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Why Google Employees Quit
January 18, 2009 5:55 PM   Subscribe

Why Google Employees Quit
posted by Blazecock Pileon (141 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Most jobs suck at some point. Film at 11.
posted by Roman Graves at 6:02 PM on January 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


dugg!
posted by dawson at 6:03 PM on January 18, 2009


The reddit thread has lots of interesting comments.
posted by plexi at 6:03 PM on January 18, 2009


I'm not sure if I get this properly : people quit because the hiring process was too long?
posted by racingjs at 6:08 PM on January 18, 2009


"...I finally left after a lifestyle
change moved me to Austin and they re-nigged on an offer to move me
into the Travel Vertical role ..."


LOL
posted by Johnny Porno at 6:11 PM on January 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


I wonder how much the transition to Big Monolithic Corporate Culture accelerated after Google stock started tanking 14 months ago.
posted by crapmatic at 6:14 PM on January 18, 2009


Heh. Tech elites discover the real world everyone else works in. Suddenly feel...so common.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:15 PM on January 18, 2009 [9 favorites]


re-nigged

Yeah, flight attendants aren't dumb at all...
posted by troybob at 6:16 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thank G*D for small business. I'd die of starvation first.
Johnny Porno, I had that quote in my clipboard. Too slow.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:18 PM on January 18, 2009


I wonder how much the transition to Big Monolithic Corporate Culture accelerated after Google stock started tanking 14 months ago.

I suspect that horse left the stable many years ago.
posted by Artw at 6:22 PM on January 18, 2009


Most jobs suck at some point. Film at 11.

I disagree with this snark. It's entirely reasonable to expect that an innovative company will adopt innovative (or at least rational and efficient) HR practices. In terms of innovation, the trend over the past 5 years or so is so-called "talent management", where companies understand that there is, fundamentally, an ongoing skills shortage, and that human capital is really what drives innovation and profitability. Although work is work, work can also be fun, creative and meaningful (while performance and output is measurable).

Many of the tech companies (like Google) that survived the tech bust earlier in the decade are the ones that used innovative talent management practices, both because it is intrinsically good to do so, and because such practices increase overall productivity.

But, in the case of Google, maybe the emperor really wears no clothes. By switching to essentially an advertising company, Google has sacrificed its core mission, which was to catalogue knowledge on the web. And by sacrificing its mission, Google has also betrayed the brilliant people who work for the company.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:24 PM on January 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


By switching to essentially an advertising company, Google has sacrificed its core mission, which was to catalogue knowledge on the web.

Ever since it left the university and became a company, Google has been an advertising company. The PhDs are just window dressing to disguise the real operation.

If you want to sell text ads, go to Google. If you have some other mission, go find some other job.


If you want to be happy at any company, you need to find out what its mission really is, and find out how to align yourself with that mission.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:29 PM on January 18, 2009 [7 favorites]


Although work is work, work can also be fun, creative and meaningful (while performance and output is measurable).

And work is also something people deserve to be paid for. The relatively low wages paid to Google employees compared to other comparable companies, while the billionaires up the top go on about how Google Is About Changing The World Man, while throwing a few bean bags down to the proles...I don't know why people put up with this shit, personally.
posted by Jimbob at 6:30 PM on January 18, 2009 [12 favorites]


By switching to essentially an advertising company, Google has sacrificed its core mission, which was to catalogue knowledge on the web.

Google did not switch to anything. They started as an advertising company, relying on search to push their advertising. They have always been an advertising company first and foremost. That's still their primary strategy.

Many of the tech companies (like Google) that survived the tech bust earlier in the decade are the ones that used innovative talent management practices, both because it is intrinsically good to do so, and because such practices increase overall productivity.

Well, Google certainly does use innovative talent management practices. But they're far from perfect, and some people work better in a more structured, or differently structured, environment. There's not so much middle management at Google, and this shows in many ways, good and bad.

I spend a lot of time at Google, actually, as someone who works at a company that partners with Google. Google has never paid all that well or offered generous benefit packages. Instead, they offer the luxuries of their campuses, where you could (in theory) spend pretty much every waking hour using the dot-com era style services they offer to all their employees. That appeals to a lot of people, but not to everyone, obviously. I love to visit the Mountain View campus, but I wouldn't last a week as an employee, because I wouldn't be able to stand working there.

So I really don't see why it's a surprise that not everyone fits, and that some people will be unhappy working at Google, just like anywhere else in the world.
posted by me & my monkey at 6:40 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


In one TGIF in Kirkland, an employee informed Eric Schmidt that
Microsoft’s benefits package was richer. He announced himself
genuinely surprised, which genuinely surprised me. Schmidt, in the
presence of witnesses, promised to bring the benefits to a par. He
consulted HR, and HR informed him that it’d cost Google 22 million a
year to do that. So he abandoned the promise and fell back on his
tired, familiar standby (”People don’t work at Google for the money.
They work at Google because they want to change the world!”). A
statement that always seemed to me a little Louis XIV coming from a
billionaire. ...

Google’s net income for 2006, when I left, was 3 billion. 22 million a
year? Less than 1% of their *profit*.
Wow.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:40 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Those are the official reasons. Really, they just want more time to work on their art cars.
posted by mannequito at 6:44 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Heh.
In other industries, when employees perceive as a group that they're being paid less than they think the value of their time and labour is worth, get together to do something about it. They might negotiate with their employer, for instance, as a group.
It says a lot about the Smartest Techies In The Room at Google that they couldn't think outside the box enough to think about trade unionism as a solution to workplace problems.
They could even have renamed it Google CollectiveBargaining, but no.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:47 PM on January 18, 2009 [22 favorites]


I remember when I started realizing that Amazon was no longer awesome. It's going to be a sad day when I realize the same about Google.

BUT THAT DAY ISN'T HERE YET LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU
posted by DU at 6:50 PM on January 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


Yeah they call it work for a reason, but the way so many businesses operate really gets to me. The paradigm is crushing the human spirit.

Now I find out that Google, the supposed best place to work ever, also sucks.

The way companies cut benefits and filter people through kafkaesque hiring, firing, review periods is actually against the best interest of the company... it is short term thinking. If you pay me well, treat me well, and let me be a human being then I will be so much more productive.

Managers must start to realize that their workforce is built out of real live human beings that are not just "resources". Once this happens then everyone wins.
posted by pwally at 6:53 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Most jobs suck at some point.

That's why they're called jobs. If they were fun, you'd be paying them. That's how it works.
posted by jonmc at 6:53 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


It says a lot about the Smartest Techies In The Room at Google that they couldn't think outside the box enough to think about trade unionism as a solution to workplace problems.

Unions are valuable when your labor is a commodity. Software engineers have wildly varying skill levels (even at a place like Google) and it's not in the interests of the high performers to submit to collective bargaining. If you don't think your make enough pay at Google go find another job (not snark, really).

As to what this link says about Google in general, I think it's much more productive to look at aggregate turnover than a sampling of people that decided to leave. They are, by definition, not an accurate sample of the population.
posted by hupp at 6:58 PM on January 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


That's why they're called jobs. If they were fun, you'd be paying them. That's how it works.

I think this is called stockholm syndrome.
posted by pwally at 7:04 PM on January 18, 2009 [10 favorites]


That's why they're called jobs. If they were fun, you'd be paying them.

I hope my employer never realizes that I enjoy what I do, then.
posted by grouse at 7:06 PM on January 18, 2009


Isn't SOP at Google to work a 60-80 hour week? That would be a deal-breaker for lots of people with a family.
posted by bardic at 7:07 PM on January 18, 2009


In my mind anyone that goes to work for a mega-corp thinking it'll be just awesome needs to have their head examined. Google is not the one place that's going to save your soul, and if you thought that shame on you. To be a lot less dramatic, if you thought they weren't going to act like a mega-corp shame on you. You want to change the world? Don't work at a place with such insane profit margins, cause it ain't happening there.
posted by Roman Graves at 7:10 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah they call it work for a reason, but the way so many businesses operate really gets to me. The paradigm is crushing the human spirit.

Now I find out that Google, the supposed best place to work ever, also sucks.


