can focus on your own gains please do. Then spend a little bit of time on this fun Ask HN[1]. We can't all get a job that loves us back, so in the meanwhile find something you love outside the job.

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26721951

>> 10 hours a day is dedicated to my job. I'm awake for 16 hours and 10 of those I spend at work.

That's the tragedy of wage labor, even highly paid salaried positions. We spend so much of our adult lives in a place that's ultimately transactional and labor to produce profit for someone else. It's bonkers.

And yet it's the best deal most of us are ever going to get without concerted action within and across industries.

How is that helpful? If we were all lucky geniuses capable to afford the risk, into the required grinding (none of the IH projects were overnight successes), and succeed at bootstrapping a 500k SaaS, most of us would have already done it.

Parent is absolutely correct that for most of us, the best we can hope is wage labor to make someone else richer. Posting a link to indie hackers without context doesn’t change that, and isn’t helpful at all.

Wait, were you fired then hired back? That sounds like an emotional rollercoaster. When security came to escort your out of the building, your team, the people who you made friendships revealed the true nature of the relationship. It's just a business transaction and you should not dedicate more than you are paid for.

Yes, I read the previous HN post you linked in this comment. What was your conclusion for that? I'd like to know too

Yes, I was hired back. I learned my lesson, so I used this time to get all my ducks lined up and left the company in my own terms.

I added a link to that thread because our most important commodity is time. Sure it sounds like promoting laziness, but lots of comments were about automating your job. You get to invest that newly found free time to do something you enjoy.

> Wait, were you fired then hired back?

In this person's case the firing might have been a mistake, but rehiring is not so uncommon. The large (Fortune 500) tech company I worked at at the time laid off a bunch of people - mostly in sales and management - during the 2008 recession. Many of them were re-hired within 12-18 months once things got better.

Edit: reworded

I agree with your perspective here. But the corrective action should be to have you spend less time at the job. I think the 4 day workweek and other “radical” ideas may address some of this.

Incidentally, I wouldn’t mind spending 10 hours dedicated to work for 2 days a week, or some other such balance. Problem solving requires along stretches of time, limiting it artificially seems counterproductive. It becomes an issue when it takes all the time I have.

Hopefully the author also learned a valuable lesson here - HR is there to protect the interest of the company, not your friend.

As someone who worked in RM(Reputation Management), my team have prevented, or mitigated a significant amount of potential reputation risk from would-be whistleblowers and dissatisfied employees.

It's not a matter of friendship, but of interests.

In a non-critical way I would love to hear you explain your line of thinking in working in "RM". As in, how do you find your job morally fulfilling when your work is to "mitigate risk from would-be whistleblowers"? As an outsider to the industry, this sounds like corporate speak for "make sure that the harm the company causes isn't seen by the outside world"

> It's not a matter of friendship, but of interests.

This is a good point, but missing one of the big things that affect dynamics: there is typically a huge imbalance of power between an employee and employer, so most often if your interests diverge, the employee will lose. The worst case scenario for this can be terrible, even for an employee who has done nothing wrong.

What I don’t understand is how they think sheltering harassers can ever work out in the long run. By enabling them, they are reinforcing the behavior and guaranteeing repeats, and increasing the chances of a major scandal or huge settlements.

"It's not a matter of friendship, but of interests" would be a great book title if you ever write one :P

Already written

"Corporate Confidential: 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn't Want You to Know---and What to Do About Them"


Interestingly, there's another book with the same title. Both are from 2005:

By Dephillips: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/437452.Corporate_Confide...

By Shapiro: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/62085.Corporate_Confiden...

* There's no right to free speech in the workplace.

* Age discrimination exists.

* Why being too smart is not too smart.

* Human Resources is not there to help you, but to protect the company from you

That's just from the back of the book.

OK. I need to read this.

That's a horrendous book title.

My next company will be called "Anonymous Association of Business Interests". Has a cyberpunk feel to it.

> my team have prevented, or mitigated a significant amount of potential reputation risk from would-be whistleblowers and dissatisfied employees

How do you typically do that?

The takeaway I get from the comments here is, "HR isn't your friend." Okay, so what should she have done about being harassed? She ignored it for a year. If it's naive to go to HR then what is the "not naive" option? I see 3 options: (1) Put up with harassment, (2) Quit her job (forgoing her salary and stock) or (3) Go to HR. She tried (1) for a year, then tried (3) which ultimately led to (2). What is the "not naive" way to deal with being harassed?

No one has really given an answer besides what you've stated. Personally, I have no idea what the best option is; my cynicism tells me that making it public may be the best course of action, though it's a very scorched-earth approach. By making the harassment known publicly (within the workplace, possibly outside), it forces HR's hand in dealing with the abuser rather than the abused. It also has a chance to backfire spectacularly and alienate the person. It probably would result in alienation even if the abuser was dealt with. There's really no good answer here, just varying degrees of bad ones. Perhaps there needs to be a fine against companies that attempt to silence/remove the victims, that'd create a financial incentive for HR to protect the company by removing the abuser.

Don't ignore it for a year.

She did very well to tell her lead that behavior made her uncomfortable. When it continued, it was time to bring it up with HR or her manager. Looks like the stress of living with it for a year made her want more action than HR provided for a first offence.

If you re-read the article, it's not clear where Google HR is at fault. The investigation took too long? They didn't make him move his desk, work from home, or take leave?

He was likely told a repeat incidence would lead to termination. She would have mentioned if the behavior continued, and doesn't.

