69

On The Workplace, I see very frequently a comment along the lines of:

That is a company I would personally never consider working for. That is so stupid and short-sighted that it means the rest of the way the company operates will be similarly mismanaged... (from this comment, emph. mine)

(I don't mean to pick on this user, and I apologize in advance to them. It was the most recent example I've seen, though, and I need an example for this question.)

Another variant I see is "if they do X, then you don't want to work there anyway."

To me, this sounds like the logical fallacy of hasty generalization. The logic I see very often here is, "if one small part of the company's policies are mismanaged, then the entire company is mismanaged."

Is this ever actually a correct line of reasoning?

I ask because the first response I have to these comments is "well, no, that's not guaranteed..." For example, the above company could have spectacular management and infrastructure, and simply hasn't had time and money to change their policies that drastically.

I can see that something might set a bad tone for your stay at a company, and I can see that it might imply something about a couple other aspects of the company. I can also see that a single specific thing might, in and of itself, without any other information, make you not want to work somewhere.

But to declare the entire management structure as being mismanaged due to one error seems like a huge leap in logic that doesn't necessarily hold water, and given the number of corporate decisions companies have to make, seems like it could readily cut you off from positive work experiences.

Particularly for companies going through the growing pains of small-staff startup to established corporate infrastructure, it really doesn't seem implausible that a couple errors, mistakes, and unhandled to-do items could linger longer than they were intended, and become expensive to fix later.

In the context of the linked question, for instance, I could easily see how this policy might come about as a consequence of growing pains rather than a serious issue with the company, and while it's definitely not good, it wouldn't be a viable reason to dismiss the entire operation as mismanaged.

Maybe I'm not understanding the gravity of small isolated mismanagement issues, but to me it seems like this is just human nature - people forget to do things, others crop up and become part of the culture, etc., and these are merely things we need to handle on an interpersonal level rather than a life-decision level.

Is the first reaction of "don't work at that company" actually correct? Is there something I'm missing about how I should be making employment decisions?

  • 5
    "Is the first reaction of "don't work at that company" actually correct?" It probably depends on your other job prospects. If one or two have questionable things going on that you can observe, doesn't it make sense to steer clear of those and go for the opportunities that are without issue? – Brandin Oct 13 '15 at 19:33
  • 13
    Personally, if an organization is doing anything clearly illegal, I don't want to work there for even a day. So to me there are cases where "If they do X, I don't want to work there." What qualifies as X can certainly vary from person to person. – Todd Wilcox Oct 13 '15 at 19:57
  • 2
    I feel like this question may be better suited on Meta. It's leaning towards what advice we can practically give on this site, exaggeration or not. – Chase Sandmann Oct 13 '15 at 22:13
  • 4
    Personally, I wouldn't ever consider working for a company whose employees make sweeping judgements in their comments. It's a clear sign of bad managerial judgement. – user56reinstatemonica8 Oct 14 '15 at 12:51
  • 4
    Most of the answers deal with very specific deal-breakers (like serious fraud, or theft, given as examples in the accepted answer) but if we look at the answers, votes, and comments in general across the whole site, it does seem like this community likes to give the answer "run away as fast as you can!" even in the case of very minor inconveniences. – Val Oct 14 '15 at 15:11
101

Imagine you are on a first date and your date says, "oh, I routinely steal from people, it's great fun."

You would almost assuredly be skeptical of everything else this person does because you are questioning their integrity. Stealing is not normal - what else does it imply? Most people would not go on additional dates with them. And this is a normal reaction. And dare I say, appropriate.

The same thing applies for companies. When a company has wholeheartedly endorsed a [stupid, unethical, whatever] business practice it's totally reasonable to be equally concerned there are other, more deeply systemic problems.

There is a big difference between not being perfect and being horribly imperfect. It's just like dating. It's not reasonable to expect a perfect partner. But it's not terrible to expect some level of decency from a partner.. whether that partner is a company or person, obvious, glaring flaws should cause you some significant skepticism about "what's on the inside."

But just as with dating there are some non-negotiables...

