This makes me really want to work with that team.
The challenge is that the percentage of people from the population of people who want management responsibility that are willing to manipulate the situation for their own gain, is higher than the control population. Which means that people get exposed to them as managers more often than is ideal (in the ideal case they are managed to understand that 'winning' is a high level of trust on their team, but that doesn't happen often enough)
Just one of the ways that sociopaths have made life less enjoyable.
At a sprint retrospective, I said something to the effect of “I realize that I could stand to get faster at coding and using the editor shortcuts”.
I was fired the next day. Reason given: coding skill.
nobody is ever going to trust that company enough to expose themselves and no improvement Ida going to happen.
This was a place where programmers pair all the time. If you're working by yourself, and you don't have things like quick editor navigation down, nobody cares. If you're pairing with someone who does, and they sigh and roll their eyes at the few seconds it takes you to do some basic tasks, it sucks. I could see and feel them gradually losing respect for me. In technical conversations, my opinion ceased to feel welcome.
Honestly, I probably would have been let go anyway. They were probably having conversations to this effect among themselves. It's pretty crappy to feel you're persona non grata without it being explicitly spelled out for you (yet). And I really was working on studying up and building these skills.
Bringing this up at a retrospective was saying, in effect, “I know this is an issue, I am working on it, and if you have any constructive feedback I welcome it”.
What I should have been doing, looking back on it, was actively looking for my next job. Saying this publicly to the team gave me less time to do that.
I was thrilled at the hands off treatment I was getting, as I read documentation and integrated each new piece of the system into my development environment. I would have occasional questions when I ran into something that seemed off, like incorrect documentation or a broken script. I methodically fixed these things as I went, and soon had an automated build that could set up all the pieces on a fresh computer.
Then I hit a snag. I had trouble running the tests. I had little experience with the tool in question and, as has been my habit, took that as an opportunity to dive in and learn the tool. The manager saw this and was not happy. “Just make it work”, he said. “That's not a tool to learn, it's one to get working and then forget about”. I wasn't sure how to act on this. I've fought with code before, randomly trying things until something improves and I find it stressful and unrewarding. I tried to skim more and try things quickly but I still ended up with a lot of documentation tabs open and a lot of material to read and absorb.
The manager became more involved. He found a sample project online where somebody got this combination of tools working together, and sent it to me as I was driving home. He also suggested the probable heart of the matter. I tried it as soon as I got home, and his suggestion was indeed the right one.
I had flailed for a couple days on this, even considering switching to a different tool (an idea first rejected, then later embraced, by this manager and the other developer on the project). For a while, I was dealing with issues myself as they came up, but now with this issue, the things I was reading and trying were being closely watched, and I felt pulled back and forth between different avenues to pursue.
The following morning I was integrating the manager's solution, getting ready to commit. He was already continuing the online exchange. The thing he found was in the comments on the project's home page. It was one of the first things I should have found and tried, and I had missed it. He didn't need to say this; it came through loud and clear in his tone. My stock was falling fast.
The next workday I got an email from an upper manager: please meet this afternoon. At that meeting, I was let go.
I'll never know for sure, but I believe at least part of this was about personality. After spending some time and effort learning a tool, and considering switching tools, he decided I wasn't the pragmatic fast-mover he wanted. I didn't change direction fast enough based on his early comments about how I should approach snags I ran into.
Honestly, if I had seen this happen to the guy next to me, rather than been the target myself, I would have been walking on eggshells afterward.
Sigh, time to go try and be perfect again.
Truly excellent managers do so in such a way that the employee develops and improves.
Hopefully you'll get a manager like that. Oh, and stop trying to be perfect: it doesn't work. http://moz.com/rand/expectation-of-100-percent/
When I talked to a recruiter recently, though, I asked them about their flexible work schedule. What they said was kind of horrifying: "Oh yeah, we're TOTALLY flexible! When there's a deadline due, we all work 60+ hours, but there are SOME weeks when we literally struggle to make our required 40."