Her peer group/friends thought the behavior was mild, but she wanted Google to punish him for betrayals of her past. A more severe response wasn't warranted for a mild first offence (lots of people like this never reoffend). It wasn't bad enough to change his position, and obviously you can't ask the victim to change teams. Maybe more could have been done to help smooth their relationship, like an apology.

Her career unravelling comes after this.

> Maybe more could have been done to help smooth their relationship, like an apology.

Total tangent. I've recently watched a lot of the Dardenne brothers' films, and in one of them, The Kid with a Bike, the kid has assaulted and robbed a man and his son. He's caught, and there's a scene where his foster mom pays restitution directly to the man, but also, the kid apologies to the man he assaulted. (The man's son refuses to accept an apology.)

It struck me as a very humane form of justice, and I think we could do more of that in the U.S.

So yes, an apology I think can go a long way.

This is a double criminal admission of guilt (triple if that payment can be proven), and probably said foster mom will repeat what she's done to the police, if prompted. If that person or the son decides to go the police and the foster mom or "the kid" repeats that, there is no coming back from that in court. And if there is even a tangential case to be made that it was an assault, may result in a year's incarceration for the kid, minimum (and punishment for the foster mom too, if the police really wants to). Can be over 10 years incarceration. In other words, exposing yourself like that can, quite literally, end their childhood entirely. Don't do that.

This is what we've been taught is the right thing to do, it's moral, but, crucially, it's not lawful. A CPS kid may very well see the whole world as their enemy and therefore it is a near-guarantee that some people are out to get these kids. If you do this against someone like that, the kids' life is destroyed. As soon as this gets told to the police there is nothing a lawyer or even their youth worker can do to rectify the situation from that point on. From that point it makes zero sense to try to rectify the situation with the victim, it can only makes things worse, it cannot make anything better. This is criminal law, the victim has no rights. Only the judge and public prosecutor have any influence on the situation from that point forward.

You should NOT do this, for that reason. I get that the result is going to be stimulating that behavior (problem is that incarcerating said kid is also stimulating that behavior, because the consequences are too great and take away the chance for a normal future, leaving fewer options, but always leaving the option of criminality).

Otherwise: https://youtu.be/d-7o9xYp7eE?t=2687

Note that letting the kid get away with it entirely DOES provide multiple options for that behavior to stop, and cannot be so easily defeated by so many people. He could see someone else get caught. It could be a phase. He could get beaten up by the next victim. He could choose to take responsibility for something (girlfriend, a kid, even a dog, or, even more extreme, his foster mom could get sick or in trouble and depend on him) and see this as an unacceptable risk, ... What I'm saying is that firstly, this choice isn't as wrong as it first appears, and second isn't nearly as vulnerable to so many people. Many people will not react positively to putting yourself in such an extreme vulnerable position and will exploit it. For money, for ego, for ... it doesn't matter. You cannot risk the criminal justice system for a kid, you just can't, it just isn't a moral choice. You have a kid, you unconditionally defend them against anyone. In private talk to them, yell if you must, but you unconditionally defend them everywhere.

I would also like to add that this "humane form of justice" will have almost opposite effects depending on the trust level between all involved parties. If that trust is lacking, no matter where exactly, the foster mom's behavior strongly stimulates criminal behavior by the foster kid, including against herself. Trust issues between foster mom and kid? This will backfire. Trust issues between foster mom and either victim? Will very likely backfire. Only if you have near-perfect trust between all parties (and let's not forget one party just used violence against another, so lacking trust is expected).

The movie is not set in the U.S. It's set in Belgium and was fictional. The described scene occurred as part of the criminal justice system, not outside of it.

Not saying she was wrong, but getting help for systemic issues has never ever helped much. There's very little you can do but ignore assholes, or learn how to tear them a new one (you need to become damaged first). Anything in between only backfire and drag you down.

That workplace environment was already dystopia. Realizing it sooner is preferable. There are every option before leaving too. But you rarely win with such people, so you only do it because it's the right thing to do.

Don't ask what you should do. Do.

My inclination would be to document as much as possible and talk to a lawyer for advice.

It's possible to love a job without letting that job become a part of your identity. That's what it feels like FAANG is to a lot of people, particular this one for whom Google is their first job. It's not about love or not loving, it's about a healthy sense of boundaries between you and your workplace.

This is so important, but unfortunately almost everyone will need a crisis to understand. We are raised to be “something”, “make a living”. When we introduce ourselves, the profession is right there with the name. Of course, we dedicate the majority of our awake time to work, but work is *usually not* what one is proud of at the very end.

To many people, work represents the majority of their identity. After dealing with so many unemployed/retired people you can really grasp the extent of their distress caused by this.

My father retired years ago, but kept working as freelancer. He says he learned from his father that if/when he stops working, he’ll die sooner. This is so sad.

As human beings we do need some kind of activity that provides fulfillment. Most people spend a large part of their lives at the workspace and the only skills they excel at, which are fulfilling are work related. So it’s not too surprising that they would want more of that.

Even then though, you can separate the work from the workplace. For example I absolutely identify as a programmer. Screw all this "never call yourself a programer, you're a business problem solver" advice, I LOVE programming. But that doesn't mean that the project I am currently working on or the company I work for defines me. Any given employment can be taken away from me at a moments notice for factors far outside of my control, but nobody can take away the skills and knowledge I accumulate.