See, a lot of people with this attitude seem to have been unfortunate enough to score a life working in anonymous cubicle farms for businesses that don't give a shit about anything but their bottom line. I'm sure Google looks great to them.

I'm sure, say, a park ranger in a national park, or your average life scientist at a university, or hell, my next door neighbor who builds roofs and gutters doesn't see it that way.

Looking at the world of employment through the filter of Metafilter's cubicle-geek population is always revealing.
posted by Jimbob at 7:15 PM on January 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


I think this is called stockholm syndrome.

Heh. Were you raised to believe that your workday would be 'fun?' How's the weather on your planet?
posted by jonmc at 7:17 PM on January 18, 2009


http://www.google.com.au/search?hl=en&q=Why+Google+Employees+Quit&btnG=Google+Search&meta=
posted by Effigy2000 at 7:17 PM on January 18, 2009


Wait. People still believe what they read at TechCrunch?

(if I could invest in futures of "TechCrunch gets it wrong again" I'd be a very wealthy man, is all I'm saying)
posted by ubernostrum at 7:21 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I should clarify what I mean: no matter how enlightened a society one lives in, there are still going to be sewers that need cleaning, floors that need mopping, garbage that needs being taking out. These jobs are going to be unpleasant no matter what. The enlightenment of a society depends on how well people are a)compensated and b)respected for doing these unpleasant tasks.
posted by jonmc at 7:21 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Looking at the world of employment through the filter of Metafilter's cubicle-geek population is always revealing.

Right, well when I said "so many businesses" I wasn't saying "all businesses" or else I would have used the words "all businesses."

And thanks for calling me a "cubicle-geek", that's really awesome of you... you are so much better than me.
posted by pwally at 7:22 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Were you raised to believe that your workday would be 'fun?'

I was raised to believe that strangers on the internet would inevitably make fun of the weather on my planet.
posted by pwally at 7:26 PM on January 18, 2009 [7 favorites]


So you're from Buffalo. Sorry about the Bills, dude.
posted by jonmc at 7:28 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, I was kinda agreeing with you pwally...certainly with your first sentence. The paradigm IS crushing the human spirit. It just saddens me that, on the internet, I come across so many smart, creative people who have been drilled into believing that the only option open to them making money involves a phone, a computer, a cubicle, a fire-at-will policy, and a 60+ hour work week.
posted by Jimbob at 7:28 PM on January 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


A classmate of mine was an early employee at Google (though I didn't know *how* early at the time). Through them, I got a phone interview with Googlers in early 2001. On the phone, during the interview, one of the Google employees told me that the most I could make was two-thirds of my current salary.

I said no thanks. I knew that the combination of a low salary and a long commute would ruin me.

I went on to work for a great startup in San Francisco, and when candidates interviewed with us and impressed us and then told us "well, I'm interviewing with Google," I always knew that we'd get them.
posted by zippy at 7:32 PM on January 18, 2009


Well I'm from boston.

Jimbob, okay fair enough. I'm just of the opinion that people who work jobs with a phone a computer and a cubicle etc. shouldn't be treated like sheep because it's in the best interest of everybody to have more motivated employees.
posted by pwally at 7:33 PM on January 18, 2009


pwally, I don't think Jimbob was trying to be insulting. A lot of people here work in the peculiar and, yeah, spirit-crushing world of cubicles. For the rest of us (especially those who have dabbled like myself) the whole system looks...well, insane.

On preview, what Jimbob said.
posted by Roman Graves at 7:34 PM on January 18, 2009


Yeah I took that the wrong way..
posted by pwally at 7:35 PM on January 18, 2009


It'd be really nice if people wouldn't put up with 60-80 hour work weeks. In many fields, you pretty much have to do it, because it's the standard and everyone you're competing with does it. So I can understand why people do it now... but it should never have been allowed to get to that point.

Hell, I was considering going to medical school, but I took one look at residency and change my mind on that idea. It ruins your life in a very meaningful way. IT is rarely better.

Fortunately, there's a few fields left with sane schedules, but I'm starting to think that a mandated maximum hourage is something we should look into legislating as a society.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:43 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Advertising is good rev model, for now, but the Big G understands that SaaS is how they'll survive, Yesterday and Today-to-Revolver style, to live to fight another day This is not an easy transition for anyone (c.f. SAP MSFT), but they are way, way ahead of the curve on many applications.

...which means that if you work for Google, you're working for a company all appearances to the contrary, in search of itself. Think start up with a wicked entitled HR department. Of course their hiring and retention practices are confused.
posted by digitalprimate at 7:43 PM on January 18, 2009


The issue of Google's salaries should be considered in context. Pre-IPO they were a startup, and all startups tend to offer lower salaries in exchange for stock. Pre-2007, their stock was rising at a rate of almost 50%/year. That's a consideration that goes into "total compensation," it's not all about salary. Of course, now that their stock has lost over half its value it the last year, they may want to re-think that compensation thing.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:47 PM on January 18, 2009


pwally, that fact that you seem shocked that work can be 'soul crushing' is what led me to that comment (the Buffalo thing was just smartassery). and I've worked for a few companies that made a point of how 'enlightened' they were. The 9-to-5 was just as tedious there as anywhere else. But you know what, nobody told me that the workweek was going to be mardi gras.
posted by jonmc at 7:50 PM on January 18, 2009


It's funny. Before Microsoft hate became the cool thing to do (not that Microsoft doesn't have many legitimately loathing-tempting features), there was quite a bit of worship of the company and Bill Gates. I remember seeing emails bounce about comparing Bill Gates to Michael Jordan in terms of earning potential, etc.

Harken back to the days of yore: remember your friends going to work for Microsoft, and hearing them say everything you hear now about Google: lots of neat perks, long work hours, pay not particularly great, stock options, and how you put up with the less-than-stellar pay because you get Microsoft on your resume? But, golly, they're hot, and they have some nifty philanthropic ideals, and there's this parade of successful icons who made it in during the early years. And then the let-down: the long hours are very long hours, the red tape is amazing, there's a cult of personality, bad managers can make everyone's life hell, and so forth.

Similar trajectories, that's all. Everyone seems to have forgotten the basic fact that corporations are machines designed to extract money, limit liability, and please major shareholders. Expectations that a corporation is going to, you know, not lie to you about making your work experience wonderful will often be met with disappointment.
posted by adipocere at 8:05 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's not shock, it's disappointment. And my point is that companies who treat their employees with the long term in mind (with benefits etc.) see their bottom line improve. I'm not talking about being able to get blacked out on the job and pass out beads, I'm talking about competent forward looking management. Specifically, in terms of google, if they had paid the 22 million bucks to improve their benefits package then their attrition rate would have been affected positively. Increased solidarity at the workplace leads to better output. Short sighted cash saving maneuvers that sabotage solidarity ruins output.
posted by pwally at 8:08 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Geez, they sound like disorientated [sic] servicemembers! Call the wambulance! It's Google! They can QUIT at any time.
posted by buzzman at 8:10 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm starting to think that a mandated maximum hourage is something we should look into legislating as a society.

Legislation is totally the wrong way to go about it. If people were properly educated, they'd understand what their options are and where their bargaining power lies. If you don't want a long work-week, you have to do something where nobody else is willing to work long weeks either, or you have to be good enough at what you do that you can say "if you hire me, I will only work X hours per week," and still get hired. Legislation mashes the market, so that (in this instance) no matter how good you are, or how long you care to work, you can't get paid on your own merits. You get paid on the merits of whatever "society" (i.e. your notably erudite public servants) deem to be the lowest acceptable denominator.

If you're really teh shiznit, or you're willing to work your ass off, then you should consider working for yourself. And if you're not cut out for it (not everybody is; no harm, no foul) then you should have to suck up what the market will bear. That's the flip side of not taking the self-employment risk: you don't get the self-employment slack. You deserve, and should get, whatever your all your peers in the particular field implicitly agree are acceptable conditions. No more, no less.
posted by spacewrench at 8:13 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


So out of 20,000 employees, techcrunch finds a couple who don't like working there? That's worthy of a front page post?
posted by octothorpe at 8:16 PM on January 18, 2009


I think they need to realize that it is a job, not a lifestyle. They looked at Google with, well googley eyes, and fell in love with the concept. The reality is Google snores and farts in its sleep.
posted by Gungho at 8:16 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


What.ever.

