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I have joined a new workplace several months ago as a software engineer, for a very software-centric project. The quality of code there was extremely poor when I arrived, but I did not let it bother me and did my best to improve the company's product anywhere I could, hoping to leave a good impression and advance the company.

Not long after I started working there, the company got a large offer from another company, that it would buy it. However, the potential buyer had a lot of high requirements for the company's software that needed to be met within very short time intervals; they made it clear that if my company can not meet those requirements, they would go to competitors instead.

The expertise of other developers on the team was far too low than to meet those requirements within the given timeframe (or at all...), but with my experience and me working overtime and during holidays we were able to meet all the requirements and give a good impression to the buying company.

After that, I stopped hearing anything from the management of my company. They let me keep working on my regular routine at the company for a few months. Then, all of the sudden, they announce that the deal was sealed and that our company is getting bought by the bigger company.

Before I could be happy about getting a pay raise and working at a much nicer place, they made it clear that only the management are moving into the buying company, and all the employees are getting terminated.

Without my work, the company would not have been able to seal this deal. During this work, I was constantly pressured to work extra hours to make ends meet, while being promised all sorts of benefits if we were to manage to seal this deal.

It it clear that I was lied to all this time. I am not happy about this. Is there any action I can take, legal or moral, either to get some level of compensation back for my work within proportions to what the company got out of it, or to act against the management and make sure they will think twice before giving employees this type of treatment again in the future?

Also, when applying to a new job, should I list this company on my resume, or hide it? I do not want to leave months blank with no explanation, but I also have very little positive things to say about this company if I get asked questions.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Mister Positive Aug 2 at 12:44
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    Which country does this happen? – paul23 Aug 3 at 19:22

10 Answers 10

55

Learn from the experience and move on

Is there any action I can take, legal or moral, either to get some level of compensation back for my work within proportions to what the company got out of it

Go through the offer letter carefully. You may not be entitled to any extra benefits (even overtime pay), based on the clauses mentioned in your offer letter. Software companies routinely mention clauses in their offer letter asking employees to put extra hours as required without the promise of any extra compensation. Seek the help of a legal professional if you feel you are not able to make sense out of the legal language.

As unfortunate as it may sound, there may not be much you can do.

or to act against the management and make sure they will think twice before giving employees this type of treatment again in the future?

What it is you think you can do that will change their mind forever? I suspect there isn't anything much that can be done here. Ethical or not, that's how they do their business.

Also, when applying to a new job, should I list this company on my resume, or hide it? I do not want to leave months blank with no explanation, but I also have very little positive things to say about this company if I get asked questions.

Don't let your bad experience in terms of remuneration and treatment let you skip on mentioning it in your resume. Don't show a career gap in your resume when there isn't. This will not reflect fairly on you.

You don't have to shouldn't say anything negative either about the company. Only discuss the technical aspects of your work without commenting anything on the company work culture, management ethics and business practise. Discussing the latter reflects poorly on you.

This may not be the answer you are looking for, but you likely don't have other options. Take a lesson from the experience and act wisely in the future.

Good luck!

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    This answer could be improved by describing what acting wisely means. Make a written contract? Don't work overtime? This whole situation seems weird to me anyway, because where I'm from oral contracts are a thing, so he would definitely have a case – Hakaishin Aug 2 at 7:50
  • What prevents OP to mention on their CV that they modernised their employers company systems to a up-to-date level? (they may not be allowed to say that this enabled the company to be bought). – Captain Emacs Aug 2 at 8:20
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    For the resume, it's also important that being terminated here shouldn't reflect negatively on the OP either. The OP is essentially being laid off, not fired for cause, so it shouldn't reflect poorly on them. – David K Aug 2 at 12:29
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    If the OP is asked questions at an interview, a "just the facts" approach will work. "Company was being bought out, code had this specific issues, I took this approach to fix. Fixes were successful, entire dev group laid off". – DaveG Aug 2 at 13:58
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    It stinks, but this is probably not the last time this will happen. You need to understand that, not matter what their mottos or slogans say, no matter what they tell you at company rah-rah meetings, the company will never have your best interests at heart. Companies do not have hearts. They are legal constructs whose fate is determined by a bunch of people looking to make money. There is no other reason for their existence. Concentrate on doing what is best for you, and they will do the same. That's how the game is played. – Francine DeGrood Taylor Aug 2 at 16:53
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Business is business.