The most surprising element of this article is that the writer was surprised at the outcome. It's 2021--who still doesn't think Google will act like any other large corporate entity? I know the general aesthetic of the Google offices gives the impression of a fun, futuristic, elementary school, but the MBA's managing Human Resources went to the same schools as the ones in every other major corporation. The principals of self-preservation are still the same. No one you work with anywhere is "family". Everyone who has the position of employee, is an expendable expense attempting to secure their fickle, fleeting position. This may be a little dramatic, but do not depend on the initiative of mercenaries. Most people are scared of everything and will avoid whatever confrontation comes out of supporting you (even when you're in the right).

It's not surprising at all. Anyone who worked at Google or Facebook during the decade or so ca. 2005-2015 is aware of the degree to which these companies presented themselves as a totally new and different workplace than the typical corporate employer. Facebook even had a little red handbook that stated on its cover, "Facebook was not originally created to be a company." With on-site banking, laundry, car-washes, dentistry, hobby/interest clubs, etc. they provide a mixed, almost collegiate environment that blended the workplace with a community. Many people who worked at these places fell in love with their jobs, the companies made it easy to. To some degree, anyone who was super cynical about this would select themselves out of the hiring pool.

The writer joined out of college, and perhaps was a previous intern. Again, anyone familiar with the internship program at big tech companies knows how they aim to provide not just a mentored professional experience, but a social one including events with other interns and employees.

> Facebook even had a little red handbook

Have they stopped handing that out? I just found one the other day when I knocked some stuff off a shelf. It's tied together with string, and kind of useless.

In the 90s IBM began massive layoffs. They were sued in a number of successful class action suits. The plaintiffs claimed IBM had heavily advanced the We're a big family ethos, also had daycares on the campus, dry cleaners, gyms, and even had multi-generational families working there. IBM was found liable and had to make large payments to its former employees

Liable for what?

The only thing I've found so far is age discrimination and race discrimination lawsuits. Nothing having to do with the working environment or promises.

Violating pension agreements would be my guess


"I.B.M. said yesterday that it had agreed to pay $320 million to current and former employees to settle in part a class-action lawsuit over its pension plan in a case that may affect millions of workers at many companies and nonprofit organizations.

"Under the settlement, I.B.M.'s liability in the case will be limited to an additional $1.4 billion if the courts uphold a ruling that a new pension plan discriminates against its older workers and is illegal. ..."

"For older workers with years in a traditional plan, the switch to a cash-balance plan at age 45 or older can halve the benefits they ultimately collect, compared with a traditional defined-benefit plan."

There was also an additional lawsuit involving the difference between employees and contractors, but I can't find the details now.

Also note that IBM went from 400,000 employees in 1985 to 225,000 in 1995, also losing on things like OS/2, PCs, mainframes. And as for as I know, IBM has not created any major, successful software projects since 1990 or so.

There was the whole move to a cash-balance plan and then those converted pensions were pretty much locked up pending legislation from Congress

having gyms, I presume

>Facebook even had a little red handbook

And the seasons, they go round and round,

And the painted ponies go up and down.

We're captive on a carousel of time...


- "joined the company after college in 2015" - "In high school, I spent time homeless and in foster care, and was often ostracized for being nerdy" - "What I found was a surrogate family"

Many of us got burned earlier in our career, one way or another. But coming from a truly difficult background, would have meant it was even harder for her to see behind the veil of "good company".

The article mentions that she started at Google in 2015; things may have been different then.

This was also her first job out of school, and I'll admit I, too, fell for the hype at my first tech job, before learning all the obvious-in-retrospect things being discussed here.

I think that all it would take for these Googlers is one week as a TVC (temp/vendor/contractor) to get a view as to how Google really looks at things.

Yes. I had friends who were TVCs and met a few while I was an FTE there. Google (and even some Googleras) treats their TVCs like dog shit. Cant even eat at the cafeterias.

it takes time and experience to overcome that naiveté, especially when you're young. I have a friend in a similar situation who is now coming to terms with the fact that jobs are jobs and don't have to be your whole life.

I disagree, I think it just takes exposure. Learn from other people's mistakes instead of getting screwed over yourself.

I'm young and realize that no matter how many sweet nothings companies whisper in your ears, at the end of the day it's a business relationship.

yeah, sorry, I didn't mean to imply that it's impossible to learn these lessons when you're young without direct experience. I just meant that it's not uncommon (in my experience) for young people to be extremely, unflappably enthusiastic about joining on at a large corporation, naïvely buying into the company line of BS. I can easily see myself as having been this kind of person if I got a job at a company like Google when I was young and impressionable.

You don't buy the bull, but consider this: why is there proven age bias in tech hiring? Same reason the military likes 'em young: it's easier to mold and manipulate fresh adults.

Remember the X Files... "I want to believe". Her only "crime" was she was a greenhorn, and needed belonging and purpose.

I feel truly sad for her, because while my cynical older self knows the ending what was in the cards, is it so WRONG to be hopeful, a little naive and earnest? Where were the people who were supposed to protect that?

At least when you join the military and you become part of that family, everyone noncom at least believes in it. Even if the greater structure can toss you out, your brothers/sisters will attempt to come to your aid. No such luck in corporate america.

I don't understand why acting like a large corporate entity is such a bad thing. It just is. Corporations are mortal entities and fear death. The first priority is to continue to simply exist.

I don't see this as bad- just the natural order.

Young people, I don't know if this is universal, associate bigness with badness and making money from trade with exploitation.

The natural order is that some people need these companies to do something for them, that is why they exist. The utility of that system (creating things that people need) gets suffocated by our preoccupation with fairness. So people can only join these companies because they believe they are genuinely different...when no company is different because they all have the same function which largely depends on consumers, not staff.

