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A culture of beer and overtime (jayhuang.org)
359 points by jayhuang on Nov 7, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 210 comments



n.b.

It was time to leave, and the HR lady came to me and said I would have to sign a release letter and send it back within 2 work days (the following Monday was a holiday), otherwise I would not get any of the remaining pay

I'm not familiar with the law in Canada, but I rather suspect that it's similar to America, so a bit of advice for the young and impressionable: virtually no threat to not pay an employee wages is worth taking seriously. Don't sign anything. Say you'll run it by your lawyer. You don't even need to have a lawyer when you say that, but the prospect of your lawyer going to the employment commission and saying "My client was denied wages. Do you need me to say anything else or can we just proceed directly to 'He gets them'?" will generally make them back off.

I mean, as one point among many, your lawyer is going to say "You think he was a consultant? We have written representations from you that he was a FTE, and you treated him as a FTE, for example in attempting to control his working hours. It is materially against his interests to be a consultant, because this implies that you haven't been paying employment taxes on him. That's unfortunate, but it's not our problem, and rather than stick him with the bill for $X,000 in back taxes we're just going to tell the tax authorities that he's been maliciously reclassified and that you're delinquent in your obligations. Given that this will likely trigger an audit and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars of fines for you, how about we just agree to give my client what he has coming to him, and you report an inadvertent paperwork screwup to the tax authority when you pay your fair share?"


Oh, the employment law is a lot employee-friendlier in Canada than in the US. In particular, BC employment law (relevant to this post) is a lot friendlier than California employment law. And when you go to take them to court, the government will, under some circumstances, provide free legal services to the employee (you can look up the BC gov's Employment Standards Branch).

That said, IIRC, even BC is pretty employer-friendly for the first 3 months, in terms of notice and so on. And it appears the author thought he was entitled to stock options after 9 weeks, which is.... not typical, in my limited experience. And they company sounds like they were dicks about it, but basically, terminating the relationship and paying out your salary (but not bonuses or unvested equity) is usually legit.

If he had made it through 3 months, he'd have a right to some severance pay, and if they tried to terminate-with-cause he'd be able to sue for wrongful dismissal. Because of this, even in borderline cases, most (many?) companies go for termination-without-cause.

All the bits about reclassifying a full-timer as a contractor, though? Hells yes, that's a world of hurt for the company if they try that. Not only work direction and taxes (both huge issues), but also consider the pay consequences of trying to get 70-hour weeks out of a contractor. But I doubt that they were actually trying that; it seems so unnecessary.

The spin of the article is weird, though. He's having trouble justifying his 9 weeks? "I tried an experiment because there were some very attractive aspects about the opportunity, but it turned out that management had no experience and very unrealistic expectations, and it didn't work out." What could be simpler?

SHORT VERSION: as patio11 said: don't hurry to sign anything, and spend at least an hour reading about your legal rights, and as patio11 suggested, drop hints that you're interested in your legal rights


It was time to leave, and the HR lady came to me and said I would have to sign a release letter and send it back within 2 work days (the following Monday was a holiday), otherwise I would not get any of the remaining pay, including my “stock options”. Apparently instead of full-time as stated in my offer letter, I was a “Contractor” and that the agreement was “terminated”. I guess that’s to protect them somehow. And the “stock options” that she said I would be paid amounted to $0 (as expected).

Based on the quotations around "stock options", the fact that the HR lady brought up the topic, not the author, and that the author adds "$0 (as expected)", it seems pretty clear that the author was not expecting, nor feeling entitled to any stock option compensation.


Or he expected them to screw him.


Assuming a standard vesting schedule, I doubt he vested at all in 9 weeks.


I'm not saying you're wrong, but that's not my read. Options given the amount of time he was with the organization? Maybe, but highly unlikely.


It isn't my read either. I just wanted to point out that the statement wasn't necessarily as prejudicial as the parent made it out to be.


It always blows my mind when countries get things right, and by that I mean providing adequate health, housing, and legal services to all residents.

Paying legal fees for employed persons sounds like a great way to provide them access to fair(er) representation. Otherwise if they have to pay out of pocket they can't afford it, and if it's loser pays the risk requires a large reward before it's rational to pursue.

Well done, again, Canada.


Canada doesn't provide free legal services to employed people. In this particular case, you can get assistance with legal fees for an employment-related dispute, but that by no means extends to other legal matters.


I worded it poorly, I didn't really think Canadian employees get free legal services for all matters.


When you have a smaller population the ratio of constituents to elected member goes down, making lobbying more expensive. We have just as many MPs as the US has senators and a tenth of the population.


Maximum monetary contributions to a political party in Canada is only a fraction of what it is in the US (1200$ max). Also it is impossible for a corporation to donate directly. This reduce lobbying to diner parties and yacht rides.

My guess is that lobbying is less intensive in Canada than in the US because it is very difficult to do legally. I watch a commission in Quebec about the alleged local corruption and I am stunned to see that most of what is at stake there would be absolutely legal in the US.


I am reminded that the USA was designed to have a much greater congressperson to person ratio than it currently has.


"We have just as many MPs as the US has senators and a tenth of the population."

wikipedia says Canada has 308 MPs and 108 senators; and the US has 2 senators per state and 50 states so 100 senators. US House has 435 reps.

Still a good point re: population per representative


Canadian senators are political cronies with expense accounts. It is unclear what, if anything, they contribute to democracy. Note that they have essentially no power. Just assume that Canada has one house in the legislative assembly, and then also a hole that we pour money into. The Canadian system has several.... "quirks". It is therefore astounding to me that it appears to work better in practice than the US system, which to my eye looks better-in-theory.


Meant to say congresspersons.


Exactly. As someone in HR will tell you, never ever ever mess with someone's paycheck that you owe them from the time they were in the office. Even if they were stealing from you, just pay them their wages and be done with them.


Hi Patrick,

Thanks for the tip. I always find your comments very helpful.

This was definitely a huge learning experience for me; probably better now than 15~20 years down the road. I too, was quite sure they would still have to pay me even if I didn't sign. I just wanted everything to be done with and never have to deal with them again. I've had to sue before, but I try to avoid it if at all possible.

Funny thing is there are 2 other points in the release:

Releases and forever discharges the company, its officers, directors, shareholders, etc etc etc...from suits, claims, demands, liabilities, etc, etc, etc.

Agrees not to disclose the terms of this Release to anyone other than the Contractor's professional advisors (well I consider HN my professional advisor so I guess I'm in the clear)

seems quite questionable to me.

Regardless, I will keep your advice in mind. The next time something like this occurs (hopefully never), I will be better equipped to deal with it!


Glad to help. I mostly give advice like this because I'm keenly aware that when I was young and stupid I was often a doormat in e.g. dealing with companies, and despite years of socialization which had suggested to me that being a doormat was praiseworthy, things started to get better in a hurry after I abandoned my default presumption of doormathood.

In your future professional dealings, and those of the peanut gallery, you may find that people often just expect you to agree to their terms because it's easy, and that this is sometimes not in your interest. I've done my fair share of that, and had it blow up in my face once or twice, and almost blow up in my face a few other times.

Not to talk too much of the particulars, but I once signed a fairly straightforward contract which had straightforward terms which I thought I understood. In my ignorance, I did not understand that one paragraph -- which I thought was "the usual boilerplate" -- obligated me to do something which would have been very against my interest. That situation ended up getting resolved amicably, but older and wiser consultants (and my lawyer), when told what I signed, have all the blood drain out of their face.

In the instant case, you've just been dealt a bum hand by an employer, and based on their previous conduct I would not advance them bus fare, to say nothing of going out of my way to help. That "release" might include, hypothetically, an indemnification, a term which sounds almost synonymous to programmers. It isn't. Your competent legal representative would, if they read "indemnification", say Oh Hell No. There are probably even worse terms that could potentially be in there that I'm not even sufficiently creative to dream up.

Why affirmatively ask for that sort of risk by signing a contract which gives you no upside at all? You don't owe them any more than declining politely and asserting that paying your for services rendered is not optional. Asserting yourself there probably isn't nearly as costly in real life as you might be modeling it as.

Anyhow, stuff to keep in mind for next time, and for those in the peanut gallery who might eventually be given a similar ultimatum.

Also, comporting yourself like a Serious Businessman who does Serious Business (like contracts) only when doing Serious Business routine things like asking for a contract review from an actual honest-to-6-minute-billing-increments attorney sends a strong signal to would-be counterparties that they should not attempt to take liberties with you.


Sorry for being thickheaded. I want to clarify the point of contention. The way I understand it ... the company wanted him to sign the release without "any real consideration". The claimed consideration was the employer would pay the employee his owed wages. I totally understand that this is not real consideration - they owed the employee this anyways. But what kind of consideration should/could he have expected?


I see it as they had removed the "continued mutual goodwill" from the equation, and were offering nothing additionally. (If my current employer asks me to sign something without any additional incentive, I'm not going to say no without inspecting it, since our continued mutual goodwill is important to me.)

That kinds of puts them into the same category as someone who comes up to you on the street and asks you to sign something. You don't owe them anything - there's no goodwill - there's no upside. They get "basic politeness" but not co-operation.

Sure, it might not cost you anything to sign, but you'd at least need to spend the effort (or money for a lawyer) to ensure that.


I've seen "severance" offered in exchange. E.g. we'll pay you what we owe you, but if you sign this we'll give you an additional month of salary.


