Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Bad Fit in a Corporate Culture?

I've had several full-time development positions - mostly with small software start-ups founded by different profs from a big-name university - but also with IT departments.  I think I've had a really great career.  At every one of my companies, I've been singled out as a really great developer.  I gotten raise after raise, promotion after promotion, and at one place, after rewriting a particularly clunky bit of software in a clever, user-friendly way, I even got a party thrown in my honor.  I'm not saying this to brag.  (Since I'm anonymous, it wouldn't even make sense to brag.)  I'm just saying this to set up my question.

I've gotten used to being patted on the back.  A few years back however, I joined an IT department in a huge company.  The problem is that I don't get any kind of recognition here.  In fact, I've been passed over for promotions.  Now, I've been around the block a few times, so I know that the caliber of developer here is sub par, especially when compared with some of the cutting edge start-ups I've worked at, so I'm guessing that my skill set isn't the problem.

Has anyone else experienced this kind of thing?  Have you ever been the hero at one company & the goat at another while performing at the same level?  What was the cause?  What was the solution?

Thursday, February 5, 2004

Welcome to the corporate world, where being a good developer takes a back seat to being a good politician.

enlightened one
Thursday, February 5, 2004

Culture, Culture, culture.

ESPECIALLY when you move from a small org to a larger org or vice versa.

If you don't fit, find an organization where you do.

Good luck!

Matt H.
Thursday, February 5, 2004

The cause?  Accepting a bad job.
The solution?  Finding a new one.

Greg Hurlman
Thursday, February 5, 2004

This sounds somewhat familiar.  After several years working in various organizations I have noticed that some employers will tell me I am doing wonderful work, and others don't care or aren't so happy with the work, even though to me it is mostly at the same level of quality.

If you are looking for a promotion, you need to learn what is important in the culture you're working in.  Otherwise, look for a job elsewhere.

Thursday, February 5, 2004

Been There. Done That. Got my "Quality" T-Shirt (from the now-dead corporate fad).

Take it as an opportunity to learn about corporate politics (it does come in handy sometimes) and move on.

Semi-Anonymous Coward
Thursday, February 5, 2004

anon wrote, "What was the cause?"

I can't believe you actually need to ask this question!

Nobody is going to tell this to your face, but you probably rate only slightly higher than a nameless faceless temporary secretary.

Within every large American corporation there is the in-crowd and there is everybody else. The in-crowd consists of senior management, a few middle managers, and handful of regular employees.

One Programmer's Opinion
Thursday, February 5, 2004

>> "Within every large American corporation there is the in-crowd and there is everybody else. The in-crowd consists of senior management, a few middle managers, and handful of regular employees."

Wow.  Since I kind of sit in my cube and,  you know, actually do work all day, I kind of ignore the social stuff.  But you just hit the nail on the head.  Describes my workplace exactly.  Can't believe this happens everywhere!

Thursday, February 5, 2004

Yup, it happens everywhere.

Of course, you can always learn to use it to your advantage.  Dealing with people is just another skill set to add to your toolbox.


Steve Barbour
Thursday, February 5, 2004

Actually, I think any place that throws a party for someone rewriting some code is the problem. It shouldn't be a party affair; it was your job, surely.

I think you've probably been at sub-standard workplaces and they weren't even aware of it. Now you've landed at a place that values all their developers and avoids fatuous favouritism.

Must be a Manager
Thursday, February 5, 2004

>Has anyone else experienced this kind of thing?  Have you
>ever been the hero at one company & the goat at another
>while performing at the same level?  What was the cause? 
>What was the solution?

Well, I have had that sort of problem, but kinda reversed. I stayed in the same group in the same company and had it happen.

I am a programmer in a big Fortune 100 company, which translates into "I am a technical grunt for a bit corporation."  Interestingly, upper management changed (in my case) for the worse. Before I was considered a very bright fast-tracker with good programming skills.  Now it is a boys club, where extroverted, socially-well adjusted girls are seen as subhuman and immature, it seems.