"It's 2021--who still doesn't think Google will act like any other large corporate entity?" People who think it will act worse.

It isn't because of the MBAs or because of the need to cut costs or whatever. It is to do with the employees too. If you start a company saying that you are very idealistic, you attract idealistic people (and btw, most companies say this because it is what young people want to hear). But the reality of being a human is that we have a habit of believing in our own honesty/goodness, whatever the actual content of our actions. Another good example was Obama (or perhaps Blair in the UK)...this kind of euphoric self-regard happens in other non-corporate contexts. Being human is thinking that "everything has changed now" , until you get old enough to realise nothing ever changes, and then the people who are saying "everything has changed now" again think you are too old and decrepit to listen to. It is eternal (this kind of fraud is a necessary component of capital markets).

The stuff around Google is, however, particularly funny. The founders rhetoric is totally empty (Larry Page appears to be someone whose only distinguishing feature is supreme and total self-confidence). They have a rapacious monopoly which, by exploiting defects in corporate governance, they use to fund a bureaucracy of pet projects/niche interests of academics. You can dress it up any way you want (I can see why academics wanted to love Google, free money with no oversight) but it is still ultimately based on poor ethics (weak corporate governance, no oversight, stealing money from shareholders). Classic SV (wanting the luxury of making tons of easy money very fast AND the moral high ground).

There is a bunch of sad things in the story. But, not being FAANG engineer, there is something technical/financial in there I did not understand.

Specifically: "When I didn’t get a promotion, some of my stock grants ran out and so I effectively took a big pay cut." - I think I roughly get what it means, but not specifically. Could some insider explain this?

Answers you got from astuyvenberg and eugenekolo are incorrect. That's not how it works.

The way it actually works is that when you join, you get a starting grant that vests over next 4 years, and then every year, you get a so-called refreshers, each of which is roughly a quarter of your original grant, which also vest over 4 years. This means that in year 4 of your employment, you get a (last) quarter of your original grant, along with a quarter of each of the 3 refreshers you received in the next 3 years. Then, in year 5, your original grant is gone, and you only get a quarter of each of the 4 refreshers you got in past 4 years.

Depending on the size of your original grant, and the size of refreshers, this can result in some pay cut in year 5. This pay cut can be bigger or smaller, depending on the size of your original grant, size of refreshers (which are driven by your performance rating/promotions), stock price in year 5 etc. However, other than some special circumstances where you get some additional discretionary stock grant, after year 5 you kinda reach a steady state, and your the value of your stock compensation can go down pretty much only if the stock price goes down (assuming constant performance over time).

You've identified the biggest cause, but there are other factors as well.

For example, refreshers are always granted at the end of the year and are only granted to employees that have been with the company a set amount of time. What this means is that new employees starting in the summer don't get a refresher until they've been with the company for ~18 months. So when their initial grant runs out, there's actually a gap of ~6 months where they are only earning equity from three grants while they would need four grants to fully match the equity they were earning during the prior period.

Also promotion at Google is not easy to get. The competition is stiff, the standards are high, and you have to manage to get assigned to the kind of tasks and projects that get you promoted. I saw great people sit at one level the whole time they were there.

The quest for a promotion-worthy project (that manages to ship, no matter the consequences) definitely drove some bad behaviors from people I worked with while I was there.

A weird fact about the universe: in a competitive environment, the difference between winners and losers is mostly luck.

It's always the network..

Just sayin'.

Hell even consumers see it. Messaging apps, for instance.

But given the explanation above, everyone would see a drop after year 4, regardless or promotions. If you happen to get a promotion and a big refresh perfectly timed with that initial grant ending, you may be able to level off the cliff, but that's just pure happenstance. If you had gotten the promotion grant a year sooner, you would've ended up seeing the drop the next year.

"Some special circumstances" can also mean where stock prices go down low enough to bring employees below their compensation target. It doesn't happen much lately at tech companies because the stocks are soaring, but it used to be more common. In those cases, many employees can receive more stock to bring them up to target. It puts a real and meaningful floor on stock price risk and is a nice fringe benefit for companies that do this.

> That's not how it works.

...okay, uh, except for when what they explained is exactly how it works.

Lots of people, at lots of companies, Google and Facebook included, get meaningful add-on grants, often larger than their initial ones.

These are frequently timed to the 4-5 year mark and especially handed out alongside promotions, for the exact reason that, otherwise, the employee will suddenly have a much lower annual payout and will be less 'aligned' with the with the company's future interest.

I'm not claiming that what you said does not also happen, but what the others said certainly does too, and there's no reason to phrase this as some sort of definitive-exclusive thing.

> Lots of people, at lots of companies, Google and Facebook included, get meaningful add-on grants, often larger than their initial ones.

This is I guess sort of true. They're certainly meaningful, it's unusual for them to reach the size of your initial grant quickly, and they'll usually trend upwards over time.

> These are frequently timed to the 4-5 year mark and especially handed out alongside promotions

This is empirically untrue.

It may be true at some companies, but it is rare enough to be a blip at Google or Facebook ("Discretionary Equity" is the term, and its very rare).

How these companies actually work is that there's a target stock grant at your level, let's say 50K. Your initial grant is larger (potentially much larger, depending on a number of factors, but usually 2-3x larger at a minimum). Higher performance increases the grant size, and promotion increases the target.

So there's nothing particularly timed specially at the 4-5 year mark that increases the grant size.

For reference, my stock grants (which are more or less typical) were ~130K at hire, 30K, promo 70K, 100K, 105K (I've reached the ceiling at my current level).