They hired you for specific work, you performed the work and they did whatever the business required (in this case merge and turn it into a more profitable business).

Since they no longer require your services they let you go.

This is harsh, blunt, doesn't take into consideration human beings and their value, etc.

Unfortunately (having been through this myself 2 years ago) it all boils down to money. The only way you can get past it is to see it for what it is and not take it personally.

And the only moral action you could take is don't do it to others.

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    +1 for "And the only moral action you could take is don't do it to others." – Nimesh Neema Aug 2 at 0:12
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    Another lesson you should take: Don't invest personal time for verbal promises (that you wouldn't invest without them). Make sure any benefits promised are written down in a contract. – Frank Hopkins Aug 2 at 12:40
  • And the OP did get compensation for the work: they were paid for their time. More than that would have been very nice, of course, but you shouldn't rely on it. – gidds Aug 2 at 15:45
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Is there any action I can take, legal or moral, either to get some level of compensation back for my work within proportions to what the company got out of it, or to act against the management and make sure they will think twice before giving employees this type of treatment again in the future?

Probably not. The company probably owns all of the intellectual property rights to the product(s) of your work. If you think otherwise, consult an attorney.

I'm not sure what a "moral" action would be? Tell your clergyman?

Act against the management and make sure they will think twice before giving employees this type of treatment again in the future? That sounds like a threat. What act would you take? Blow up their boat, car, house? What type of act do you think you could take against them to make sure they never do this again?

Also, when applying to a new job, should I list this company on my resume, or hide it? I do not want to leave months blank with no explanation, but I also have very little positive things to say about this company if I get asked questions.

Why would you leave it out? You worked there. The fact that you got screwed doesn't change that and it doesn't negate the work that you did. If and when it comes up, speak to the work you did, not what transpired with the sale of the business. It isn't relevant and, frankly, nobody cares.

I get it that you're angry about this, but to be perfectly blunt, this is the way of the world. Take what lesson you can from it and move on.

  • "What act would you take? Blow up their boat, car, house?" Clearly outside the realms of possibility for someone sensible enough to ask this question on SE, for sure, but you can only push a man so far. Were I a manager, I wouldn't let this sort of thing happen, because I'd expect it to cause things I care about to be attacked. – Adam Barnes Aug 2 at 11:08
  • "It isn't relevant and, frankly, nobody cares." +1 – FreeMan Aug 2 at 12:35
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I think you misunderstand the situation. If a group of vampires wants to join another group of vampires, and the condition is that they demonstrate being able to squeeze blood from a rock and that's what they show themselves to be able to, do you think they will then ask the rock to join them?

As you stated: the majority of the work force was incompetent. There would have been no point in giving them an offer. And a single competent worker is not worth making exceptions for, particularly since the transferred management team does not want anybody to badmouth them.

Get references and let somebody who knows reference language check them. If your old management is not stupid and/or suicidal, the references will be excellent.

That's the best you can expect out of this disaster. Actually, the best you can expect is to work for someone else in future.

4

Disclamer: I Am Not A Lawywer or a Psychologist

I have experienced a similar situation to yours, where my employer demanded the moon an the stars then just used our blood and sweat to line their pockets while shafting us at the same time. It sucks to be at the receiving end of this behavior, but know that you are not alone.

At first I was angry, then depressed, then I taught myself to see the bad times as a learning experience. Looking back at it, it wasn't a learning experience, it was a rip-off and I should have spat in their faces when they told us they would fire half of us after working week-ends and 12 hour days to fix their shitty software.

I was angry and depressed. I knew I was taken advantage of and felt powerless. It felt like a rape where the rapist gets to walk away scot free and smile in your face, and even make suggestions regarding your sexual prowess to all your further intimate partners.

At first I was angry, I wanted to get back to those people, or at least make them pay a bit for what they did, so I saught the counsel of a layer. In my case there was not much he could help me with, everything my employers did was within the limits of our laws, even if it was unethical. And the stuff he could help me with took years in civil courts to settle and could end up backfiring if they had better lawyers or a judge they could lean on.

I was depressed for a few months. I started feeling inadequate, unsure of my skills and competencies. I stopped going to interviews because I kept getting rejected (I was so risk-averse at the time, and interviewers pick that up very fast).