  • 123
    Still, I always regret turning down that second date with Robin Hood. – Steve Jessop Oct 13 '15 at 21:14
  • 7
    I dont know... there is something about a bad girl :p – IDrinkandIKnowThings Oct 13 '15 at 21:59
  • 8
    The flip side of this is that I've seen cases where people say this for lesser items. Not "I routinely steal from people", but "I'm not great at tying my shoes and sometimes I trip over myself". Its not great, and I wouldn't fault you for leaving, but sometimes you should stick it out and maybe help solve the problem. – David says Reinstate Monica Oct 13 '15 at 22:23
  • 30
    I think this is a great analogy. Take smoking. I would never date a smoker. That's a deal breaker for me. So on the first date, she lights up, I'm out. A lot of people won't have that big a problem with it, but I do. Same can be true for a business relationship. But for the large part it's up to the people involved where the lines are. – coteyr Oct 14 '15 at 1:32
  • 11
    This actually happened to me... I was dating a girl who had stolen her bicycle (I deduced this from the fact that it was spray painted black and confirmed it with her). As we walked by a row of parked bikes I saw her scanning the bikes to see if any of them were unlocked. Of course that was our last date. – Spacemoose Oct 14 '15 at 11:24
22

Everyone has to judge for himself or herself, but those type of things that bring on that reaction show an attitude of lack of business sense or using employees badly or general immoral behavior that in my experience will reflect elsewhere as well. This is especially true when they reflect that finances might be less than stellar which is of particular concern when dealing with start ups (unless you want to risk not having a salary). What you have to do is get the sense of how serious the issue is and what the implications are. Financial issues and being asked to do something illegal (like being paid under the table) are the most serious because they more often than not reflect a business that is badly run and one that may get you in legal hot water. Better not to take the risk. Of course some of us are more risk adverse than others. So you have to learn to judge for yourself. Usually if there is a little voice telling you that something is wrong, you should listen though. You might miss some great places, but you will avoid a lot of really bad places.

For instance, there is no reason whatsoever for a company to require you to buy your own equipment unless they can't afford to buy it. Yes they could make you happy by buying the system you want, but to put the risk on you and your equipment is simply unprofessional. A company that cares about its finances will not take the risk of having their mission critical information on computers they don't own. It shows a lack of business sense. It shows that they are not focused on more than the short-term. Sure some devs love to buy whatever they want, but that doesn't make it a good business practice. Now if they give you an allowance to buy what you want, that is very different than expecting you to bring your own equipment. Business is not about making developers happy but about making money, to have that level of risk indicates bad judgement.

Now each person has to decide what indicates bad judgement to himself or herself personally. A real indicator of a horrible company is the type of thing they ask you to sign to be employed. If they want you to pay for your own equipment Without giving you the money for it and then want to be able own what is on that machine and wipe it out if you are fired or quit, well that tells you right there what they actually think about your employment. They want all the benefits and you take all the risks.

You will see as you get more experience that when companies do such things, they show what the decision makers value. In this case, it clearly is not you. They expect you to spend thousands of dollars for equipment and then they expect that they own everything on the equipment. If you went to a car dealer and he told you that you had to pay a deposit to get the price on a car, would you buy a car there? Or would you question their judgement? This is the same type of thing. They are cheating you when they ask you to buy your own equipment. Well when people cheat once, they do tend to cheat more than once and about more than one thing.

Ask yourself the implications of anything that makes you uneasy. If they are cutting corners there, where else might they be cutting corners and at what point does one thing you don't like indicate a bigger problem. (Nothing says you can't use this to ask about other things, some things are deal breakers, some are just warning signals.) There are no perfect jobs, you have to learn to evaluate and analyze what information you have to make a decision about whether this is place that you can live with. Personally I can't live with them passing the buck onto me to get the best equipment. Maybe you can. I can live with a less than stellar salary if the work is interesting, maybe you can't. We each individually decide what is important and what is a deal breaker.

Remember if the corporate culture, as seen by what they are telling you as far as work conditions and benefits, makes you uneasy, then the likelihood that you will feel comfortable in this particular workplace is low. Some things aren't bad decisions for everyone but indicators of a thinking and decision making process you do not agree with. I've seen people stop an interview because they didn't like a question that was asked and certainly there are interview questions that could be asked that would make me get up and leave too. Other things may be of less importance but need you to ask further questions. In the end of the day it is all about trusting your own judgement based on what you heard. I can tell you that every bad job I ever took was clearly bad if I looked back at the signals I ignored during the interview. Over time, you develop more awareness of the subtle indicators and you are inclined to give them a higher priority in your job selection process.