This is whats termed a compromise agreement basically if you pay me x I will go quietly and your right just paying what your owed is not acceptable.


Don't take this the wrong way Jay but HN is not in any way a professional adviser that would be your lawyer or other "approved" person

So you signed a compromise agreement (which you have now broken) without getting anything for it or having a lawyer check it out.


Luckily my father advised me on this as soon as I started working. _NEVER_ sign anything. At one point early in my career a scummy employer wanted to fire me without reason, but did not want to pay the salary plus benefits required by law for wrongful termination.

I was asked by a lacky to sign the 'I quit' paper, essentially resigning my benefits.

Lesson here: Do not sign anything without asking a lawyer about it or at least reading it in depth.


I suppose you could get away with refusing to sign anything should you ever be terminated, but I doubt you'd be able to get many jobs without signing the initial hiring paperwork.

At least in my experience.


Can't speak for the law in the US, but my impression is that in general, if the company has told you you need to sign something to continue to be employed (or get a pay rise, or whatever), and you continue to come in to work, or accept the payrise, then you've accepted that contract.

What I'm saying is: don't assume you haven't accepted a contract just because the company doesn't have your signature on a piece of paper.


I did that with an old employee when the lead was an asshole.

How he calculate how much I work is base on how he feels like how much I work. Apparently the first day didn't count cause I spent the day root hacking an old employee Apple Laptop cause he didn't ask and refused to ask an old employee for the password (cause the guy was a dick apparently).

I just told them, repeatedly, "I would like to get paid for the amount that I've worked for". I calmly calculated the days I've worked and ask him if there were anything wrong with my calculated days and that we can talk about it. But I would like to get paid for the days I've worked. Lead email was like look man I don't wanna fight you I just feel like you work less but whatever. For the record he was a dick and a bully and basically said, this is how the place is going to be run if you don't like it you can leave. I told him that I'll leave.


Spot on, California employment laws and Federal laws in the US will absolutely devastate your business if you try your hand at pulling this kind of shit.


I think in the US the law says you have 45 days to respond to a written note like that.


What in the world?

I don't see how anybody tolerates this crap. I wouldn't have lasted a week there. And you better believe there'd be threats of legal action on any withheld pay. It's obvious to me that they're just riding horses into the ground until they get where they want to go.

I also wouldn't have put up with that "You're not 100% committed here," crap. I probably would have laughed in his face. "Look pal, unless you have a specific problem with the job I'm doing, stuff it. Then I'd make a show out of leaving at 5. A company needs to deserve overtime before I'll give it to them. Pulling shit like this is the fastest way of losing it.

It's easy to see the psychological tactic they're pulling, preying on your desire to be part of a team to extract an unreasonable amount of effort out of you. If they're using them on you, then they're probably using them on everybody and working there will be misery. Time to call the other shops and see if they filled their spots yet.


I totally agree. And I don't (put up with this kind of b.s. behavior). I'm willing to work very hard and diligently, and occasionally work overtime when absolutely and obviously necessary, but not just so the company feels like they're diluting my wages to an acceptable point.

I'm very cognizant of my wage and it's translation into hourly terms. When I get hired at a given salary, it's for 40 hours. If they want more hours, I expect more pay. Plus, I'm not shy about pointing out that numerous studies have shown steeply declining returns for each additional hour worked. Eighty hours of work does not equal twice as much productivity.

I actually worked a job where the department manager told us that he wanted us to start working 60 hour weeks. Not for any specific reason. Just because. So as a group we all started leaving, very deliberately, at 5 o'clock. When our 40 hours were up, we were gone until Monday. That particular manager made our lives difficult enough as it was, so we weren't particularly worried about his ability to do anything more than just whine about it.


I would have probably left at "Stop fucking around and get shit done". I'm far from being a shy person and I do use the f. word quite often, but never have I insulted any of my colleagues nor would I ever think of doing so. That would be so un-professional and morally bad.


I want to be your friend/coworker so badly. I hate management praying on the modest and kind. At my old job we had a really shy intern and he took all the shit that came his way and it was really sad to see.


It's ugly out there. I think my secret is that I didn't really get into the office world until my late twenties. By then I'd bounced around dozens of different jobs, been in and out of the military, college, sales, construction. I've been fired at as many jobs as I've quit.

Now I see this stuff going on and I'm wise to it. Four months ago I started working for this company, the understanding was I'd work for three months at $20 an hour then they'd hire me at $60K.

Three months roll around, nothing. I called my recruiter, told my boss, but nothing happened for another two weeks. Finally I badger my boss into making some inquiries. He tells me we're all good, follow me into the CFO's office and we'll talk about bringing you on.

I get in there and the guy tells me that the recruiter's fee is $8K and they don't want that going on this year's balance sheet. So they want to bring me on Jan. 1st.

Fuck that.

I told him, no, that's not acceptable, we need to work something out. The difference in pay is $400 a week, are you willing to give me that as a bonus? He tells me maybe they can come up off a grand. I stare at him until he cracks. Finally he says he might be able to get them to put the fee on next year and they can bring me on Dec. 1. I didn't react to that.

After I get back to my desk, I'm pissed. After venting to my boss, he lets me go home at lunchtime. I spent the weekend shoring up my resolve. Monday morning rolls around, I call my recruiter and tell him to start looking for a new job for me, and explain to him the heap of bullshit they're expecting me to swallow. He doesn't want to give up just yet and asks me if I'd be willing to make a deal. I tell him I want a salary bump to $65K. I leave work that day feeling better than I had all weekend after finally sacking up and doing something.

The next day I get a call from my recruiter saying they're going to bring me on immediately, at $60K. I didn't get the raise but I don't care, it's a victory and everyone knows it. The CFO looked like a sad puppydog who had his toy taken away when he came around to drop the news himself. My boss and I are chuckling a bit as he leaves.


Vince -- I don't want to piss on your parade, but I've worked for dishonest people and it's never worked out for me: every time I've done it I've come to regret it. You may want to start looking... Good luck.


No, these guys are great, it's just that the CFO decided I needed a few more months to stew, it's that bean counter mentality. If they really sucked, I'd have already been gone, it just wouldn't have been worth it to fight.

It wasn't just me bitching to my recruiter. From what I gathered, my boss got like all the department heads to go by his office and ask him when they're bringing me on. He didn't want to brag, and I think he wanted to let me have my victory, but it's as much due to him as it to me.


This is pretty crappy - if I encountered that, I would seriously think about walking out on that company and let everyone know exactly why. My brother is experiencing something similar with regards to getting screwed out of his rightful market value (although different circumstances), but at a major corporation which I'll refrain from naming. The company pays him well, but he got stiffed pretty hardcore compared to some of the others, to the tune of $30k+/year less & no signing bonus, so my brother has let everyone know how discontent he is with HR, even to the degree of enlisting the director of HR for his company to look into his case (via our uncle, who was a former VP for this company in their top division - my brother got his job by 100% merit though, without letting anyone know about this relation).

My brother's contract ends in about an year - due to this screwjob, he is requiring a massive salary increase + rectification of the missing signing bonus + extra vacation benefits or he walks. He said if the company did right by him in the beginning, he would have accepted much more modest increases, but he is furious over HR & HR's refusal to fix their mistake once he found out that other nearly identical hires got paid significantly more than him (with the only real difference being that he was the younger hotshot hire than the others).

It's pretty sad that some of these supposed top class companies are making what I would term as rookie mistakes. If they want to attract & retain top talent, they need to be treating them like top talent because the top talent don't want to stay at a company that doesn't treat its employees right.


I hope you left this company anyways as soon as you found something looking better.


It's a really cool job. My coworkers are awesome, no one's looking over my shoulder, my boss loves me. The work is interesting to me, and I have a shot at making a real difference. (to the company, not the world) I really couldn't ask for anything better in a job at this point in my career. But I need to get paid.


> praying

Do you mean preying, I dare ask?


Yes, he does.


Whoops, yes thanks.


In business, people will push for all they can get. That includes you, after all, I presume you negotiated a good salary and conditions?

Two examples from my past:

The law here in Victoria changed, and I (as a contractor) became a payroll tax liability to the company that hired me. So their CFO scheduled a meeting with me and informed me that he expected me to lower my rate to take into account the payroll tax.

I said, "no - the legislation clearly states that the liability is incumbent upon the employer."

He said, "yes, that's true" and dropped the matter. I continued there amicably for another year or so before my contract expired.

Another example: I joined a company as a permanent employee (not a contractor) with clearly specified business hours in my employment contract, and no mention whatsoever of on-call work.

Then a few weeks after joining, it was announced that there was a requirement for 24 hour support from the dev team, and we'd all be expected to participate. My response was: I'm happy to keep an eye out for problems if I'm at my computer and not busy, but on-call was never part of the deal, and I'm not doing it.

Nothing bad came from my refusal in either case; in fact, I suspect my dealings with the first company was smoother afterwards, once it became apparent that I was not a push-over.

Some caveats:

- in neither case were the people involved assholes; rather the contrary in fact

- I was in my thirties when both things happened; had I been in my early twenties I almost certainly would have caved to both requests (self-respect and confidence both lacking back then)

- I remained calm and polite at all times


In nature, the animals will push for all they can get - red in tooth and claw etc.

No thanks, we are above that shit.