Like, what? A flexible work schedule now means choosing between unpaid overtime and MORE unpaid overtime? GEE THANKS!
I have /never/ talked to a recruiter who knew anything about how the actual company worked.
And how would they? In my experience? how many hours you are expected to work is a complex negotiation that depends a lot on how important you are to the team, and how effective you are perceived as being.
This changes dynamically, too. get something really cool done during the slow times? yeah, slack for a week; nobody will whine. Screw it up during crunch time? you better show up before the boss and leave after the boss for a few weeks.
(the second one can be dangerous... I mean, if you are screwing up due to overwork, then having you work more.... but that's the way it is.)
Our project managers discourage long work weeks because they add cost without delivering proportional value. Work weeks tend to be in the 20-25 hour range. We compensate by hiring about 30% more devs than average.
The main disadvantage comes when a dev (often with a unique skillset) "owns" a particularly challenging piece of the project. Otherwise it works well.
Paying hourly also has a lot of annoying caveats to it. Should I be clocked in for work-related functions? What about ones where I'm expected to be there but it's from 6pm-8pm at a restaurant (and I'm already working 40+ hours with my boss getting hounded for excessive overtime pay)? Does this party at 1pm count as my government mandated lunch break? How closely am I being watched to make sure I'm working "efficiently"?
Point being, hourlies usually end up being treated as second-class citizens one way or another, and it becomes even more apparent when hourly employees and salaried employees work together.
The answer to your questions BTW are yes, yes, yes if optional no if not, and depends solely on how paranoid the boss is and has nothing whatsoever to do with how finance pays you. The first three questions are pretty simple to figure out on your own. Did the boss tell you to do it, and will it show up on your review if you don't complete that requirement? Then you get paid, duh.
I would agree with your last line, when I was hourly they treated salaried coworkers literally worse than slaves, not even as well as property is treated. Horrific.
Oh come on. Did you write that comment with the intent of it being read?
In practice there are usually client and contracting firm cultural solutions to the ambiguous billing situations. Generally the thing to avoid is giving people unaccounted-for discounts; it's better to bill for more time but then give an explicit discount, or at least to make it clear you're not billing for something, vs. just silently not charging for things -- otherwise it is taken for granted and expected.
I also did a few business trips while I was hourly, which started out odd, but really didn't end up being that bad. I was basically filling in for my supervisor and the management structure seemed to think the return value was worth a pretty decent chunk of overtime logged.
The bonus thing was weird, because I was basically half-salaried and half hourly. Anyone else have experience with that? My income was relatively stable as long as I stayed in the 35 - 45 hour range, and even a bit outside of that, but past that I could pretty substantially alter it. I also had a really good relationship with my boss, so like any other job, if I had started working 15 hours a week they would have had a problem. My work quality and production were solid, though, and I felt secure in the position. Interesting period of time.
I'd absolutely do IT/satellite stuff in Antarctica if I had nothing else I had to be doing, just for the experience (although I think it also pays decently, like $80k for a season with no other expenses...)
In scenario (A) you will not spend all your day programming. You will have to care about the business parts. If you're not cut out for those parts, even if you end up making lots of money, you will probably not be happy.
In scenario (B) you are more likely to be able to spend more time programming, with less overhead to worry about, but this depends heavily on the employer, so you may end up performing several false starts or walking away from an employer/employee relationship. If an employer accepts you, you will most likely not be paid what your time is worth, but this is a willing exchange for not having to care about the non-technical parts of the story.
Is there a scenario C? If there is I've not yet discovered it.
Time spent finding new clients, for example, is totally unpaid. And most consultants need to spend a fair amount of time doing this.
Ongoing training and education time are also totally unpaid. Clients hire you to solve problems and go away--they won't invest in you like they would an employee.