They get free breakfast, free lunch, a full gym complete with a giant pool, free transportation to and from work, and a free goddamn ball pit.

What more could you possibly want?
posted by lunit at 8:19 PM on January 18, 2009


But you know what, nobody told me that the workweek was going to be mardi gras.

Well, duh. I was raised to think of time as precious, and when I was young everything I was told and everything I read and everything I saw indicated that working for someone else would be soul-destroying, because no matter how much you are paid for your time, it's not enough.

So I set out to find work that I enjoyed, and jobs that would allow me to spend significant amounts of my time at the workplace doing things I wanted to do, or things that if I had to do them I could derive satisfaction from them, or at very least to do them in places I wanted to be. And as short a 'work week' as possible.

It's worked out pretty well, for the most part. But perhaps I've been lucky as much as determined.

They get free breakfast, free lunch, a full gym complete with a giant pool, free transportation to and from work, and a free goddamn ball pit. What more could you possibly want?

Quite a lot, actually, if you're older than, say, 12.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:23 PM on January 18, 2009 [10 favorites]


What more could you possibly want?

Yeah, with all those side-benefits, who could need competent, effective management, industry-standard pay, and reasonable hours?
posted by !Jim at 8:31 PM on January 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


.........
posted by jonmc at 8:35 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I work from home. My commute is ten seconds. Sure, the hours are long and the paychecks are sometimes dicey, but I love what I do.

What more could I possibly want? The freedom to set my own terms and avoid tedious meetings that are a waste of everybody's time. The end of team-building exercises that are less motivated about "connecting" and more driven by extracting a cubemate's private motivations and subsequent backstabbing. And call me fucking crazy, but I actually enjoy socializing with my peers, friends, and colleagues on a human, passionate, and empathic level. I like being able to eat my dinner without transforming into a well-heeled dog who goes right back to the factory to lick some emasculated middle-managing mastiff's balls. Without being under duress or having to sit through some long-winded propaganda from a company man about how the company's JUST REALLY GREAT!

You'll get none of these exceptions working at Google, apparently. But if that kind of job atmosphere makes you happy, that's wonderful. It's the Whyte thing to do.
posted by ed at 8:44 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


It'd be really nice if people wouldn't put up with 60-80 hour work weeks. In many fields, you pretty much have to do it, because it's the standard and everyone you're competing with does it. So I can understand why people do it now... but it should never have been allowed to get to that point.
If you're in a field that you're passionate about, and your work gives you an opportunity to create things that you find exciting, it is inevitable that you will go through phases of pouring stupid-time into stuff that excites you. Sleepless nights? Weekends? Totally! Awesome stuff! Eat free dinner at work and keep on plowing through until midnight? Yes. Why not? You're getting paid to do what you would do anyways, because this is the thing that gets you fired up.

The real measure of a company is how they respond when you have to come back to earth.
posted by verb at 8:46 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Google did not switch to anything. They started as an advertising company, relying on search to push their advertising. They have always been an advertising company first and foremost. That's still their primary strategy.

Actually, Google started as a company that sold search engine technology, particularly to portals like lycos and AOL.
posted by delmoi at 8:46 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


What a bunch of fucking crybabies. Spending 1% of profits on anything is a huge deal. Pack a fucking lunch like everyone else.
posted by docpops at 8:48 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Google employees quit.

Big, Uptight, White-Shoe Law Firm Employees Quit.

Federal Government Employees Quit

Chuck E Cheese Employees Quit

People in all kinds of jobs quit. Why exactly is this worthy of the front page? Because it's about a tech company?
posted by jason's_planet at 8:50 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Legislation is totally the wrong way to go about it. If people were properly educated, they'd understand what their options are and where their bargaining power lies.

But they're not. And besides, that would only work if all employees were willing to stand firm. Perhaps what we need is more unions and collective negotiation.

Legislation mashes the market, so that (in this instance) no matter how good you are, or how long you care to work, you can't get paid on your own merits. You get paid on the merits of whatever "society" (i.e. your notably erudite public servants) deem to be the lowest acceptable denominator.

Which implies that willingness to work long hours is a "merit", not something I buy.
posted by delmoi at 8:53 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure if I get this properly : people quit because the hiring process was too long?

People put up with the marathon hiring process for two reasons: they believe that there is a proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or they don't have anything better come along in the meantime. In the former case, they have unreasonably high expectations and may never get past the disillusionment when they realize it's just a job after all. In the latter case, they may be a weak employee who somehow slipped through the vetting process, and are rationalizing away the real reasons for their departure.

That's not to put the blame solely on the applicants. I have personal, albeit anecdotal, experience with Google's hiring process from beginning to end and "Greg" made a valid point in that link:
I never understood why all of the recruiters were contractors, given that Google showed no signs of slowing down its hiring. All this meant was that a lot of the recruiters had to spend a lot of time training new recruiters, since they were replaced so frequently.
This was exactly my experience... my HR contact throughout the phone-interview process left the company the week before I flew to Mountain View, and when a "snafu" outside my control led to them canceling my interview, no one had picked up the ball, and no one let me know. With hilarious consequences.

What's the first thing they teach you about being an interviewee? First impressions matter. Google's HR process is the first impression that matters to potential applicants, and by many, many internal and external accounts it is fundamentally flawed in ways that are obvious and should be easy to address.

So yes, people quit because of the hiring process, because it started everything off on the wrong track, and because it was the first obvious point at which they realized that something was amiss with the dream job they'd imagined. Google's not perfect and no one should have expected it would be... including internal management, some of whom apparently think that the company's flaws have a causal relationship with its successes.
posted by Riki tiki at 8:54 PM on January 18, 2009


I did not put you here to suffer, I did not put you here to whine, I put you here to love one another, and to get out and have a good time. See, Google isn't all bad.
posted by buzzman at 9:05 PM on January 18, 2009


Hm. I expected more of a "conversastion peice"

SIC!

The link to the Wambulance makes it all worth it, though. Thanks, bm.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:09 PM on January 18, 2009


Also, isn't the major reason the most obvious? They have to work in fucking Mountain View.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:12 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


People in all kinds of jobs quit. Why exactly is this worthy of the front page? Because it's about a tech company?

Not much is known about Google's inner workings, so a post on them might be interesting — it was to me. Emails from former employees seemed like an interesting matter for a front page post — to me.

If you disagree, flag the post or take to Metatalk, FFS.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:19 PM on January 18, 2009


Tech elites discover the real world everyone else works in.

I didn't get all that far in to the article when I looked at it this morning, but there were an awful lot of HR and sales people in the ones that I read, mixed in with a few tech types.
posted by markr at 9:20 PM on January 18, 2009


Unions are valuable when your labor is a commodity. Software engineers have wildly varying skill levels (even at a place like Google) and it's not in the interests of the high performers to submit to collective bargaining.

By this reasoning, the MLBPA and SAG (just to pick two examples) shouldn't exist.
posted by asterix at 9:24 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also, isn't the major reason the most obvious? They have to work in fucking Mountain View.

All snark aside, when I was interviewing people from SF for a startup in San Francisco, I could be pretty confident that they'd pick us over Google if they had the choice, because the star techies who live in SF have, for the most part, a strong preference for San Francisco, and it's not because of the commute.
posted by zippy at 9:26 PM on January 18, 2009


I enjoyed the pseudo "inner view" of google. Having graduated from a program which would enroll 20 students in a class which would have 10 drop out, 2 make As, 3 make Bs, 4 make Cs, and one make a D; I always find the 'GPA' filter amusing. GPA in what school? Harvard? Because Harvard does not have a D or C grade anymore; so how can you compare classmates???? Top 100 Kiplingers schools that actually grade students? I mean; I have a pithy C+; but out of a fine school, and in a difficult subject area. I guess that makes me a failure to a Google job app; but a #7 out of 20 out of the 100 that even began to consider difficult subject matter.