Kudos for that

A good contract and a good professional attitude does wonders


There are startups like this. I left one before a pivotal point that might have resulted in me making some money for some of the very same reasons:

1) Commitment was questioned -- in my case, I disappeared for a rainy weekend for my wife's birthday and wasn't online over the weekend.

2) Attitude was questioned -- regular beat the staff meetings in the morning after pulling an all nighter, I tossed the pen to the next guy (a friend) and miss threw and it hit the ceiling. "Why are you being an asshole?" It took a bit to realize that was what was being asked.

3) After a great showing at Demo we launched with no ops/support and engineers with the knowledge (me) were expected to be on call after 80 hour weeks. I got grumbled at due to a support issue as I was returning from a morning at the Legion of Honor and heading down Highway 1 (no signal, peace). Oh, the wife wasn't happy either -- "why are they bugging you on a Saturday morning?"

That said, the overall product we built was one of the more fun and diverse I was involved in. It was very hard to make the decision, but sometimes you know it is just right to walk away.

There are startups that are like that. Sometimes, like the post above, the signs are there early. Sometimes, they don't show themselves until much later.

A couple of years later when the company had an exit, of the 35+ people that were there when I left, only four that I new (including the two founders) actually remained.


"A couple of years later when the company had an exit, of the 35+ people that were there when I left, only four that I new (including the two founders) actually remained."

Assuming it was a good exit, those 2 are some shrewd (and despicable) founders.


I wouldn't stay there more than a day. And I'd also expose the company name.


Things happen and you learn/move on. No need to expose the company. One of the main focal individuals (not a founder, but not reigned in) has had his own trials, based on reputation, since. That is enough for me.

It was a learning experience for me -- specifically, not to get lost in the interest of solving problems at the expense of personal work/life balance.

We all have our faults, professionally, you hopefully learn what those are and not repeat them.


If nobody's aware of it, nobody is going to "learn not to repeat" them don't you think?


> I'd also expose the company name.

Defamation lawsuits are expensive to launch or defend; but a vengeful founder usually has more money that an individual.


nothing about revenge, its about letting others know before they get in the same troubles.

if you're a scared american, anonymity still works on the internet. for now.


Wow. I'm a founder of a tech company, and the thought of checking someone's LinkedIn profile or old website to verify degree of commitment would never even occur to me. The fact that someone would not only think of it, but actually act on it is absolutely mind-boggling. I've seen new managers do silly things, but this is seriously new.


Serious question, or at least food for thought:

How are you instilling that attitude in your company? How big would your company need to grow before misguided middle management might be appointed who _does_ think this is an appropriate management technique, resulting in this happening on your watch with you later described as a "detached executive"?

Having stuff like this "never even occur to you" leaves you in the possible danger of not being aware if it starts happening around you. (Though, in this instance, the revolving door developer role should have brought some scrutiny on the manager in question…)


This is a good point. I've never managed more than 15 people so I can only speculate, but it seems that the proverbial fish rots from the head (I'm sure I'll learn many painful lessons when it's time to grow).

The startup described by the OP is smaller than our company, and they already have this problem. If we were large enough to need middle management, I would be absolutely paranoid about hiring good people that understand management. There is a lot of culture around hiring good engineers and sneering at management, but it seems to me that hiring good managers is an order of magnitude more important. A bad engineering hire can be a very expensive mistake, but a bad management hire can be absolutely devastating. They can derail their own team, and a few other teams they interface with.

If I had a really insecure/misguided manager like that reporting to me, I cannot imagine not noticing. Here's one simple trick to do that -- have occasional one on ones with their reports. Most people won't necessarily say anything bad about their manager directly, but you can quickly gauge people's sensibility in what they don't say. It's like doing reference calls on hires. Few people will say "this guy wasn't good" but there is an enormous difference between references who say "this guy was ok" and "this guy was spectacular". You can sense it very quickly if you're looking out for it.


I think it's really important for startups to promote their first managers from within, and to do so based on character & social skills rather than technical skills. The former is what gives you an opportunity to observe the latter. From what I've heard, Google's culture took a severe dip from 2005-2007 because they hired a bunch of outside managers, and to some extent the problem self-corrected but not before driving away some really talented engineers.

Also, I would advise against not having 1:1s with your direct reports' reports. To a new manager, it can feel like you're undermining them and don't trust them, and to an individual contributor it can make it very confusing who they should bring ideas or concerns to.

Instead, hold informal lunches with a subset of individual contributors without the manager present. This is a great way to get them to know & trust you as a leader, and you can still gauge the tone of their happiness from how they react at the lunch. You also sometimes become aware of whole-company cultural or organizational problems this way, things that really need a founder/CEO's intervention to get fixed. And if you pull the subset from across different teams, it also serves as a way for people from across different teams to get to know each other and strengthens social ties between different areas of the company.


"have occasional one on ones with their reports"

That sounds like "360-degree feedback":

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/360-degree_feedback

Which seems like a good idea but I've known of places that turned the entire process into a process that sounded like something from the Chinese Cultural Revolution - where all managers were ritually had their characters attacked by everyone surrounding them (usually to the point of tears).


Well I guess I never mentioned it in my post as that would make it very easy for my old employer to be named, but there are around ~50 people in the company, although they tout themselves as a startup (and pay like one too).


I think at a certain size, a strong HR dept presents a feedback loop to address the potential issues involved with middle management. I would imagine these issues arise from unconfident managers who are working proactively to hit BS metrics like hours worked, lines of code or attendance at beer events.


It is either ignorance or a reflection of good hiring practices and management. IMO, company cultures which are transparent spend less time mitigating FUD by spending more time finding people they trust and respect.


i would totally check on the linkedin status if i thought the employe is going to leave - if anything's private then i won't be able to see it anyway, but certainly not act on it.


Why would you spend your time at work looking at information you cannot and will not act on?


To me this is less about 'beer and overtime' and more about conformity to pre-existing culture.

It doesn't matter if it's beer or if it's Star Trek or if it's an religious-like attitude to Cucumber Testing or even if it's a tech company or not, the fact is that some potential asshole who's on a slightly higher salary than you can decide to fuck with your livelihood if you don't tow some intangible line that matters to them.

I see it as a byproduct of capitalism, bosses will be bosses, and I've seen people trashed with 'fairness' as often as I have seen them trashed with non-conformity to whatever the ones in charge (or even the ones in the middle) care about.

As long as you have a list of conditions attached to your paycheck, this isn't going to change. It sucks, but it is how it is. You either have to play the game or find some place to work where the game is tolerable to you and your values. It doesn't matter how you cast it, but there's always a game to be played, some will seem more virtuous than others, and that will change from person to person.


Yeah, first? I agree that "cultural fit" is bullshit; It's the result of people placing the comfort of working with people "like them" over actually getting things done.

however...

>I see it as a byproduct of capitalism, bosses will be bosses, and I've seen people trashed with 'fairness' as often as I have seen them trashed with non-conformity to whatever the ones in charge (or even the ones in the middle) care about.

I don't see how you relate it to capitalism. This is about valuing 'culture' over money; you are going to see it even more in a co-op or commune.

Now, you could say in capitalism, this "cultural fit" is more top-down, but I don't think it's any less ugly or destructive because it's coming from your peers.

I mean, that's what some people like; some people only want to deal with people who are like them. But it's not a profit-maximizing move.


Ah, I suppose what I mean by capitalism is a more pathological optimisation of employees with authority. If you think of a company as something that is optimising for profitability through not only producing something, but by doing everything in their power to stifle competition, by preventing competitors from succeeding by any legal means, then you can look at an employee and their behaviour in a similar matter.

People often have houses to pay off, kids to feed, cars to buy, and they're interested in maintaining their foothold. They might say they buy in to a companies culture but the reality is, if they had to sacrifice themselves for said culture they'd always put their interests first.

So employees with limited power and authority over their little domain, are going to act in their own interests by as you say hiring people like themselves, by creating a culture that matches their values and keeps outsiders at bay, and by ousting anything that threatens the status quo.

It would be really interesting to see how things would work if people were able to separate costs of living and productive activity, but because they're tied up they're going to influence each other.

Why would someone over-quote on a job? Because they want more money so they can buy that thing they want or pay down their house quicker. Why would someone fire someone for not being a 'cultural fit', maybe it's because their behaviour threatens their position in some way. No questions are good questions. If Blackberry could have flipped a switch and prevented the iPhone from ever being made, by god they would have done it. It's the same behaviour and it's prevalent as hell.

So, that's what I mean.

EDIT: It ultimately does come down to money and protecting income streams (i.e. employment) while expending the least amount of energy as required. It's hard work for a manager to look after the needs of a team that has a cultural outlier even if they are ultimately improving business outcomes. It's easier to have people to nod their heads in agreement and show up 9 to 5, produce maybe 10 hours of true productive work a week. It's such an easy think to fake and it happens everywhere.


>So employees with limited power and authority over their little domain, are going to act in their own interests by as you say hiring people like themselves, by creating a culture that matches their values and keeps outsiders at bay, and by ousting anything that threatens the status quo.

The thing you are missing is that while I may benefit when /other people/ discriminate in favor of my group, as an individual? I actually lose out if I discriminate based on irrelevant factors.

(Now, if there was some kind of enforcement of this clan altruism; if I stopped getting the in-group benefits because I refused to place the interests of the group before my own interests, then it'd be different. But I haven't seen any cases, at least in my career, where that sort of defection is punished.)