Then it finally hit me: I don't have to let those a-hats pull me down. So I started learning, started writing stuff for myself, putting things up online, helping people with code on StackExchange and forums, found some nice hobbies I sank some of my time into, started going out and talking to people. Best revenge I got on them is I came out a better person out of that nasty situation.

If I were to give some advice, I'd say learn to come to terms with the situation on your own. Talk to a lawyer, talk to a psychologist, talk to your friends. Ask for help and help in turn.

I became a contractor soon after, I have no allegiance to my client's bottom line. I don't care if they make a profit or if they go bankrupt as long as they pay my fees. I don't invest emotionally in my workplace. I take pride in my work, I do the best I can with the resources I am given, but I don't give them anything else. My 8 hours for their fees and that's it. It worked for me so far. Might work for you too.

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Ask your manager for a reference and apply at the buying company

You don't know what happened during negotiations and you couldn't have changed it anyway. Therefore try to get an advantage from the situation.

Your manager most likely knows what you did for them. Ask him for a reference or even better a personal recommendation to his new company to hire you, else you apply yourself there. Probably they didn't want to take over every employee, but why wouldn't they hire a good employee who is familiar with their code?

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    I'd also be tempted to pursue employment at the new company. Remember that you have a valuable asset (knowledge of their codebase) and that you are a proven quantity. I'm not sure I'd go via your line manager but that might be a reasonable first avenue. If/when you get the job remember that you owe them nothing. – P. Hopkinson Aug 2 at 14:59
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Also, when applying to a new job, should I list this company on my resume, or hide it? I do not want to leave months blank with no explanation, but I also have very little positive things to say about this company if I get asked questions.

There are already good answers to your main question, but I want to add a little remark here: You've basically saved the company and played a fundamental role in a project. Of course you want to talk about that in your future interviews! You will need to find a way to talk about how it all ended, but under no circumstances should you hide your ability to lead a project!

0

It happens. Far too often.

I had this happen to me last year. In 2017 I was a contractor at Company A. I converted to employee after six months. Company A was acquired by company B soon after (of course my loving son's comment was "Jimmy gets hired; company gets sold").

They did one round of expected layoffs - mostly "corporate" functions that were duplicated. Then the CEO said in a townhall last summer that there were no more layoffs.

I was laid off in November 2018. So they lied. And that is business.

Now as to what you should do don't panic.

  • Your skills being as good as they are means you will be ok.
  • Resume. Please do not omit the time from the resume. Instead talk about what you accomplished in your position. This is what a potential employer is looking at. For me, I just stated that I was employed by company blah, blah from mm/yyyy to mm/yyyy. That's all. Don't diss them - it will come off as you being a complainer.
  • For interviews. Again talk about what your accomplished. When the discussion comes top why you are not employed there something along the lines of "the company was sold and positions were eliminated. I was one of those affected". Then get back to how your skills can help the new employer.

I know this has been a shock but looking to the future will be better for your mental health. There is a better position out there. For me it was also financial health - 10% bump over my last position :)

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There is likely absolutely nothing you can do legally, unless you had received some sort of stock options grant which was immediately vested upon being acquired. And that is about it.

The bright side is that if you actually bailed out the company, any senior managers or executives who are aware of what you did will sing your praises or want to hire you ... some day.

I don't share my LinkedIn profile, but it has statements like "Julie bailed out the company and we'd have been in a big pile of poop without her." That's helpful with getting jobs, including with companies which don't need saving.

So ... work your contacts, add some LinkedIn connections from the old job, ask DIRECTLY for glowing recommendations, and go get that next job.

-2

First of all, you probably don't know the whole situation. As you mentioned, there was a few months gap between project completion and companies merge. Maybe it was negotiations time? Maybe your management actually wanted to move with the team together but wasn't able to due to another company restrictions?

Before you act, you should get more information about the situation.

Also remember that business is harsh and those managers probably also have families, etc. If the merge was the last resort for your company and those people, I highly doubt anyone would decline the offer for few incompetent workers and single good one, who would probably find new job in a matter of days.

As of the compensation - I don't know your agreement but provided it's simple employment contract you probably got paid for the overtime. It's the compensation you got and they don't own you anything.

Just move on.

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