Bad managers drive good workers away

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.

This is a good essay:

What you’re discussing is the Credibility Drought. Companies define credibility so that only managers have it, in order to create an artificial scarcity that makes employees easier to control. That’s what enables the managerial extortion that forces employees to serve local goals (the manager’s own career) rather than the benefit of the company (or the growth of the individual).

Very few companies formally allow a manager to unilaterally fire. That’s way too much of an HR/lawsuit risk. Instead, these closed-allocation dinosaur companies define credibility in such a limited way that managers can either support or not support the employee, and then if the person is not supported, that person’s credibility is zero and the manager isn’t firing that person. “The company” does it, after “careful review” of “objective” performance statistics. On top of this, they set tight headcount limits so that for anyone to get a good project requires a special favor, allowing the company to say “no” and appear consistent on the matter.

Google is aware enough of this problem to allow engineers at above a certain level to acquire independent credibility.
At Staff, you can pull a Yegge (quit your project in public) and be OK. If you’re a SWE 3 and you try that, you’re fucked.

So Google may be different from the full-on closed-allocation nightmare corporation, but you only if you either (a) start at a senior level, or (b) get on visible, desirable projects when you start, so you can get promotions quickly. The only time it isn’t difficult to transfer to something better is immediately after a promotion (and there are some managers who withhold promotions to keep people captive; Google, to its credit, has a system that occasionally overrides managerial objections to promo).

The sad thing is that I don’t doubt that Google is better than 95 percent of large corporations its size in terms of internal mobility, individual autonomy, and engineer-centric culture. It might be better than 98%. It’s still pretty awful for a large percentage of people who work there, and the fact that it’s so much better than most of what else is out there is a damnation of Corporate America, not an endorsement of Google.

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