Now, there are all sorts of emotional/cultural reasons to discriminate against outsiders, if you have a strong group identity, but it's certainly not in your financial best interest.

Trade unions don't have a significantly better history with discrimination than management does. This problem goes far beyond monetary self-interest.


"Cultural fit" isn't bullshit, it's just a euphemism for how reasonable someone's personality is. It's easier to say "I don't think they'll fit our culture" instead of saying "their personality sucks"


Agree with this completely. Cultural fit is (imo) the most important hiring criteria (way way more important than experience with the language).

Employees are going to be part of your team for at least two years. If your team can't stand them then that's going to be painful.

However, "Cultural Fit" used as an excuse to prevent team diversity is bullshit. Every study done on it has proven that diversity increases team productivity. If a team is mostly white middle-class guys and not hiring girls because of cultural fit, then yeah, that's bullshit.


But how do you tell? It's not the 1950s any more. Prejudice doesn't manifest itself openly, with people saying, "Oh yeah, there's no way that a darkie would be able to understand this work," or, "Yeah, we can't hire her because she'll get married and pregnant." These days, prejudice manifests itself far more subtly. It's a sense of discomfort that people get when they're seated across the table from someone who's different from them. It's questions that are more difficult, or answers that are more harshly judged. It's a matter of choosing which comments to focus on and which ones to let slide.

I think that instead of looking for positive "culture fit" (which just seems to encourage every interviewer to judge the candidate by whatever subconscious prejudices they have) we need to enforce "no assholes." In other words, we should flip the burden of proof. Instead of requiring the candidate to demonstrate that they are a culture fit, we need to have the interviewer demonstrate that the culture fit isn't there. In the debrief, when one of the interviewers says that the candidate was not a culture fit, I would ask them to back up that statement with specific statements or behaviors that the candidate exhibited in the interview. I think that would do a lot to counter our unconscious predilection to look favorably on people just like us and harshly on people who aren't


Every study done on it has proven that diversity increases team productivity.

There is a major file drawer effect here. Writing a study proving the opposite is a career limiting move.


Good old political correctness. I'd say the need to be PC is part of the reason why companies use the excuse of cultural fit as a reason to axe someone.

"We have these other prejudices but we can't tell you what those are because if we do, you have grounds to sue us, so instead, we're going to simply chalk it up to a poor cultural fit."


It goes the other way too. Good luck if all your COBOL programmers happen to be women, say. One of HR's main jobs in any layoff situation is to make sure it's racially and sexually plausible.


>Every study done on it has proven that diversity increases team productivity

Which studies?

They don't say that, exactly.

http://www.academia.edu/887990/The_effects_of_team_diversity...

Over the past few decades,a great deal of research has been conducted to examine the complexrelationship between team diversity and team outcomes. However,the impact of team diversity onteam outcomes and moderating variables potentially affecting this relationship are still not fullyanswered with mixed findings in the literature. These research issues were,therefore,addressed byquantitatively reviewing extant work and provided estimates of the relationship between team diver-sity and team outcomes. In particular,the effects of task-related and bio-demographic diversity at the group-level were meta-analyzed to test the hypothesis of synergistic performance resulting fromdiverse employee teams. Support was found for the positive impact of task-related diversity on team performance although bio-demographic diversity was not significantly related to team perfor-mance. Similarly,no discernible effect of team diversity was found on social integration. The impli-cations of the review for future research and practices are also discussed.

http://www.palgrave-journals.com/jibs/journal/v41/n4/abs/jib...

Previous research on the role of cultural diversity in teams is equivocal, suggesting that cultural diversity's effect on teams is mediated by specific team processes, and moderated by contextual variables. To reconcile conflicting perspectives and past results, we propose that cultural diversity affects teams through process losses and gains associated with increased divergence and decreased convergence. We examine whether the level (surface-level vs deep-level) and type (cross-national vs intra-national) of cultural diversity affect these processes differently. We hypothesize that task complexity and structural aspects of the team, such as team size, team tenure, and team dispersion, moderate the effects of cultural diversity on teams. We test the hypotheses with a meta-analysis of 108 empirical studies on processes and performance in 10,632 teams. Results suggest that cultural diversity leads to process losses through task conflict and decreased social integration, but to process gains through increased creativity and satisfaction. The effects are almost identical for both levels and types of cultural diversity. Moderator analyses reveal that the effects of cultural diversity vary, depending on contextual influences, as well as on research design and sample characteristics. We propose an agenda for future research, and identify implications for managers.

That being said, I still don't advocate a monoculture environment, if not for one reason, it isn't the right thing to do to discriminate.


wow, thanks for the info. I missed this reply completely. Very useful links.

There's also the huge risk of groupthink with a monoculture (something that doesn't strictly fall under the heading 'productivity').


We have an unofficial line in our contracts with both employees and customers that essentially just says "I will try not to be an asshole". It does not always work, but I like having an expectation set up front that everyone is going to put in the minimum effort towards being reasonable.


well, just be aware that when you say that you care about "cultural fit" I (and many others) assume it's code for "I'm a racist/sexist twit"


> As long as you have a list of conditions attached to your paycheck, this isn't going to change. It sucks, but it is how it is. You either have to play the game or find some place to work where the game is tolerable to you and your values. It doesn't matter how you cast it, but there's always a game to be played, some will seem more virtuous than others, and that will change from person to person.

A reasonable workplace would be able to accommodate people with different personalities and viewpoints as long as they treat each other with respect and consideration. Such workplaces are however quite rare.


No-where has "full capitalism". There are some conditions that you cannot attach to a paycheck.


>>“I’m not saying you should be working 80 hours a week, but 70 is not ridiculous to ask, and if you were committed you would do more”.

From when did working 30+ additional extra hours just became a sign of being merely committed? The way I see these are just mind games played to extract tons of work for free.

I see this pretty standard these days. The Google 20% time policy is a standard in many companies to get free innovation out, while your grinding your bones to dust(sold to you as 'chasing your passion' , 'developers like to code during late night and weekends', 'world changing problems' etc) working whole nights to get some thing done, a VP some where is sleeping through his job. What happens at the end of it is the VP gets a fat bonus and a promotion for 'driving the innovation' while you are at the very best known to be just 'committed' and given a certification, which isn't even worth the paper its printed on.

Almost any time you hear some senior guy glorifying long working hours, demanding free innovation and depicting heroic contribution as just doing bare minimum job. Know one thing for sure, this guy is going to leech you till the last drop of blood in your body.


I don't know what it is about people that are in our field. We seem to be too trusting and too honest.

I followed this along and there are so many signs that the person should have realized, "hey, I'm being screwed here or about to be screwed, do something about it". Instead, he kept going based on what he was told even though his own intuition told him otherwise.

One thing I have learned is that strong, aggressive and manipulative people size you up instantly by throwing something at you that puts your own strength on the line. This could be a request they make of you, a statement or something else.

If you at that moment don't show that you are just as strong and aggressive as they can be but choose not to be, then they know they have you and will step all over you all the time.

Standing up for yourself and calling out the project manager for making you looking like you were fired instead of quitting is not a question of being professional or not. The obvious question will be "Why didn't you speak up? You were already being let go?" The project manager would not dare to do such a thing if the right boundaries were setup initially.


What are good questions to ask during an interview to avoid situations like these? How are other people weeding out employers like this one? This sounds like a bad situation that I'm sure we'd all like to avoid.


Spending years as a short term on site contractor I've picked up one question I find invaluable. I always ask "what are the pain points you have to deal with"

I've asked it so often and been in so many different teams I can more or less tell what the working environment and management will be like now.

Generally they aren't expecting this question so you catch them flat footed and get a clear unfiltered emotional response. The emotion on there faces betrays them. Every team has pain points, they have to answer the question with something negative, but its how they react with them that gives away a lot about the work place.

From a good teams you'll get a chuckle or story, which indicates to me a culture of understanding and dealing with things sensibly. Sometimes just a smile followed by a negative statement like "well releasing is problematic". But its that initial positive reaction.

From bad teams I've seen panicked looks between interviewers to make sure they don't divulge something, people turning white/clammy/sweaty, refusals to answer/insisting to move on/changing topics, silent stars at me LOL anything thats not openly a positive emotion.


I agree that's an excellent question. It's not fool proof, but no question is. Given my experience, I think it'd catch 90%+ of the bad apples.

Thanks for sharing. I'll use it from now on in job interviews.


Wow. This is a great question. Not just for interviewers, though.

I manage a small team and was wondering what I would say if asked this question--probably that our pain points are our server hardware/software, which are a bit, shall we say, "antique". Some of the other pain points fall out of that one.


I like it. It's the flip side of "So what's your greatest weakness" bullshit question that's sometimes asked of employees.


I don't think there's a sure-fire way to know, but you can ask upfront (even in the initial communications by email or phone) if it's a new position, or a "backfill."

And during the phone or in-person interview you can ask questions about team dynamics, like who you report to and are working with, how long the interviewer has been working there and how they like it, etc., to try to get a sense for how things work.

And I'd say ask as many questions as you can reasonably think of--it's more about how they answer questions than the answers themselves.

If they show resistance or evasiveness, then that may be a bad sign.


Abouth the `backfill': you can also ask about length of average stay at the company.


You can, but there's no way of finding out if it's true until you're there.