A 3.7 in business? Or a 3.8 in education? Oh my golliee geeZ! Oh, wait. The WHOLE DAMN CLASS gets the A. But for difficult material Google damns? Ok modern wirld.
posted by buzzman at 9:27 PM on January 18, 2009


Legislation is totally the wrong way to go about it.

I'm sorry, I don't understand your reasoning. You don't think people should pass laws against unethical work practices (like 80-100 hour work weeks). But then you say...

You deserve, and should get, whatever your all your peers in the particular field implicitly agree are acceptable conditions. No more, no less.

This doesn't preclude legislation in any way, shape or form. If and when society deems particular working environments to be hazardous to life, liberty or happiness, they pass laws to enforce these ethics on companies that would otherwise ignore them. This is how things have worked for several hundred years now, as it tends to be less messy than the whole revolution-thing.

It's unfortunate that you have to legislate ethics, but unfortunately there are those among us that, save for the laws of man, would like nothing better than to hit you over the head with a stick and steal your fire & wife.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:33 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Employees unhappy that their billionaire boss went back on his word to raise benefits = crybabies?

Congratulations, Reagan, your spirit lives on.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:38 PM on January 18, 2009


I will always Respect Ronald Reagan for what he did for the American economy.

It was in an objective tatters when he got it. And for good, bad, disagree, agree; a nation, any nation; needs a strong and powerful military, and Reagan helped to repair that also.

I hope that in some sense; and I actually SEE that sense; that Obama is akin to a second coming of the Ronald Reagan. I am looking forward to being openly PROUD to be an American, and being able to say so in public. I want to go camping in parks, and put out an American flag before I even break camp, and have people appreciate it instead of give me ugly looks or question me.

Sorry to break thread, but when The R word is spoken, ... well; it is like a Tarnakian being summoned... I have to respond.
posted by buzzman at 9:52 PM on January 18, 2009


To hell with Ronald Reagan. Fuck him in his maggoty earhole.

Sorry, but when somebody insists on posthumously mouthing that doddering dimwit old scumbag's dick... I have to respond.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:57 PM on January 18, 2009 [17 favorites]


In one TGIF in Kirkland, an employee informed Eric Schmidt that
Microsoft’s benefits package was richer.


In fairness, Microsoft owns their own hospital. Not a clinic. A hospital. And a bus system.
posted by stet at 10:01 PM on January 18, 2009


Isn't SOP at Google to work a 60-80 hour week? That would be a deal-breaker for lots of people with a family.

I was never asked to work more than 40 hours a week while being a software engineer there. Nevertheless, I wound up working greater than 80 hours a week, easily. This is largely due to the pace and goals I set for myself. Others felt like this as well. Perhaps this feeling varied to the opportunities available to each person? (Obvious downside: the lack of attention paid to my personal life became intensely damaging.)

As Google grows the experience of working there becomes increasingly less uniform and each anecdote is less representative for the whole. So, oppositionally-so, I'll believe there are people there who have been asked to work disproportionately hard. I was lucky to not ever be among them.
posted by massless at 10:02 PM on January 18, 2009


Is this the right place for me to say this?

"Don't be evil" always seemed like a ridiculously stupid motto to me. Yeah, it's not really bad-intentioned, but it's inane; of course there are plenty of annoying or mundane or petty things in the world that most people wouldn't say are quite evil. So was "be good" too ambitious a motto, or is it just too baldly silly given how vague it is?

It might be asking too much for a company to make some kind of statement about what it thinks is good and what it aims for in a brief motto, but a motto like "don't be evil" is either idealistic obtuseness or a bureaucratic laziness in the guise of righteousness. In fact, I have a feeling that it's likely that the former is gradually replaced by the latter - as is made clear by the linked blog posts.
posted by koeselitz at 10:05 PM on January 18, 2009


So… Why’d you left, guys? I mean, seriously.
posted by graventy at 10:16 PM on January 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


<Most jobs suck at some point. Film at 11.

I disagree with this snark. It's entirely reasonable to expect that an innovative company will adopt innovative (or at least rational and efficient) HR practices. In terms of innovation, the trend over the past 5 years or so is so-called "talent management", where companies understand that there is, fundamentally, an ongoing skills shortage, and that human capital is really what drives innovation and profitability. Although work is work, work can also be fun, creative and meaningful (while performance and output is measurable).


All big companies have kool-aid.
posted by Artw at 10:24 PM on January 18, 2009


a motto like "don't be evil" is either idealistic obtuseness or a bureaucratic laziness in the guise of righteousness.

I've been told the motto was created in mockery of inanity and idealism. As Paul Buchheit (the guy who came up with it) tells it, the motto was an off-the-cuff remark said after a bunch of safe corporate clichés were tossed around. He used it partly to mock what these tired statements always seem to try (and fail) to address. Paul also prefers succinctness. Good humoredly, people ran with it internally. One of the founders said, "I think it's much better than Be Good or something - when you're making decisions it causes you to think."

It was sometimes exasperating to hear said aloud during decisions. Sometimes it was actually helpful.

btw, "don't be evil" has a wikipedia page
posted by massless at 10:33 PM on January 18, 2009


Change has a hidden R, for "Reagan". I hope Google does not become another Yahoo/AOL/Netscape history item. But the Big R; It will stand forever.

Obama reminds me of Reagan in sooo many ways. Hello growth, goodbye high interest rates, sorry bad guys, you are going to have to pay in the same America 1914 1941 2001 way, hello being proud of being an American, hello America 2008. Oh yeah. And for the post, well; change means being less profitalbilaistic for the upper tiers and like; pass some down you freakin' 10 million dollar bonus falsetto fake faux liberal scum SOBs.

If Google fades, it will because of the false promises that have made so many other icons disappear. Nobody likes false hope. It was interesting to read these testimonies from so many prior Google believers.
posted by buzzman at 10:33 PM on January 18, 2009


posted by jonmc Were you raised to believe that your workday would be 'fun?'

Yes. When you do what you love, it is.
posted by mattdidthat at 10:37 PM on January 18, 2009


I am a tech worker, and while I haven't worked for Google I was consulting for over a year with one of the prime tech companies and spent several weeks at their HQ. One deals with tremendous numbes of flakes and egos in this situation and a lot of the people at these tech genius companies are the highest orders of workaholics. The guys I am thinking of do make a lot money - and most of them will either burn out in a few years, or you'll see them on the company intranet web site where they place memorials: dead of a heart attack at 39. I swear there were two 20 and 30-something heart-attack victims in this place a month. Compare that to the obits in your local paper, its not normal. I can't fault anyone for getting out of those places.

Maybe I am a cynical gen-xer who saw my dad get downsized too many times or the stories we have seen recently of AIG, Washington Mutual, Bear Sterns, et. al... but I don't trust the corporate world with my future *at all*. I'd be doubly suspicous of one who would keep some over-achieving nerd as close to his desk as possible, with enough free provisions to work himself to death. These companies take, and take, and take, and all that hard work buys them the worker no loyalty... do everything you can for the company and one morning you get called into a meeting with your co-workers, and find your jobs are going to India. A good company makes sure its workers are as healthy as possible, and can provide for themselves when they are old - free sushi and coffee is a cop out. Taking advantage of the hyper-caffeinated guy who has been at his desk for twenty hours scarfing down deep-fried snacks is not humanity, or business at its best.
posted by Deep Dish at 10:38 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'll hit that. Work sucks, but work is good. A lot of people now would be very grateful for a 60 hour+ a week job, salary or hourly.
posted by buzzman at 10:41 PM on January 18, 2009


I'm sure if they traded in their ball pit and fine dining free lunches for some Aramark gruel, they could have a bit of a pay raise. I'm sure if you factor in the costs of the private bus service, free meals, etc, they're making a comparable salary + benefits.
posted by jeversol at 11:02 PM on January 18, 2009


I'm sorry, I don't understand your reasoning. You don't think people should pass laws against unethical work practices (like 80-100 hour work weeks).

I don't think 80-100 hour work weeks are "unethical" in the first place. Nobody is forcing them to work that hard. Probably, some of the people doing those weeks really like what they're doing, while for others, it's simple one-upmanship or keeping up with the Joneses. Whatever it is, Google presumably feels that the company benefits from it, or they'd turn out the lights and kick people out at 5. And for the employees who don't want to work that hard, they should find somewhere else to work. Why do you have to pass a law about it?