Think about that. Pretend you don't know what netflix does. I hope nuclear reactors are run by people like that. Oh that sounds like a good slogan for an open heart surgeon. Secret service agents? No, you say? Hmm how about space shuttle tile installation specialist? I've got it, sounds like people who guide tin cans full of thousands of gallons of flammable fuel and hundreds of vulnerable human beings, miles above the earth at just under the speed of sound in incredibly crowded skies and they almost never make a mistake. Umm are they the people we trust our youth to, to mold and train their minds, or at the other end, the people we trust to care for our elders? Nope none of the above... dude, they rent videos. No.... you're kidding me! Really? Thats all?
Every corporate mythology has some kind of self congratulatory mythos about being the elite of the elite, perfection on earth. Lots of kool-aid get drunk at these proclamations. It sounds absolutely hilarious to realistic outsiders not drunk on the kool-aid.
I know this is HN where only binary thinking is allowed therefore making fun of them for not being the 1% elite means I'm implying they must be the bottom 1%. Nope. Not at all. They're probably good average people doing good average things, just like every other average company out there. Key word being average. Dude... they rent videos... I hope to god for the survival of our species that the intellectual elite of our civilization are doing something slightly more important. And I think they are.
Months pass, and the employee is skating slightly below to just above the point of causing you more work. You've corrected some of the recurring mistakes they made when they first started, but now new ones are coming up. You make notes of the employee's progress and give honest feedback. They continue to improve. Slowly. Improving just enough so that HR has strong reservations about starting the termination process. You're stuck with a dud employee that, yeah, they're not absolutely horrible, but you know that you'd be much better off with an employee that could at least get things right the second time instead of the 20th.
"You shouldn't have hired them," I hear you say. It's not always the case that you hire them. I've "inherited" bad employees from predecessors in the past and have even had my boss transfer employees into my department that were doing even worse in other departments.
So yeah, if our company had any kind of policy like the one at Netflix, this entire process wouldn't even be a conversation. I just send the mediocre employee off riding into the sunset and hire someone that's a better fit with none of the fuss and BS.
The B guy getting fired scenario would sound a lot like "he came in late once last quarter, he was responsible for one software bug (the A level guys are perfect of course), he didn't get awarded any honorary doctorates in CS last year unlike some of the A level guys (hey, Linus has a few), he claims to be publishing a textbook on the language we use but he's behind schedule, and he only taught his coworkers one new programming paradigm last year"
And it is an excellent means to cover up bad management. When expectations are unrealistic, then everyone is probably failing. It just boils down to office politics about who avoids blame.
It is a nice idea to always be A-level or work towards there -- that requires a significant investment in recruiting and training that few companies are actually interested in. But a company that cannot make good use of B-level work in most places surely has incompetent management.
"Hey, you guys never fix the P2 or P3 bugs!" Remember him?
See, here's the problem. You can get one, maybe two geniuses to found a company. Maybe even a couple peppering the whole company... But wikipedia claims they have over 2000 employees.
Can you have an organization full of geniuses? Sure, although its rare. Think of the institute for advanced studies in its glory days. Or Bell Labs in the good old days. If you twist definitions and turn the Manhattan Project into one org and only count the top physicists and not the rank and file, sure. A two thousand person video rental company, um, no, I don't think so.
Now the Kool-Aid drinkers could proclaim that they only hire personnel with Nobel Prizes in Physics. But 2000+ prizes have not been issued yet, and quite a few of those people are dead or otherwise unavailable, most (all?) of the early 20th century winners for example. Even worse the whole industry also claims in public they also only hire Nobel Laureates.
I guarantee that NFLX does not fire all B and below performers because there is not enough talent to pull it off industry wide especially with everyone else having the same ridiculous demand.
Frankly that's good. Who wants to work in an industry where 99% of the graduates are permanently unemployed and only 1% ever get to work? Or even worse, a society with 99% unemployment rate?
It may be realistic in such a society to expect that the 1% still 'working' are going to be very good at their jobs, and doing it primarily for self-satisfaction.... such as Nobel Laureates. I suspect that people who aren't really good at their job don't want to do the job at all. They want the income, but probably not the job itself.
"Work if you want to eat" produces organizations rife with mediocrity.
With a sustainable population, mincome and a (continued) increase in automation, its not hard to imagine a world where everyone working wants to be there, and thus most of the people working are indeed A-players.
