My former company is the example of start-ups malpractices. They're also vastly lying about themselves. They put me in a difficult situation in the past and I'd like to avoid others to fall into the same trap. I may use GlassDoor (or other means) to post an anonymous review, but my former employer will most likely link it back to me.
This company being part of a very tight industry (specifically, video-games), I'd like to know if them badmouthing me (small company, some recruiters doubtful about them) would be potentially dangerous for my career, while I have a flawless record with a big consulting company (but which is not related to video games at all)?
At the question "If I do X, would it be dangerous to Y", there are three possible answers: Yes / No / Don't do X. So far I only received "Don't do it", which is helpful (and I'll take it into account). I'd be interested in the opinion of someone (preferably HR) working in a small industry, based on experience, for a Yes/No answer.
Edit: Regarding the possible duplicate, my former employer can not retaliate directly. I'm more worried about the impact inside the videogame field, from a HR point of view. So it is not directly GlassDoor related, though the link has been helpful.
Short summary of red-flags for a company I met in my (short career)
- Lie to you during the interview.
- Micro-management, toxic behaviour.
- Ask you to go "above and beyond" without any compensation whatsoever (acknowledgment included).
- Unpaid overtime (mandatory)
One trickier one I encountered was the classical cliches used by start-ups: "young, dynamic, on the verge to break through. Challenging environnment. You must be able to put yourself into question". While this is not a 100% indicator, the few start-ups I saw used these arguments to justify a deeply unhealthy company culture.
Long read for the list of red-flags for a company I met in my (short career)
I graduated a few years ago in Computer Science, in order to work in my dream-field: videogames. (Totally unexpected and not cliché).
I spent a few months applying everywhere, due to a lack of experience and a high competition. After about six months of active search, I finally landed a job in a "dynamic and ambitious start-up, now on the verge of breaking through". Interviews went well, company being about 10 people, I directly met the CEO and he seemed like someone very reasonable.
I moved from my hometown to the capital for this job, with what should have been a undetermined-duration contract, 3 months of trial period renewable once. I was really eager and enthusiast to find a job after all the time I had been looking.
First surprise: Once I get there, the CEO inform me that yes, I was right during the interview, the salary on my employment promise (before tax) was indeed what I had calculated and effectively lower than what they had advertised. (So I get around a hundred euros less than what I was promised). Plus I have to withdraw from that the mandatory employer-part for public transportation (which isn't a benefit, but something they are required by law to provide). Also, my contract states a 35h/week schedule, but the mandatory hours make it a 37.5h/week. Not paid, not compensated overtime. The offer I accepted was already well below market, especially in that area. The videogame average rate is in addition, well below what I can get with my degree.
By then, I'm already cringing a little. But hey, I'm working in the field I struggled to work with for five years, so I can make this work until I get more experience. Plus, they're soon launching a new secret project, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it, since the size will allow me to have a real impact on the final product.
months weeks days go by, and my coworkers slowly inform me that between what I've been advertised and what really is, there's quite a gap.
Second surprise: The boss directly lied to me. I specifically asked if they had turn-over, to which I was answered "Only a few cases since the company was created a few years ago".1 They, in fact, renewed completely the team over the course of the past six months or so, except the "core" of management.
The job is awful. Of course, under adversity, we, the "grunts", support each other, and all non management team is pretty good to work with. But the process is unbearable, set by a know-it-all, micro-managing, big mouthed CEO that has no experience in code what-so-ever (despite what he pretends). We're, to put it bluntly, working our asses off to pay the "company-related travels" of our boss (and his SO. Which are more like vacations). We silently comply to the mandatory overtime, while everyone agrees it is unfair and doesn't get us anything, not even consideration.
Three months of this, and my trial period gets renewed. They do it "for everybody, there is nothing to be worried about".
The only other full-time developer leaves, and while I'm happy for him, I also have the selfish thought that I'm now temporarily un-firable.
Things gets gradually worse, and I raise a number of concerns/propositions to improve our workflow and general product quality. During this time, most of the team is renewed/replaced, mostly by interns. Some of them quit shortly after beginning for breach of their internship agreement (again, unpaid overtime, boss being unsufferable, not what they signed for, all of this at once).
While I'm still in my trial period, I begin to look for work again, as I think it's a bit too early in my carreer to go for a burn-out.
Other problems happens, and at the fifth and a half month of my six month period, I learn the news: I'm being terminated. The official reason is they're looking for people ready to go above and beyond (read - do more unpaid overtime for a killer salary). I did not find a new job yet. I now live in one of the most expensive cities of the country (and the world). And I can't even say I quit of my own volition.
I clench my teeth, nod, and do the notice period to the best of my ability without raising a complaint.
That was a few months ago. I now have a new, decent job in consulting that pays me fairly. I settled, I'm no longer financially endangered. There is nothing my old boss can do to reach me in my current position.
I have a newsletter updating me about what offers are currently available in the video-games industry. More than often, I see offers from my previous company, looking for the same job they took an intern to do a few months ago, and need to fill in now that he is gone. I know from internal source that they pulled the same stunt for an undetermined-duration contract, same as me. The offers go on about the numerous benefits the company provides - which were of course, completely fake while I was working there, despite being advertised when I signed up.
The other dev that left posted a review on GlassDoor, explaining the problems and his personal experience. Recently, the company posted a review too, saying how great they are, how good it was to work with them, etc, etc. They even copied-pasted the list of fake benefits (that are still non-existent in practice).
That tips it. I really want to help others not to fall into the same trap I did, considering I got lucky and found a job quickly after being fired. Plus, I admit, if I can get back at them for what they did to me, it's a welcomed bonus.
The thing is, videogames is an enclosed industry. Everyone knows everyone, and a bad reputation, even unjustified, can be a death sentence. I still hope to get back into it one day, but I fear that giving my opinion, even anonymously, could trigger retaliation. Considering the number of former employees and the methods used by the CEO (collective punishment) and his pettiness, it's more than probable he will badmouth anyone he thinks have or may have spoken against him.
I'm unsure if the opinion of an obscure, old employer, will weight unfavorably in the video-game industry, even if I have model record in another big company (that is not part of said industry)?
1: I'm intentionally keeping numbers vague, as not to point too obviously at said company.