Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Workplace bullying in Silicon Valley: now acceptable?

Pic Credit: Some rights reserved by trix0r

I'm feeling a bit rough at the moment.

Maybe that's going to influence the tone of this post.

But frankly I don't give a shit.

I was on the tram to work this morning when I read an article from The Artist Formerly know as Mr. Techcrunch, Mike Arrington.

The article - called touchingly enough STARTUPS ARE HARD. SO WORK MORE, CRY LESS, AND QUIT ALL THE WHINING (all in caps) - really hit a raw nerve in me.

I know I'm only human, and we all have raw nerves and sensitive areas, but the jist of this article is that Arrington seems to think that regardless of the perks of a job, your bosses are entitled to work you to an early grave so that they can get their vision off the ground, especially in Silicon Valley, where you go to, as the article suggests 'Make a dent in the universe' (pretentious much?)

I'm sorry Michael - but that's rubbish.

This is exactly the type of management bullshit that people have been spouting for years. 'We pay your wages, therefore we can tear into you whenever we want' school of management. The 'my product is more important than your sleep pattern' approach.

In the wake of the numerous eulogies to Steve Jobs, nobody was short-sighted enough to say that he didn't bully subordinates, make people feel small, arbitrarily fire employees, and generally act badly at times.

Despite all of the great products he brought to the market, the man still had his faults. And I wouldn't like to work for somebody like that.

I have had experience with this before. One place where I used to work (which, as per usual, I won't name) had a practice once a financial quarter called 'fuck off Friday' by the staff. People would come into work, and be summoned to the office midway through the day, and told their position would be made redundant. That counted as their consultation, and they were told to clear their desks and leave right away. It was like something out of Logan's Run. One of my good friends that worked in mobile development was summoned into one of these meetings, and basically told to leave the building. And that was the end of our mobile division at that time.

Besides being staggeringly short-sighted, this was a cruel practice that served to do nothing but appease shareholders, and improve the company's bottom line (which was sagging quite badly).

When you work for a company run by a visionary, you should always be aware that the person in question doesn't really want to share his riches with you. He doesn't really want your name anywhere on the site, or even on your headstone. They're out to make a name for themselves, and they see you as a resource to be used until you are spent. You're spent? Then you're out.

So my advice? Go in there, work your hours (and work hard, be the best, etc.), then leave. And don't be the person that died at their desk, that is little more than an uncredited extra in a film of somebody else's life.

Having a good idea, having vision, and having drive is not a crime. Neither, really, is bullying. But don't do it. It's cruel, and it makes you look like an arsehole. Actually, it just makes you an arsehole. Don't do it.

It's the entrepreneurs that set up the company who should have the sleepless nights - not you.

After all, nobody really wants 'died working' written on their graveston. Remember: you can't take all of those complimentary organic juices with you either.


  1. The gaming industry seems to be dealing with the same "genius" phenomena as the "artistes" of the media... unfortunately it permeates the rest of the workforce as well. Interesting article. - Bev

  2. Hi Bev,

    Thanks for your comment. It's a real shame, and it does have a knock-on effect in the work-force. After all, you can't bully your boss back, but you can pick on the runner/intern/someone else lower down the food chain.

    Very common in the music and tech world sadly, especially in today's economic climate.