And what about the people who want to do long weeks? Are you going to force them to go home? Are you going to force Google to hire at least some people who don't want to work hard? Companies have to hire 20-hour-week slackers to balance the hump-busters, so the average is 40? None of that makes sense.

If you don't like where you work, go work somewhere else. If you can't find somewhere that will pay you as much as you want, while letting you work as little as you want, then maybe your skills or your expectations need adjusting.

It's unfortunate that you have to legislate ethics, but unfortunately there are those among us that, save for the laws of man, would like nothing better than to hit you over the head with a stick and steal your fire & wife.

Is this before or after they spend 60 hours at the office? Seriously, I don't see the connection between one person's voluntary, legal activity and someone else's assault.
posted by spacewrench at 11:18 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Obama reminds me of Reagan in sooo many ways.

This made me snarf the soda I was drinking.
posted by pwally at 11:25 PM on January 18, 2009


Obama reminds me of Reagan in sooo many ways.

Both mammals, both fluent in English, both union-busting, social-net-slashing idealogues who sold weapons to Iran in exchange for hostages and used that money to fund a terrorist organization in Central Amer- wait, no. Not that last bit.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:33 PM on January 18, 2009 [12 favorites]


posted by buzzman Obama reminds me of Reagan in sooo many ways.

Yes We Can Just Say No.
posted by mattdidthat at 11:38 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Why Google Employees Quit"

Ron Paul?
posted by Smedleyman at 11:53 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


By this reasoning, the MLBPA and SAG (just to pick two examples) shouldn't exist.

That's an interesting point of comparison. So what makes these organizations different from, say, the UAW? Obviously ball players and actors have a wider range of compensation than auto workers.

Two other factors to consider are that a) software people often hold options or stock, and b) software people, in my experience, tend to lean libertarian. Neither of these hold for MLB and SAG.
posted by hupp at 12:09 AM on January 19, 2009


Obama reminds me of Reagan in sooo many ways. Hello growth, goodbye high interest rates, sorry bad guys, you are going to have to pay in the same America 1914 1941 2001 way, hello being proud of being an American, hello America 2008. Oh yeah. And for the post, well; change means being less profitalbilaistic for the upper tiers and like; pass some down you freakin' 10 million dollar bonus falsetto fake faux liberal scum SOBs.

Well change may mean that but what you just described there is like the exact opposite of Reagan. Reagan was like a mini-bush, in that the gap between rich and poor grew and grew. Not to the same extent as bush, but it was basically the same thing.
posted by delmoi at 12:57 AM on January 19, 2009


"I don't think 80-100 hour work weeks are "unethical" in the first place. Nobody is forcing them to work that hard. "

You are insane.


The EU has a 40-hour mandated working week.

- Imagine if all time after 40 hours was overtime.

Britain has a centralised, free healthcare system.

- Imagine not having to worry about your finances if you are sick.

In most EU countries if you fall ill whilst on vacation you can get the holiday re-classified as sickness and take the time-off at a later date.

- Imagine how nice it would be to re-take that Christmas vacation ruined by the 'flu.

Insane.
posted by fullerine at 1:35 AM on January 19, 2009 [10 favorites]


racingjs, I can understand where they're coming from on this. I had a very bad experience doing day-long interviews at another large, well-known tech company recently. They called me for the interviews knowing that I wasn't strong in skill X, and when they declined to hire me, they said the reason was because I wasn't strong in skill X! It really sucked too, because at the time I was a contractor at the same company and lost a day's worth of pay to do the interviews.

This thread reminds me of my recent realization: all companies suck, to one degree or another. I was laid off a few weeks ago at a small business where I was really enjoying the work and the people and the commute. I put my heart into the job and was prepared to stay there for years, but they kicked me (and others) out for some very short-sighted budgetary reasons. I lost my last shred of trust/optimism when it comes to work. :-(
posted by wastelands at 2:07 AM on January 19, 2009


fullerine, remember, though, that this is the old capitalism vs socialism trade off. Yes, you have these nice cushions in these countries when you have a job. But it's also harder to get a job. Unemployment levels are typically higher in countries like France, etc. which have strong labor laws. It's just a choice. Do you want generally higher productivity, GDP, and low unemployment... but crappy treatment? Or great treatment, but more risk of not having work to begin with.
posted by wastelands at 2:10 AM on January 19, 2009


Exactly, fullerine.

Someone above commented that the strange attitudes in this industry may stem from the tendency of people in this industry towards libertarianism. While I don't believe the majority are libertarians, it certainly seems to have had its influence. How else can you explain the worshiping of a corporation as a god, the anti-unionism (from the people who would benefit from it most), the certainty that if you just work harder than everyone else for less, you'll eventually be given the key to the executive washroom.

Australia, historically, had a mandated 40 hour work week. The previous government changed that, removing this as a basic employment right. Then they lost the last election, which was fought basically on the front of industrial relations. With the new government, the 40 hour week has been reinstated, with all hours worked past 40 hours, for everyone, being compensated by additional overtime pay. It just fucking makes sense.

Admission: In my job, I work about 30-35 hours a week "in the office", with the additional hours up to 40 being taken fairly flexibly at home. So I'm lucky. But even with that schedule, I find it incredibly stressful dealing with my wife's work as well, caring for and spending time with my son, just doing all the things one needs to do to have a life. I can't fathom how someone could work 60, 80, 100 hours a week, and still survive as a functioning member of society. Surely all those hours aren't productive. Are hours spent reading Metafilterat work counted?
posted by Jimbob at 2:13 AM on January 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Or great treatment, but more risk of not having work to begin with.

Well, in fairness, when you don't have work to being with in these countries, thanks to the wonders of "socialism", you generally don't find yourself living under a bridge huddled around a flaming oil drum...
posted by Jimbob at 2:15 AM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think 80-100 hour work weeks are "unethical" in the first place. Nobody is forcing them to work that hard. Probably, some of the people doing those weeks really like what they're doing, while for others, it's simple one-upmanship or keeping up with the Joneses.

Nobody is forced to work in hazardous or unsafe working conditions, either. Yet 120 years ago people still showed up to work at meat packing plants across the country. Probably, some of the people doing that work really liked what they were doing, while for others, it was simple one-upmanship or keeping up with the Joneses, who had clothes and shelter.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:15 AM on January 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


Britain has a centralised, free healthcare system.

- Imagine not having to worry about your finances if you are sick.


One of the many, many reasons my wife and I are trying to get me a work permit so we can stay here after I finish my degree some time in September. People here moan about the NHS, but it's such a goddamned weight off my mind knowing that if (for instance) I get hit by a bus crossing the street, my last conscious thought won't be along the lines of "I'll never be able to afford the ambulance ride".
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:40 AM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I remember when Google first appeared here and all the Mefites loved it because they were not evil and did have that fantastic clean interface without advertising for search (think 1999). Using Altavista became immediatly uncool as there was google, the ad-free place to search, and the results of those searches were great. Nevermind that they were already selling adwords in 2000.

I find it so ironic now, when Google is probably the biggest advertising outlet in the world, like their entire plan from the get-go was to index all the data in the world, so that they may advertise on it. Films? Ads. Books? Ads. Peoples blogs? Ads. It makes me want to go back to threads in 2k saying "that adfree stuff won't last long" which is what I was thinking, though I never thought it would be this saturated to be honest. 99% of Google's revenue is derived from its advertising programs.
posted by dabitch at 3:50 AM on January 19, 2009


Australia, historically, had a mandated 40 hour work week. The previous government changed that, removing this as a basic employment right. Then they lost the last election, which was fought basically on the front of industrial relations. With the new government, the 40 hour week has been reinstated, with all hours worked past 40 hours, for everyone, being compensated by additional overtime pay. It just fucking makes sense.

Workchoices actually mandated a 38 hour week (with two pretty broad exceptions, it could be averaged over a rolling 12 month window and the employer could require an employee to work “reasonable additional hours”, which obviously makes a mockery of the 38 hours bit). Still, my company moved from a 40 hour week to a 38 hour week when WC was introduced, and 38 is all I am required to work.

