Software, technology, sysadmin war stories, and more. Feed
Wednesday, March 21, 2018

How to look out for yourself inside a particular company

People I used to work with have been reaching out to me in massive numbers over the past couple of weeks. I keep hearing the same worried questions, particularly from the folks who want to do the "roaming fixer" work I used to do.

They ask "what keeps this from happening to me".

My answer isn't great but it should give you something to work with.

First thing, do not stick your neck out. If you actually need the job, I am not going to hold that against you. People have families, mortgages, stupid visa situations which amount to federally institutionalized slavery, and worse. If you are in a situation like this, lay low and keep quiet.

Next, stop wandering around. Many people have privately shared their stories. They usually go like this (summarizing and paraphrasing quite a few individuals here):

"I helped a bunch of people out on some other projects, and I got a strong review. Then the next time I did the same thing and I got a 'meets all' review, which isn't very good, and they told me to stop helping other people. The time after that, I ignored the advice and kept helping people because that's what fulfills me, and I got a 'meets most'.

Now I am laying low because of (one or more of the situations above) and will be only working on my project and nothing else until I can get out."

Is this you, too?

Things you should know: about a month before I left, I was told to talk to two specific individuals to obtain the feedback which was not being shared with me for whatever reason. I was instructed to pose the question and then shut up and not respond, not challenge it, not try to analyze it or disprove it, and just sit there and listen.

I went and did exactly this.

The first individual I talked to told me (among other things) that my writing was a problem. Specifically, the writing I used to do internally, in which I would talk about the things I had worked on, was bad. It was setting a bad example for junior engineers. I should knock it off.

They explained it thusly: some new person at the company might see this, see it coming from me, figure that I'm doing well by doing this, and so they might go do it too, and then they'd ignore their own project, and would get in trouble, and would have a poor performance review.

I have never heard of this happening. But, since I was unable to speak, I could not ask for specifics. Convenient, right?

Straw man argument, party of one, your table is ready.

Here's the really strange part, though. His advice might actually be correct, for the topsy-turvy world he's operating in. Think back to the rotating frame of reference post from a few weeks ago. In it, the kids learn that to be successful within their strange frame of reference, they have to do bizarre things that make no sense to other people. They give you the advice because they really do think it will help you, and indeed, if you join that reference frame, it might just do that.

So again, you have to ask yourself: do you really want to go there?

Focus on your projects. "Nothing is someone else's problem" is now provably dead. Keep your head down and stick to the thing that is directly in front of you, as defined by your manager.

Otherwise, be prepared to be made to feel like shit to where you don't want to go to work anymore, because it'll come down on you like a ton of bricks.

Learn from my pain. Make it worth something.