Indeed. But that's true for almost all questions. (Don't just ask for an average, ask for the shape of the distribution.)


It's probably a bit tough when it comes to a small outfit like the one described. In this case the main red flag was the mysterious previous developers. So to avoid situations like this one would have to find people who previously worked at the candidate employer and have them give references for their former boss.


I make a point of telling them in the interview that I don't work over 40 hours a week. (This may not be strictly true, but I don't want to work for a company that would consider it a problem if it was).


That's another good question to ask: how often is overtime "required"?

You can usually spot it in the job ads themselves (look for "fast-paced," frequent references to "deadlines," and similar language).


Call a lawyer, this sounds super fishy if the location is in Vancouver.

Did they ever deduct taxes from you? Did you give them a GST number? Did you submit invoices to them?

If they made deductions and you didn't give them a GST number they are likely in big trouble.

If a judge smells employment he will classify you as such as make sure you get your due.


Having no experience with startups, I gotta say that I have some sympathy and it sounds horrible, however, what does this have to do with beer? I read the whole story and you had one friday night, after hours, with beer, and you didn't partake as you are a teetotaler. That's fine. I didn't see any other references to that fact, so I'm confused how it has anything to do with the story. It doesn't sound like they have beer there every day and you were let go because you didn't drink. Just one instance where you were questioned about a single party (which is none of their business, IMO).


I agree that one party night with beer doesn't really add up to a 'culture of beer'. I was hoping for a much more gripping tale of a beer-oriented office.


I've worked for a start-up which definitely had a "beer culture." It sucked. Some people should not be allowed to mix beer with work. Especially if they're a VP.


It's well-known in startup circles that companies provide food/soda/beer to their developers in the hope that they'll work harder.


It's a bargain, from the company's POV. For $5 worth of pizza per person, you can easily get $200 worth of overtime. That is why it is so hilarious when CFOs cut perks like that to save money. Actually that is an alarm bell: it means the management of your company do not get it.


Yea, it probably wasn't the best title, but in terms of "beer nights", they were more frequent than 1, I just don't want to ramble on and on.


Makes sense. From the sound of things I have to say that I'm very glad I don't work in a startup, or at least a startup like that place. I even enjoy beer (please though, don't assume I'm a 'brogrammer'), but can't imagine having to go to parties with my coworkers and being judged if I don't drink, or drink too much, etc.

Also, those hours, ugh.


70 hours a week is just crazy. Working 14 hour days for even a week sprint is a really awful week, and represents serious bad planning, bad management, or a massive resource shortage. Expecting that kind of workload on a sustained basis is not just a bad organizational culture, it's borderline unethical.

On our team, if these kinds of workloads start popping up before a product launch, there is a serious discussion about it. It means that someone over promised, and that person needs to be taken to task.


“I’m not saying you should be working 80 hours a week, but 70 is not ridiculous to ask, and if you were committed you would do more”.

My response would be: So I'll of course be getting a 1.75x raise over my current salary, right?

To be clear, I'm not against really giving it your all for your work, but I lament how across much of the tech industry putting in insane hours is considered just the baseline. If I've got real equity in a company and I'm really a "stakeholder" (a term that gets thrown around to a ridiculous degree), sure, I'll work my ass off. If you're paying me approximately market rates and a piddling amount of common shares that are bound to be diluted away to nothing, sorry but you're going to have to do much better than that if you expect me to negatively impact my overall quality of life to any degree.


At one of my first jobs, I resigned after about a year because I found a job that offered 2x as much in terms of salary.

Director: "How much is the new place offering? We can match."

I told him the number.

Immediately his tone changed, and said I should take the other offer.

I wanted to give a 2 week notice, which I thought was the norm, but he asked me to leave immediately and use up my remaining days as vacation days as my last few days at the company.

At that time I did not realize that I was entitled to my pay for the remaining vacation days, so I agreed to it without much thought. Part of it was because I could not imagine this guy doing anything shady in my previous interactions with him, as he always seemed like a stand up guy.

By forcing me to use my vacation hours, the company saved a few hundred dollars, which would have been a lot for me at the time as I only had a few hundred dollars in my bank account.

But looking back in retrospect and reading many similar stories, it seems common, almost expected, for younger kids to be screwed over like this in the workplace, especially when departing a company.


If your new job was paying 2x, then the sooner you quit your old job the better it is for you financially.


How do they save money? If you use your 2 weeks of vacation, they send you a check for 2 weeks pay at the end. The exact same thing would happen if you cashed out your vacation days, albeit with slightly different paperwork.


No. He offered to work two weeks, which would have meant they owed him two weeks of pay plus two weeks of vacation days. Instead he took two weeks of vacation pay and no pay for work.


IANAL, but this practice is illegal in many places. If your days off are called something like "vacation days" or "PTO", they're regulated by the government. Generally the company has to pay them out after leave and the company can't make you work them. If they're called "personal days" or something similar the company usually doesn't have to pay you for them when you leave.

This case was probably wage theft. If it was within the last few years, the government would probably like to hear about it. Most states have a department of labor or something similar that investigates this sort of thing.


Yeah but it's the same difference. If you resign, they can ask you to immediately stop working. At that point, you're cut a check for your vacation days. If the company decides to let you use your vacation days, you're paid with a normal payroll check. It should amount to about the same thing. I'm guessing this made things simpler paperwork-wise but amounted to the same pay. And the employee would also get two weeks with health benefits.


You were treated fairly. Bluntly but fairly.

When you turn in your resignation, your notice is just an offer of a grace period. They are not obligated to take you up on your offer.


To be clear, the specific part you mention is fair...but I don't think anyone would object to that.

The part where it seems somewhat unfair is where the director asked weixiyen to give up pay they were entitled to.

It's fair enough to ask for a favor ("hey, do you mind using up your vacay days before you leave?"), but you should make clear that it is a favor and what it entails - it sounds like that may not have done in this instance.


Unless the state has particular laws, every contract I've had as an employee allows me to quit at any time, and be fired at any time, without reason given.

The director was under no obligation, after that notice, to allow him to work those last two weeks and then take the vacation. He was obligated to pay the vacation as it was compensation earned by weixiyen. But weixiyen (again, could be wrong if his/her state has certain laws) had no legal grounds to compel the company to allow him/her to continue working.


Depends. Some countries will require you to work a certain amount of time. And some contracts will require you to work after handing in a notice.


Brazil requires one month of work after notice is given by either side. The employer may give up the additional month if the employee resigns, and the employee may choose to deduce the pay of this month from their severance if they don't want to stay. The employer may also choose to terminate immediately and pay the wage of the additional month even if the worker doesn't work.


Spain requires 15 working days notice for example, although if you leave on good terms there's usually a certain amount of flexibility.


Was anyone else reminded of this? http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/29/magazine/dave-eggers-ficti...

"Denise’s smile was pained. “But then there’s your absence at most of the weekend and evening events, all of which are of course totally optional, and your corresponding PartiRank, which is surprisingly low for a newbie."

"Optional" beer party anyone?


This isn't about the beer parties, or the linkedin profile, or the personal website. It's about a petty PM with no legitimate complaints who has the misguided notion that you should be working 70 hours, and he is casting about for stupid reasons to call you "not committed." If that PM had any actual authority, then the author was 100% right to leave. Even if he didn't, that may not have been an environment you want to work in anyway if that sort of manipulation flies, so leaving might have been good. But I've been in situations like this where some clueless guy in a polo shirt and khakis thinks he's going to jedi mind trick you into working harder, and sometimes the correct response is to just ignore him instead of deciding the whole environment is toxic. It's a matter of how much influence this guy really had over the team.

Nobody else in the office who isn't trying to pull this lame bullshit gives a damn if you go to the beer parties or not. Some people like them, some people don't. Some people just want a chance to unwind after work and shoot the breeze over a beer. Some people want to fuck off at 5:00 sharp on friday and go home and drink beers by themselves or with their real friends. Some people don't drink. Nobody cares. Sure, there are brogrammers in the world who are going to diss you or think you're lame for not doing it, but this is on the level of people who would diss you for wearing the wrong brand of shoes, so fuck 'em. Same with the linkedin and website stuff: nobody cares unless they're trying to use it as a pathetically ineffective lever against you. It would be like complaining that you haven't posted any Facebook updates gushing about your new job. You'd just laugh in their faces or ignore them, because it's just so ludicrously irrelevant.

Through reading the article, I waffled between sympathizing with the author and thinking he sounds like someone who doesn't have the backbone to say "come back to me when you have concerns based on something real." The impression that I got was that the author accepted that these factors were the measure of his contribution in this particular team, and thus decided that this was not the team for him, whereas what was needed was to put his foot down and say "no, you're not measuring me that way." Because unless the whole company really was toxic, I doubt many others would have gone along with such a weak bunch of evidence that he's "not committed."


I definitely agree with you. I've made attempts on 2 separate days to speak with the PM about his petty excuses to label me as "not committed". Of course, that includes pointing out that the 3 points he brought up are completely irrelevant in terms of measuring my commitment, but in the end, it was impossible to reason with him, and I just didn't want to put up with that anymore.


Fair enough. It's easy to armchair quarterback and talk about what we would have done in your shoes. Good for you for getting out of there.


Funny you should mention that article, this blog post has been on my mind for a long time, but I never got around to it[1].

