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How good an employee are you? who's fault?

I recently changed jobs, and boy have I changed!

Went from an Admin/Techsupport role in an accounting firm to a customer service role in a firm that creates the infrastructure for universities to provide online content. Both firms have about 30 people.

I left the accounting firm thinking I was the worst worker. I hated going to work, my work days where spent doing anything but work, trying to hide the fact from my bosses, and knowing that they knew that I knew..well we all didn't like each other. The day I left and said alot of individual goodbyes, everybody was telling me how they were trying to leave, how much they hated the place.

I left a very disheartened, very dark, very anti-social chicky. I thought I didn't know how to have fun, or get excited etc.

I start work at this new firm, in customer support. The place is awesome. It feels like family. We have heaps of fun, we talk we laugh we work. I am starting to see myself change. Becoming alot like the girl I used to be five years ago before I started working in accounting firms. I have fun, I play, I say hi to everyone and mean it!!

I think it might have to do with the firm structures (among other things). In the accounting firm everyone is very individually focused, in a software firm there is a global goal. In the accountant firm I was considered an oddity, and my lateral thinking skills were considered astounding.  At software firm we pass around copies of ST, and talk about the simpsons, they have a girls footy team instead of a poxy netball team. Nobody flashes their school ties. It is such a different world.

Prior to starting work here I honestly doubted that I would ever be a good employee, I thought I was too anti-social, too much like one of the guys from 'Office space'.
It is so nice to be wrong, turns out the environment does bad things to good people. Maybe if I had have known this earlier, before the evil managers started digging their claws into me I would have been better prepared to weather the five year storm!!!

Has anyone else had similar experiences? Refinding themselves in a nice workplace?

Aussie Chick
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Does going from 60 to 38 hour work weeks count?

I hope to avoid startups/small companies for that reason alone...


Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Sure, it happens everywhere. A lot of the good or bad attitude comes down from management (and fun co-workers are hired by management too).

Now a prediction from my crystal ball: there's something in the water where you you work now that will make many of the young women get pregnant.

Anony Coward
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

I think the chemistry of the work environment is very complex and can be really surprising.

A few years ago I worked in a start-up with some of my best friends. We had a relaxed atmosphere, geek toys in the office, ideals and dreams. These were some of the coolest, smartest, most interesting people I know. People I loved (and fortunately still love) dearly.

And in many ways it was the worst environment I've ever worked in.

One thing was that I never felt I had anything special to contribute. All of us had similar education. All my colleagues  could do everything that I could (and often more)

And then I found I was really out of sympathy with the technology we were working with, and bored by the customers we were able to attract.

I became demotivated. When struggling with problems, I found myself rerunning arguments in my head about why we shouldn't have made these technical decisions, rather than being able to concentrate on trying to get things done. And  because I felt unproductive I felt *amazingly* guilty for letting my friends down.

Eventually I had to leave because the stress was too much. And I thought I was the world's most  incompetent, lousy employee.

Later, I got what, on paper, looked the most boring job on Earth : maintainence of a government intranet.  In an underfunded department in a ramshackle office. Where I had to clock in and out so my hours were recorded. Working with people I didn't know, most of whom were OK coders, but hardly Fog Creek material.

But immedietely I felt useful. I could actually *help* in this environment. The technical decisions had been made long before I was there, and although not my preference, I was able to live with them.  I regained my self-confidence and started to enjoy this kind of work again. I was actually happy sitting at my computer and sifting through and refactoring other people's code. I was happy tracking down and fixing bugs.

Who's fault? Well, in one sense, mine because I guess I shouldn't have let things get to me. But I think circumstance has an important role too.

phil jones
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

I've always felt that the #1 ingredient in to how well I do, and how happy I am as an employee is my manager. They give you the freedom to, or restrict you from doing your job.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The accounting firm sounded like a bunch of stuck-up dicks. Didn't they have fun "find thing" days where they went around the town "finding things" on some list? Oh the joy. Such fun. Those clever little accountants.