As for the bit about everyone getting overtime pay under Rudd, I'd love to see a link on that one, it's the first I've heard of it.
posted by markr at 3:51 AM on January 19, 2009


Unemployment levels are typically higher in countries like France, etc. which have strong labor laws. It's just a choice. Do you want generally higher productivity, GDP, and low unemployment... but crappy treatment? Or great treatment, but more risk of not having work to begin with.

Unemployment:
US: 6.0-7.2%
Australia: 4.4%
France: around 8%

Now unemployment figures can be pretty rubbery due to the way they are measured, and rates are changing around the world at the moment, but it doesn't seem like you need to have completely crappy treatment in order to have decent employment rates. Certainly if the differnce is only 1 or 2% perhaps it's worth it.
posted by markr at 4:02 AM on January 19, 2009


Yes, you have these nice cushions in these countries when you have a job. But it's also harder to get a job

Would you rather be unemployed in France or in the US?

Perhaps that's another reason for the shocking working conditions. The fear of losing job/health insurance means employers have you over a barrel.

If they demanded 80 hour weeks at Le Google the employees would laugh whilst toasting marshmallows on the burning wreck of the CEO's ex-car.

Admission : My job is a high-stress, low-paid exercise in frustration. Which is why I chose one with 26 weeks holiday a year.
posted by fullerine at 4:11 AM on January 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


”People don’t work at Google for the money.
They work at Google because they want to change the world!”


Deming: "Money is not a motivator."

Isn't it interesting how some millionaires pretend that the reason most people work has no meaning? Considering that they pretend that so they won't have to part with any more of that reason, you know.


Oh -- and Reagan? Second-worst president ever (or at least in my lifetime, which goes back to Truman).
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:16 AM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Remember, though, that this is the old capitalism vs socialism trade off. Yes, you have these nice cushions in these countries when you have a job. But it's also harder to get a job. Unemployment levels are typically higher in countries like France, etc. which have strong labor laws. It's just a choice. Do you want generally higher productivity, GDP, and low unemployment... but crappy treatment? Or great treatment, but more risk of not having work to begin with.

Most of "socialist" Europe has a GDP per capita that is close to or higher than the "capitalist" United States. . In other words, false dichotomy.
posted by outlier at 4:40 AM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]



I remember when Google first appeared here and all the Mefites loved it because they were not evil and did have that fantastic clean interface
without advertising for search (think 1999). Using Altavista became immediatly uncool as there was google, the ad-free place to search, and the results of those searches were great. Nevermind that they were already selling adwords in 2000.

But you can recreate those wonderful days on firefox with greasemonkey and adblock plus !
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 5:12 AM on January 19, 2009


This thread should have been titled: Tales of Fraud and Malfeasance in Information Super Highway Hiring Practices
posted by any major dude at 6:29 AM on January 19, 2009


I am jealous of everyone I know who works for Google because they get so hooked up. There, I said it.
posted by lunit at 7:14 AM on January 19, 2009


If you are not happy with what you do for a living you are never going to be happy! If shoving shit is what you like to do for 40 a week then do that regardless of the perks. All these people sound like they did not enjoy their job. Hell you could give me a back rub, free lunch, and a limo, but if I really really really hate what I am doing I will get burned out and quit. It sounds like these people just did not know what they were getting into. Add 10 hours a day and blammo! Instant dissatisfaction.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:53 AM on January 19, 2009


I was never asked to work more than 40 hours a week while being a software engineer there. Nevertheless, I wound up working greater than 80 hours a week, easily. This is largely due to the pace and goals I set for myself. Others felt like this as well. Perhaps this feeling varied to the opportunities available to each person? (Obvious downside: the lack of attention paid to my personal life became intensely damaging.)
As I said, the measure of a company is not whether they demand that you work 80 hours a week when you already are. The measure of a company is what they do when you stop, and decide to balance your life in a healthier way, or when your family needs you, or when you decide that you need to chill lest you burn out at 30.

It's very easy for a company to keep hiring passionate smart workaholics, saying, "Oh, we only ask people to work 40 hours a week -- wink wink, nudge nudge."
I don't think 80-100 hour work weeks are "unethical" in the first place. Nobody is forcing them to work that hard.
This reminds me of the scene from Zoolander, where Will Farrel's character explains to a vapid male model that evil people want to keep bored children from working in the exciting world of clothing manufacturing.
posted by verb at 8:16 AM on January 19, 2009


So I set out to find work that I enjoyed, and jobs that would allow me to spend significant amounts of my time at the workplace doing things I wanted to do, or things that if I had to do them I could derive satisfaction from them, or at very least to do them in places I wanted to be. And as short a 'work week' as possible.

That sounds nice! Do you make enough money to buy a house and have a few kids under that plan? And what do you do for a living?
posted by mecran01 at 8:24 AM on January 19, 2009


I'm sorry, I don't understand your reasoning. You don't think people should pass laws against unethical work practices (like 80-100 hour work weeks). But then you say...

I don't really see the ethical problem with skilled workers working long work weeks. I don't work 80 hours a week, typically, but I usually work more than 40, and this is a choice. I decided that I wanted more money and that I wanted to be doing a particular type of work, so here I am. If I change my mind, I can work fewer hours, make less money, and be a little more flexible about what I do.

Unskilled workers might be a different case.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 9:24 AM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wait - Google has ads now?
posted by chlorus at 9:34 AM on January 19, 2009


So I set out to find work that I enjoyed, and jobs that would allow me to spend significant amounts of my time at the workplace doing things I wanted to do, or things that if I had to do them I could derive satisfaction from them, or at very least to do them in places I wanted to be. And as short a 'work week' as possible.
That sounds nice! Do you make enough money to buy a house and have a few kids under that plan? And what do you do for a living?

And what, exactly, is wrong with this plan? What does it matter to you what one does for a living and enjoys it? What's with the overt cynicism, anyway?
posted by Jubal Kessler at 10:13 AM on January 19, 2009


In fairness, Microsoft owns their own hospital. Not a clinic. A hospital.
Wait, what? Googling (heh) turned up nothing that seemed likely to fit what you wrote. More details, please?
posted by scrump at 10:29 AM on January 19, 2009


spacewrench: Why do you have to pass a law about it?

Because it's unhealthy. Look, the best analogy I can come up with her for this is steroid abuse among athletes. If you don't ban steroids, nobody who isn't on them will be able to compete - it'll stop being about skill or dedication and start to be about who's willing to destroy their life the most. It's the same thing with an 80 hour work week - you're destroying your life in order to compete. If you do it then everyone else will have to do it, because it provides you a competitive advantage and eventually it becomes the standard. However, we'd all be better off if we made a rule that it was cheating and threw anyone who did it out of the competition.

And what about the people who want to do long weeks? Are you going to force them to go home?

YES.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:39 AM on January 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


It's the same thing with an 80 hour work week - you're destroying your life in order to compete. If you do it then everyone else will have to do it, because it provides you a competitive advantage and eventually it becomes the standard. However, we'd all be better off if we made a rule that it was cheating and threw anyone who did it out of the competition.

Would we all be better off? If my job had an enforced 40 hour work week, either my salary would go down, or I wouldn't be able to keep my job because they'd replace me with someone smarter, but lazier (since their laziness wouldn't matter as much any more). I wouldn't like either of those things.

Are you just insisting that you know what would be good for me better than I do? Or when you say "we'd all be better off" do you mean that I'd be worse off, but a group of people who aren't me would be better off?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:51 AM on January 19, 2009


Re: So… Why’d you left, guys? I mean, seriously.
It's gd 2 kno they eat there own grammar-dogfood at teh <3 of teh internets
posted by bonaldi at 11:04 AM on January 19, 2009


Are you just insisting that you know what would be good for me better than I do? Or when you say "we'd all be better off" do you mean that I'd be worse off, but a group of people who aren't me would be better off?

But by saying the work week should be unregulated, so you can burn out in a burst of Libertarian glory, you're also saying you know what's best for everyone else. Or, what is more likely, you just don't care about anyone other than yourself.
posted by mecran01 at 11:14 AM on January 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


posted by jonmc Were you raised to believe that your workday would be 'fun?'