My 130K at hire was above average for a new grad, but an experienced industry hire could get 200K+, and still experience the refresh grants I got.

My employer (Google) has been giving me add-on grants for as long as I've worked there (over 11 years). The number of pre-vest shares have increased over time (they give me larger add-ons). The biggest hit I took was leaving to work for a startup for a year and then returning, because that reset everything. I walked away from some absurd amount of pre-vested shares.

I think my experience is fairly typical for senior/staff level employees with a long tenure, based on what I've heard from friends, coworkers, and HN comments.

Thanks; I appreciate a lot that you qualified what you said, and gave a justification for why your perspective is broadly true, rather than just assert a negative as a universal.

I was mistaken. I didn't know that FAANGs (and likely similar) mostly do comp in this specific way that is different from other comp structures I've interacted with or known of, even despite interning at Google myself, and having friends work there and at others similar, whom I've discussed comp with at length.

Somehow this point about stock grant structure has just never come up, and I've personally experienced the opposite, so I felt the strength of the assertion was unwarranted -- but anyway, I'm glad to learn it!

The best way to think of it is, FAAMG are money guns and your job is to build bullet-proof buckets.

FWIW, Google's vesting schedule is heavily frontloaded to reduce the "4 year cliff"

This is a recent change, and as far as I know, not yet true for all new hires.

At Google you start with an initial large grant that vests over 4 years. For example, let's say you get 400k as stock that vests over 4 years and 100k as salary to make math simple.

So you get 200k the first year, and at the end of the year you get another stock grant that vests over 4 years. Let's say you get 80k.

The second year you get 220k (100k salary + 100k stock from initial grant + 20k from first year's grant). Let's say you get the same 80k again.

If this process continues, the fourth year you get 260k, but on the fifth you will get 180k. Typically what happens is that unless you get promoted 2 times in those 4 years, your salary will decrease substantially on your fifth year.

I've simplified things a bit, but that's the general gist of it.

But given this math, everyone will always see a drop after the 4th year. You can kinda level off the drop if you get promoted exactly as your initial grant runs off, but that's mostly coincidence. If you get your promo grant a year sooner or later, you'll get different drops and hikes.

The author trying to connect the 5th year cliff, which is a common issue, to the lack of promotion, seems a bit misleading.

Typically you get a signing bonus that vests of a period of X years. Once those X years are done, you are relying on additional stock grants from past performance reviews or promotions to keep your comp at its previous value.

If you perform well or get promoted you should see your compensation increase, but without that you are left with your base salary and no additional stock grants and can take a pay cut as a result.

Its one way FAANG weeds out lower performing engineers.

> Its one way FAANG weeds out lower performing engineers.

I believe you.

And without any judgement on her specific case, I can also believe it is a way for "The Company" to discourage "confronting" the structure

My guess is they had stock grants whose value went up as the share price rose. As a result they were being paid more than their level and performance rating would typically dictate and to sustain that level of pay they would have needed a promotion. When that didn’t happen, their pay fell to what their intended pay grade was, but in relative terms it amounted to a pay cut.

When you sign on at a FAANG - you get a sign on package. This includes stock grants that vest over time. After that time runs out, if they like you, they will promote you and give you a new batch of grants. If you don't think you are great, no promotion and no new stock grants. So while you are not demoted, your actual pay drops sometimes significantly.

There is a good reason for this. It allows them to drive increased turnover at higher levels in the org where it's normally hard to transition folks out. They just don't refresh equity or promote with a new equity grant.

Anyways, the poster did what anyone should do - quit and find somewhere else to work.

I was a little confused by that. Unless she had a very large signing bonus grant, she should have been getting stock grant refreshes yearly specifically to prevent that kind of drop off in total pay.

Especially with high performance ratings, she should have been getting bonus over target and extra stock.

It sounds instead like her manager screwed her over on stock grants to get her to leave.

> Especially with high performance ratings, she should have been getting bonus over target and extra stock.

In these companies each level has a compensation bracket. With high rating it’s easier to hit that upper limit and without timely promotion total compensation can take a nosedive when initial grant dies out.

Not sure how that turns into a decrease in total comp instead of flattening out, unless the initial grant put them over the limit in the first place. In which case it was a really generous recruitment bonus.

It’s four years of growth that makes the initial grant look generous. For example $GOOG was like $800 in April’17. It’s over $2250 right now. $AMZN went from $900 to $3300 during the same time.

You typically get stock on a 4 year vesting cycle. After the 4 years a few things can happen: you get another 4 year stock vesting cycle, you get no stock, you get something else.

Most offers for FAANG companies include salary and stock compensation, that vests over 4 years.

So if you were granted 400k in stock over 4 years, you'd get 100k per year in stock (which you can keep or sell, but it's real compensation).

After those 4 years, the company will either give you another stock grant over another 4 years, or they will decide to show you the door - and not offer you anything.

That's what seems to have occurred here.

This is incorrect. At FAANG companies, in my experience, you will be given an initial large grant and an additional grant every year thereafter. However, if you aren't seeing upward performance, those annual grants may not fully match the compensation you received from the initial grant, resulting in a dip at year 4 that some folks call "the four year cliff."

This is complicated by the fact that earlier grants tend to be from when stock was worth less, so the are a comparatively high number of shares. So your comp will gradually inflate over 4 years because the value of the stock has gone up, meaning you are taking home more than the company 'intended' to pay you.

Really? When I've worked at FAANGs and other BigCos, there was a yearly re-up of stock vesting over 4 years each time.