Part of the reason I finally wrote it and posted it on HN was because of seeing that article a while back.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6673385


Ya, the LinkedIn stuff was spookily similar too. You were living in the (dystopian) future!

"On Friday, you find out that your dad’s O.K. But the rest of the weekend, you basically go blank. You logged into your profile only three times, and nothing was updated. It’s like you disappeared!"

BTW: if you haven't chosen a new gig yet, or you're still freelancing as well, feel free - or encouraged - to fire me an email (in my profile). We're based just over here in Victoria, but do the 100% remote thing.


Sent!


I encountered the same criticism (not doing overtime) when I was working for a Japanese company even though I'm the only one who is doing 5 projects at the same time and all ahead of schedule with no major issues. I was actually passed over for a promotion because of it. This post brings back bad memories :)


Could you elaborate a bit? I know the Japanese generally work long hours, and would love to hear an eyewitness' account of how things are done there and how you were dealing with the status quo (i.e. what you told your bosses, did you experience peer pressure).


Well we normally have a time in (9am) and this is usually enforced via a fingerprint scanner and a physical attendance check by one of the admin person. There are 3 checks a day: morning, lunch, and 3pm tea break. Lunch break strictly starts at 11:45am until 12:45pm and tea break starts at 3:30pm until 3:45pm, any tardiness even 1 minute late would be reprimanded by one of the senior managers. We work until 6pm, well that was the plan, but for the most part everybody stays an hour late, but the Japanese folks in the company usually stays in until 11pm. I know this for a fact because one time I came back in the office around 10pm and everybody (Japanese) was still there (we're not allowed to access the servers remotely, any critical issues should be addressed from the office).

For the most part there's no peer pressure from my colleagues (both Japanese and non-Japanese), but the pressure comes from the senior management. My probation period was extended because of me leaving on time everyday, even though all of my tasks are completed.

I left the company for a different reason though. I applied for my honeymoon leave and got rejected twice.

(This little story is by no means a representation of all Japanese companies or all Japanese, just a retelling of my experience working for a Japanese company)


Very interesting, thanks.

The fact that they monitor 1-min deviations from prescribed time really seems outlandish to me. Makes me view my chill startup job (45-55 hours a week) in a new light.


I'm starting a new policy of not reading posts like this unless they say who the offending company is.


I once created a throwaway account here to post about a company's bad practices. I named the company, as well.

It was immediately removed from this site.

I'm actually from Vancouver, so I would love to know the name of the company.

The OP's old employer:

1. Has one (big) claim to fame 2. Located in Vancouver 3. Has a product "dealing with large amounts of money from customers’ bank accounts"

But (3) might not be part of a product already released.

There are a lot of game developers in Van--with, of course, a thriving beer/overtime culture, but who really knows, to be honest.


I'm very hesitant to post the name of the company because most of my experience has to do with the PM, and not the company as a whole. Although I do have some issues with how this company is run in particular, I do not want to misguide people into thinking that working at this company will be an absolute nightmare.

I have seen different dynamics on other teams within the company, but it's also not the complete picture as I am not part of those teams.

Either way, (3) is a new product, essentially a startup on it's own. There are many other such projects within the company.

It is also not a game development company.


> "Either way, (3) is a new product, essentially a startup on it's own."

Hehehe, the good old "it's a startup inside a big company!" thing. Here's my advice for when someone pitches that thought to you: run away.

Here's the thing about "startup inside a big company!" - it's never true.


Yeah, I'm from Vancouver and curious as well.


If you agree to indemnify them against defamation claims, I'm sure lots of people would be happy to name names.


I don't think that's an issue. What's the company going to do, prove what a great place to work they are by suing a former employee?

I just think that if you're so moved by your experience that you need to write a blog post about it, you should say who you're writing about so others may try and avoid your fate.


> I don't think that's an issue. What's the company going to do, prove what a great place to work they are by suing a former employee?

Yes. Because if they win, the person making the claims has to retract them publicly and the original statements are usually destroyed. The threshold of defamation varies from place to place -- in some jurisdictions truth is only a partial defence.

And, if they genuinely are pricks, they will sue because they are.

In the meantime, the respondent has to rack up hairy legal bills.

> I just think that if you're so moved by your experience that you need to write a blog post about it, you should say who you're writing about so others may try and avoid your fate.

You're asking them to externalise the benefit and internalise the risk. Most ordinary people don't have the financial position to sustain it.

Defamation is serious business. It can really smash your finances, even if you win. A spiteful company, of the sort people write about, is the sort that sues at the drop of a hat.


How would you enforce said policy without reading the article?


By reading the comments? ;)


That's fine, but I'd much rather not have to deal with defamation claims and burn too many bridges. After all, Vancouver isn't so big, and neither is the tech industry in general.


Walk a mile in their shoes, sometimes it's illogical that the offending party would not be disclosed.

However, most of the time it'd make perfect sense for OP.


The project manager sounds like a dick, but the author also sounds like a push-over. The author had a chance to out the manager as a huge asshole, but based on the post, it seems like he just left silently.


As others have said, sometimes it's simply not worth it. A person like the PM sounds like they are isn't going to know truth if it hits them in the face. No matter what you say to them, they simply won't get it. Some people lack any degree of recognizable "emotional intelligence." When you encounter such a person, all you can do is make them pay in other legitimate ways. My favorite is to tell the truth about a place on Glassdoor. By doing so I help other job seekers avoid bad employers, and raise the cost of bad employers doing business. It's the purest form of justice.

Personally, I've deeply appreciated a lot of the reviews I've seen of employers on Glassdoor. Just recently, during my last job hunt, I was looking into a couple San Diego companies with promising positions...until I looked them up on Glassdoor. When I saw not one, but many reviews from different reviewers saying such things as "Working for this place will suck your soul dry then crush it" I immediately lost all interest in working for the company. Granted, the Glassdoor reviews aren't perfect, which is why I look for general agreement on the company from different reviewers and/or position titles (as a proxy for different departments of the company).


Sometimes it's worth taking the highroad out so it doesn't cause more dramas down the road.

But sometimes it is funner to burn all bridges.


Burn bridges to light the way forward.


Why would he even do that? Author doesn't want to engage in office politics, he wants to code. Participating in dramatic events is completely counter-productive. Also, consider whose side his co-workers would pick, taking in account whatever happened to the previous two guys.


Well if he didn't want any drama, I'm glad he took the time to write a blog post about it then.


It doesn't have to be dramatic, but I would at least have made it clear that I was leaving rather than being fired. I couldn't stand there silently at a standup whilst some jerk insinuates to my team that I'm being shown the door.


Why would he want to "out" the manager? He already sussed out the situation for himself. He had nothing else to prove to anyone else. He was only there for a short time so probably hadn't made any meaningful friendships with other workers there anyway.

The only thing the OP should have done differently, IMO, is made clear to his colleagues that he handed his notice and that he wasn't being sacked.


I'm pretty sure everyone already knew the PM was an a-hole.


I doubt "outing" the manager would have made the slightest bit of difference.


Better things to out given the security practices Out the company

to quote.. """, it allowed the transactions of users to be skewed, allowing malicious users to cause other users to essentially lose money, or worse yet, put them in a potential dispute, and ultimately, cause our product to lose customers."""

report to the regional financial services authority. Create anonymous story about how company x is causing massive user vulnerabilities etc.Send this information to the companies clients.You could cause massive damage and come out looking like the good guy if you spun it right.


You Were Fired.

When you have contractor status, are brought into a meeting where they say you are underperforming, not committed, and turn deaf ears on however you try to justify yourself... and you end up leaving the company... you may have been fired.

The biggest mistakes you made was a) still being a contractor b) not asking for severance if you would opt of of claiming unemployment on them.


> You Were Fired.

I don't think you can fairly say a person was fired simply because s/he quit following a dispute with the boss. Maybe the person would have eventually been fired, had s/he not quit. But that's pure speculation.

There's the cliched "you can't quit, you're fired"/"you can't fire me, I quit" scenario. I think the question of who terminated the relationship is less clear there. But that doesn't seem to apply to the story the author tells.

Why quibble over this? Because the distinction between being fired and quitting matters for the employee's future prospects.

> The biggest mistakes you made was a) still being a contractor

How do you know the author was in fact a contractor? The author didn't post his offer letter, tax forms, or other similar documents. So we can't know for sure. But he says he understood himself to be a full-time employee. Some of what he describes, e.g. the boss's comments about hours, seem to support this view.


Re: Fired / Being fired.

The distinction only matters as to whether the OP has leverage over severance or goes after unemployment.

OP's future prospects are hurt either way if the next job calls that PM as a reference -- and slightly by this blog post.


There are times when one must truthfully disclosed previous firings. E.g. a form that says "Have you ever been fired," and later has a warning that falsifying the form can result in penalties.

These are the scenarios I was thinking of. They're the reason the distinction matters.


Just to the last bit, Op said that found out when HR gave him the paperwork that he was somehow a contractor as opposed to a full time employee.


Based on this account of the story the PM sounds like a typical middle-manager with a big chip on his shoulder to prove how alpha-dog he really is and rule over his petty little fiefdom. The author wasn't fired, although I'm sure the PM would disagree, for much the same reasons you listed. That kind of childish passive-aggressive horse shit isn't something anybody should take.