  • 1
    That is the experience part of evaluating things. Get enough experience with bad employers that you should have seen a mile away and you too will be less likely to give them the benefit of the doubt. Better to miss a good job from a hasty judgement than to take a bad one. However, that is also why I said that issues of bad judgement (or what is your own idea of bad judgement) that concern finance and legalities are the most critical ones. And of course one person's bad judgement is someone else's , "Oh cool, I want that." – HLGEM Oct 13 '15 at 18:23
  • 5
    I think it also depends very much on the tone and explanations behind bad practices. To continue with the bring-your-own-device example, I would be much more forgiving if the management acknowledged that the bring-your-own policy was not the best practice, here's why they're doing it now, and here's how they plan to move away from it. If on the other hand they were completely unapologetic, this is how we do things, take it or leave it, you can sure bet I'd be leaving it. – David K Oct 13 '15 at 19:06
  • 5
    The BYOD may be a debatable example, but there are definitely similar, seemingly small aspects of an interview or job offer that would be enough of an glimpse of a bigger problem. For instance if interviewers are rude to a candidate, it may indicate that the company views people as interchangeable resources, or candidates as a dime a dozen, or other problems with respecting their employees. This would be especially problematic if more than one interviewer was rude, or the hiring manager was rude. – stannius Oct 13 '15 at 20:49
  • 1
    there is no reason whatsoever for a company to require you to buy your own equipment unless they can't afford to buy it. This is probably true in most IT positions, but definitely not true in skilled trades like construction, mechanics, or landscapers. I am even sure there are instances in IT where it would make sense to require the consultant to provide their own specialty equipment as well. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Oct 13 '15 at 21:57
  • 3
    Taxes are a good reason to let the employee buy the equipment. If the contract is clear enough on the responsibilities of each party, the responsibilities look acceptable to me, and the salary or reimbursement is high enough to offset the equipment expense, then I see nothing wrong with buying my own work-computer which I'll only use for work. But yes, BYOD can be a smell if not done right. – Sumyrda - Reinstate Monica Oct 14 '15 at 5:36
15

I would distinguish operational problems from ethical problems.

Every business has operational problems; processes/systems that are a mess. That's life and that's why they hire people to improve them.

But if you discover ethical problems, that to me is a red flag. It is reasonable to assume that if they treat their customers badly, they also treat their employees badly too and/or will sooner or later go out of business leaving you without a job or any entitlements you accrued.

  • 1
    If you read the question the OP cited (employer has BYOD policy on primary work laptop), it blurred a truckload of operational problems with ethical problems. – smci Oct 14 '15 at 8:34
12

To answer your question:

Is this ever actually a correct line of reasoning?

The short answer is yes. There are many instances where you can sort of feel out what the management structure right from the get-go. For instance, when I was negotiating with my current company for my starting salary, they basically took a "take it or leave it" approach. I was told by my friend not to take the job because any company that does that is so close to death that they're pinching pennies. I gave him the argument you are giving above, and let's just say I should have listened.

The long answer is it depends. Any time you take a new job, you are taking a career risk. There is always a possibility that you are over-reacting to a seemingly negative management move, and it is a great fit for you. On the other hand, it is also possible that they are "covering a turd in glitter" during the interview and it is actually a terrible place to work.

Nobody knows. The best way to find out for sure is to ask people who currently work for the company, and consult glassdoor. Even then, if it is a large company, there can be ambiguity, which is why it is so risky. For example, glassdoor tends to lean to negative reviews because people who get laid off are much more likely to leave a negative review than the person who is happy and content leaving a positive one.

In addition to these things, your perception of a company is also affected by your own situation. For example, if you are unemployed and in desperate need of money, then you may miss/ignore signs of bad management that you might have otherwise cared about if you had a job already.

Like most things, your best bet is to trust your gut instinct. When you go to the office for any inverview, feel out the culture and if you could see yourself there. Don't ignore any bad feelings or the feeling that it isn't the right fit. Emotions exist for a reason. It's not wise to act solely on emotion but you need to take them into consideration.

5

Misses the mark on perfection? No. Engages in unacceptable behavior? Certainly. I wouldn't typically recommend that someone quit, particularly without giving notice, but that is exactly what I did in this question about not getting paid the agreed upon wage. I did not answer the question on blocked emergency exits, but if I had, I would not have urged staying.

Look at it from the another angle: is there ever a reason not to take a job? Any reason sufficient not to take a position is reason enough to leave it. While there are positve reasons for quiting (promotion, new location, salary or benefits), there are also negative reasons. And whether that reason is a long commute or the lack of a private office, it's fair to say, if you wouldn't take the job today, knowing what you now know, if you had a choice, you should probably be looking for that choice.

5

After reading the available answers, I think there is a different perspective here that should be offered.