It is all up to management discretion. I have known several cases where people's new stock grants were cut to zero in the hope that they'll just quit and save managers from going though the PIP/firing process.

For sure. At least at amazon while they don't demote you, if they are not that excited by you on the team equity goes pretty low.


Depends on performance. Corey Quinn's article is on point (linked a few comments below)

This makes sense, but specifically promotion tied bundle? Or was it just a shortcut for "did not get promoted" AND "did not get next stock grant"?

I guess I am trying to understand whether this is causation or correlation relationship.

Your total compensation at FAANG is base salary + bonus (usually % of your base multiplied by your perf and company perf) + stock.

When you get promotion your base salary will increase, your bonus will also increase (due to being % of base, but also higher levels have higher %) and your annual stock refresher will be higher, as you are now on new level.

She would get annual stock refresher even without promotion, but with promotion refresher would be bigger and total new comp could have compensated for drop after initial grant has finished.

You can check levels.fyi for comparisons of total median comps between levels at Google.

L3 - $189k[0], L4 - $265k [1], L5 - $350k [2]

[0] https://www.levels.fyi/company/Google/salaries/Software-Engi...

[1] https://www.levels.fyi/company/Google/salaries/Software-Engi...

[2] https://www.levels.fyi/company/Google/salaries/Software-Engi...

"When people ask me how I feel about my new position, I shrug: It’s a job."

Yep, it is always just a job.

Something you spend 1/2 of your waking life on is never "just" something.

That’s the feeling that companies seek to exploit. I like my job, my profession and the mission associated with it, and have a certain level of pride.

End of the day, I have a contract and meet my side of it to the best of my ability. The company does the same, until it doesn’t. My family, my personal life is why I work.

A big part of the push of a bullshit mission is to make you pause your life. People end up not having kids because they waited till they were 38 because the big “mission” taking priority.

> Something you spend 1/2 of your waking life on is never "just" something.

Then don't spend 1/2 your waking life on it. Stick to a 40 hour work week, and don't do weekends.

Even on a 40h week that’s still 35% of waking hours without counting the time needed to prepare, commute, ... including those 50% sounds very reasonable to me?

Yeah that's the tragedy of it.

I like how people think the import of the article is "corporations gonna corp" when its more like if you're not the right kind of male in this industry, you are vulnerable

The fact that it is both is precisely what is meant by "implicit privilege." The behavior of toxic men is considered "regular" enough that preventing it isn't considered worth the effort given the cost of "losing" those men or having to deal with a counter-lawsuit.

If instead this man had a habit of dumping Koolaid over his co-workers every time they shipped a bug, let's say, he'd be fired right away. Because dumping Koolaid on people is considered "not okay." Hitting on women is considered "okay."

It's not the corporation that considers these things okay or not - the corporation needs to maximize its financial interests and nothing more really. Society at large decides what's okay, and the corporation mostly lets those rules stand.

Yes, there are cases where a corporation can play at the margins - for example, when corporations make a public statement about not doing business in states that pass illiberal laws. The calculation here is that their consumer base at large will reward their stance, or they have a monopoly position that makes this stance low-risk, even if they lose something in the short-term or get bad press from one end of the political spectrum.

This is why we end up with laws that regular corporate behavior, like for example civil rights legislation that prohibits companies from discriminating by race. These laws passed at a time when such behavior was still considered largely "okay" in society, and the laws helped to reduce the spaces in which the okayness could sustain itself. It changed the Overton Window on this behavior you could say.

what is the right kind of male?

the kind that gets paid tens of millions USD by google to quietly leave for another high-paying job https://www.theverge.com/2019/3/11/18260712/google-amit-sing...

seems like its both?

I think everyone should get fired at least once, preferably early in your career. Business is business.

When I was fired from my first job, a friend and mentor looked at me and asked "Is this your first time getting fired?"

Everything about that question helped me gain perspective. Not only did he normalize getting fired, but he implied that getting fired multiple times in a career was quite possible and pretty independent of ones actual ability.

I haven't been fired since, but I have thought about it often. Definitely a good lesson to learn early.

> "Is this your first time getting fired?"

The kids have a meme for that now: https://i.kym-cdn.com/entries/icons/original/000/027/763/07B...

The one time in my career I got laid off was the day after I got married. I had taken the day off, got back in the office the next day, and was let go. I was close to finishing my PhD at the time, and had never made a secret to my employer that I was planning to move abroad after that, but the layoff still came as a bit of a shock to me.

That is a great point. Never show your hand. Letting an employer know that you are planning to leave often does not end well. Its hard when you have good, family like, relationships at the office. Best to keep major changes under wrap until you are fully committed.

I don't know. In this case, I ultimately suffered no material adversity at all (the company in question was a spinoff from the lab where I did my PhD, and my advisor simply wrangled some short term employment for me at the lab), and I would have hated for somebody with longer term perspectives at the company to lose their jobs over a misunderstanding.

Yep. You owe them the courtesy two weeks and really nothing more unless stipulated in a contract.

Also be prepared to be fired on the spot if you try the "I have got an offer, what will you counter with" gambit.

Exactly, there are other things that might get you shown the door on the spot like considering leaving to start your own business.

Once had someone think I was going to compete with them and worried I was taking inside info to help myself. Showed up one day and one of the partners met me in the parking lot with a box full of my stuff. Funny how business can screw up friendships.

