Toxic and Woke Engineering Orgs

Why are organizations committed to positive ideals so often shitty to their employees?

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Why Boundaries Matter

Much of Silicon Valley pushes the narrative that the Google and Facebooks of the world are better places to work because they are less corporate, less hierarchal, more informal, more value driven. Tech companies will often pay lip service to the social justice issues of the day, their ethics, their campaigns to give back, how woke they are compared to soulless profit seeking corporations.

Rejection Hurts More When You’re Friends

The biggest mistake organizations make with boundaries is over socializing. It’s good to get people together informally from time to time. It’s good to have staff parties, happy hours, maybe a company sports team or an outing. All of these things are great for team building and bonding. But the more often you turn the work space into a friend space the more people start to see their colleagues as friends.

You Can’t Leave Stuff at the Door If You Never Use the Door

Tech companies keep asking employees to leave their politics at the door, while at the same time encouraging them to bring their hobbies to work, consume from the bounty of free meals, dress entirely in company swag, join internal networks for your specific identity groups, rebuild your entire life to revolve around your employer but leave your politics at home.

Building Teams with Boundaries

Just as people bring their politics to work when work space encroaches on personal space, they also have no outlet for their stress other than their colleagues. I remember the first time an assignment I had for USDS truly went south. I suddenly had no escape from the anxiety about it because I had moved to a new city for work and the only people I knew were work people. There was no option to blow off steam and forget about it, anyone I might go out with was a reminder of the stress.

Talk About It

Boundaries are hard. They’re hard because each person has to know themselves and what their needs are and they’re hard because people are not used to talking about these things. As a manager you should spend a little time figuring out what your recommended baseline is. What work patterns would alarm you if you saw a direct report following them?

Author of Kill It with Fire Manage Aging Computer Systems (and Future Proof Modern Ones)

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