Yes. When you do what you love, it is.


I'm so sick of this canard. I hear it over and over and over and over again. Everybody telling me "do what you love; it's more important than the money." But then how do I pay for healthcare for my family?

What if all I love to do is sit in the park and watch the trees? Or write poetry? Or drink wine? Or fuck? Or sing? Or play soccer?

Sure, there are jobs for food critics, porn stars, athletes, and singers, but the ratio of applicants to people who work in those industries is 1,000,000:1.

And what if I'm no good at what I love to do? Most people are much worse than the people who actually get paid to do something. What if I am ugly with a small penis; or I have a horrible palate? I don't see porn star or sommelier in my future.

I couldn't even find a job as a copyeditor working for *any* non-profit organization, after trying for several years with good experience. Should I continue to "do what I love," even if means living on the street?

The problem is that *everyone* wants the jobs that people love to do. Only the lucky 0.05% or whatever are good enough to get them.

In reality, getting a "good" job means taking what you sort of like to do and selling out the spirit of that activity to the highest bidder, and that's if you are *lucky* enough to find someone who will let you sell out. At least that's my experience.

What if you don't love to do anything? How should you survive, or should you just kill yourself now?
posted by mrgrimm at 11:41 AM on January 19, 2009 [6 favorites]


But by saying the work week should be unregulated, so you can burn out in a burst of Libertarian glory, you're also saying you know what's best for everyone else. Or, what is more likely, you just don't care about anyone other than yourself.

I didn't say that the work week should be unregulated, though. If you read the post I was responding to, it was advocating a hard limit of hours worked per week. My post, in turn, is responding to that idea, which is why I said "enforced 40 hour work week".

There's a vast, vast difference between an "unregulated" work week and a work week that merely isn't subject to a hard cap for all workers. I think you could probably understand this, if you tried, but setting up a libertarian straw man was easier, huh?

Well done, though. You soundly trounced that position nobody was taking! Your imagination will think twice before getting in an argument with you again!
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 11:41 AM on January 19, 2009


Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America: Would we all be better off? If my job had an enforced 40 hour work week, either my salary would go down, or I wouldn't be able to keep my job because they'd replace me with someone smarter, but lazier (since their laziness wouldn't matter as much any more). I wouldn't like either of those things.

Well, unless you're on the edge of survival, trading your entire home life for a higher salary is insane. What are you going to use the money for, a more comfortable bed? Apparently sleeping is the only thing you get to do away from work.

Also, realistically, they're not going to replace you with someone smarter. They're going to hire the smarter guy on the side, since if they can't con one person into doing the work of two they're going to have to hire both of them.

Are you just insisting that you know what would be good for me better than I do? Or when you say "we'd all be better off" do you mean that I'd be worse off, but a group of people who aren't me would be better off?

It could be either. It's like the steroids analogy again - can I necessarily say that any individual athlete will be better off being a second-rate athlete with good health and a day job rather than a musclebound steroid machine at the top of his field with endorsement deals? Not really. But if he's allowed to do it, eventually everyone will have to do it - so we can't let anyone do it.

So, in the end, you might be better off, or worse. On the whole, the majority would be much better off - which I consider a valid trade.

On a side note, are you using your valuable home time conversing on metafilter with me? Or are you doing it at work? I think one of the reasons companies need and can get away with excessive work schedules is that time at work is wasted - either by employees screwing around at work (since they get insufficient leisure time and are burnt out) or businesses throwing their time away needlessly via stupid meetings and such (since they can always ask for more time anyway.)
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:13 PM on January 19, 2009


markr, my post about Australian working conditions was, I admit, made from what I understood to be correct rather than any actual, you know, research. However, I do recall Julia Gillard saying that overtime pay is one of their "Ten Minimum Conditions". Ah yes, here's some links. Overtime and the other minimum conditions are limited to people earning under $100,000. People earning over that can negotiate different conditions.
posted by Jimbob at 12:51 PM on January 19, 2009


"Are you just insisting that you know what would be good for me better than I do? Or when you say "we'd all be better off" do you mean that I'd be worse off, but a group of people who aren't me would be better off?"

Oh, Jesus, this again?

We don't necessarily know what's best for you. You don't necessarily know what's best for you. The argument for work-hour limit legislation is based on the idea that collective good for society (measured any number of ways) would outweigh the harms to the individual (just like every piece of legislation, fundamentally).

You're arguing that in order to be convinced, it has to appeal to your rational self-interest. Others contend that convincing you is not necessarily significant, and that you may not be accurately assessing your self-interest in this example. That is, you're irrelevant or wrong.

Since we're arguing largely in the hypothetical and collective, there's no real basis to argue that you're right or wrong—we can both construct imaginary scenarios where you're more or less impacted, etc. and there's no real data to support things either way.

So as that's largely irrelevant due to lack of information, you've got to either argue the larger issue (whether we'd collectively be better off) or continue on with a tangent that doesn't matter to anyone who's not you. I realize that you're making a philosophical point regarding the relative weight of personal and public goods, but it's just as clichéd as the dismissive rebuttals you're receiving.
posted by klangklangston at 2:19 PM on January 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the links Jimbob, I'll go have a read.
posted by markr at 3:31 PM on January 19, 2009


Or when you say "we'd all be better off" do you mean that I'd be worse off, but a group of people who aren't me would be better off?"

How would you be worse off? We're not talking about forbidding people from being workaholics. Mandated maximum limits mean only that an employer cannot force an employee to work more than (for example) 60 hours a week--that is to say, working more than the mandated maximum cannot be a condition of the employment.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:23 PM on January 19, 2009


In most EU countries if you fall ill whilst on vacation you can get the holiday re-classified as sickness and take the time-off at a later date.


Do you get a blankie and a graham cracker at nap time as well? Jesus Christ.
posted by docpops at 6:25 PM on January 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Civil_Disobedient: How would you be worse off? We're not talking about forbidding people from being workaholics.

Actually, I am. 40 hours (and yeah, there's more to the system then that, but let's ignore the details for now) and you have to go home and stop. You can't stay and work more if you want to.

Why? Because right now, most of the insane workweek people are paid on salary with no fixed number of hours, and simply given enough work that they have to work that much to keep afloat. That needs to be prevented.

Otherwise, working over the maximum will be a condition of employment, even if they won't go out and say it is. After all, if your co-workers do it, you'll have to if you want to keep up with them.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:20 PM on January 19, 2009


So as that's largely irrelevant due to lack of information, you've got to either argue the larger issue (whether we'd collectively be better off) or continue on with a tangent that doesn't matter to anyone who's not you.

No, it doesn't work that way. There's even less information about what you term the "larger issue", so don't pretend that this is about information. In fact, nobody here has any idea what would happen over all.

I pointed out, more by way of anecdote than anything else, that some workers who work longer than 40 hour weeks are completely capable of choosing to work a shorter week, so there's some value in keeping the option of both. Your response is apparently that when pondering the collective good, we really don't have any time to be bothered with obnoxious little details like who's being affected, how they're being affected, whether they want to be affected, and so on. (This frankly leaves me wonder how you ever hope to determine the collective good, but whatever.)

The problem is how you frame the question. Asking "whether we'd collectively be better off" is a stupid way to look at it. What you should be asking is whether the proposed policy is both better than the status quo and any other policy that we could implement instead. Instead of just ignoring individual concerns to a proposed policy, you should be thinking about how you can modify the policy to reach the desired goal with less collateral damage.

Mitrovarr, of course, is just aesthetically offended by work weeks longer than 40 hours, and nothing but a ban would satisfy him. This doesn't strike me as a good use of lawmaking powers, though.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:58 PM on January 19, 2009


Also, realistically, they're not going to replace you with someone smarter. They're going to hire the smarter guy on the side, since if they can't con one person into doing the work of two they're going to have to hire both of them.

You're ignoring fixed per-employee costs. Also, it's not a "con" if it was disclosed ahead of time.

Well, unless you're on the edge of survival, trading your entire home life for a higher salary is insane.