Management of a company is much more complex than singular events or policies. The direct answer to your question of, "Is this ever actually a correct line of reasoning?" is not as often as you might want because it depends on whether your values, the company values and the speaker values are aligned. Without alignment of values such as work hours, commute, management policy and expectations, conclusions are left to chance.

In your question you suggest that there may be reasons for a BYOD policy, albeit ones that do not read as if you agree or feel comfortable with it. So your question is really about understanding the corporate values and the policies that they are based on and what conclusions can be reached based on someone's experience and/or assessment of those, which requires a more open perspective than most answers seem to provide.

Some of these answers suggest that a policy or procedure can allow a listener to conclude that a company places low value on their employees, are indications of financial hardship or mismanagement, etc. In particular how a BYOD policy indicates poor management, irresponsible finances or low employee value. These answers seem to try to validate your initial position, then conclude that this is a valid approach to evaluating the company - which is just a re-incarnation of the approach you had in making the statement, not an evaluation of the approach in general.

Those answers all require leaps of logic without establishing common values between the speaker and the company. For example, if a start-up was bootstrapping their costs and asked that employees BYOD, is that short-sighted or is it prudent? If their company fails, the devices likely contain little of value. If successful, then the employees may be well rewarded (or not...) for their contribution in this manner. This may resonate better with your values, and had the question you referenced mentioned these things, the conclusions would be very different.

In your example it is a company that has been around for a while, but a new project. So maybe they hired a manager that suggested a "startup bootstrap" approach with all the risks - and benefits - to new employees? Or perhaps they are trying to take advantage of their employees, they have financial trouble, etc? The most popular answer so far makes the case that this is financially irresponsible, etc. which is supported by many assumptions in the answer statement.

Overall, here is another way of approaching the validation process. In this big world there are many companies and many people. A smart company puts together a policy that attracts the best employees for the company - which is not always the best in the industry, the best working environment, the best perks, etc. Why? This does not always align with their goals, it may not attract the right employees, they may not be able to afford "only the best," etc.

For example, a company that produces a product based on value (lowest cost) may take an approach of having generally "below average" employees with below average wages as a means of managing costs. Why not do that? Not all employees are "A" employees and not all companies need them! And these employees should not be paid the highest wages or get the best perks. Not all tasks require the smartest, best and brightest people to accomplish them. Not all employees show up to work fully engaged, spend time outside of work improving their work skills and are fully dedicated to the advancement of their career.

This is not to say that an employee is not valued and that the employee doesn't feel valued with such an arrangement. When considering job satisfaction, work-life balance and other intangible aspects, an employee that brings their own laptop to work and is not "automatically" provided one is more likely to take care of the device. And the company may hire someone that is not very experienced in technology, or trying to make a mid-career transition, and that works for them. Also, they may have other needs that requires them to have a personal laptop with them (maybe contract work?) and this policy avoids a need to carry 2 laptops constantly. The employer may be able to pay them a higher wage than they would otherwise, which they may be bound to by legal, union or other restrictions. All of which may make that a terrible environment for a "hot shot tech person" versus someone that enjoys the mix of a "startup" new project with the security of a stable company.

Also, employees have "bad moments" that frequently they do not remember or are unaware of. In an effort to manage them, policies are created. And people that implement those policies also may have bad moments or political motivations that are not motivated, endorsed or practiced by the company overall. This is the basis for your question, but it does not address the need to have aligned values regardless of anomalous instances like these.

So statements like the one you referenced can be misleading and perhaps result in a missed opportunity for you when someone else abandons the company. After all, the loss of an employee may create a void in the company that you can fill happily and successfully. However, that is not to say these statements should be ignored. As more information is provided, the probability of the accuracy of the judgment aligning with your values improves (like in this case, knowing that it is an existing company... but then also that this is a new project).

The core issue is common values. The more you know about the speaker, the circumstances, the company and the context of the statement, in addition to your ability to judge whether the statement fits in with your values, all play a role. Generally, however, statements like these "resonate" or appear to validate a feeling someone has and result in rapid conclusions that support your perspective more than it is based on sound logic. Call that "instinct" or "discrimination" or something, but there are many times life is too complex to constantly and fully evaluate all aspects of the information we are exposed to each moment.

EDIT:

As a side note, I came across this post: https://security.stackexchange.com/questions/102536/is-there-a-legitimate-reason-i-should-be-required-to-use-my-companys-computer

I think that clearly illustrates that there are some people that disagree with all of the "automatic" assumptions from a BYOD policy - and would actually prefer to bring their own device. Thus, the issue is a matter of aligned values.

3

Sometimes.