You were a support person in an intensely hierarchical firm staffed by morons. Happens everywhere.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

'Morons' is a highly inflammatory term around here.  Please take care in its use in the future.  Thank you.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

>Didn't they have fun "find thing" days where they went around the town "finding things" on some list? Oh the joy. Such fun. Those clever little accountants.

Yes, and we all got to dress up as American Indians while we did it....but remember staff we are an accounting firm, and we have to behave don't have to much fun...

Aussie Chick
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

> 'Morons' is a highly inflammatory term around here.  Please take care in its use in the future.  Thank you.

You're right. I will stay with "stuck-up dicks."

Thursday, August 12, 2004

"turns out the environment does bad things to good people"

This is a good insight. I was observing recently that it works the same on the internet. People become involved with contentious discussion forums like slashdot. Soon they spend all their time there. Then, they find they have to shout and argue and say ridiculous things just to be heard. Eventually, this bad attitude filters into their normal life.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Here's another crystal ball prediction:

You will soon grow to feel apathy and resentment towards your current job, which you love so much now, but will ultimately end up seeking refuge and comfort in the arms of a new fun seeking employer which will just endlessly perpetuate the cycle of mania/depression concerning your employment life. Just try not to act surprised when it happens.

Anon-y-mous Cow-ard
Thursday, August 12, 2004

Actually that is the surprise, the pessimest part of me has been holding my breath wondering the exact same thing.

I think this place is okay though.

Hey I worked at McDonalds for many years and never ever grew sick of it. Love the place, loved it. So long term work enjoyment is possible.

Aussie chick
Thursday, August 12, 2004

i recently experienced a difference moving from a investment bank to software dev company. different environment!

Thursday, August 12, 2004

"turns out the environment does bad things to good people"

Yeah.  There is a book called the abilene paradox that has a chapter on this:,descCd-tableOfContents.html

It's called "Eichmann in the organization."  Apparently, Adolf Eichmann was a good, moral, decent man ... until he became a prison guard in Nazi Germany.  The theory of the book is that if you can just convince one group that:

"Our problem is group X.  Group X is the enemy.  Once we get rid of Group X, our lives will be better ..."

Then you can get them to do all kinds of evil things to group X, who they think of as sub-human.

Now, think about struggles with:

Trench worker
Middle Management
Executive Management

And think hard about how those groups view each other.  Think Enron, K-Mart, WorldCom.  Think about the major perks given to executives in struggling firms - K-Mart gave multi-million dollar "cash loans" out to it's executives, which became bonus's if the executive stuck around for three months. 

They did this right up to and including the point of bankruptcy.  They gave out so much in these incentive programs that they did not have enough $$$ to pay for advertising for the christmas season, so they chose not to advertise, so sales were so low they went bankrupt.  That's the actual story.

Have you ever read "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand?  Rand had it part-way correct.  Lots of people behave poorly, but generally that's due to the environment. 

If the system rewards people who hit the deadline, then employees will throw quality out the window to hit the date.  After > 5 years of this, you get crappy, buggy, unreliable, unmaintanable systems, and you feel like you are swimming in slow-dry concrete.

The guy who is willing to take a stand for quality in that enviroment is rare. 

Now, are the people who go for what the system rewards "evil"?  I don't think so.  They are just responding to the environment.

Your last environment might have been poor, you new one sounds healthier.  Be pragmatic.  You will probably soon find something to wrangle you - take joy in the improvements you have, and find ways to live with the disappointments.

just some food for thought, (Matt H.)
Thursday, August 12, 2004

Above, it was not three months, it was three years, and it was freewill based.

so if the company fired you, you got to keep the money.  Which happened just about the time the board realized how badly they'd be um ... scre-wed. (Matt H.)
Thursday, August 12, 2004

I am currently in a bad environment situation but I hope to be getting out of it in less than 2 years (I have the golden handcuffs of stock options holding me back at the moment).  When I first started working here after the steep learning curve I had to climb it was pretty good.  There were hints of management bullshit but nothing too major in the first couple of years. 