99% unemployment rate could be pretty good for both workers and non-workers.
I don't think NFLX will make it to that historical era. And appearing somewhat delusional doesn't help their odds.
Most frequently, I startups seeking out these one-percenters due to their own massive organizational ignorance - which, incidentally, makes getting one or more people with extreme clue onto the team a requisite for any success whatsoever, if only insofar as they will keep the ship from hitting an obvious iceberg.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that when dumb startups say they need this, they are frequently so dumb as to be right. (That person (often me) will be miserable there, though.)
10-15 years ago the "smart and driven" person was called a "visionary" in the dotcom world. Check Wired backissues, they probably bought out the entire late-90s inventory of the word.
So, set your line appropriately, but fire people below the line, no matter how "hard" they work / how much time they spend "ass-in-chair".
Also, I'm not sure what hellish grading system you're used to where "A" means "1% elite". In most contexts, it means "competent": A student at most educational institutions in the US can expect an A if they grasped the class material and didn't flub the tests and assignments.
There are places where consistent, well intentioned sub-competence is sufficient, a high-availability, technically complicated, ultra high volume paid service running on retail margins is not one of them.
Most people get a "C" or passing grade only in Secondary and Tertiary education. As an Aussie trying to impress American employers (in the past) with my credentials, this goes some way to explaining why they list "GPA 4.0" as required. I know practically nobody with a 4.0 GPA in Sydney.
Here is some more reading:
The Netflix stance of only hiring "A" people is obviously does not work with this definition. If you get 2000 "A players" together for more than a short time, your organization will fall apart. Everyone would try to get to the top and make the company follow their vision. If they can't, they will move on sooner than later.
Other ways to handle it other than massive underemployment are grade inflation and redefining an "A" into a participation trophy or redefine "A" performance as brown nosing the boss or whatever. Or redefine earning a "A" as we don't plan to fire you this year... at least at this time.
There is a lesson to this situation for ALL startups. A genius can found a company. Maybe a couple geniuses can found a company. Maybe the first hire, or some of the first hires can be genius level. HOWEVER... Somewhere on the path to being a real, scaled, grown up company, you're going to start to hire from the general population. It doesn't matter if you admit it or not. As a management issue it probably helps to be aware of it rather than delusional about it, aside from the obvious "people laughing at you" thing. You can push against reality for awhile if you're the richest search company that ever existed, or if you can get the .gov to pay any sum you ask for, or the most prestigious .edu or thinktank in the world. But almost all startups are not like that, and that's another "better to understand reality than live in a delusion" scenario.
I'd also expect that everybody wants to think of themselves as being in the last group, and so the companies all advertise for that. But realistically, very few people actually want to hire creative innovators and even fewer still will listen to them once they do, so companies are really gunning for that middle group. It's quite possible to parcel out that middle group into 5% chunks.
Your "A-game" is your best, not the best in the world. Your "B-game", by extension, is something less. The way I read it, is that as long as you're doing the best work you can, it doesn't matter when you work. If you're doing less than your best work, well, you should stop.
Hmm, that doesn't jibe with the idea of not rewarding mere effort, which is how I read it as well; we reward results, and "punish" lack of results. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; applicants know what they are getting into and can self select out if they don't feel up to it.
"Communication is only possible between equals". Equality is a perception, but the one with the power to punish inevitably decides who is equal, and who isn't. The safe bet if you're in the inferior position is to assume that rocking the boat will get you in trouble.
That's why everyone hates when bosses make jokes about firing them. It's only funny if you know it's a joke, but employees can never be sure.
Because time and again employees have to read bs that makes their eyes bleed and keep a straight face. The netflix "we are the A++ team" slide is another example.
No doubt they are a great team, but all of their workforce deliver a perfect A score over all the worklife, no matter if they get ill, have children or broken hearts?
Salute to Sarah for building an excellent open culture and Zach's courage to speak out. And yes, 'trust' is critical in organizations. Good story.