In general if there's overtime you should be getting paid hourly, unless you have more than 1/N percent of the shares where N is the number of employees. (eg. a disproportionate amount of extra value accrues to you anyway)


> One would mean I would be moving to Palo Alto, California, where I would be joining a well-known, highly successful, technology company. The pay was great, and working there would make any future job hunts virtually non-existent.

in my humble opinion, the only time you should pass up an offer like that is to work on your own startup. after all did you not apply, and interview, and compete fo, and WANT the job? i don't get it.

sorry, it's just too good of an opportunity. jeez. at least someone else got a shot because this guy passed it up.


I got an offer much like this (though located in SF, not Palo Alto). I took it, because my only other offer at the time was for roughly half the salary.

I ended up leaving after what was considered a surprisingly short time because I didn't particularly like living in the area. There are other aspects to life than having a famous employer.

That said, I'm with you that it's an attractive opportunity. But founding a company of your own is just one of many reasons to pass. Personally, I value telecommuting.


Ah... yes. I have no idea why it's still so hard to find remote jobs in 2013. I really, really don't want to move my whole family yet again because you really like my smell or something.


This isn't a full answer to that question, but I'm pretty sure it's related...

I remember seeing a post by someone asking for advice, his problem being "what can I do to counter people's assumption that <I am typical of people with the same credentials as I have>?" (<>s mark my paraphrasing).

This problem is, in fact, a source of great aggravation to almost everyone I know.

And the best response, which stuck with me, was "nothing; it's an assumption by someone you don't know".

There really are a host of advantages to dealing with other people in person. And if you're thinking of hiring a stranger, you really don't know most of what you want to know. And the connection between workplace and remote worker is necessarily more tenuous.


Very good point, thank you.


I think that depends on your priorities. You couldn't pay me enough to relocate to California.


I'm all for putting in the occasional overtime, and working on stuff at home if you're still engaged.

But an expectation that you will work more than the 40 hours a week that they're paying you for, blows my mind.


I love leaving companies like that one. You should celebrate, with a beer, perhaps? (Kidding)

When you took the job, did you sign an offer letter that outlined your employment status and role with the company?

Just curious. I would think an offer letter would resolve any questions about that, should it become necessary.


At my very first programming job a long time ago, I was criticized for not putting in enough overtime leading up to a milestone. When the next milestone was near, I worked back to back all-nighters, careful to leave copious documentation of everything I'd done and when. When the boss who had criticized me finally rolled in, I just said "where the hell were you?" and went home to get some sleep. I didn't hear any crap about not working hard enough after that.


> I worked back to back all-nighters

You don't think this whole scenario you've described represents a victory for you, do you?


It did in the sense that doing it once stopped the bitching. Since I clearly had both the ability and will to do such things when needed, my failure/refusal to do them at other times could not be construed as lack of those characteristics. Obviously there was a cost, and continuing to put in long hours under less exceptional circumstances would have been a very different matter, but that one time had an effect that I considered worthwhile.

It's kind of funny to look back on that now, when I'm actually on sabbatical in preparation for a shift to less than forty hours a week. Almost the opposite action, but toward the same goal of asserting control over my own time. Different circumstances call for different tactics. It's easier to refuse from a position of strength and trust, which doesn't exist when there's no record of one's ability to step up when it's truly necessary.


I have the ability to eat dog shit, but...


So you can eat dog shit and you can troll. Anything else?


I know that you think it's admirable or noble to "work really hard" and you probably have this whole heroic narrative running in your head; but it's actually pure bunk.

Your attitude is the product of worker-motivation-propaganda. You have been brainfucked.


You couldn't be more wrong. I was writing about one specific incident early in my career, quite likely (judging by your lack of maturity) while you were still in kindergarten. The whole point of the exercise was to put in the extra effort once when it really mattered, so that I wouldn't be subjected to the "work hard all the time" grind that has become such a dysfunctional norm in the startup world. It worked.

Since then, I've done a lot more than most of my peers to maintain a decent work/life balance. For example, when my daughter was born I negotiated a shift from my role as system architect responsible for my company's whole product to an individual-contributor role that gave me more freedom to spend time at home. If you think that's no big deal, try it some time. Right this second I'm on a sabbatical, and when I return it will be at less than standard full-time hours because life is just too short to spend all of it at work. I've even written about it.

http://pl.atyp.us/2013-10-leaning-out.html

In a nutshell, you are completely and utterly full of crap. I've done more and written more to fight the "heroic programmer" mythos than you ever will. You interpreted my anecdote in almost exactly the opposite of the way it was meant, and then made up some extra stuff besides, just so you could present your commonplace (and probably borrowed) observations as insight. Piss off.


You have impressed me and shown me the error of my ways at the same time.



Dude, I feel ya. And thanks for sharing.

I'm not (yet) a developer (though that is my long game), but I have run into similar situations in data science. I had an idiot boss (boss of my immediate boss) who sat around all day with his feet on his desk, staring off into space, but demanded that we all work 60-ish hours a week. And this was at a bank, where the standard was 40 and they made a lot of noise about their support for work/life balance and having family, etc. Anyway, he was a dick, too. Passive aggressive, the whole nine yards. So I found another job with a rapidly growing tech company and received an excellent offer. It seemed like a fantastic opportunity to really take my skill set (in data analytics) to the next level. I'd be the data guy and the role would work directly with the CEO, President, and all the other acronyms at the highest levels. The work I did would directly impact everything. Seemed cool. And for a couple days, it was. I went in early, stayed late, and worked my ass off to learn everything. They had three or four different databases running MySQL and MS SQL, and none of the data was documented. Which is to say that the only ones who knew what a given field was in the database were their 3 developers. When I started they presented me with a list of 114 reports they wanted created for the company. When I left, after having produced a significant number of those reports, the list had grown to 124. From the first day it was a constant struggle to figure out how to pull data from all their various databases, determine which fields were the right fields (i.e., it's called X, is it X? Or is it called X but it is actually Y? Or it is called X, it generally is X, but sometimes it's Y?), and smoosh everything together fast enough for their near-daily meetings. After a week the President called me into his office and told me I wasn't coming up to speed fast enough. I was completely stunned. And I attempted to professionally defend myself against his baseless assertions. I pointed out that I'd only been their a week. That I had a huge amount of data in a number of databases for which there was no data dictionary of any sort to make sense of. That I was making rapid progress in both learning the data and making effective use of it. That he'd be hard-pressed to find anyone else who could do any better than I was. I pointed out that I was doing everything in my power to get up to speed as rapidly as possible: I was coming in early, staying late, and working weekends. In the week I worked there I put in close to 70 hours. And I didn't get to see much of my family (wife and daughter). It sucked. But I thought that it might be worth it.

The clincher came when, in our conversation, I told him that I was rapidly coming up to speed, but that doing so fully would take time. He told me (verbatim), "we don't have time. We need to go faster and faster. I don't have time for you to come up to speed." Then he gave me (implied with a grim smile full of teeth) a week. "We'll see how you're doing in a week..." he said.

But after he blind-sided me like that, I put in a long day, mulling things over. Then I went home and talked to my wife. The conclusion I arrived at was similar to your own. It could've been a great opportunity if the company leadership (namely my boss the President) wasn't completely unrealistic and divorced from reality. To this day I have no idea how they expected anything different than they got from me. Did they truly expect me to come up to speed even faster than I was? Within a week? Or was our weird and painful conversation some perverse sort of pep-talk?

Either way, in talking it out with my wife, when it came down to it we realized that it just simply wasn't worth swimming in the sea of vipers. There was no way I was going to work 70-84 hours a week for the salary I was making ($57,000/yr). Not when it was working for people who clearly had no idea what they were asking of their employees and how to treat people. They just didn't deserve to have my talent, abilities, and work ethic on staff. I wrote a one sentence resignation letter and dropped it at their office the next day. I said "This letter serves as notice of my resignation, effective immediately." I decided that any more long-winded explanation of my reasons for departure would be lost on a person like the President, so I put all those reasons in a Glassdoor review of the place. True to form, I received an email out of the blue from the President a month later. "Abe, saw your Glassdoor review. What gives?"

Also, similar to your experience, I got the impression after a couple days that I wasn't the first data guy they'd tried to bring on board. Though no one would talk about it, I got the impression that they, too, hadn't stayed very long.

Anyway, I share my story by way of commiserating with you. It's shocking to find such horrid work environments somehow persist, even for highly skilled individuals. We expect better treatment, and often get it--which makes it all the harder to take when we don't. Of course, in your case and mine, I wouldn't take that kind of treatment no matter how much the job paid, or how much I liked the work or product.

Thanks again for sharing!


I worked a bit once with the founders of a tech company that's long since gone under. They would say things like "We're going to push ourselves harder than we've ever pushed ourselves!" or "We've got to be working faster!" I ended up impressing them by being able to keep up with their insane pace, and then declining to join their company.

I think that statements like these are things that inexperienced, starry-eyed founders say because they don't realize how stupid it makes them seem. It's the employee equivalent of saying "We have no competition!" or "When we build it, customers will come!" to investors. Anyone who's observed how things actually play out knows that it doesn't work like that, but it seems plausible to first-time founders who aren't particularly grounded in reality.


Thank you for sharing your story too!

Your story seems quite similar to mine. I still get chills down my spine thinking about it. But it was a great learning experience, now I know with my experience, and with the valuable input I've received on HN, I will be much better equipped to deal with similar situations in the future.