Now the company is trying to make the transition from a small-mid sized company to a mid-large sized company.  So in order to do that the thought is that we need process and a big thick manual to ensure that everyone knows and follows the process (of course in order to actually get things done in a reasonable amount of time no one follow the complete process).

As part of this whole shift to a large company we are starting to see lots of people pay stupid games that have only one purpose;  to propel themselves up the corporate ladder.  One of the results of these games is that the people that actually do the technical work to get the product out the door are treated like childern.  We don't have ownership of anything but if anything goes wrong you can guess where the fingers get pointed.

I guess a nice side effect of the management bullshit games that are being played is that in the last couple of years the golden handcuffs have become considerably weaker to the point where they are actually almost laughable.  I just have to wait until I can cash out my existing options and then I might just have the luxury of taking 6 months to a year off before I need to start a new job.  I hope to find a situation similar to yours Aussie Chick...

Looking to get out...
Thursday, August 12, 2004

Bad environments make bad workers and bad workers make bad environments.

What I'm really interested in is the following:

what is a "girl's footy team" (sounds naughty!) and why is it superior to a "poxy netball team"?


Why were you dressed as "American Indians" for a scavenger hunt?  Is that considered an extra bit of fun in Australia?  If so is it specifically "american indians" or is it just dressing up in costumes that makes the fun?

name withheld out of cowardice
Thursday, August 12, 2004

Aussie Chick -

Congratulations!  I am enjoying a similar experience myself.  We have airzookas here to relieve tension, and a weekly reboot Friday afternoon, and so on.

Have fun!

Aaron F Stanton
Thursday, August 12, 2004

I too had the same experience last year.  At the old place the only time my boss was ever nice to me was the day I told "I quit"!  My wife even commented how I was a different person because I actaully more upbeat.  Such a nice feeling going to bed at night and looking forward to the next day...

Bill Rushmore
Thursday, August 12, 2004

Congrats, Aussie.

In my experience, anything to which we become emotionally attached has power over us.  The lesson is, be careful what you become attached to... and if the attachment starts to become a "problem", do something about it quickly or you will find yourself (pick one or more) unhappy, stressed, angry, upset.

My job situation is far from what I'd like it to be.  I had to detach emotionally from it because the stress and resentment was unhealthy for me.  I'm still at the same place, and now I can do my work and leave every day without wanting to maim people :).

Should be working
Thursday, August 12, 2004

Another odd post. I've shovelled turky shit and it wasn't bad. Environment? A turkey house. What really counts is who you are working WITH (and/or what you are doing). When chucking it, I worked with people from countries I'd never been to.  The work was shit but the job was interesting. The absolute killer is the moron. I worked at a job which was quite good ... then suddenly the bosses hired a moron but only I could see the naked truth.  BTW, I define a moron as someone who is not only dumb but ignorant of the fact as opposed to the person who is dumb and knows it and can be quite good to work with.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

>what is a "girl's footy team" (sounds naughty!) and why is it superior to a "poxy netball team"?

Girl's football team. ie touch football. Any girl who will play touch footy is bordering on okay. Netball is regarded as a sport played by catty girls, who scratch and gouge at any opportunity in what is suppose to be a non-contact sport.

>Why were you dressed as "American Indians" for a scavenger hunt?  Is that considered an extra bit of fun in Australia?  If so is it specifically "american indians" or is it just dressing up in costumes that makes the fun?

Just the dressing up in costume part was supposed to be fun. Our 'team' chose American Indians because there were lots of cliches that made it easy (we also won the best dressed award....oh joy...).

Aussie chick
Thursday, August 12, 2004

This is classic social psychology, which is centered around the power of the situation.

In very simplified terms, situations can cause ordinary people to do things they would never think they would do (good or bad).

Read The Social Animal by Aronson for a thoroughly well-written description of the way we work.

You won't be able to put it down, I guarantee it.

Interested human
Thursday, August 12, 2004

name withheld, what did you think a "girl's footy team" (sounds naughty!) was?