Now, in many cases this is just Internet Tough Guy Syndrome at work. It's one thing if a company is using slave labor or something objectively egregious, but as you've noticed a very wide variety of behaviors cause some people to flip out and declare a company anathema. It's the Internet - I bet if you researched the companies these folks actually work for, you'd find plenty of things someone might be concerned about as an issue. And I bet if they were out of work and their family was at stake they'd take an offered job at "that place that dares to have you BYOD!" quick as Jack Robinson.

However, any job/company is a mix of factors - good and bad. From pay and commute to overall company success and strategy to how your manager/other manager/other employees/HR/the CEO/whoever does a wide variety of things.

If you hear about usual practices (common enough in the industry) but ones you consider negative, you should consider the likely other kinds of practices that tend to cluster with that (e.g. regular layoffs to make the quarter look good, because they are very shareholder driven). Then it's basically just a decision given your values about "well, they'll pay me a lot but there's a chance of layoff, so given my personal risk aversion I decide X."

If you hear about unusual practices, that can be more concerning because you then are not sure what to expect (from the perspective of a candidate or new hire). Some unusual practices aren't for everyone but are a determined choice, like the "no management" Valve philosophy. Ask questions, learn more, see if it's a conscious choice or just erratic (in many small companies, the CEO can be an erratic decisionmaker). Again, it's going to be up to you and your values whether that kind of chaos is worth the benefits - it certainly can be.

Of course certain kinds of decisions can cluster, but perhaps not pervasively - just because a company handled one EEO complain badly doesn't mean "everyone there is going to handle everything incompetently ever," which should be obvious. But sure, if a given company pays women less and has more EEO complaints then you could justifiably expect problems cropping up working there as a woman or minority.

But in the end you're not going to agree with 100% of what any company does unless it's your company! And companies make mistakes. Sometimes they decide to do "something shortsighted," and it doesn't work out, so they do something else - just like anyone, that's life. Consider that businesses have a lot of competing issues to deal with, and especially that modern business planning considers it good to delegate a lot of decisionmaking power down towards the ground level, such that yes indeed, a single person can make a bad decision. Is that terrible? Well, it can be, but ask yourself, wouldn't you like the freedom to make mistakes too? What if you were that hapless IT/HR/whatever person that the Internet Tough Guy is crucifying for their decision?

Being able to strongly disagree with a specific decision or stance but still act like a grownup and deal constructively with a company or individual may be a dying art, as our US political arena shows, but it's still a valuable skill.

1

Is this ever actually a correct line of reasoning?

But to declare the entire management structure as being mismanaged due to one error seems like a huge leap in logic that doesn't necessarily hold water, and given the number of corporate decisions companies have to make, seems like it could readily cut you off from positive work experiences.

Your sense is correct - it's almost never correct to generalize the overall culture of an entire company from an action of an individual, or from one incident.

Every organization makes mistakes, every company has a bad apple or two.

It's only when you dig in deeper that you can see if your data point is a pattern or an outlier.

Particularly for companies going through the growing pains of small-staff startup to established corporate infrastructure, it really doesn't seem implausible that a couple errors, mistakes, and unhandled to-do items could linger longer than they were intended, and become expensive to fix later.

You are correct. They context of the issue you see is extremely important.

Is the first reaction of "don't work at that company" actually correct?

It might be. But often the individual data point doesn't provide enough context to reach such a hasty decision.

Ask yourself - have you ever made a mistake? Would you like your entire career judged on that one mistake?

1

It's logical to assume work places will have ups and downs all the time. With that said, you can't just get up and leave as soon as one bad thing happens. It's about the overall feel of the place and how serious said "offense" was.

Take for example the story about the guy being "shadow punched" by someone at work. Is that offensive enough to quit? Probably not as one would think logically you should talk to the person.

Then take this story about the guy who was taken off a major project. Is that common? Not really and with that said, if it is on-going and there doesn't seem to be any way to advance your career, then it is logical to find another position.

Basically if whatever problem you have isn't easy to fix, and you're not willing to stick with it, then it is only logical to quit rather than try to "fix it" or "stick with it" since obviously it bothers you.

  • 3
    Are the "shadow punched" and "taken off a major project" stories from this site? If so, you should link to them, to make this answer more "evergreen". Either way, you should expand the stories beyond a couple words; make them real examples/stories in and of themselves, not just references to stories elsewhere. – stannius Oct 13 '15 at 20:40
  • 1
    taken off a major project: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/55795/… – Daphne B Oct 14 '15 at 13:36

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.