Fortunately, there are some of those people around who are above this, but the directors in charge are not. So, for now, I am just sitting back, watching it play out, and realizing nothing stays the same forever.

I have thought about leaving, and have a 'magic time' in my head that I am giving it to correct itself. After that period of time is up, it will be their loss.

So, my advice would be to see if you can bear it and/or see any light at the end of the tunnel. If not, take the high road and know it's their loss, not yours.

Thursday, February 5, 2004

Oh yeah, and one more thing if you're planning on staying:

I have joined a group of networking professionals sponsored by work, as well as made contacts outside my group. It's funny how shocking it is when your managing director sees you with a board member of a top management organization.

So, you could 'diversify' within your group and make it visible. That way, you keep 'em guessing, and if it doesn't work out in your group, you have contacts elsewhere to jump.


Thursday, February 5, 2004

>>Welcome to the corporate world, where being a good
>>developer takes a back seat to being a good politician.

Learn to become as good a politician as you are a developer. 

Thursday, February 5, 2004

Would you actually start holding back and join the management pack just to blend in? Or look for a job more suited to your training? Really depends on the direction you feel suited to your background. For some, they go into management knowing that the kind of challenges they get from developing is transformed into other challenges, like team leading, presale, and dealing with customers--and they are cool with that.

Look at it this way, if you end up going to work thinking "if I don't blend in and act stupid my coworkers will just be bending me over going in dry...", you might as well start calling your profs up... Don't let your integrity (not to mention intelligence) go to waste, if you feel you are a great techie and there's companies that can benefit and reward you properly then go for it.

Li-fan Chen
Thursday, February 5, 2004

"It shouldn't be a party affair; it was your job, surely."

I heard there was a party for the team that won the superbowl.

Can you believe it? I mean, how unprofessional can you get? they were doing their job and are already well paid. It's obsurd to be throwing a party for someone who is merely doing his job. Some teams just don't know how to manage.

Dennis Atkins
Thursday, February 5, 2004

I disagree w/ the people who immmediately knee-jerk concluded "politics"

Or maybe the stuff you're working on aren't high profile apps? 

Or maybe in a larger department, everyone can't be recognized. 

You sould like you prefer a smaller, more intimate setting. 

Or maybe you're just not that good anymore? 

Friday, February 6, 2004

This is exactly why I've NEVER wanted to work for a big company. I prefer to stick with the smaller outfits where my skills are needed and appreciated. At a big place, you're just another ant, sitting in your little spot in the nest with all the other worker ants. I wouldn't be able to stand that... ugh! I might make slightly more money there, but I'm surely happier here... and they don't mind that I'm a girl! LOL.

Friday, February 6, 2004

Dennis, superbowl is the entertainment industry and the whole thing is oriented to parties. The team is small and the whole team gets the goodies.

What a few of the posters seem to be complaining about is that they're no longer getting treated as the boss's favorite.

In my view, there should be none of that sort of stuff at work.

Must be a Manager
Friday, February 6, 2004

>> "In my view, there should be none of that sort of stuff at work."

In my own defense, it took only about 40 hours to rewrite the app in question, and because of it, the company saved hundreds and hundreds of overtime man-hours of work per year.  Also, the president of the company was a former accountant.  I believe that when a bean counter is faced with those kinds of unexpected savings, he has no choice...  Genetically, he is compelled to par-tay!!!  ;-)

Friday, February 6, 2004

Response to the exemplary employee who is taking a backseat to the less than exemplary employee due to politics. 
I did not realize that this was an egregious error that corporations do to their employees.  It is disheartening.  Hang in there and do what you do best. 

This  happens in schools especially.  I teach advanced placement (college level) in a large high school and sponsor several organizations but my boss either thinks I am too smart or he really prefers the young cheerleader types or macho men that he hires.  He never talks to me and if I talk to him as I sometimes must he does not listen to what I say.  I know this because his response will be something I just told him.  These people are inhuman jerks.


Kathryn Danielle LaTourneau
Friday, May 14, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home