Thursday, August 12, 2004

I dunno...I hear girls...I hear something involving feet stated in a cutesy mind starts to wander.

What is "netball"?  Is it like LaCross?  Are you balls in nets or throwing balls at nets?

name withheld out of cowardice
Thursday, August 12, 2004

Picture basketball, with no backboard. just a pole in the ground at each end of the court, with a ring on the top of it (and mostly no net).
Then picture the court divided into three sections, and each player having to wear a 'bib' which has weird letters on it. ie WA = wing attack, WD = wing defense, C = centre. etc etc.
then depending on what letters  you have on your bib, you can only go into certain sections of the court. ie WA is only allowed in the attack zone. Even less people are allowed in the actual ring around the net.

Then there are heaps of fun rules, like zero contact (oh except for the well placed elbox in your back). Finger nails have to be taped up..go figure why that rule exists. If someone else has the ball you can't hit it out of their hands (they blow the whistle and yell 'stand aside'), but you can grab the ball with two hands and stand their staring your oponent in the eye daring one another to give up. if no one gives up the ref blows her whistle and it is a jump ball.

Oh and defense works like this. Someone is trying to shoot for goal. You stand with one hand behind your back, with the other hand up in the air, standing on the toes of one foot. but don't stand too close to the person shooting, and don't wave two hands, or they will blow that whistle and yell 'stand aside'.

There is no driblling like basketball, you pass the ball then take a single step.

Oh it is the most boring game ever. It is so girly. no men play this game at all. Okay they do paly mixed sometimes, but I doubt a single men's team exists anywhere in the world.

so go figure, lots of bitchy girls scratching out eyeballs, and elbowing and yelling 'stand aside'...and well I am just far too rough, and far too nice to play this sport.

Aussie Chick
Thursday, August 12, 2004

Is this an Australian game? It sounds like an Australian gme.
Thursday, August 12, 2004

Nah, the kiwi's own netball - they keep winning the test matches - but AC's right, it's a catfight in short skirts.

I'd better explain touch footy. If you take away the body armour and steroids and most of the money from American Football and revert to the original rules you return to Rugby Union - a game some Aussies play very well against all comers.

If you then take away tackling (so play stops when a player is tagged) it's called touch footy and is a great way to spend lunchtime.

Not all Aussies agree. There's the dumbed down Rugby League version played by professionals along the east coast of the continent while the rest split between playing Australian Rules (also called footy) and soccer, which the rest of the world sometimes calls football.

hth, and can someone please explain how you can pack 15 minutes of action into a whole afternoon of gridiron?

Friday, August 13, 2004

Wait, when I say footy, I mean footy. Not aerial pin pong.

I want to see real men running around having blues, none of those melees that you guys have.

Aussie Chick
Friday, August 13, 2004

Cripes, you don't follow LEAGUE do you. Oh for shame.

We sent the wrong team to Sydney. If we had sent North Melbourne to Sydney instead of Souths, they could have kept the name intact with no loss of prestige.

This could get quite noisy .. heh, heh.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Of course I follow league!

It was my husband running around in his footy shorts that made me realise he was the man I was going to marry. His footy shorts, his footy jersey...still does it for me every time...

I am not sure it would have had the same effect had he been wearing those bike pants and V-neck singlets that the guys down south run around in!

Aussie Chick
Friday, August 13, 2004

"I want to see real men running around having blues, none of those melees that you guys have."


I've got to learn to speak Australian.

name withheld out of cowardice
Friday, August 13, 2004

BTW- impossible to say without having seen all sports, but I dare guess that baseball is more boring than netball.

One of my favorite incidents o the Simpsons is when Homer is forced to stop drinking and actually goes to a baseball game and has no beer- you can hear the disbelieving voice in his head '...hey...this game is really boring!'

name withheld out of cowardice
Friday, August 13, 2004

Blues = punchups
Melees = freewheeling punchups, somtimes involving the referee.

Friday, August 13, 2004

I wasn't going to mention baseball.
So please don't mention cricket.

Friday, August 13, 2004

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