This is kind of what scares me. I'm 3 years into my first job out of college, and I'm not sure how people get fired if they're performing fine. I meet my performance goals, get along fairly well with my manager and my skip, and business seems to be doing well...how do people in this same position end up fired? How can I avoid that? Sorry, I know that's a bit of a vague question, but threads like these keep me up at night

You can't really avoid it, especially if you work in a big corp. It can happen absolutely regardless of what you do - somebody could decide the whole section is redundant, or they're getting out of this business, or they just need to reduce the workforce and you got the short straw. It'd suck if it would happen, but it's better to realize it's a possibility and be ready. I don't mean to work with one foot constantly out of the door, people don't like that, but have a plan just in case - just like people have plans for natural disasters, etc. Keep your knowledge fresh and broader than your current job, take interest in new stuff that may help you find your next job, network with people that may not be connected to your current job but may very well help you find the next one. Maybe you'll be lucky and will work at this job until you're sick of it and ready to leave or retire. Or maybe not - be ready for it.

Usually it's when expectations change. In my case, I took on new responsibilities and pushed to be compensated accordingly. I was then held to higher expectations which I was unable to meet. In my case this was mostly doomed fail from the beginning because my responsibilities were in conflict with the company's needs. Small startup, poor management structure, pre-revenue, etc. all contributed.

Your metric of "meet performance goals, get along with manager and skip, business doing well" is a solid way to track things, especially earlier in your career.

Many times the circumstances aren’t in your control. The business may not be doing well, or your project or your division. Your manager may get replaced or his skip or the division manager. They may not like you because you speak up a lot. There can literally be a million reasons for getting laid off or fired and keeping that in mind is always healthy lest that you’re caught off guard.

Certainly kicking ass at your job helps. Sometimes you kick ass and the company fails or merges or changes directions and there is nothing you can do. Even when there are tough changes companies don't like to lose good employees, just do your best. But realize that you can pick yourself up if you fall.

While firing may be a bit drastic, I do agree that getting over the standard silicon valley new grad idealism ("company is my family, we are changing the world") as early as possible is always recommended. And this applies equally to Google and a random 5-person startup.

Everyone should also learn to quit, and that quitting your job when it sucks (or just stops working for you) is a win, not a loss. It's also much better than getting fired - you control how and when it happens.

This is a really good arguement to get more teens working again in low end jobs. I got laid off from a job at 16. My buddies regularly got laid off or had hours cut to 0 at various jobs. It kind of stunk, but the consequences were near zero and it set realistic expectations for business relationships.

For anyone interested, apparently the author went on to work at Facebook.

I'd be lying if that said that didn't put a bit of a damper on the article for me. Partly because I expect exactly the same behaviour but also because of recent events such as data being leaked and all that.

Assuming the facts are as stated, Google's handling of this issue is inept. When there is a substantive conflict between employees, the employer needs to take immediate action, within 24 hours or less.

For example, the complainant or the supervisor should have been assigned to work in a different location, or transferred to another project. This can be done with some finesse, so as not make the reason obvious to others. This is the right thing to do if harassment is occurring as described, or even if the complainant is making a false accusation.

Given that the complaint was sustained, it would be interesting to know Google's experience as to whether supervisors' behavior changes or continues.

Kind of fascinating how few of the comments here are about sexual harassment and just about general disillusionment with careerism.

Yeah, the handling of that whole situation is a) unsurprising and b) quite poor. Should've put the accused harasser on leave instead and then transferred them away or better yet fired them given the number of people who came out.

Most of the time I just read the title and go to the discussion. If the discussion seems worthy (maybe I already responded to something) I open (not necessarily read) the article. I think a lot of people do the same.

Yes, I've been bumping against that while reading through the comments as well.

Not really surprising, given that the author keeps emphasizing the disillusionment over the harrasment.

It's common for people to identify with their job too much, independent of employer. It almost feels like it's a rite of passage to pour everything into your first job in your early to mid twenties, especially if you're a high performer with something to prove and you're lucky enough to work on something that "really matters". What I've seen is most people go through a period of mild depression / burnout, realize that a job can be a fun and rewarding part of life but isn't life in it's entirely, and then live on more happily after learning to keep some distance.

There are better stories that deserve this headline, stories where people land their dream job only to be disappointed by the role, or the company, not just one individual.

Still, the position she was in sucks. You can never have a good working relationship with the harasser again, and the only outcome that would resolve the situation is the harasser getting fired, but that won't happen with only hearsay of inappropriate comments; it would need to be something egregious with witnesses. The only move is switching teams and telling HR so it (hopefully) doesn't happen again.

I've been doing my job for over 30 years, and I still love it. But I think it's very healthy to separate what you love to do and the company that pays money for it. The company can be great, and it can be crappy, and it can start out great and turn into crappy (I've never seen the reverse happen but who knows) but for people working in tech - we have the luxury of having a job that allows us choice from thousands of employers. Everybody needs tech people now - from trillion-dollar corporations to three-people startups.

If your workplace sucks - you have an option to do it somewhere else. Yes, maybe it won't have an attached gym and free three-course meals - but, as hard as it is to believe, there are ways to get meals and workouts outside Google, and it's not even remotely hard. Yes, maybe you'd not be paid outrageous piles of money, just piles of money which would beyond the dreams of 98% of people in the country, not 99.9%. You can survive it, and you can even keep your love for what you're doing, without attaching yourself to a Google.

It's ok to like your company, especially if it's about people you work with and things you're doing, but if you find yourself in love with a corporate monster like Google, you've gone off rails. It will hurt you, and it won't even know or care. It's not built for that.

> Playing along felt like the price of inclusion.

Wait, what? The author played along for more than a year and then placed a complaint? Maybe it's the way the article is written but this seems pretty bad on the author's part.