This is going to blow your mind, but we attach very different values to our "home life", you and I do. I know! People aren't precise clones of you? They don't think and feel exactly the same way you do? They don't even want the same things? Good god.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 11:03 PM on January 19, 2009


Mitrovarr, of course, is just aesthetically offended by work weeks longer than 40 hours, and nothing but a ban would satisfy him. This doesn't strike me as a good use of lawmaking powers, though.
That's like saying that opponents of child labor are just aesthetically offended by short workers.
posted by verb at 11:14 PM on January 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


The problem is how you frame the question. Asking "whether we'd collectively be better off" is a stupid way to look at it. What you should be asking is whether the proposed policy is both better than the status quo and any other policy that we could implement instead. Instead of just ignoring individual concerns to a proposed policy, you should be thinking about how you can modify the policy to reach the desired goal with less collateral damage.

Which is what the 40 hour work week is supposed to do. There naturally needs to be a minimum of working hours to maintain productivity and keep the standard of living up. By the same token, maximum working hours is another way of maintaining productivity and maintaining a standard of living by insuring that workers all well-rested, can attended to their families and see about other matters in their daily lives. Family life or a lack thereof is a big determining factor in whether or not someone (wants to or choses to) works more than 40 hours a week. Also, going over 40 does not necessarily equate being sent home or otherwise forced not to work - it usually equates some form of compensation, such as overtime. Individual companies, especially start-ups, may require people to work over 40 hours a week with no immediate promise of overtime. As long as workers who sign on with this are given full disclosure, there's not really any wrongdoing there.

Labor laws did not arise out of a vacuum, or from some tiny room where one person dreams up their ideas of how they want the rest of the world to be. They arouse from the factory floor, one worker at a time, talking, arguing, organizing, reaching a CBA with management, one shop after another, until it reached the legislative level. I'm not saying of course that because of this ground-up grassroots structure labor law is infallibly the Voice of the People, but there seems to be some confusion whenever issues like minimum wage, overtime, sick leave and vacations come up - as if some tiny cabal just pencilled all these laws in overnight to make life hell for management. It was labor and management who helped craft these laws.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:43 AM on January 20, 2009


In most EU countries if you fall ill whilst on vacation you can get the holiday re-classified as sickness and take the time-off at a later date.


Do you get a blankie and a graham cracker at nap time as well? Jesus Christ.



I'm often struck by how often those who swing libertarian/right are so set on demolishing controls, getting the government out of their bidness and ensuring that nobody, but nobody tells them what they do with their lives, are so willing to cede huge chunks of their time, independence and control of their lives to private corporations. Like, hell no we can't have maximum working hours, that contravenes my god-given right to choose what I do with my time and effort - what's that boss? You want me to work til 11pm again? Absolutely! I'm a real go-getter, yessir, and I'll put aside my health, personal growth and family to further the interests of a company that pays me less than 1% of the yearly revenue I personally contribute to it!

Hey workaholics - you're quite often hurting your own productivity. Your labour is something you sell, and if you're on a fixed salary, all you do is dilute your earnings by working longer hours. Which, you should remember is the market rate, AKA the least it's agreed a company can get away with paying you.

But hey, keep knocking down those nasty socialists - keep telling people living in socialist democracies in Europe that they're coddled crybabies. Last time I looked, your economy was just as, if not more fucked than ours. Where did all those 100 hour weeks and eviscerated social safety nets get you, apart from deeper in trouble?
posted by Happy Dave at 1:05 AM on January 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


That sounds nice! Do you make enough money to buy a house and have a few kids under that plan? And what do you do for a living?

It is quite nice. Yes, no problem, in terms of money. Kids are not something I'm overly interested in producing, but not because of financial limitations. My wife and I are both teachers and live frugally but comfortably -- I've done many other things over the years, in many different countries since I left Canada 20 years ago, but I find teaching the most rewarding.

Any other questions?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:07 AM on January 20, 2009


Oh, and I did used to work 80+ hour weeks for a few years when I was managing a skunkworks IT project team, when I lived in Australia. I loved it, and the buckets o'money, but I didn't enjoy the stress, so I stopped. For what it's worth.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:11 AM on January 20, 2009


Some of you may find this relevant (from this PDF):
The computer employee exemption does not include employees engaged in the manufacture or repair of computer hardware and related equipment. Employees whose work is highly dependent upon, or facilitated by, the use of computers and computer software programs (e.g., engineers, drafters and others skilled in computer-aided design software), but who are not primarily engaged in computer systems analysis and programming or other similarly skilled computer-related occupations identified in the primary duties test described above, are also not exempt under the computer employee exemption.
The PDF describes in some (but not definitive) detail just which computer-related jobs are exempt from overtime pay.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:57 AM on January 20, 2009


That sounds nice! Do you make enough money to buy a house and have a few kids under that plan? And what do you do for a living?

It is quite nice. Yes, no problem, in terms of money. Kids are not something I'm overly interested in producing, but not because of financial limitations. My wife and I are both teachers and live frugally but comfortably -- I've done many other things over the years, in many different countries since I left Canada 20 years ago, but I find teaching the most rewarding.

Any other questions?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:07 AM on January 20 [+] [!]


Wait, don't you live in Korea?
posted by mecran01 at 10:59 AM on January 20, 2009


"Your response is apparently that when pondering the collective good, we really don't have any time to be bothered with obnoxious little details like who's being affected, how they're being affected, whether they want to be affected, and so on. (This frankly leaves me wonder how you ever hope to determine the collective good, but whatever.)"

No. Reread what I wrote. If you still have questions, I'll be happy the answer them, but I'm not going to bother correcting your every misconception based on the blinkered, combative mischaracterization of what I wrote.
posted by klangklangston at 12:21 PM on January 20, 2009


Wait, don't you live in Korea?

Yes, why? I've spent more than 6 months at a stretch living and working in half a dozen countries in the last 20 years. Mostly Korea, where I am now, but almost 4 years in Australia, and shorter stretches in other places.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:21 PM on January 20, 2009


Actually, I am. 40 hours (and yeah, there's more to the system then that, but let's ignore the details for now) and you have to go home and stop. You can't stay and work more if you want to.

Why? Because right now, most of the insane workweek people are paid on salary with no fixed number of hours, and simply given enough work that they have to work that much to keep afloat. That needs to be prevented.


The people working long hours at Google and other tech companies aren't "just afloat". They're doing well and making a rational choice to work harder.

Lets put it this way: In college I would spend 20+ hours at a stretch programming. There were long periods where I did nothing in my waking hours but program (and not necessarily for class mind you). Now I get paid for my work. How awesome is that? But now you say I shouldn't be getting paid for something I'm doing gladly.

This is like applying the world of Harrison Bergeron to labor law.
posted by hupp at 11:34 PM on January 20, 2009


Wait, don't you live in Korea?

Yes, why? I've spent more than 6 months at a stretch living and working in half a dozen countries in the last 20 years. Mostly Korea, where I am now, but almost 4 years in Australia, and shorter stretches in other places.


I'm asking, in all seriousness, because I don't think that your choice of a shorter work week and minimalist lifestyle would actually work in the U.S., with a family containing children. I'm not trying to be a jerk--I just rarely, if ever, see anyone able to pull that off.
posted by mecran01 at 6:30 AM on January 22, 2009


Ah, I see.

And you're right. Leaving Canada 20 years ago was a deliberate choice, with consequences good and bad, as has been my decision not to return. Yet, at least.

Living the kind of life I wanted to lead wouldn't have been possible, or as possible, at least, if I'd stayed.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:42 AM on January 22, 2009


But now you say I shouldn't be getting paid for something I'm doing gladly.
There's an arguable cost to society of letting you do what you want to, however, and that cost is the exploitation of others.
posted by bonaldi at 12:14 PM on January 22, 2009


At the end of the day, I'm not sure there's any simple way to solve this problem as long as workaholic behavior is valued more than a balanced lifestyle, culturally speaking.

The problem isn't really "Bob works 80 hours because he wants to." It's that laws can keep companies from forcing people to work 80 hours a week -- but not from firing people because they are "less productive" than Bob, who voluntarily works 80 hours a week.
posted by verb at 10:17 PM on January 22, 2009


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