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I have worked as a software developer for a company for 5 years, they were a small start up when I joined and the emphasis was on the quality of your output, that is how you were judged as an employee and I always got good feedback on my work, complete projects on time etc

They were bought by a larger company 2 years ago and the past 18 months the culture has been shifting in such a way that it is having a negative impact on my morale and happiness. The biggest negative for me is the introduction of two systems to track employee's time. The first system tracks time allocated to specific tasks and the second system tracks the time you are in the office.

This implies to me they don't trust their employees as professionals and just encourages presenteeism and box ticking. The non-software parts of the business, mainly the admin side, have embraced this change. I suppose it makes things easier for them.

I can understand the need to track time against issues to bill customers but we have to log 8 hours a day, every day, even when the time isn't billable to anyone. It is getting to the point where internal bookkeeping seems to be valued more than the actual quality of your work. I have raised it with my manager and he assures me that it is not done because they don't trust their employees but I find it hard to believe that because he has no alternative business reason or any other justification for it.

I am pretty resentful of the situation. I feel that if I wanted to punch in and out of work and be treated like a child I could have worked at a factory. And while I genuinely like the people I work with if I have to put up with this sort of culture I may as well go work for another company that would pay me more for doing so.

Realistically is there anything I can do to push back against this, or is my best option to just leave ?

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    bought by a larger company 2 years ago and the past 18 months the culture has been shifting in such a way that it is having a negative impact on my moral and happiness. The biggest negative for me is the introduction of two systems to track employee's time - hmm, sounds like you either put up or.. well, yea . Mergers can be a little stressful no doubt Good luck : ) – Adel Jul 28 '15 at 16:22
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    I think it is amusing that you think they want to treat you like a child because you are the one who is acting like one. Timesheets are a legitmate business need. They need to unmderstand who is spending how much time on what to determine future manpower needs, to rearrange workload, to charge customers, etc. And yes to prevent slackers from not working the hours they are paid to work. You think you are too good to do them but you aren't . And you are letting something that takes a few minutes a day ruin your morale when you like the work and the people? Really it is time to grow up. – HLGEM Jul 28 '15 at 17:44
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    @HLGEM: Why do you think that time sheets actually work for that purpose? While there is a legitimate business need to know what's going on it's entirely unclear whether do time sheets do anything useful especially in more creative environments. See for example hbr.org/2015/01/… – Hilmar Jul 28 '15 at 17:54
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    @HLGEM, the first time system mentioned by the OP sounds normal enough, but the second time system "tracks the time you are in the office." In my experience, the former is common, but systems like the latter are unusual in a software development environment. Most software developers would be a little indignant, I think, if they had to record the time they arrive and leave the office. If you're not performing well, you would expect that level of scrutiny, but not if you're a good performer. – mhwombat Jul 28 '15 at 18:48
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    @HLGEM It is unusual in software development to track anything except billable hours, which I don't actually have a problem with. The issue is we are expected to track every minute as well as our attendance in the office. I'm a professional, I expected to be trusted to carry out my duties and be judged on my output. Management have publicly complained that they have lost the start up style productivity from every software development office they have acquired, they seen unable to connect the did. Dots. – user1450877 Jul 29 '15 at 2:06
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Realistically is there anything I can do to push back against this, or is my best option to just leave ?

I've experienced this exact scenario three times - it's almost eerily familiar.

  • Worked for a startup
  • Acquired by a larger company having a very different culture
  • Two different time tracking systems - work hours, and project hours
  • Very unhappy, for this and many other reasons

Unfortunately, I don't have anything very positive to offer you. Each of my situations ended with me giving up on my attempts to change the larger corporate culture, and eventually leaving.

I look at it this way - this is not the work environment you signed up for. You decided to join a startup because at least some significant aspects of their culture appealed to you. Now you work for a different kind of company, with a different culture. I'd bet that if you were on the market, this isn't the kind of company you'd consider interviewing with.

You might decide to stick around a while to see if anything changes. One thing that happens frequently in larger companies is reorgs. Every large company I worked for had rather frequent reorgs (unfortunately, not all of them for the better).

But barring that, it sounds like you should either learn to live with the big-company culture or seek out a company that more closely fits your idea of a good company culture. I always suggest waiting until you've landed your next job before quitting your current job.

Culture changing in a way I don't like, anything I can do?

Unless you are a C-Level executive, or at least a General Manager of your division, I don't think there's much you can do.

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    I didn't think there was anything I could do, just hoping I guess. I really enjoy working with the people there, my boss is great but I think it is time to move on. Thanks for the answer, it helped me make up my mind. – user1450877 Jul 29 '15 at 2:09
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I've lived through this twice and seen it once more (I joined the company after the acquisition but it was still fresh in everyone's minds). There are two categories of culture issues: the ones that are more about how teams do their work and peers interact, which you can affect, and the ones that are more about bureaucracy, which you generally can't. Time-tracking fits into the latter category.

A larger company that already had procedures in place bought your company. They, being the acquirer and the larger party, are not going to change how they operate -- not across the board, and not by making an exception for you. Large companies operate by making operations as consistent across the organization as possible. Everybody will use the same time-tracking system, for example, whether you directly bill customers or are internal support. Because people who bill customers need to track the number of hours, so do you. And, more grimly, because some people slack off and don't work a full week, you all need to do so (documentably).

It is very unlikely that you can do anything about the timesheets. What you can do is talk with your direct management (assuming it's your pre-acquisition manager) about informal arrangements. For example, the policy may require you to work 40 hours each and every week; if you put in a ton of extra time last week to meet a deadline, though, your manager might be fine with you working less this week and adjusting the bookkeeping. Or he might be a stickler; you won't know until you ask.

Your whole company is presumably facing this change, and you're unlikely to be the only one who's upset. Before you give up and leave, it's worth chatting with your peers and friendly managers about ways to mitigate the morale damage.

All that said, companies do change over time, and down the road you'll probably either get used to this or go elsewhere. As you continue to hire people, the proportion of people who remember the "old days" will go down and there will be less pressure to preserve what you had. New employees will have only ever known the current system. But you can probably put this off for a few years if your coworkers feel as you do.

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Timesheets is a very standard practice in professional organizations, and moreso in larger ones where the owner isn't directly involved with every single employee. Lawyers fill out timesheets. Engineers fill out timesheets (actual engineers, not programmers). Pretty much every type of consultant fills out timesheets.

As mentioned, there are a variety of business needs to doing it. First and foremost, if your company works for clients, it's the best way of knowing how many billable hours to charge them. Even if you only work on one project for weeks at a time, it's much easier for you to fill out your timesheet to that effect instead of having your supervisor do it for you and everyone else they manage. It's actually giving you more responsibility.

  • True, but the OP said "The first system tracks time allocated to specific tasks and the second system tracks the time you are in the office." In my experience, the former is common, but systems like the latter are unusual in a software development environment. – mhwombat Jul 28 '15 at 18:44
  • @mhwombat the problem is, if your hours don't add up to 40+, someone will wonder, "What were they doing, or not doing, in those missing hours?" Then the law and the system conspire to create an unsolvable problem. I used to record time on code review or some other non-billable task, which was most of my time when I was in R&D (projects developed for no particular client). Then they said that R&D was not "profitable"... Umm? – user37746 Sep 14 '16 at 14:05

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