The author seemed to be mainly worried about their ruining their 'upward trajectory' in the company.

Aaannnd the author is writing a book.

Yes, I am cynical.

> Wait, what? The author played along for more than a year and then placed a complaint? Maybe it's the way the article is written but this seems pretty bad on the author's part.

“Playing along” simply means that she didn’t escalate the matter immediately to HR but ignored that (repeated) behavior in order to continue with her work. I don’t see anything wrong with her wanting to ignore this harassment in hopes that the harasser would stop, but deciding after a year that it was too much and never going to stop, at which point she decided to report it.

I've already closed the article tab, but she writes that the harasser was about to be promoted to management---specifically, her manager.

Because it is true. The fastest way to kill your career is to make complaint to HR. The second fastest way is to have a complaint made against you. Once you are a target of the system, there is a level of scrutiny you will be subject to that blocks you moving up and make sure your name is always on the potential layoff list. Not right away, and not in retaliation, but your days are numbered.

> When I joined the company after college

Kids: all corporations suck. The bigger they are, the more likely they are to suck. Your corporation is not an exception, you're just lucky to work in a non-sucky corner of it, or have not yet glimpsed its suckitude.

Ignore perks. Unless they come in the form of things you need that are expensive and rare (health care, child care, 401K match, maternity/paternity leave, continuing education fund, remote work).

HR is not your friend. Executives don't care about employees. Do not tell your boss what's really on your mind. Your co-workers are not your friends. Do not expect anything of them. Do not be completely open, honest, and transparent. Do not be vulnerable.

Do not compromise, and do not extend yourself. Do what you are required to do. Help when it is convenient, but do not become the "go-to" person, because it only looks like job security. Do not argue or complain. Send e-mails reiterating verbal agreements. Take screenshots of anything that looks fishy, abusive, manipulative.

Keep your next job in the back of your head. Prepare for it. Make contacts, network, learn marketable skills. Develop soft skills, be friendly and outgoing, but lay low. Play nice, do not burn bridges.

If someone is harassing you, intimidating you, making unreasonable demands, or otherwise disturbing you: slowly document evidence and record eye-witness testimony, first in e-mails, then in screenshots (e-mails and other documents get purged regularly to protect the company when they get sued). Find co-workers to corroborate your story and co-sign a petition with you. Find your harasser's corporate enemies and recruit them. People in your company may try to bury your complaints, either to protect The Company (again, HR is not your friend), or to further a manager/executive's political needs, or because they just don't believe you. The company may try to discredit you and will use any ammunition (that they have been silently compiling) against you.

Finally, if you feel like your mental or physical well-being is at risk: Quit. Your. Job. It doesn't matter if what's happening to you is unfair or unjust. You are a very small cog, and the corporation is a very big wheel. If you decide to write a public tell-all like the author's here, it will work against you at future employers. It is not worth the fight. There is no prize to win.

It's just a job.

It's just a job, but we need to hold corps to higher standards too.

The way I see it, all kinds of people work together. That is expected to go badly at times. So it depends how one play it, but still accept diversity of people, even assholes.

Why the "publicly traded" qualifier? The author should broaden her definition and realize that actually, the only family is in fact a real family. You can have communities outside of that, and indeed even within work. But certainly, a private company is just as much not a family.

First world problems. All this complains about what people on the west call "harassment" is ridiculous. 'Oh my God, he called me "beauty", my life is over!"... What the heck

Go girl you are a wonder of human nature. You did great dont take any shit from anyone. Came from a pretty shaky background myself to success in tech but as a self employed consultant which has incredible freedom but on the surface less job security perhaps, but over the last twenty years the phone has never stopped ringing. An option for you too with your skills.

Initially it is pride. Once that wears out, it is another Job which you may or may not like.

Meta: the title has an extra "A " at the start.

This is fantastic (unintended?) guerilla marketing for the author's current employer.

It's strange to me that people love to shit on FAANG life so often.

Every perk is scrutinized, as if serving dinner in the office means I MUST stay for dinner (I almost never do), or having a doctor or laundry service on campus is some nefarious thing.

At the end of the day, you get paid a huge amount of money to do a moderate amount of work. It's the dream, to me.

And then every once in a while people burn out and make it seem like it was the free dinner that did it. "I found my own doctor; I cook my own food." What does that have to do with anything?

(Sure, HR is shitty and that's something to care about. But that's an industry wide issue, not a FAANG specific issue.)

She was sexually harassed in her workplace and says that the company protected the perpetrator at her expense. Any company that does this deserves to be shat on.

Uh, yeah, of course. I wasn't saying anything contrary to that.

All I said is that people focus on the FAANG perks way too much, as if they're contributing to some problem. Even in the article, one their shining moments was when they cooked for themselves and found another doctor (??).

Sure, but I think the point the author was trying to make was that those perks, and the way they are sold to employees, are a much thinner veneer over ultra-capitalism than might be expected.

These companies really do sell themselves and their perks to their employees and it’s pretty horrific that they seem willing to attack the victims instead of the perpetrators.

> you get paid a huge amount of money to do a moderate amount of work

AWS would like a word with you.

Alright well idk about Amazon. I've worked for a few FAANG but not Amazon. But Google, the topic of the article, is definitely a company where you can do a moderate amount of work for large amounts of money.

F's in the chat for all the Amazon employees that I'm sure lurk around here.

Sometimes, I don't blame the xooglers especially when its corporate culture has done an about-face in recent years. However, this person's first job out of school was at Google so they obviously don't understand 公公私私.

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