What I don't understand is what your boss thought he would gain by the threat? Because if you quit, they'll lose weeks or months trying to find a replacement?

And if the environment is toxic and they'll repeatedly try to get people to do the job, they'll get absolutely nothing done in the long run?


I don't understand what beer culture has to do with the majority of the post


People who don't drink tend to view quasi-mandatory drinking as exclusionary and indicative of strange priorities. Imagine you were a non-smoker and your team regularly got together to smoke, then questioned your commitment when you didn't join them. It would heavily colour your opinion of the team dynamic and why it seemed broken to you.


Bit of a difference between passive smoking and drinking water around colleagues who are having a few drinks.


Not really. Imagine if you had a serious alcohol control problem, alcohol was a huge trigger for you, you had a family alcohol related death, you were arrested for drinking and driving, you grew up with alcoholic parents, you were removed from your parents as a child because they couldn't care for your because of their alcohol problem, etc.


I think it represents the illusion of a casual and collegial work environment. Rather it's the lube they apply before sodomizing you. My new employer is not a startup, but tries to emulate that culture. Workers are encouraged to leave at 2:00 for company booze fiestas, but I just got a warning for taking unplanned days off to be with my sick child.


If someone gave me a warning for passing on the company booze fest to be with my sick child (or for any reason really), I'd turn in my resignation on the spot. That's complete b.s.. Sorry that happened to you!


They didn't happen at the same time and it wasn't an official warning. I just get a sense of them wanting me to work more hours and maybe let my wife take care of the kids (she works in the same industry and gets the same pressure). I think they know better than to just say it bluntly, but they are applying social pressure to which I am completely immune. My wife once got a blunt "your kids are preventing you from working the requisite 70 hours" speech from a "friend" who hired her with the promise of being family-friendly. She quit the next day.


I agree. There was one casual social event at which some people drank or played table tennis, OP left early on account of their mother's health and then that early departure was raised as a secondary point by a desperately-reaching manager trying to explain why someone should do unpaid, non-compulsory overtime.


It's mainly a reference to a "party" that was held at the employers premises where beer was consumed, OP doesn't drink alcohol.

In any case, while this was apparently a pretty "lame" party, it appears to have been an important part of the culture of the firm, and OP didn't jibe with it very well.


I've experienced one party held at my (then) employer's premises. Alcohol (as I recall, mainly wine) was consumed. I don't drink.

There was thanksgiving food; there was cake; a few people brought small children; my boss played an instrument and sang for us. It was great.

Basically I agree with you that the "party" described was lame. The problem isn't that there was beer at an on-premises party even though OP doesn't drink. The problem is (definitely) tacit mandatoriness and (to a much lesser extent) that the party didn't have anything to offer other than a chance to show that you're "dedicated".


My interpretation is that you were fired for reasons which would be embarrassing or illegal to admit, e.g. because you were embarrassing the team with their XSS bugs.


> “You are not 100% committed.”

I can't remember quite how I responded to that the first time I got it but it went something very much along these lines:

"To gain big you have to gamble big, if big gains were simple everyone would be doing them. There is always the possibility of failure, of losing everything you bring to the table, and being a hundred percent committed to anything, bringing everything you have to the table, is a bad gambling strategy. We can work together for our mutual benefit, but if you expect me to throw my entire life, and potentially all my future options, behind something that may or may not work out... well, I can see how that's to your benefit but I don't see how it's to my likely long-term good. The average lifespan of a company is thirty years, and significantly less in the startup space. I'm afraid that if you want me to sacrifice my interests for yours you either need to be paying me a lot more to justify the added risk you're asking me to take on, or we've reached a parting of the ways."

People like that are, I feel, just looking to take advantage of you. Loyalty is won by laying the best hearth, not demanded.


I fail to see how a few beers in the office one Friday night is a culture of beer...?

Did you have conversations about this with anyone other than the PM?


Two things jumped out at me. The first is that the PM had no substantive complaint and was basically being a bully. Some people do that. Since you had been really interested in this job, you might have done the second thing, which is to take your complaint upstairs. I would have told the story to someone above the bully before resigning. They might have backed up the bully, to their discredit. But they might decided they can't afford the kind of turnover this a-hole creates. If this feels like going outside of channels, it is, but tech isn't big on channels in my experience. You might have saved an interesting job. At the least, it would have been an entertaining thing to do.


Some managers are unable to assess employees efficiency, so they measure working time and are only happy when everyone is working 70 + hours per week. They also measure commitment by how hard you laugh at their jokes. Even though it is infinitely more precious to have someone productive working around 40 hrs a week (i.e. with around 30 extra potential hours to work when there is a rush) who finds critical software vulnerabilities like you did. Their loss.


Thank you for sharing your story. I am going through a pretty tough hiring process where the decision makers in corporate made the decision to hire me, but the local people in the current office seem to hate me and doubt I am up for the job, along with local HR joining the bandwagon and complaining about my hiring. So you sharing your problems gives me a feeling of belonging that I am not alone in being stuck in bad situations.


Whether you consumer beer or alcohol or not it's usually enlightening to attend these events. I've gotten more insight into the companies and dept I work for by socializing after hours than all the "regular" work hours.

I hear people often complain about communication... they rarely attend these functions. It's not their fault I guess... but it's a reality.


The part where they expected him to sign something in order for them to release his own money to him that he already earned was hilarious.


What a horror story, I've been at a company with red flags, and left due to that fact, but have not seen anything to this extent. I will keep it in mind as a warning. Sounds like the PM has a psychological disorder.


"You are not 100% committed."

Added to my big-picture_manager RubyGem.

https://github.com/guangnan/big-picture_manager


Happened to me, total clustered fuck from the start... But I knew half way I was going to get shafted. So I ask tons of questions and try to learn as much as I can from my senior peers.


"Beer Party"?


If you were listed as a contractor, isn't that grounds to sue? Here if you are fulltime you have different employee protections compared to contractor.


makes me wonder if the PM is part of the mgmt team and this is just his tactic of extracting cheap labor without diluting founders' shares.


You still haven't updated your LinkedIn.


I see what you did there (;


This was a sect, not a company.


before he even got to the first "red flag" I started to see red flag patterns. a team that small with its own PM and copywriter, detached executives (plural, and again, with an overall team/copmany size that small, etc.)

disadvantages to getting older, but one advantage is accumulating a set of observed good patterns and bad patterns you can start doing pattern matching against. there's a reason some companies specifically going after 20-somethings, folks. because y'all are more likely to fall for the anti-patterns, not see the warning signs early enough until its too late.


You bring up excellent points. I'm in a very similar situation and I think of it in these terms. Developers are doers of the work and where the payments accrue. If I don't work, we all don't get paid. I don't say that because I don't value sales, which I won't do (because I understand my weakness) but its hard to divorce this mentality when it becomes engrained.

That's also not to say copywriting or design isn't valid but its severely hard to justify a PM when there's a total of 3 cats to wrangle. I imagine his attitude comes from fully understanding he's all but worthless and instead of bending over backwards to make up for the deficiency, jackass syndrome sets in.

Bait and switch seems to be pretty prevalent in our field, whether it is intentional or not. I personally wouldn't name and shame immediately but at some point when the anger subsides, I owe it to the people that come after me to be perfectly honest about this point in time. Can company x grow out of the mire of this? Sure. But this will help others read red flags early before any major damage is done.


It's not very uncommon in newly funded startups despite common belief. It's like giving a kid a box of candy, they'll surely eat it all. Inexperienced founders would likely allocated resources for roles that they don't have a need for.


I agree with everything except that a PM can be extremely valuable on a small team. Developers are much more valuable designing and coding than in endless meetings and planning sessions. That said, IME PMs should be at the same level in the hierarchy as the devs. PMs manage projects, not people.


It was time to leave, and the HR lady came to me and said I would have to sign a release letter and send it back within 2 work days (the following Monday was a holiday), otherwise I would not get any of the remaining pay, including my “stock options”. Apparently instead of full-time as stated in my offer letter, I was a “Contractor” and that the agreement was “terminated”. I guess that’s to protect them somehow. And the “stock options” that she said I would be paid amounted to $0 (as expected).*

That shit is highly illegal. Get a lawyer. Even now, after the fact, there are things an attorney can do for you, like negotiate a settlement. (If they pressured you into signing a release or non-disparagement agreement, they're afraid). The release should be voided by the threat of withholding wages. This reversion to consultant status is fishy, too. It seems like they're afraid of a constructive dismissal claim (essentially, the argument that the PM's horrible behavior constitutes wrongful termination).

I'm not saying that you should sue them. That's not my decision to make, and for a 9-week job it's rarely worth it. Given that they already broke the law, you don't much to lose, and there is something to gain, by getting an attorney involved. If nothing else, it'll make that horrible PM look bad to his superiors, and that's a small win.

You won't get stock options, of course. Typical vesting is 4/1, meaning you get zero if you leave in the first year. I don't know why they even mentioned that. Almost no one gets stock options (for obvious, legitimate reasons) who worked at a place for 9 weeks.


I love reading stories like this. If I see assholes like these being founders, and I'm not that asshole, it makes me feel every bit capable of being a founder one day. Sorry you had a bad experience OP, but you sound like a good guy and I'm sure you'll have loads of awesome gigs await you in the future.

Personally I would have snapped and handled that situation extremely poorly haha.




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