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Monday, January 23, 2012

Followup to free food that isn't free

Wow! Talk about making a splash. Saturday's post about Google, food, salary negotiations, and diminishing benefits certainly got a fair amount of attention.

First, it made it onto Hacker News. This prompted a whole bunch of commenting. There was the usual sniping at me and my abilities, but I've come to expect that. I just take it as a sign that I'm on the right track when people have to whip out the ad hominems. Thanks for helping me calibrate my writing!

Then there was Twitter. Oh my. Many of these are bots which merely announce new HN stories, but then it starts turning into real people, each with their own opinions about it.

All of that happened over the weekend. This morning, The Register got a hold of it. I also spotted a post about salary negotiation which made it onto HN today and also linked back here.

Just for the sake of completeness, don't forget about my prior posts on the topic. Last October, there was the whole badging thing which clearly equated food with money, in case there was any question about that. Let's also not forget this post from August where first aid kits were removed from two of the three microkitchens on the second floor of building 40.

All of these things are a matter of perspective. Taken individually, yes, they do look petty. If all I told you about was donuts and bagels disappearing, you'd be right to think I was not right in the head. Guess what, I probably managed to enjoy that bagel/donut service less than 10 times in my 4.5 years there. It was never part of my routine.

If all I told you that was water bottles were removed, again, you'd think I was broken, and rightly so. I switched to bringing in my own liter-sized plastic bottle and just used those slow water dispensers to refill it. It's nothing a trip to Bed Bath and Beyond couldn't fix.

Maybe I mentioned that they started removing trash cans and recycle bins from our offices. You'd think that was silly because there would still be one pair per actual room, instead of one pair per desk. You'd be right. The marginal cost of having to slip past your coworker to drop something into the trash can by her desk instead of using your own is tiny.

So yes, if you're going to pick and choose, they all look obvious.

It's when you start adding all of it up that you start realizing that something is wrong. Then, at some point, your friends start quitting. I lost a friend in late 2008 who told me that "we never had to worry about the money before, and now we do". Was she in purchasing? No. Was she a project or program manager? No.

She was a network engineer and had been with the company for a number of years. Why would a wrangler of network equipment who wears a pager and has to schlep down to Mountain View on Saturdays to work oncall duty have to worry about money stuff? I didn't ask for details, but somehow, it was impacting the quality of life for her.

She was one of the early departures. Many more followed. Each one cost me another awesome person who I could talk to at work.

I'll call back to another early post: laggy human systems can be exploited for executive profit. Put simply, you can squeeze your people now and get a nice return, and they won't realize what's happened and react until much later. If you do it right, you can coast on your momentum and reputation while squeezing the heck out of things and laughing all the way to the bank.

Just think. All I've described thus far are the wages and working conditions which were being squeezed. There were much deeper cuts going on to fundamental infrastructure things that I can't tell you about. You'll just have to guess at what's been happening based on outages and other things which can't be hidden or otherwise leak out.

Why did I post about my failed salary negotiation process? It's easy. I made a mistake, and I'm not afraid to admit it to a worldwide audience. The benefit to others in exposing this situation and hopefully having a few others learn from it is well worth it.

I can sleep well at night, in other words.

How's your sleep situation?